Summary: Dealing with stress in a godly way
(Based on a Sermon from Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2003)
INTRODUCTION… USA Today Poll about Stress, Jan 24, 2002
How often do you experience stress in your daily life?
42% = Frequently
38% = Sometimes
18% = Rarely
2% = Never
ILLUSTRATION… from stress.org
It has been estimated that 75 - 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. Job Stress is far and away the leading source of stress for adults but stress levels have also escalated in children, teenagers, college students and the elderly for other reasons, including: increased crime, violence and other threats to personal safety; pernicious peer pressures that lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy life style habits; social isolation and loneliness; the erosion of family and religious values and ties; the loss of other strong sources of social support that are powerful stress busters. Contemporary stress tends to be more pervasive, persistent and insidious because it stems primarily from psychological than physical threats. It is associated with ingrained and immediate reactions: Heart rate and blood pressure soar, blood sugar rises, digestive changes.
I would like you to think about these questions as I ask you and answer them in your mind:
1. I feel overwhelmed and confused. Never, Sometimes, Often, Always
2. I have difficulty sleeping.
3. I find myself feeling worn out at the end of the day.
4. I have increased digestive problems such as heartburn
5. I have difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering things.
6. I feel depressed or I cry uncontrollably.
7. I experience shakiness, trembling or nervous laughter.
8. I eat more food or drink more alcohol to make myself feel better or more at ease.
9. I experience eye strain and/or have dark circles under my eyes.
10. I feel all wound up, tense or nervous.
11. I experience tension or tightness in the muscles of my neck, back or jaw.
Answering positively to most of these questions means you are dealing with stress in your life. What do we do to handle stress? Some experts in the field of stress suggest massages or warm baths or exercise or whatever enables you to release the tension in your life. Yet, as Christians, we cannot leave God out of the picture. We have help from God in dealing with stressful times.
If you are among the 98% of Americans who deal with stress, I have several questions for you. Can your stress result in joy? Can we manage the stress in a way that does not pull us down? In the passage we are going to look at this morning, Paul is in a stressful situation and yet praises God and has joy. Let’s look at this passage and glean some truths from it.
READ PHILIPPIANS 1:18-30
I. STAY FOCUSED (V. 19)
Paul has seen much opposition to his evangelizing efforts lately and now he is in prison. I think we can all agree that to be imprisoned and to be facing trial and death is a definite stressful situation. Yet it does not seem to overwhelm him.
In verse 19, Paul confesses that he knows that he is being prayed for and has help from the Holy Spirit. That phrase “for I know” gives us the sense that he is concentrating on these two facts about his situation, prayers and the Holy Spirit, and these are giving him strength. Paul is not basing his faith or his thoughts on feelings, but he is remaining focused on God.
II. REMAIN FAITHFUL (V. 20)
Paul discovered that by staying focused that he could remain faithful in this stressful time. Stress often allows our emotions and fears and worries to take over our whole life. Paul refused to give in to his fears and worries, but trusted in God’s strength to enable him to be bold and strong in his stressful hostile environment. Our problems and the solutions that elude us are dominating our minds instead of thoughts of God and His provision. Paul refused to give in and pressed on believing in the Lord.
III. BE FRUITFUL (V. 21-26)
Paul’s focus allowed him to be faithful and his faithfulness produced fruitful labor. In spite of all that was going on in his life, Paul was filled with the joy of knowing that his situation was in God’s hands and that God would use it for his benefit. Paul knew that God had much to gain from this pressure situation. If Paul died, then he would be with Christ. If Paul lived, then he would have more opportunities to share the Gospel and win others to Christ.
Many times when we are stressed out we tend to shut down or stop thinking. We can choose to be productive and make something of the pressurized stressful situation.