Stress/Worry/Anxiety and the Christian Life
Select all the text in tScripture: Matthew 6:25-34; Psalms 23; Philippians 4:6-7
Theme: StressWorryAnxiety and the Christian Life
Proposition: The Bible shares with us some wonderful ways to deal with stressworryanxiety 1. Pray 2. Meditate 3. Release and Receive 4. Adapt
Good morning and what a joy to share with you this morning!*
The story is told that one day, Death was walking into a certain city when a man stopped him and asked what Death was planning to do in that city. Death answered by say that he was going to receive 10,000 people that day. The man responded in despair but Death reminded him that his job was to take people when their time was ready. Today, that meant 10, 000 people would be taking their last breath and going into the hereafter.
Later on in the day, Death and the man caught up with each other again. However, this time, the man was furious with Death. The man lashed out at Death and told Death that he had lied to him. This morning, Death had told him that he would only take 10,000 lives and yet, according to all the reports some 70,000 people had died. 60,000 more people had died than Death had said he would receive. The man accused Death of lying and being greedy. Death allowed the man to rant and then stopped the man. Death quickly told the man, "Don't get mad at me, I only took 10,000. Worry killed all the rest." (Adapted from Haddon W. Robinson, What Jesus Said About Successful Living, page 221).
This morning, stress, worry and anxiety can kill a person. In fact, stress has been labeled as the silent assassin. Stress and worry along with anxiety can cause damage to a person's heart and create blood clots that keep a person's blood from flowing properly. Stress/worry and anxiety can lead to heart disease and eventually lead to a person having a heart attack.
The trio of stressworryanxiety can be the one of the leading causes of high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, stomach problems, panic disorders, headaches, sleep disorders and chronic depression.
Dr. Charles Mayo stated that "Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the entire nervous system." He also stated that he never knew of a person who had died from overworking, but he did know of many who died due to worry. A person can worry themselves into bad health and even death. But you will never worry yourself into a longer life.
This morning, how many of us honestly have had to deal with worry, anxiety or stress in our lives? Actually, that is a rather silly question. If you are alive this morning, the answer to that question is 100%. And it doesn't matter if you are five years old or 105 five years old we all have to deal with stress/worry or anxiety. More than ever today, our children are having to deal with extended periods of stress, anxiety and worry.
Many people believe that most children live these carefree lives and yet, for many this morning, that is just not the case. Children, especially children here in America are exposed to and have to deal with all kinds of stress/anxiety and worry. They deal with the stress that comes with family, with school and with friends. They deal with the stress of being separated from their parents, competing in sports, adjusting to living in divided households and having to deal with such things as bullying, peer pressure and self-image.
Now, upfront let's take care of a couple of myths or mistaken views that deal with stressanxietyworry
MYTH #1 - We can live a stress free life.
Well, you can't. You can't live a stress free life. Stress is a part of the human condition.
MYTH #2 - All stress is bad.
The truth is all stress is not negative. In some ways stress can be a positive thing. It can help us achieve and strive. Stress can help us face challenges and grow as humans. The key to dealing with stress involves how we manage the stress that comes into our lives.
MYTH#3 - If we are overwhelmed with stress it means that we are sinning and not trusting God.
Now, that is just silly. It is true that the mismanagement and mishandling of stress can lead us to into sin and it can make us forget that we must trust God. But, we must also understand that the greatest Christians of all time have had to deal with stressanxietyworry. Being overwhelmed with stress does not mean that one has backslid or that one is in trouble spiritually. It just means that one needs to reach out to the LORD.
So, if stress is just a part of the human condition and all we need to do is manage it, then what are some of the steps we can use to help us manage the stress in our lives? In other words, how can we learn to find balance in our lives? What does the Bible say that can help us deal with stressworryanxiety? How can we work on the stressworryanxiety in our lives as a part of our daily spiritual discipline.
To answer all of that, I want to share with you this morning, five simple things that all of us can do to help us with our times of StressWorryAnxiety. All of these come from Scripture. Five simple steps that we can all do, no matter if we are five or 105. Five simple steps that will enable us to grow as humans and as disciples of Jesus. Five simple things that we can do to find a balance in our lives.
1. The first thing and most important thing we can do is to simply go to the LORD in prayer.
This was Jesus' #1 way of dealing with His times of stressworryanxiety. Luke 5:16 tells us that one of the constant things in Jesus' life was to go to a place of solitude to pray.
Luke 5:16New International Version (NIV)
16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
Jesus had do to deal with a great many stressors while He was living here on earth. He had the responsibility of taking care of His disciples and their families. He was responsible for their food, their shelter on top of teaching them and transforming them into the men of faith that the Early Church would soon need. The disciples were a 24/7 every day project.
Jesus also had to deal with all the stress that comes from handling a very successful ministry. Thousands of people came to Him to receive healing and listen to His teachings. Jesus had to deal with the stress that came from fighting the demons and the Devil. Actually, no one has ever lived on our planet that has had to deal with stress more than Jesus. For no one else has been able to take on the forces of evil or has taken on the sins of the world. No one else has brought more healing and wholeness into the lives of mankind.
How did Jesus handle it all? How did Jesus handle as a human being all the stress? Jesus turned to prayer as a way to deal with the stress of living as a human being here on earth. Jesus knew that the best way to handle the difficulties of life was to be constantly connected with His Heavenly Father. When something bothered him, when the stress of life got to be too much, the Bible tells us that Jesus would go to the mountains or to a solitary place and spend time with His Heavenly Father. Prayer was Jesus' refuge. It was His way to center Himself. Prayer was Jesus stress releaser and it can be ours this morning.
Jesus teaches us that prayer enables us to connect with God. Think about that for just a second. Who knows more about how to handle stressworryanxiety than our Heavenly Father?
Jesus teaches us that prayer enables us to know that we have a partner and that partner is God is God Himself. That partner is El Shaddai - God Almighty. That partner is El Elyon - God Most High. That partner is Jehovah Jireh - The God that will provide for all our needs. This morning, we cannot find a greater partner in our lives than God Himself.
In 2 Kings 6:17, Elisha and his servant find themselves under a great deal of stress. They are surrounded by an army of men who have been sent to kill them. Elijah's servant is overwhelmed with worry and anxiety. Who wouldn't be? I mean if there were a small army that had been sent to take your head, wouldn't you be a little stressed out? Would you be a little anxious?
Elisha lifts up his voice in prayer and suddenly, God is there as His Almighty partner. Elisha asks God to allow his young servant to see what he was already seeing. All around Elisha were a company of angels ready to do battle for him and for the boy. Your stress level can fall when you realize that you have a company of angels getting ready to do battle for you. Your stress level can fall when you connect with God, when you partner with God.
All of that happened because Elisha went to prayer. All of that happen because Elisha connected with God and realized that in God and with God nothing is impossible. With God and in God you and I can face anything.
This morning, when you start to feel stressed, worried or anxious, don't just start wringing your hands. Don't start acting like a chicken with its head cut off. Instead, take your hands and fold them and begin talking to the LORD Almighty. Share your heart concerns, connect with God and ask Him for help and assistance. Do what Jesus did - go to your closet of prayer and spend time with the LORD.
II. Secondly, another excellent way to handle our stress/worries and anxieties is to turn to the WORD of God - to mediate on God's Word.
Did you know this morning, that the Bible itself contains all the best ways that we handle stress/anxiety and worry in our lives. The Bible is better than any medication or psychiatrists or even counselor. Now, none of them are wrong for us to take or to go and see. It's just none of those ways are better for us than God's Word.
For example, did you know that a major part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount deals with some ways that we can learn how to handle stressanxietyworry in our lives. All you have to do, is to grab your Bible, turn to Matthew chapters 5 - 7 and spend some time reading and meditating. All you have to do is to spend some time in the WORD.
But Matthew 5-7 isn't the only place - for you can turn to such passages as:
Matthew 11:28-30 - 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Notice Jesus how Jesus talks. He doesn't tell us that we will never have stress, worries or even anxieties. No, Jesus tells us a way that we can handle the problems and situations in our lives. He tells us that we can make a trade with Him. We can take the yoke that the world seeks to put on us, a yoke that is wearisome and full of burdens and we can trade that yoke in for a Jesus' yoke. A Jesus yoke is one that makes life much easier and one that even makes the burdens of this life lighter.
Now, how does that happen? How is that possible?
It's possible by saturating our lives with His Word. For the more you read His word
You discover the true purpose of this life
You learn from the stories of others - you learn how Joseph handled stress, how Moses handled stress and how Daniel handled stress/worry and anxiety.
You learn that you are not alone. You learn how God worked in the lives of children, teens and adults throughout history in helping them handle difficult times.
I have discovered this about reading and meditating on Scripture. When difficult times come up the more I read, the more I meditate, the more I spent time in the Word and Prayer the more I receive peace, comfort, advice and direction in my life.
Proverbs 3:5-6New International Version (NIV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[a]
That trust, that understanding, that submission and knowing the true paths only comes from spending time in the WORD. Listen again to some of God's Word.
Psalm 91 (NIV)
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
This morning, two of the best ways we can handle stress/worry and anxiety are free for the taking and asking - Prayer and Meditation in God's Word. But they are not all. Let's look at a few more.
III and IV. Numbers three and four go together. They are the opposite side of the same coin. If we are going to get a handle on how to handle stress it will be by
Learning how to release - how to let things go
Learning how to receive - how to receive the grace/gifts from God
Psalms 23 is an amazing chapter. Over and over in the this chapter we see this balancing act of releasing and receiving. The LORD is My Shepherd, I shall not want. He leadeth me beside the still water. He restoreth my soul.
In all of that language there is this call to release to the LORD all your cares, all your anxieties and worries. He is Your Shepherd. He will provide all your wants. He will lead you beside still water. He will restore your soul - He will give you His peace, calm and comfort. He will bring gentleness and restoration of soul, mind and body.
It is the picture of a sheep in the hands of a loving and compassionate Shepherd. One that can be trusted and one that will do all it can for its sheep. This morning, we know that the Great Shepherd is Jesus. There is no one who loves us more than Jesus. And there is no one that can bring us more peace than Jesus.
For if we will release all to Jesus and then receive from Him we will find ourselves at peace.
Richard Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline shares with us a little exercise that we can do to help us in this area. At first it may seem a little childish, a little simple, but if we will practice it we will discover that there is great grace and peace in this exercise.
Dr. Foster tells us to do two simple little things:
One is to be alone with God and place our hands out palms down. With your palms down, go ahead and release to the LORD all the things that are bothering you - your marriage, your job, your grades at school, the coach on your sports team, the stress of being good at sports or hunting or fishing. Let go of the stress at work or whatever is bothering you. Whatever is causing you to worry or be anxious, just let it fall into the hands of Jesus.
Simply put your hands out and let it all go. Anything and everything. Just release it to the LORD. Don't hold anything back. Anything or anyone that is causing you pain and trouble - simply let it fall out of your hands and into the hands of Jesus. You can release your family, your life, you day - anything and everything. You don't have to control it. You don't have to carry the burden. It is now all in the hands of Jesus. Let Him deal with it.
He is in control. He has everything. The weight of life can be released into His care.
Next, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to now receive from the Lord. Ask for whatever you think you need. If you need wisdom, ask Jesus for it. If you need direction, healing, forgiveness, guidance, peace, love - whatever it is, just ask and be ready to receive. Open your heart and mind and allow the Holy Spirit to come in and fill you with Supernatural love and peace.
Then end that time with God with a time of inner silence, simply letting the Lord commune with you, to love you and to give you His grace.
James tells us that we have not because we ask not - its time for us to ask and receive. (James 4:2-3)
Paul tells us that God will take care of all our needs - superabundantly, beyond anything we can think of imagine. (Ephesians 3:20 and Philippians 4:19)
Think about Jesus - how when people needed healing, Jesus was there healing them. Think about when people needed food, Jesus was there feeding them. Think about when people needed salvation, Jesus was there redeeming, renewing and restoring.
This morning, we need to let our stress, our worries and our anxieties fall from our hands into the hands of Jesus. We need to learn how to let go. And then we need to learn how to receive from the LROD. We need to learn how to receive from Jesus a spirit of peace, calm and assurance.
V. Finally, this morning we need to learn one more thing. We have looked at Prayer, a Meditation, at Releasing and Receiving, and now we need to look at one more concept - the concept of Adapting.
As we pray, we mediate, we release and receive from Jesus we will experience a great deal of peace. That peace will lead us to adapt to new ways of thinking, new ways of looking at things and new ways of even living our lives. As Jesus transforms our lives, we learn to adapt to His way of living, thinking and acting.
Jesus' homeland, the land of Palestine is full of all kinds of birds. When the birds of Europe begin to migrate they fly through the land of Israel. They fly over the land that Jesus walked.
All of that flying, all of that bird migration has caused some problems in our modern times. Since the mid 60's more Israeli pilots were being killed each year by birds getting caught up in their engines than by accidents or attacks. Birds were bringing down more planes than anything else.
For a while the Israeli intelligence tried all kinds of different things to scare the birds away. However, nothing really worked. But then someone got smart. They decided that if they could not get the birds to adapt, then they would get the humans to adapt.
When it is time for the birds to come, they decided that the military and the commercial planes simply have learned to fly the way of the birds. They have to adapt their flight plans to go along with the migrating birds. So that instead of flying against the birds they fly alongside of them, and if they have to go against them, they go to an attitude that the birds don't use.
They realize that at this time of the year God sends the birds. And what God has chosen has ultimate priority. They began to realize that the heavenly Father has placed in the minds and hearts of millions of birds to fly this direction. So, instead of going against God's will, they have decided to adapt and get in the flow of God's will. It has proven successful. It always is successful when we adapt our plans to God's will.
And what works for planes and birds will work for us as well.
We can choose this morning to go against God's will and in the end we will not enjoy this life to its fullest. We can choose to rebel and live out a life full of stress/worry and anxiety. Or we can choose to go with the flow of God and adapt.
We can choose to make prayer a # 1 priority.
We can choose to make Bible reading/mediation a #1 priority and learn how to live God's way - what does that little sign say - The Bible is Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth.
We can choose to release things into God's hands
We can choose to receive from God - peace, comfort and love
And we can choose to adapt to God's way of living.
This morning, God shows us how to deal with stressworryanxiety in our lives. We can turn to prayer. mediation, the art of releasing and receiving and learning how to adapt. All of those principles are predicated on one underlying foundation - that you and I have asked the LORD to be our Savior and LORD.
Not everyone can benefit from these five steps. Oh, they can try, but only those who have asked Jesus in their lives will receive the full blessings.
This morning, as we close in prayer - if you have not asked Jesus in your heart and life this morning - Jesus is here right now to forgive you and to receive you.
This morning, if you have an area in your life that needs a special touch - you have something that has overwhelmed you, that is causing you great worry and anxiety as we pray - why don't you come down to this altar and give it to Jesus.
*Since this was a Family Sunday - we used some balloons that the children blew up as illustrations of the way stress works. How too much stress can cause us to blow up. How just sitting on stress will cause it to eventually blow up. How no stress will just cause a balloon to deflate. And how we can properly work with stress - taking a balloon and blowing it part up and allowing some air to leave and blow some more in and repeating the process.
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