Isaiah 40:27-31 (ESV)
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
I can’t stress this enough; we live in a world of stress. We sense it, we see it, we feel it. The government, media and social media are intent on ramping anxiety up. When one stress subsides, they find another to replace it. The good news is that if you aren’t stressed about COVID anymore, you can now stress about Monkey Pox, or Influenza. If you want consistency, long COVID and if none of that phases you, why not stress about climate change, the Ukraine Russia war, or China/Taiwan for that matter, the housing crisis or interest rates or inflation. It’s a smorgasbord of stress, a stressesbord if you will!
Psychologist Dr. Les Parrott writes, “We are living in the Age of Anxiety. Many see stress and anxiety as the most pervasive psychological phenomenon of our time.”
PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS
In 21st century Australia, we face paralysis by analysis. So much information is available. There are so many opinions, we can be overwhelmed. If we stress over it, we are doomed. Even as Christians, we face a barrage of media and personal attacks. We are being excluded for not being inclusive. People fight, back stabbing each other for their opinions, that we can easily forget what Peter wrote,
1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)
casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.
In the maelstrom of life where we cast most of our anxieties on ourselves, in the overload of facts and figures and opinions, one thing that can lower our stress is to remember that God loves us. He sees us and loves and cares for us individually, not just as a mass, and we can cast our stresses onto Him.
Someone said that we are living in the day of the quick hash and the mad dash. Fast food, fast information, fast communication. I bought a microwave TV so that I can now watch the show 60 Minutes in just 1 minute.
We live in a world of speed, activity, and noise. Another person described our entire lives in the modern generation as hurry, worry, and bury. We live in a hurry, worry a lot and are buried earlier than we expected.
We need to understand the divine principles related to stress. God can actually use stress, but we need to understand the important principles which cause stress to hurt us rather than help us, to break us rather than bless us, and to destroy us rather than develop us.
Stress can be a friend or foe in our lives. It can be a killer, but it can also be a builder and an inspirer. God uses stress to strengthen His children, not to shrink them.
1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised by stress, but neither should we be conquered by it. We have to understand and recognise the dangers of stress, while embracing the transformation in Christ it can bring.
BEWARE THE LITTLE FOXES
Stress is sometimes overt, but often it is covert. It’s sneaky, and you don’t even know when it’s sneaking up on you. We are so conditioned towards stress that we often can’t even feel it when it is ramping up. Yet the little stresses are accumulative, and stress can be like death by a thousand cuts.
Song of Songs 2:15 (ESV)
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”
Often it is not one big stress, but scores of little stresses that push you over the edge. Recently I experienced this, when so many little things went wrong, all in the same week. From loans to insurance claims, things breaking at work and home, retinal cameras to aircons, water pumps even septic systems. I felt stressed and overwhelmed! To the point where I almost ceased to function.
Stress adds up, and it does many things, let’s look at them.
1. STRESS CAN MAKE YOU EMOTIONALLY WEAK
Excessive stress can just wear you down and make you weary, and ultimately make you an emotional wreck. It leads to emotional weaknesses. Stress, not properly handled, leads to worry, anger, and bitterness. It causes a person to lose joy and even to think unreasonably, feeling overwhelmed. Stress can make a person hard to deal with because of emotional tension.
Sometimes you think you can operate under perpetual stress, and can keep it up for a long time, but sooner or later you pay the piper. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. That’s why Jesus said,
Matthew 11:28 (ESV)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Stress that you carry alone for a long time is a heavy burden, and it’s a burden God wants to carry for you.
2. STRESS CAN MAKE YOU PHYSICALLY WEAK
Stress affects your health, your stamina, and your ability to resist sickness. Excessive stress can grind you down and make you weak.
Doctors tell us that Stress leads to many kinds of illness, including but not limited to: heart disease, headaches, stomach spasms, ulcers, hypertension, and muscle cramps. Stress can make someone so physically weak it can literally kill a person.
But Paul wrote,
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
The weakness caused by stress may be used of God, or it might just be deadly.
3. STRESS CAN MAKE YOU SPIRITUALLY WEAK
Luke 24:38 (ESV)
And Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
Stress can also make a person dangerously negative. It keeps them from faith because it produces doubt. Stress clouds our vision because it keeps us focussed on the negative. That’s why Proverbs tells us to…
Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
4. STRESS CAN MAKE YOU MENTALLY CONFUSED
Just two weeks ago my stress levels were through the roof, and I could barely connect two sensible thoughts in my head. I felt overwhelmed and confused. This type of confusion is not from God. If you are confused in your mind today, He can sort your head out because God is Truth. That’s why Paul could write,
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV)
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
Lately, I have been so stressed that I was feeling perplexed and bordering on despair. But when I gave my stress load to God, He drew me out of despair.
5. STRESS CAN MAKE YOU SAD, ANXIOUS AND DEPRESSED
Psalms 94:19 (ESV)
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
Stress takes your eyes off Christ and places them on yourself and your problems. When the cares of your heart are many, the Lord can cheer your soul. Stress causes sadness.
Psalms 119:143 (ESV)
Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.
LET ME STRESS THAT IT’S NOT ALL BAD
Stress can be good, it’s not all bad. A grandfather clock stops running if you remove the weight. It runs because the weight is raised, and the stress this causes is what drives the clock mechanism.
James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
As we face trials and stress, God uses these to strengthen and perfect us.
DO I LOOK GOOD IN THIS STRESS?
We all face stress, every one of us, but it’s how we deal with it that makes the difference. You can fall beneath or climb above stress in your life. Poor stress management breaks down our relationships, our bodies, our effectiveness, and our spiritual life. Stress is a dangerous thing to handle improperly. So how can we deal successfully with stress in this stressful life?
1. BE AWARE
One of the best tools the enemy has for bringing us down is to load up our stress levels and make sure we are not aware of it. You need to remain vigilant to the stress you are under and listen to key people in your life.
1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
I have a wife who is a psychotherapist, so she tends to get this real good. But others around me, in fact many of you here in the church body at Ignite, have expressed concern about my stress. Stay aware and watch your stress levels. This week we have heard about the black dog of depression, fuelled by stress, and Paul Green’s suicide.
2. KNOW YOUR LIMIT
We need to sense when things are getting on top of us.
Samuel Plimsoll introduced legislation to the British Parliament in the 1800s requiring that a series of marks be painted on the hulls of merchant ships. They consisted of several lines one above the other. The top one was called the “Plimsoll mark” or “load line.” It was used to indicate the maximum depth the vessel could be loaded with cargo without endangering the boat in a storm. God loves us and knows our stress limit, but do we?
3. START PRAYING
Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Start praying if you are feeling stressed and anxious. Prayer can give you peace, and peace is the antidote for stress. When I was at my most stressed, I didn’t know what to pray for at all. In fact, I could barely think straight. So, I prayed in the spirit, and I sensed my stress levels begin to subside.
4. BE THANKFUL
Second part of that verse says…
Philippians 4:6 (ESV)
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
In your stress, take your eyes off the problems and stresses you face and start to see the blessings. As the old song says, count your blessings name them. One by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Ephesians 5:20 (ESV)
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Psalms 107:1 (ESV)
Let the Redeemed of the LORD Say So Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
We whine and complain and belly ache about so many things these days, that we don’t give thanks enough. Giving thanks reduced stress.
5. GET CLOSER TO GOD
If you are stressed, there is nothing better you can do than get closer to God.
Philippians 4:7 (ESV)
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Getting close to God guards you against stress, it guards your heart and mind. And here’s the thing, if you fear the Lord, you have nothing else you need to fear. As Solomon writes,
Proverbs 14:26-27 (ESV)
In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
6. FOCUS ON JESUS
In Matthew 14 Peter got out of the boat and walked on water.
Matthew 14:30 (ESV)
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
He took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the stress around him. That’s when he sank, and you will sink too if you focus on the stress around you.
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
What is your mind on today as you face life’s stresses? What are you concentrating on? The greatest source of peace, the biggest de-stressor on the planet is focussing on Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
HEY STRESS HEAD, IT’S TIME TO FLY HIGHER!
Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Stress slowly kills you, and we live in a world that is slowly killing itself, killing each other. The world makes sure that its citizens are constantly stressed about everything, but your citizenship is in heaven! You are not destined to stress yourself to death, you are destined to fly.
An eagle is a magnificent bird of prey, and sometimes smaller, annoying birds attack it. They flit around, plucking feathers and obstructing the mighty eagle. The eagle could waste its time trying to defend itself against these small, fast-moving birds, but it doesn’t. It simply flies higher, until the annoying stressful birds can’t breathe in the ratified atmosphere.
That’s the play here…fly higher in Christ.
If you are stressed, pray, give thanks, focus on Jesus, and fly higher. Who is under stress today?
HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT YOUR LIFE?
WHAT ARE YOU SPECIFICALLY STRESSED ABOUT RIGHT NOW?
HOW CAN YOU REDUCE STRESS IN CHRIST?