Summary: The key to being able to stand up under pressure, and turn our stress into rest, is not the situation we face, but how we think about that situation.
In the first message in this series, we talked about stress. What we found out was ...
(1) Stress is a fact of life. It is something not even the most spiritual Christian can avoid.
(2) Not only is stress unavoidable, it is necessary. Without the motivation of stressful circumstances, we won’t pay the price of change - we will just stay in our comfort zone.
So, we will have stress - BUT GOD NEVER INTENDS FOR US TO BE STRESSED OUT!
ILLUS: You may remember that I gave you the definition of stress that is used in physics, and illustrated it with the chair I’m sitting in. In physics, stress is defined as a force or pressure that tends to deform an object. When I sit in this chair, I put it under a lot of stress - the force of my weight is trying to deform it. But it doesn’t get deformed. Why? BECAUSE IT’S BUILT TO HANDLE THE STRESS!
If you are a believer in Christ, YOU ARE BUILT TO HANDLE STRESS!
But suppose the chair’s legs were out at an angle; that would make it much easier for them to buckle under pressure. In order for the chair to hold up under the stress of my weight, the legs must be almost straight under it. In the same way, in order for us as believers to hold up under the pressures of life, WE MUST KEEP OUR SPIRITUAL LEGS UNDER US.
What we want to find out today, from James 1, is how to keep our spiritual legs under us so that even though we go through stressful circumstances, we are not stressed out. In other words, HOW WE CAN TURN OUR STRESS INTO REST.
Go with me to our text for this series ...
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.
We want to look at three verbs in this passage - ACTION WORDS that tell us what we need to DO to keep our legs of faith under us so that we can stand at rest in stressful situations. Those three words are COUNT, KNOWING and LET. We will talk about the first two today, and get to the last one next time.
James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials
Let’s start with a definition: COUNT (Greek hegeomai) means to deem, consider, account, esteem, judge, suppose, think.
What that word signifies is: MAKE UP YOUR MIND HOW YOU ARE GOING TO THINK ABOUT THE SITUATION.
ILLUS: Have a big man come up. Push him, but be sure to emphasize to him beforehand that this is just an illustration. Because he has already made up his mind how to think about the situation - as a demonstration and not as aggression on my part – he can react with a laugh rather than anger – or worse!
What James is telling us is that the first step to being able to stand up under stress - to being able to be at rest in the midst of our stress - IS TO MAKE UP OUR MIND HOW WE ARE GOING TO THINK ABOUT THE SITUATION.
The level of stress I experience in any situation is determined not by the situation itself, but by how I think about the situation. MY MIND INTERPRETS MY CIRCUMSTANCES TO MY FEELINGS.
ILLUS: There has been talk at work about layoffs. You come in one Monday and they tell you they have to let you go. Wouldn’t that be stressful? BUT, what if, having heard the rumors, you had already been looking for another job, had interviewed and been offered one, and that very day you were going to give your 2-week notice? NO STRESS AT ALL! The difference between you experiencing great stress and experiencing no stress at all, is not in the circumstance of being laid off – it is totally in the way you THINK about being laid off.
So what James is telling us is that THE KEY ISSUE IN HANDLING STRESS IS MAKING UP MY MIND HOW I’M GOING TO THINK ABOUT THE SITUATION I’M FACING.
What are my choices? Remember the definition of stress we gave last time: STRESS IS NEGATIVE PRESSURE APPLIED TO OUR EMOTIONS BECAUSE OF PERCEIVED ADVERSE OR THREATENING CIRCUMSTANCES.
#1 So, my first choice is to FOCUS IN ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES - how bad and threatening they are. Isn’t that just what we tend to do? And if I do that, what will be the result? NEGATIVE PRESSURE ON MY EMOTIONS. If my thoughts are all about how horrible my circumstances are, my emotions will FEEL how horrible my circumstances are, and I will be stressed out.