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Faithlife

Overcoming Stress

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Notes & Transcripts
Philippians 4:4–9 ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 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. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Introduction
Warren Weirsbe once said, “Most Christians are being crucified on a cross between two thieves: Yesterday's regret and tomorrow's worries.” Today, we are beginning a new sermon series on problems that we all face, difficulties that we have all or one day will all deal with.
Body

Stress is Real and We all Suffer from It

There is nothing unholy, or unChristian about stress. All people suffer from it to one level are another. Stress can be caused by our jobs or the loss of a job, our finances and debt, our marriages or the dissolution of our marriages, our children or inability to have children, our circumstances, our government, what’s going on the in the news, the loss of a loved one. Stress is everywhere and it cannot be either avoided or ignored. Andrew Bernstein notes, “The number of stressors has multiplied exponentially: traffic, money, success, work/life balance, the economy, the environment, parenting, family conflict, relationships, disease. As the nature of human life has become far more complicated, our ancient stress response hasn't been able to keep up.
Stress is the 2,000 lb. elephant in the room, the sleeping rattlesnake in the bed waiting to devour us. So We tend to deal with stress in a number of ways.
We Flee
Many times our reaction is to flee the problem. We change jobs, change homes, go on a shopping spree, or even get a divorce all in the hopes that this change will make us feel better; that it will fulfill us.
The problem is that no matter where we run, our problems seem to chase us. The truth is stress is real, and it can’t be ignored without being detrimental to us.
We Internalize
Another way we tend to deal with stress is to internalize it. We pack it in, hiding it behind high walls and fake smiles. We pretend that our stress isn’t there, or we ignore it hoping that it will just go away. But as author A. Meredith Walters notes, “Ignoring things won't make them go away. It only makes it harder to face them when they finally come around.”
Often, when problems are hidden, they eventually boil over, spilling out into other areas of our lives. We become distant and angry and this can cause even further stress
We Crumble
A final way that some of us respond to stress is to crumble, to mentally and emotionally break down. We become a shell of ourselves locking ourselves away from the world, shutting down to family and friends. We become depressed, despondent and broken.
So what do we do with stress, and how are we to respond to it biblically?

Responding to Stress Biblically

Focus on God - Rejoice in the Lord always
The Philippians lived in a world and a climate where persecution for your faith was a very real possibility. When Paul wrote this letter he was in prison and at the end of his life. Paul understood stress. In he notes:
he notes:
2 Corinthians 11:23 ESV
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.
Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.
So what did Paul tell the Philippians to do? Paul tells them to rejoice in the Lord always. The first step in overcoming stress is taking our eyes off our problem and putting them on God. Charles Stanley says that we need to
“Look at our situation as with a telescope, not under a microscope. All too often, we magnify our troubles beyond their significance and in so doing increase their pressure. Instead, remember that God is the author and finisher of our faith, knowing the end from the beginning and providing all of our necessities for the present.”
When I take my eyes off of my life, and my stress and put it into perspective, it helps me to overcome the stress that I feel. God promises that he will neither leave us nor forsake us (, c.f. ) and so we should keep our eyes on Jesus, maintaining a spirit of joy in the Lord.
Let it Go - Do not be anxious about anything…
The second key can be found in v. 6 where Paul commands the Philippians to not be anxious about anything. The word for anxious can mean “to be concerned about”, but this is not what Paul is saying. He is not saying that we go through life in a blissfully ignorant haze, ignoring the problems of life, but instead that we not be anxious, and fretful allowing our lives to be controlled by our anxieties.
So what are we not to be anxious about? Surely anything must not mean anything! Paul can’t mean that we should not be anxious over cancer, or a lost job, or other calamities. This can be a confusing if we don’t know the Greek here. In the English it says, “Do not be anxious about anything…” But the word anything in the Greek can be tricky. So let me clear it up. The Greek uses the word medeis (may-dice) and that word literally means all things, or anything. So what are we to be anxious over? Nothing. Yes, Paul does mean that we can learn to not be anxious, that we can and should learn to trust God completely.
Note that the apostle’s words allow for no loopholes—“always” permits no exceptions regardless of how humiliating or painful things might be. Similarly, the readers are commanded to find their joy “in the Lord” rather than in their circumstances. As such, Christian “joy is a basic and constant orientation of the Christian life, the fruit and evidence of a relationship with the Lord” (Bockmuehl).8 It comes from what the Lord has done in the past, from what he is doing now, and from the hope of what he will do in the future. (R. Kent Hughes)
The problem isn’t a comprehension problem, but a faith problem. “For some reason, we think of doubt and worry as "small" sins. But when a Christian displays unbelief...or an inability to cope with life, he is saying to the world, "My God cannot be trusted," and that kind of disrespect makes one guilty of a fundamental error, the heinous sin of dishonoring God. That is no small sin.” - John MacArthur . The problem isn’t that we don’t understand God, the problem is that we don’t believe God when he says that he will provide for us.
God’s people, we must trust God. The cure for stress and worry is faith. That’s not to say that worriers don’t have faith, this is not an indictment of those who worry, but rather an encouragement for all of us to seek to trust God more.
Give it Up - But in everything by prayer and supplication…
Paul is not calling for apathy or inaction, but rather he is calling for us to cast our cares on the LORD and trust that he will sustain us (). Paul encourages the Philippians to not be anxious, but instead to pray about everything. He is encouraging us to make plans, to go through our options, to be concerned about our struggles, but to do these things with a full assurance that our God hears our prayers for what we need.
Prayer is the answer to anxiety. It is the solution to worry. It is the salve for stress. Prayer is me simply telling God that I trust him to see me through my struggles and help me navigate the circumstances I find myself in. Prayer is acknowledging “that whatever God sends is for (our) good.”
Paul’s promise is that if we will turn our troubles over to God then the “peace of God, transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What this means is that when I commit my circumstances to God I will receive God’s peace. God’s peace is an “inner sense of contentment supplied by God”. There is nothing so wonderful as being fully assured that God is in control. There is nothing so comforting as knowing that God has heard my prayers and that he is working out his will for his glory and my good. God’s promise is that if I will trust him he will not fail me.
Does that mean my family member won’t die, or my job will be saved? Sometimes. But more often what it means is that God will not fail to love me and comfort me and give his peace to me through my struggle if I fully rely on him.
Christian maturity is not about the absence of trouble, but rather about the presence of God’s peace and comfort. It’s trusting in him above all things.
Look Up - think about these things.
Finally, Paul encourages the believers to focus on what is “true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise.” As Christians, we are to live a life that exemplifies Christ in the face of suffering. We do this by focusing on God, focusing on the holy, focusing on the honorable. We do this by looking at the wider world around us and not focusing on the negative, but rather on the positive. Yes, we should pray about ISIS, and about the spread of global terror, but we should also praise God that in Iran there is an unprecedented revival occurring. More Iranians have come to Christ in the past 30 years than in the prior 1400 years combined! The 2013 Operation World prayer manual lists the growth of Christianity in Iran as leading the entire world with approx. 20% annual growth. The gospel is going out in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and around the world!
Not only that, Paul admonishes us to practice Christian living. To grow in their faith and to be spiritually excellent. Despite their problems, they were to keep on practicing what they had learned. One of the best ways to deal with stress is to love God and to love People. When I am focusing on my relationship with God and serving others it provides perspective and peace in my life. When I am tending the garden of my heart spiritually, when I am walking with God and serving others there is a promise that God, who provides us with peace, will be with us.
What a promise and what a truth. True hope in dealing with the stresses of life if found in Christ Jesus.
What are you struggling with this morning? What burdens have you lain on your back and are bearing them? Would you lay them on the back of your Savior today?
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