Saturday, October 27, 2012

Conquering Stress

If there was one chief thing I’ve learned that greatly impacted me during my high school years is to not stress. Stress…sucks. Maybe not the most polite way to describe it, but that’s pretty much how it is. It doesn’t just “suck” in that it stinks and is not fun, but it sucks in that it sucks your energy, your peace, and your joy.  So…don’t stress. Simple, right? Well, it’s much easier said than done.
The other day I found a quote from John Piper, and it sort of changed the way I look at stress; stress is an act of selfishness. I guess I always knew that, but I never really processed it. Here’s the quote:
“Whenever your heart starts to be anxious about the future, preach to your heart and say, ‘Heart, who do you think you are to be afraid of the future and nullify the promise of God? No, heart, I will not exalt myself with anxiety. I will humble myself in peace and joy as I trust this precious and great promise of God—He cares for me.’” –John Piper
When we stress, we dwell on our failures. We dwell on the “what if’s”, which can be very dangerous, if we let them be. What if I fail this test? What if I can’t mend this relationship with my friend? What if I don’t get this done? What if I don’t know what I’m going to do after college? What if this, what if that. Folks, the “what if’s” don’t make things any better. They only make you drive yourself crazy.
But when we do not stress, it becomes an act of humility. It’s us our knees before the King saying, “I don’t know how today, tomorrow, or the next five years are going to turn out, but I’m trusting in Your sovereignty and Your provision. You are in control, and I’m not. You have promised me all these great things, and You never break Your promises.”
Basically if I could sum up this post in one sentence it would be this. Stressing is us fretting about what we cannot do; not-stressing is trusting in all that God can do.
When I think of passages on stress, these are the ones I think of. I highly recommend writing these down and putting them somewhere that you see often so that you can continually remind yourself to not stress (bold added by me).
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7
 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21
26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 10:26-33
This passage really struck me. Why? Because when we stress and complain to our friends/coworkers/family members of how stressed we are, we are denying God’s power to make the impossible possible. We’re saying, “Well, since God can’t take of this, I have to figure this out all by myself, and it’s hard for me to handle.” We don’t have to be in charge of our own lives! In fact, let’s not be! Life is so much richer and more joyful to live when all its complexities are in the hands of our Savior. 
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to 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, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25-34
So looking at these passages, here are some points to help us with stress. (Note: This post is not just for you. As I’m writing this, I am preaching this all to myself. It’s something I struggle with daily, and even right now as I’m concerned about a project due on Monday that I have very limited time to complete. I think stress is something that everyone will struggle with the rest of our lives. Thankfully we get better at it the more and more we trust in the Lord, but stress, I think, will always be hovering in this fallen world we live in. But thank goodness for the truth proclaimed in Romans 8:37, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Stress may be a strong force that’s hard to overcome, but our God is so much mightier than all the stress and worry and anxiety in the world. Why worry when the God we serve holds the entire universe in our hands, much less things like our grades in school or our finances? We serve a great God folks. Remember that.)

·         Are you living for yourself or for the Lord?
·         When you're looking at the big picture, is what you're worried about really worth stressing over?
·         Do you know the great things God has promised you?
·         Are you focusing on your weaknesses or on God's strength?
·         Are you rejoicing in the Lord?
·         Are you constantly lifting up prayers of thanksgiving?
·         Are your treasures set for the temporary or the eternal?
·         Do you have faith that God is in control of your life?
·         Do you believe that life is more than whatever you're stressed about?

 One last verse that I always find to be really encouraging, not just when it comes to stress, but anything else in life:
9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Even when we feel as though we are at the end of our rope and we’re stressed to the max, God uses everything we cannot do and does it. That’s so powerful! Even in our weakness, God makes us strong.

Don’t fret about what you cannot do, but trust in all that God can do.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cool Quote from John Piper

Saw this on the Desiring God website...their blog is AWESOME.

"When you take your stand on the finished work of God in Christ, and begin to drink at the River of Life and eat the Bread of Heaven, and know that you have found the end of all your longings, you only get hungrier for God. The more satisfaction you experience from God, while still in this world, the greater your desire for the next. For, as C. S. Lewis said, "Our best havings are wantings."

The more deeply you walk with Christ, the hungrier you get for Christ . . . the more homesick you get for heaven . . . the more you want "all the fullness of God" . . . the more you want to be done with sin . . . the more you want the Bridegroom to come again . . . the more you want the Church revived and purified with the beauty of Jesus . . . the more you want a great awakening to God's reality in the cities . . . the more you want to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ penetrate the darkness of all the unreached peoples of the world . . . the more you want to see false worldviews yield to the force of Truth . . . the more you want to see pain relieved and tears wiped away and death destroyed . . . the more you long for every wrong to be made right and the justice and grace of God to fill the earth like the waters cover the sea.

If you don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. God did not create you for this. There is an appetite for God. And it can be awakened. . . . "(A Hunger for God, 23)
Take a huge bite out of what God has in store for you. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Beautiful Sword

My apologies for not posting in awhile – trust me, there have been many times where I had something I wanted to share, but I just never got around to posting it. Sometimes I forget how crazy, chaotic, and stressful the month of October can be. And in the midst of trying times during the commencement of my favorite season, I am reminded of the Lord’s goodness, especially through the small things. This past weekend I spent a marvelous four days with wonderful people. It was a weekend of laughs and delicious pizza and good theatre, and it was awesome.

And then this afternoon I spent another lovely time of fellowship with my girl Mele, who I’ve mentioned about before. Over some chai tea and hot chocolate, we shared a time of confession and of encouragement, which we both really needed. To preserve confidentiality, I won’t give details, but Mele and I discussed spiritual testing, and how hard it can be. I think a lot of people believe that “hard times” solely come from your circumstances, but I know for a fact that hard times also come from internal, emotional stress and conviction. Mele and I encouraged each other with some of the following verses (the first one being the verse that sort of brought up the conversation):
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
-Psalm 139:23-24
This was the verse that brought up the conversation. It’s a great passage, and one I think as Christians we should continually pray for. So often we pray for things we need and want, but what we really need is for God to conform us to the image of His Son, and with that comes humility and conviction. But when we pray this prayer, and ask for the Lord to test us so that we might be stronger in our faith, we have to remember that God will bring that testing, and it won’t be easy.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
-Romans 8:1
I love this verse, because it’s so hopeful and encouraging. When you are a child of God, the Lord brings you conviction, not condemnation. It’s a wonderful thought. When we feel guilty for doing something wrong, the Holy Spirit convicts us, not condemn us. We don’t need to continually beat ourselves up over our mistakes when the Lord has already forgiven them. We can learn from our mistakes, and move on. That is the beauty of the Lord’s forgiveness and conviction.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
-Hebrews 4:12
This last verse was sort of the finale of our conversation. When you first read this verse, it sounds pretty painful. This is not a blunt, weak, wimpy sword we’re talking about, here. This thing is intense. God’s Gospel is not this light and fluffy Sunday school story. Yes, while it is a beautiful and hopeful message, to many it is also harsh and offensive. And that is why God’s Word is so awesome. It tells you like it is. It encourages you. It breaks you. It breaks you to the point where you are on your knees, in the most humble position you can be in. God’s sword is painful, bringing conviction that we (most of the time) don’t want to hear. But it is also a beautiful sword, because while it brings powerful and painful conviction, God is using the “double-edged” sword to carve us into the man/woman He wants us to be. When we go through internal struggles, God is slowly but surely etching His name upon our hearts. That is a glorious thing. And while it temporarily sucks to be convicted of your complaining attitude, your hateful thoughts, or your insincere actions, even when you feel you have noble intentions – in the end, God is using it for your good (Rom. 8:28) and His fame, so that by the time we are met with Him in glory, our hearts will be carved into something that looks similar to His.
I think pictures of sunsets/sunrises are just gonna be my new thing for this blog.
Now every time I see one, I can't help but thinking of how awesome God is.