Trusting God for the Morrow
June 27th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
TRUSTING GOD FOR THE MORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-27-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are invited to take your Bible, and with us here in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, turn to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6; and we are going to read together verses 25 to the end of the chapter. The title of the sermon is Trusting God for the Morrow. And there is no more pertinent message to my own soul and life, at least, than the message that our Lord delivers here in the heart of His Sermon on the Mount. So let us read it out loud together, Matthew 6, beginning at verse 25 and reading to the end of the chapter, everybody:
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
There is a word that is used in that passage six times; but doubtless because it is so familiar to us we have hardly noticed it, and especially so since it is an English translation of 1611 and has altogether lost its meaning to us today as it had then. Now the word in the passage is "thought," and it is used six times. "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink" [Matthew 6:25]. Again, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto the length of his life?" [Matthew 6:27]. You see, the Greek word there is "length" and it can refer to your height, or it can refer, as your life is considered as a span, just add another cubit to the length of it. And that’s what I think the Lord meant: "Which one of you by taking thought could add one cubit to the span, to the length of your life, one foot beyond the grave?" that’s the second time it’s used.
Or again, "Why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field" [Matthew 6:28]. Now again, "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink?" [Matthew 6:31]. And then again, "Therefore take no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself" [Matthew 6:34]. Now six times that word "thought" is used here in the King James Version of the Bible. Now, all of the previous translations, before the King James Version, translated that word merimnaō, translated by "be not careful." But the 1611 King James translators thought the word "be not careful" was not strong enough; so they, they changed the expression to "take no thought, take no thought." Now I want to show you what that meant when the King James Version of the Bible was written.
Shakespeare lived when the King James Version of the Bible was written, and in his play Julius Caesar, I quote from the second act, and the first scene, "Take thought and die for Caesar." All right, again I quote from Shakespeare, his Antony and Cleopatra; Cleopatra says to Enobarbus, "What shall we do, Enobarbus?" And he replies, "Take thought and die."
Now Francis Bacon, who also was a contemporary with Shakespeare and the King James Version of the Bible, in his history of King Henry VIII he speaks of a man, and I quote, "Dying with thought and anguish before his case was ever heard." Now a historian of the same period writes, "Queen Anne died of thought." Now to us today that would be an unusual way to commit suicide, by thinking. Not many of us would have cause to die like that, would we? "Take thought and die." And Queen Catherine died of thought. Well you can immediately see, by quoting these passages out of the literature of the day in which the King James Version was translated, that "thought" had an altogether different kind of a connotation then than it does to us today.
Now the Greek word merimnaō means – well, let’s just look at it, let’s just look at it. And that was a good translation in 1611. Now I’m going to read out of the Bible, and these are passages where that Greek word is used. "Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art merimnaō and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" [Luke 10:41-42]. That was when Martha was complaining about Mary, who was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to what He said, and she was in their cooking dinner [Luke 10:38-40].
I’ve always had sympathy with Martha. I just can’t help but do that. Yet the Lord said, "Now Mary, sitting down here listening to Me talk, that is a whole lot better than going in there and preparing dinner." That shows you how much more spiritual Jesus is than I am. I’d turn the thing around, I would. I’d say, "Martha, you’re really doing good over there cooking dinner. Keep it up. Add another pot, add another dessert, get you another Jersey cow, we’re going to need it for this preacher." You know, that’s what I’d say.
But, oh! Not the Lord: "Martha, Martha, thou art merimnaō about many things," and it’s translated here "thou art careful about many things" [Luke 11:41]. All right, here’s another one. Oh, there are many things! It is just a common word in the Greek, and it’s used all through the Bible. Here is another one, in the famous passage in Philippians 4:6, "Be merimnaō for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God."
And then here is another one in Simon Peter, chapter 5, his first letter in [verses] 6 and 7, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time; casting all your merimnaō upon Him" [1 Peter 5:6-7]. Well, when I read the passage in its context, immediately the meaning of the Greek word is apparent. And it is exactly what these translators were trying to achieve in 1611. Merimnaō, the Greek word, meant cankering care, corrosive anxiety, despair and frustration that comes from worrying about a tomorrow. Now that’s what the word means. And that is the way the Lord is using it here in this passage.
So let’s take it in this passage, and look at it and apply it to ourselves. First of all, our Lord – – and He says three things here, and we’re going to follow them, one, two, three – – first of all our Lord says that the lessons of nature teach us that merimnaō is unnecessary. And He gives an illustration: "Why," He says, "Look at the birds that fly: they do not sow, they do not reap, they do not gather in barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Why should you be filled with corrosive, cankering anxiety about what shall happen to us in the care of us on any tomorrow?" [Matthew 6:26-27]. It is unnecessary says our Lord.
Then He used another illustration: "These lilies of the field, look at them: they do not toil, they do not spin and yet I say unto you, that Solomonic glory was not as brilliant, and as colorful, and as beautiful as those lilies that God arrays in their beauty and glory" [Matthew 6:28-29]. These, the Lord says, these, the birds that fly and the flowers that bloom, they do not have the prerogatives, and the authority, and the power, and the endowments that you have. Why, we can plow, and we can sow, and we can reap, and we can gather into barns and we can keep for a future day; these have none of those things, none of those endowments, yet God takes care of them. Why shouldn’t the Lord God in heaven, our Father, also take care of us?
Then He gives an illustration: "Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?" [Matthew 6:25]. He is drawing an illustration there between the things that are far more important over which we have no control at all. Why, a man can have nothing in the choice of his body, his body. Did you choose the color of your eyes? Did you choose the height of your stature? Did you choose the generation in which we were born? Why weren’t you born a hundred years ago? Or why weren’t you born fifty years since? Do you choose any of those things? Did you choose the soul that inhabits your body? Are you going to choose the great ultimate consummation by which God shall change the destiny of this world?
Why, everything that is really important, your mother chosen for you, your father chosen for you, your body chosen for you, all of the generations chosen for you, everything that is really vital and important, God has chosen for you! How much more then should we trust God, if we trust Him for these great things in life? How much more should we trust God for the lesser things in life? What I’m going to wear, and what am I going to eat, and where I am I going to sleep, and what shelter shall I have, and all the other things by which people just frustrate themselves and sometimes worry themselves to death. Let’s see if I can remember that thing, it’s coming back in my head:
Said the robin to the sparrow,
"I would really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush around and worry so."
Now the reply:
Said the sparrow to the robin,
"It surely must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."
["Overheard in an Orchard," Elizabeth Chaney, 1859]
See? I came out all right; I really don’t know if that’s where it goes or not, but that’s the sentiment.
Now the Lord will tell a parable – such as "the unjust steward" [Luke 16:8] – the Lord will tell a parable about foresight and forethought, for a man to think about the future and to plan for the future, but foreboding, the Lord says, is interdicted. It ought not to be in our lives, that anxious worry about the morrow [Matthew 6:34]. Look at the lily of the field, look at the bird of the air; and God takes care of them [Matthew 6:26-29].
Now one thing about the birds, don’t get any idea that they just open their mouth and the Lord feeds them. You know, they get up at the crack of the dawn and they stay with it all day long. Well, if you’ll get up at the crack of dawn and stay with it all day long, you don’t have anything to worry about. God will take care of you, He really will. He really will.
You know a lazy fellow; I don’t have any use for him at all, I just don’t. I think he’s a parasite, I think he’s a fungus, I think he’s a mistletoe; there’s not anything good that I can think of about a parasite. I think people ought to work – I think all of us ought to work – I think a preacher ought to work. And if I don’t work harder than anybody in this congregation, I think you ought to sit up with me and have a session with me. I think you should.
All of us ought to work, but we ought to work and not worry [Matthew 6:34]. We ought to work and not be filled with cankering anxiety, and corroding care, and all of those forebodings that lie ahead in the providence of God. Work, do your best, and then let God decide the ultimate, and the final end and consummation. Turn it over to Him. All right that’s the first thing.
All right, the second thing here the Lord says: He says, true religion – the revelation of the true faith – makes our anxiety, and our worry, and our care heathen. That’s what He says, now look:
Therefore take no thought, do not be anxious and full of care, saying, Oh what shall I eat? What are we going to drink? What are we going to be clothed? And how are we going to live? For after all these things do the heathen worry about. But you, your heavenly Father knoweth ye have need of all these things. Seek God and all of these things the Lord will add unto you.
The second thing our Lord avows, that in the true faith and in the true religion, these who know God and who worship our Father, to be anxious, to be full of care, to be worrisome and filled with foreboding is to be like a heathen! And that’s what they do.
Oh, have you ever visited among heathen people? I tell you, the things that fill their minds with gross terrors, and superstitions, and dreads; they are afraid of everything. They worship the devil. They worship the stones. They worship the trees. They worship the wind. There’s not anything of which they are not afraid, and there’s not anything of which they don’t have a dread for what tomorrow is. And they live in that fear, and that darkness, and that superstition.
And we are that way when our lives are filled with all of those dreads and fearsome things of what lies ahead, or the tomorrow, or what’s all around us. "Don’t," says the Lord, "don’t; for when you are that way, you are just like a heathen. But you, you know God the heavenly Father, and He knows all about your need, and He will provide for it" [Matthew 6:30-34]. Just trust Him. Just believe in Him, and leave it to His gracious hand, and see if God doesn’t do it.
You know this passage that I read here using that word in Peter [1 Peter 5:6-7], brings back to my heart one of the, oh! most moving experiences of my life, oh, oh! As you know, I started preaching when I was seventeen years old, and I was holding – scheduled, invited to hold – a revival meeting in a tabernacle down there in central West Texas. And the tabernacle was located by a beautiful little white church with columns out in front of it and over here a parsonage and about ten or fifteen acres of ground surrounded by a fence, and that was the Baptist church.
And in that enclosure was this tabernacle. Well, I was to hold the revival meeting, a teenager. And when the evening came, the first night of the revival, I went down there and I thought the world was turning out, the whole earth was assembling. There were people coming there by horseback, there were people pouring into that enclosure by buggy and wagon; they were coming by such cars as they had in that day, and they were coming afoot. They were coming by twos, they were coming by singles, they were coming by families; they were coming from the ends of the earth! And every last one of them that came just scared me that much more. And I nearly died in my soul. My heart pounded, you could hear it; and my throat was dry, and my tongue clave to the roof of my mouth; and I thought I was going to die! And I said to the singer, "I think I’m going to die. I’m just not going to live, I just can’t. I’m scared to death, I’m paralyzed. I can’t breathe, and I can’t talk, and my throat is dry, and it’s awful! Look at all these people, just acres of them, and I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know what I’m going to do!"
Well, he was an older man in the Christian faith than I, and he said, "Now you just come with me, young fellow, you just come with me." And he took me back of the parsonage, which was empty, and there were some steps going from the kitchen door down to the ground. And he said, "Now you sit down here by my side." And I sat down by his side, and he opened his little New Testament, and he read to me this passage, one I’ve just read to you: "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time; casting all your merimnaō on Him, casting all your anxiety and fears upon Him" [1 Peter 5:6-7]. Now he said to me, "You get down here by my side." And I knelt down there by those steps, and he put his strong arm around my shoulder, and he prayed for the young preacher.
Listen, dear people, you should have heard me in those days. Oh my, my! Why, I preached all over that tabernacle – I preached all over the grounds, I preached up and down every aisle – why, you never saw the like! "And the Lord came down our souls to greet, and glory filled the mercy seat" [from "From Every Stormy Wind that Blows," Hugh Stowell]; why, people were shouting, they were singing praises to God, they were clapping their hands, they were being converted. It was like an old time Pentecostal revival!
I forgot about my throat being dry, I just never did think about it. I forgot my heart was pounding, I forgot I was scared to death, I just forgot everything in the glory of the presence of God. That’s what he’s talking about. Now to heathen, it’s a heathen, when you are fretful, and full of foreboding, and cankering anxiety; but it’s a Christian who rejoices in the goodness of God and looks to heaven for an answer from glory. That’s it. That’s it.
Now there’s one other thing, one other thing, and we got time for it. Not only does He say that we have here in this cankering care, we have a thing that is unnecessary if we just look at all of the blessings of nature [Matthew 6:26-30]. And not only, He says, is it not Christian and it doesn’t honor God, we’re just like heathen when we do that. Then He says a last thing, He says in the economy and in the scheme of the providences of God, it is futile. "Therefore take no thought, no merimnaō, for the morrow; for the morrow shall merimnaō for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" [Matthew 6:34].
What does our Lord say? Oh, it is very plain, and very pertinent, and very pungent and very pointed what He says. He says that every day shall have its share of merimnaō, don’t you worry, don’t you seek it, and don’t you add to it, there’s going to be evil in every day, plenty of it. And there’s going to be discouragement in every life, plenty of it. And there’s going to be things that just bow you down and break your spirit, plenty of it. Don’t add to it, says our Lord. There’s plenty of it in everybody’s life, and you can’t escape it. You can’t escape it. You cannot obviate it [Matthew 6:34].
Do you remember reading about Achilles? His mother was a sea nymph. Her name was Thetis. And she said, "I’m going to take this little boy, and I’m going to make him invulnerable and invincible; and there is no evil ever going to touch my son." So she took him down to the River Styx, and she held him by his heels, and she dipped him in the River Styx to make him invincible and invulnerable.
And all the days of his life the great Achilles was the hero of all of the Greek world. And in the Trojan War, Hector came out, the great champion of the Trojan people, Hector came out and challenged Achilles, and Achilles slew him. But, but, Paris took an arrow, poisoned the tip of it, and struck Achilles in his heel, where his mother held him when she dipped him in the River Styx; and Achilles died from the poison arrow.
You can’t escape it. Those Greeks had an insight into human life that is phenomenal. Sometimes you can almost say those stories are inspired. You can’t escape. It’s coming, plenty of it, in your life, lots of it.
Could I take an illustration out of sacred literature? Ahab said to Micaiah, "Take this man who prophesies evil with me, when I go up to Ramoth-gilead to take it, take Micaiah and put him in prison, and feed him bread of affliction and water of affliction, until I come back in triumph and prove that the Spirit of God is not in His prophet." And Micaiah said, "If you come back at all . . . the Lord hath not spoken unto me" [1 Kings 22:26-28].
And in the battle at Ramoth-gilead, even though Ahab disguised himself, there was a man that drew back his bow at a venture. He aimed his arrow and he let fly his arrow without aiming it. And that arrow sped its way, and in a joint in the harness of Ahab entered in, and went through his heart, and his blood flowed out on the floor of the chariot [1 Kings 22:34-35]. And they took him back to Jezreel dead [1 Kings 22:37].
You can’t escape it. Don’t you ever persuade yourself that, "I am an elect of God, and there are fortunes that guide my life and there are providences that rule over my days, and I shall be untouched by all of these sorrows and trials that plow up other people." Don’t you think that. They’re coming to you, just as they have come to your neighbor, and just as they have come to the man that lives on the other side of the tracks. All of us alike, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" [Matthew 6:34]. All of us shall experience it.
Well, what shall I do, worry about it? I know that there are dark days as well as light ones that lie ahead. I know there are tears as well as smiles that lie ahead. I know that there are a thousand dark things that lie ahead. Why, if nothing else, and if Jesus delays His coming, shall it be cancer? Shall it be arthritis? Shall it be multiple sclerosis? Shall it be a stroke? Shall it be invalidism? And when? What shall it be?
Why man, whatever it is, let God decide and trust Him for it. I have strength for the day. Isn’t that what the Book says? "And as thy days, so shall thy strength be" [Deuteronomy 33:25]. I have strength for this day; but I don’t have strength for the foreboding. And when the time comes in any trial that arises, there will be grace for that day when it comes.
How many times do people come up to me and say, "Pastor, you know, I don’t know whether I’m saved or not. I don’t know whether I’m a Christian or not. I’m afraid to die. I’m afraid to die. It scares me to death when I think about dying." Why man, that’s an exact illustration of what the Lord is talking about.
Well, you’re not ready to die yet. Wait until the day comes, and as you have grace for the trials of this moment, and as you have strength from heaven for the sorrows that may appear this moment, so you will have strength and grace when the moment comes to die. You don’t need dying grace now. That comes then when you need it. And if God bestowed it upon you now, why the wisdom of God when you don’t need it? Wait for that day and that hour, and dying grace will be given to you then.
In one of my pastorates, about two blocks down the street lived one of the godliest, saintliest old soldiers of Jesus, an old preacher, that I ever knew in my life. Oh, the churches he’d organized, and the sermons that he preached, and he’d organized! He’d built an orphan’s home and taken care of a generation of many, many children. He was a great old man of God. And I tell you, I went down to see him and he was dying. And you know what that man said to me? There, lying on his deathbed, just this side of glory, he said to me, he said, "Oh, oh, is it like this to die? Oh," he said, "I hear angels singing." And he says, "And I see the pearly gates of glory." And he says, "And I see the golden streets." And he says, "I hear the voice of God." And he says, "And I see the face of the blessed Jesus. Oh," he said to me, "who would ever have thought that to die was like this?" My soul! "Oh, who would ever have thought that to die would be like this? Angels singing, and visions of glory, and the face of Jesus."
Let it be that when the time comes; grace for that hour as God shall give us grace for this. "Therefore be not anxious, full of carking care, frustrating anxiety, for the Lord knows all of the things you have need of" [Matthew 6:31-34], and He will give us grace for now and strength for now, and help for now, and every day shall be a now, with its full measure of shepherdly benediction and guarding love from heaven.
Now we must sing our song. Our time is done. And while we sing the appeal, you, somebody you give himself to Jesus; come and stand by me. A family you coming into the church, a couple you, however God shall say the word, shall make the appeal, come tonight. When we stand up to sing, stand up coming. "I decide now, and here I am." In this balcony round, down one of these stairways at the front or the back, on either side; in this great throng of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I come, pastor, and here I stand. I decide now. Here I am." Make it, make it. "Lord, I do trust Thee; I open my heart to Thee. In repentance and faith, in asking forgiveness and salvation, Lord, here I come, here I am." Or to put your life, and prayers, and love, and devotion with us in this precious church, come. As the Spirit of God shall make the appeal, answer now, while we stand and while we sing.
TRUSTING GOD FOR THE MORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Merimnao – "be not careful" was not strong enough; KJV translators changed it to "take no thought"
1. "Thought" had an altogether different connotation then
B. Passages of Scripture where merimnao is used (Luke 10:41, Philippians 4:6, 1 Peter 5:6-7)
1. Apparent the word means "cankering care, corrosive anxiety, despair and frustration that comes from worrying about tomorrow"
II. Matthew 6:25
A. Lessons of nature teach us that merimnao is unnecessary
B. Must trust God for the greater things in life; how much more for the lesser
C. Foresight commended by Jesus; foreboding interdicted
III. Matthew 6:31-32
A. Cankering care is contrary to all the lessons of revelation
B. Heathen are full of superstition, fear, perturbation
C. My own anxiety before preaching a revival (1 Peter 5:7)
IV. Matthew 6:39
A. Cankering care is contrary to the whole scheme of the providences of God and is futile
B. Every day has its evil (1 Kings 22:26-28)
C. Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow
1. We have strength for the day (Deuteronomy 33:25)