Summary: How do you respond , what do you do when tribulation, trials, or difficult times attach themselves to your life? Do you tribulate or rejoice?
“Living a Joy-full Life: Control Your Stress”
I love the old story about a devout servant who was agonizing excessively over a certain experience when she was asked by her mistress, “Why do you agonize so long and so deeply over your misfortune? After all, you’re a Christian and you have the grace of God to help you over times like this.” The servant responded, “Well, when the Lord sends me tribulation, I tribulate!” Boy does that ring a bell with me – I, too, have often tribulated – even though I know I have the grace of Jesus Christ working for me. How about you – how do you respond, what do you do when tribulation, trials, or difficult times attach themselves to your life? How do you handle the stress of life?
Paul, as you may recall, was in prison awaiting a verdict on his life – if ever he had a right to be stressed out, this was it. But he chose A DIFFERENT POSITION. 17 times in this letter he mentions rejoicing and joy. We can safely assume he was serious about life a joy-full life. From his imprisonment he emphatically states (4), “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” There are no loopholes or escape clauses here – always rejoice. As Karl Barth postulated, ‘joy’ in Philippians is a defiant ‘Nevertheless!’ ”—nevertheless “Rejoice.” OUR CIRCUMSTANCES ALONE NEED NOT DETERMINE THE CONDITION OF OUR HEARTS. It’s the same spirit expressed by the Psalmist in Ps. 73. He shared how he had come to be upset with God because of the apparent success and health of God’s enemies. Yet he came to a point of realization (23-26): Yet (nevertheless) I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Rejoice always.
But it’s important to note that Paul says to REJOICE “IN THE LORD.” We rejoice because of what Jesus has done for us. Rejoicing FLOWS FROM A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST. A child once remarked that she believed Principal Rainy went to Heaven every night because he was so happy every day. Rainy once said, “Joy is the flag which is flown from the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there.” And when our flag flies others take notice. That’s what Paul means when he instructs us to let our gentleness be evident to all – when we rejoice in the midst of tough times, it’s a witness to others; people take notice of those who rejoice in their circumstances.
Admittedly it sounds hard – it’s tough to “rejoice always.” But we can, says Paul, because “The Lord is near (at hand.)” Think of a classroom of students. The teacher has gone out of the room and remains out for some time. Chances are quite good that the atmosphere of the classroom in her absence is different than when she is present. Her presence changes everything. So with Jesus – His presence changes everything. And He is not a teacher standing by us – rather He is the Creator of the world who came to earth to be with us and who holds all things together (Col. 1:17). I ask you: Is anything too hard for the Lord? No matter what you’re going through, no matter how heavy the load, no matter how hard you’re tribulating, you are not alone. Jesus is at hand, ready to help you.
So (6) “Do not be anxious about anything…” Ever been anxious about something? The Greek word for ‘worry’ means to tear apart, to distract, to come apart at the seams of a garment. The Latin word for ‘worry’ suggests a violent agitation and turmoil inside a person. The Anglo-Saxon word describes a power gripping a man by the throat. Get the picture? Anxiety and worry tear us apart, create inner turmoil, and grab us by the throat. The truth is anxiety and stress have adverse effects on our muscles, heart rate, blood vessels, and our glands. Is it any wonder Paul says “Do not be anxious about anything…”?
Notice Paul does not say we shall not be anxious but that we need not be anxious. It’s a choice we make. Since the Lord is at hand, and since all things hold together in Him, we can release ourselves from the compulsion to tackle our circumstances by ourselves. As Rick Warren once put it, we can stop assuming responsibility God never intended us to have. I appreciate how a poet penned it: “Don’t you trouble trouble Till troubles trouble you, Don’t you look for trouble; Let trouble look for you….Don’t you borrow sorrow You’ll surely have your share. He who dreams of sorrow Will find that sorrow’s there…Don’t you hurry worry By worrying lest it come. To flurry is to worry, ‘Twill miss you if you’re mum…If care you’ve got to carry Wait till ‘tis at the door; For he who runs to meet it Takes up the load before…If minding will not mend it, Then better not to mind; The best thing is to end it – Just leave it all behind…Who feareth hath forsaken The Heavenly Father’s side; What He hath undertaken He surely will provide…The very birds reprove thee With all their happy song; The very flowers teach thee That fretting is a wrong…’Cheer up,’ the sparrow chirpeth, ‘Thy Father feedeth me; Think how much more He careth, O lonely child, for thee.’…’Fear not,’ the flowers whisper; ‘Since thus he hath arrayed The buttercup and daisy, How canst thou be afraid?’…Then don’t you trouble trouble, Till trouble troubles you; You’ll only double trouble, And trouble others too.”