Summary: One thing that often hinders Christians in enjoying our lives is stress. The times when we feel stressed out are usually the most miserable times in our lives. If believers are going to live the abundant life, we’ve got to learn how to deal with stress.
As you know, our theme this year in CCC is Determined to Develop. Today we want to talk about one of the areas of our lives that it is most crucial for us to develop in if we are going enjoy our lives.
Do you know that God intends for you to enjoy life? When we talk about the abundant life that Jesus came to give us, that’s part of what it means; we’re supposed to enjoy life. God never intended for us to live miserable lives!
One thing that so much of the time gets in the way of us enjoying our lives is stress. I think we’ve all experienced it. We’ve all had to deal with circumstances that put us under severe pressure, and we don’t know how to control the situation. Whenever we are going through such periods of high stress, those are not enjoyable times in life. In fact, it is the times when we are feeling not just stressed, but STRESSED OUT, that are the most miserable times in our lives.
Many times when I’ve felt under a lot of stress, I have found myself looking around at other people, even people on TV, and almost envying them because they are not going through what I’m going through. But, you know what I’ve found out as a minister - and you’ve heard me say this many times - "Everybody’s got issues!" Everybody seems to be dealing with some kind of stressful situation in their lives; and they are probably envying you because you’re not going through what they are going through.
So, if we as Christians are going to have abundant life, if we are going to enjoy living our lives the way God intends for us to, we’ve got to develop in our ability to deal with stress.
Today we want to deal with three facts from the Word of God - and I think that to many of us these may be surprising facts - three facts that we need to understand about the operation of stress in our lives as Christians.
1. Stress is unavoidable in life - even in the life of a Christian.
There will never be a time, until Jesus comes, when you don’t have to deal with stress in your life. Now, in order to understand that, we first need to understand what we are talking about when we talk about stress. Let me give you a definition.
STRESS IS NEGATIVE PRESSURE APPLIED TO YOUR EMOTIONS BECAUSE OF PERCEIVED ADVERSE OR THREATENING CIRCUMSTANCES.
The important thing about stress is that it is emotional - we FEEL stress. If you don’t have a negative emotional reaction to a situation, then there is no stress in that situation for you.
ILLUS: Suppose there was a knock on your door at 11 pm, and there were two policemen standing there, and they ask, "are you so-and-so?" Do you think you might be feeling some stress in that moment? Some fear and anxiety? But what if at 10 pm you had received a phone call: “Somebody found a wallet with your driver’s license and some money. We’re going to have a squad car come by to return it to you.” If that were the situation, you would probably have no fear, no anxiety, and therefore no stress.
So, stress is not caused by the situation itself – in this case policemen knocking on your door late at night. Instead, stress has to do with NEGATIVE EMOTIONAL PRESSURE due to our PERCEPTION of there being something adverse or threatening to us in that situation.
Please turn with me to our text for today.
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
The Greek word that is translated “trials” here is exactly the same word that is translated "temptations" elsewhere. Why would the same Greek word mean both “temptations” and “trials”? I believe it is because a trial is a situation that tempts you to indulge in ungodly behavior in order to get out from under the pressure of the situation. In other words, a trial is a situation that puts you under EMOTIONAL PRESSURE to respond to an adverse circumstance in an ungodly manner. And that emotional pressure is what we call stress.
SO, WHEN THE BIBLE TALKS ABOUT TRIALS IN JAMES 1:2, IT’S TALKING ABOUT STRESS.
Look at the verse again, and let’s notice some other words. First of all, it says “count it all joy WHEN you fall into various trials.” When, not if! Trials are a fact of life for even the most spiritual Christian. And then, "when you FALL into various trials," which implies that it is not necessarily something you did - it may be a situation you fell into unavoidably (although much of the time our stress does result from our own actions and decisions).