Wednesday, July 6, 2011

God’s Prescription for Stress

Don't you just love the Bible? When it comes to the matters of life that Christians are affected by daily, it gives us answers that carry the day. In every situation, the believer should turn to it for guidance. For instance, when it comes to worry and stress. Concerning this issue, we should believe that our God knows of our situation and that He is sovereignly in control. But all too often, we choose to worry instead. Believers have the words of Jesus, who plainly stated the following in Matthew 6:

25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)

Wonderful counsel!  But that is not the only place we can look. Among others consider 2 Cor. 10:1-6.

1 Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.
2 But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 (NKJV)

That passage is probably most often used in the cases of spiritual warfare, but it also has its place in relieving undue stress. Consider the following true story that was posted online:

"I am so stressed out, my parents are arguing, I have constant headaches, I have sinusitis, I have exams in less than a week, I can't focus on revision, I am sobbing because I just snapped at my girlfriend and she has turned her phone off and is stressed too. This is the first time I have ever considered killing myself, I am not stupid enough to do it but thoughts are flowing. My life is just stress."

That is a sad story. Thankfully someone was able to reach out with Godly counsel. But the story illustrates the point. Here is an individual feels like his life is out of control. The only answer he can come up with is to kill himself. Of course he is smart enough to know, that is not the answer. Good for him. But unfortunately, many people do take that step. “What would happen if we decided to ask and believe that Jesus would help us?”

In the passage above Paul's counsel from the Holy Spirit is to remember a few things:

1)      In this world we walk in the flesh. That is to say, we are human, we live in the flesh and are subject to fleshly appetites, temptations, and temperaments. Christians are not free from this …yet.

2)      However, as a Christian, our battles are fought differently. We war against things, not as the world does, but as Christ has taught us through the word and by the Holy Spirit.

3)      The weapons the believer has at their side are all the powers of heaven. Listen to Paul's prayer for the Ephesian believers:

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,
17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--
19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 (NKJV)

Paul knew where his strength came from and it was not the flesh. On the contrary, the faculties for reasoning that God has graciously given each one are not enough to battle the trials life throws at us. They need to be strengthened and bolstered for doing battle where true battle is waged, in the mind. That takes us to point four.

4)      Our battles are against strongholds, built on imaginations, and bolstered by arguments, that defy and shake their fist toward the very presence of God. Do you notice that, if personified, the arguments, imaginations, and or speculations all know who they are up against? God! As long as we coddle them, they will never leave.

5)       But the power of God brings sanity to these stressful times and blows all the imaginations away at their foundations, if we will allow Him. Why do I say that? Because the first step in battling the odds thrown at us is to say in our hearts, "I am going to trust in God." The next thing we must ask is "What does God's word tell me about this situation(s)?" We then pray for guidance and we turn to His word and His promises. The question at that point is, "Will we be faithful enough to trust Him no matter what comes next? Can we be like Job who said, "Though He slay me I will trust Him." or like Paul and Silas who being chained to a prison wall in Philippi, decided to not worry about their current situation, but instead chose to sing hymns that lifted up the name of Jesus. Soon after, via an earthquake, the chains miraculously fell from their hands. I could list more examples, but you get the point.

6)      Once we have decided to trust the Lord you will see that all of these stacked arguments developed, via imaginations we conjure up in our minds—arguments that tell us we are no good, God is not with us, He cannot save us, He cannot hear us, and His promises are worthless, are soon cast down because they have been rounded up and placed under the authority of God's Word, the Agia Graphas, or Holy Scripture. These promises coupled with our obedient faith will punish the disobedience that allowed the distrust into our hearts in the first place. Healing will begin to occur.

To close, I would like for you to consider how imaginations play upon our minds. In the earlier story the individual was considering killing himself because of all the stress factors playing out in his life. He was literally becoming emotionally sick. Consider how this works. We have all seen a romance story or a drama that has brought big tears to our eyes. As we view the story and allow it to infiltrate our minds, the emotional side of the brain starts to think the story is real. We become enveloped in it, and the tears start to flow. Imaginations are subtle arguments that can build up a wall that blinds us to God’s provisions. All we need to do is cast down the wall and trust Christ.

Trials will come our way, there will be no stopping them as long as we are on earth (1 Pet. 1:6-9)  But when they come we have choices, we can embrace the cross, and find peace, or we can embrace the imaginations that bring sickness—those  that express the awful end of what could, but has not yet, occurred.

Hopefully, you will trust Christ and wait to see His glory.

Bro. Mike