INTRO.- David prayed, "Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer." David experienced stress just like us. Stress is not a modern invention, but it does seem like we have more things to cause us stress.
ILL.- Outside the Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, which is Denmark’s Parliament building, there are three stone figures guarding the entrance. They represent the earache, the headache, and the stomach ache. "They are here to suggest," said a Dane, "that if you enter politics, you will have all three."
I think that most of us would agree that entering the political world could well bring on many things that cause stress. And I don’t think many of us are quick to enter that world. God have mercy on those who do. Pray for our President.
We live in a very stressful or stress-filled society. And it effects all of us, not just politicians. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a test. Let’s take a stress test, not for your heart muscle but for your heart of hearts. Answer these questions 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, constipation and diarrhea.
5. I feel self-conscious or inadequate.
6. I have difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering things.
7. I feel depressed or I cry uncontrollably.
8. When things don’t go my way I get angry and aggressive.
9. I experience shakiness, trembling or nervous laughter.
10. I eat more food or drink more alcohol to make myself feel better or more at ease.
11. I experience eye strain and/or have dark circles under my eyes.
12. I feel all wound up, tense or nervous.
13. I experience tension or tightness in the muscles of my neck, back or jaw.
14. I have arguments with my co-workers or boss.
15. Changes in my daily routine, living conditions or relationships cause me distress.
Do any of these things sound like you? If so, what can we do to handle stress? Here are some things that experts suggest:
1- Identify your triggers
2- Get a Massage
3- Do Breathing exercises
4- Do some Aerobic exercise
5- Develop a support network: Studies show that women are better able to cope with emotional stress than are men due, in part, to their stronger support networks.
There is one important thing we have left out. What is that? THE HELP THAT WE HAVE FROM ABOVE!
Ps. 121:1-2 "I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."
Our help comes from someone who can do it all! Someone whose wisdom is not wanting. Someone whose power is not puny or pint-sized. Someone whose love is not limited, provisional or conditional. He is God. He is our Creator and our Father.
Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
I still believe the words of Jesus. I still believe He can do what He claims; not only save us from our sins but also soothe our hearts and minds. He is God in the flesh. He can do anything. He does nothing but good for us.
Both Psalm 3 and 4 deal with the subject of lack of sleep. People who are stressed out don’t sleep well. Psalm 3 and 4 were written when David was exiled because his own son Absalom had stolen the kingdom. It’s hard to understand how a father and a son could be so opposed to one another. There was so much conflict between them that Absalom wanted to kill his father. That boggles my mind! Family strife can deteriorate badly. Evil can invade our hearts unless guarded by God!
Ps. 3 is a morning Psalm. Ps. 4 is an evening Psalm. How could David sleep when he knew he was in danger? He also knew that God was for him. And that knowledge was even greater than his fears. He knew that God would surround him, sustain him and save him.
David wrote Psalm 4 as he was about to retire for the evening. He couldn’t do much about the war around him, but he could do something about the war within him. Instead of lying in bed fretting, stewing and worrying, he committed himself and his situation to the Lord and received relief.
PROP.- Let’s consider God’s remedy for stress which is God Himself. We need Him. We need more of Him. David asked God, he believed God and he received from God. This is the path of relieving stress. We ask. We believe. We receive.
I. WE ASK
V. 1 "Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful and hear my prayer." Asking is still a good place to start with God in regard to any problem we face in life. If we don’t ask, how do we expect to receive?
Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
Matthew 7:11 "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
God is our Heavenly Father and wants to do good for us and give us good gifts. Our Father wants to hug us, relieve us, and comfort us!
ILL.- Last Monday at the Veterans Day program at Peterson Park it was very windy and cold. I only wore a light jacket. I stood next to Meredith Kenton, Mallory and Jessica. I looked at Mallory and she looked at me. She also wore only a light jacket. She came to me and I put my arms around her, hugged her and kept her warm. THERE IS MORE OF ME THAN MORE OF HER!
Last Wednesday night after the youth program and Bible study Mallory saw me, came to me, wanting another hug and said, "You are a good cuddler!" MADE MY DAY!
Guess who is the best cuddler of all? OUR GOD, OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN! He can provide some relief that we can’t get anywhere else. HE’S THE BEST CUDDLER!
Phil. 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Prayer can bring relief from the anxieties of life. God’s inner, calming peace can come through prayer.
ILL.- It’s the kind of peace that enabled Corrie Ten Boom to say after being in a German prison camp, "There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still."
ILL.- Someone said, "God is so BIG He can cover the whole world with his love and so small He can curl up inside your Heart." When God curls up inside through prayer, there is peace.
ILL.- It is said that when Robert Louis Stevenson was a boy he once said to his mother, "Momma, you can’t be good without praying." "How do you know, Robert?" she asked. "Because I’ve tried!" he answered.
Prayer does make a difference. God can change us through prayer. God can make us good and He can relieve us of our anxieties or inner turmoil. Of course, some people tend to think, "Why would God be interested in me? Look at everything that I’ve done in life...everything I’ve done wrong. He’s not interested in me."
ILL.- A speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the bill up. He then asked. "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.
He said, "My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it, because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value: dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you."
Brothers and sisters, MORE IMPORTANTLY, WE ARE PRICELESS TO GOD WHO CREATED US! We are special in the eyes of God, our Father. This is why we should always be quick to ask of Him when we we’re faced with the stress of life. No one knows us better. And yet no one loves us more.
II. WE BELIEVE
Vs. 4-5 "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord."
In these verses David is obviously not talking to God. He is talking to people about their relationship to God. How to receive answers and help from God.
ILL.- An American scientist once visited the office of the great Nobel-prize-winning physicist, Niels Bohr, in Copenhagen. He was amazed to find that over Bohr’s desk was a horseshoe, securely nailed to the wall, with the open end up in the approved manner. (Supposedly to catch the good luck and not let it spill out). The American said with a nervous laugh, "Surely you don’t believe the horseshoe will bring you good luck, do you, Professor Bohr? After all, as a scientist -- " Bohr chuckled, "I believe no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not."
Brothers and sisters, it’s not important whether you believe in receiving good luck from a horseshoe or not. If you want to believe in it, that’s fine. We all have faith in something or someone. BUT OUR FAITH SHOULD DEFINITELY BE IN THE LIVING GOD AND WHAT HE CAN DO FOR US! We must believe in order for God to bless us.
Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."
Without faith we can’t please God and we won’t receive anything good from Him.
ILL.- Charles H. Spurgeon was England’s best known preacher in the 1800’s. He often preached to audiences of 10,000 without a PA system. He said one time, "I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation. A faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best..."
BELIEVE GOD TO THE HILT. That’s the kind of belief or faith that David had and we too must have in order to receive from Him. David said "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds..." Anger is a doorstop to God’s blessings and an open door to the devil.
ILL.- In early 1952, President Harry Truman appointed Newbold Morris to investigate crime and mismanagement in high government circles. Later that year, Morris was in the witness chair answering a barrage of pointed questions from the Senate sub-committee members. The investigation was becoming hot and fierce. Morris’ face took on a look of pain, then of surprise, and then of anger.
In the midst of the excitement, he shouted, as he reached into his coat and produced a sheet of white paper: "Wait a minute, I have a note here from my wife. It says. ‘Keep your shirt on.’" Everybody laughed, and the angry excitement died down, at least temporarily.
Most of the time when we get angry about something, someone, or some situation where we feel that we have been wronged, we don’t keep our shirt on! We often seethe with anger and/or plot with anger.
It is a guaranteed thing that we will get angry in life, but what we do with that anger is what makes a difference. This is why David said, "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds..."
David was better than most of us. Or perhaps at this time. He faced his anger and gave it to the Lord. Instead of lying in bed, thinking about it and letting it work on his heart, he prayed about it and gave it to the Lord. David believed God and trusted Him to take care of the matter. We must do the same.
We must believe that God can do what He says He can do. We must believe that He can calm our anger, soothe our hearts and take away our pain. We must believe God! We must trust Him!
III. WE RECEIVE
Vs. 6-8 "Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."
In the darkness of David’s turmoil he found light from the Lord. In his sorrow, he found joy in the Lord. He said, "You have filled my heart with greater joy than a big grain crop, new wine." And for us, it might be greater joy than when we have a new car, a new house, and a big bank account! God can bring greater joy into our lives than any material thing can!
David is now expressing his pleasure over what God had done for him. David asked, he believed and now he was receiving from God. He welcomed God’s goodness and blessing with open arms and a receptive heart.
Matthew 21:22 "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." We must believe and receive.
ILL.- Several weeks ago Elaine and I went back to Webb City, MO, for my 40th high school class reunion. While there, we ran into Jill Smith, activity director of the National Healthcare Nursing home where mom lived out her last days. Jill was the lady who was with mother as she passed from this life to a better life. Bless her heart for that! We were saddened to hear that one of mom’s good friends at the home had passed away just two months after mom. Her name was Rachel.
Rachel was 83 years old and also had Parkinson’s disease. She had a jewel of a heart. Whenever mother was hurting Rachel was quick to help mom any way she could. She would rub her neck, her feet, or her back in order to comfort mom. She would stand over mom like an old hen caring for her chicks.
Not only was Rachel quick to give comfort and love, she was also quick to receive it. Whenever I would go see Rachel (or whenever anyone would go see her) she would hold out her arms and say, "Give me a hug!" And she would just squeeze hard and hang on. She knew how to hug and wanted to be hugged. She was quick to receive God’s goodness from others. SHE RECEIVED IT WITH A WILLING HEART AND OPEN ARMS!
This is a lesson that we need to learn in regard to our Heavenly Father. He wants to bless us. He will bless us when we come to Him in faith. And we must learn to receive His blessings with willing hearts and open arms!
Sometimes we don’t know how to receive from God or His people.
ILL.- I remember one time when Seth Wilson who had been the academic dean at Ozark Christian College for like 40 years received a special recognition during their preaching convention. I thought it was nice gesture on behalf of the college and felt that Brother Wilson certainly deserved the recognition and honor. Afterward, I saw Brother Wilson and congratulated him. And he said very little, if anything at all. I was somewhat surprised at his lack of appreciation of my appreciation.
Later, I talked to his son Ben Wilson and told him how his father was so quiet when I expressed appreciation and congratulations. He said, "Dad doesn’t know how to receive thanks from anyone. He doesn’t know how to respond to it."
In defense of Brother Seth Wilson let me say that he is just humbled and doesn’t feel like anybody should thank him for anything. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate people’s kindness. He does. He just doesn’t think he is worthy. I know that Brother Wilson is deeply appreciative of everything God has given him and done for him.
We all need to learn how to receive God’s blessings, material, spiritual, etc.
Mark 10:15 "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
We should receive God’s kingdom and every good gift from God like a little child. How does a child receive any good gift? With great joy. With great appreciation, expression and excitement!
"Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I love you!"
Thank you, Lord. We are not worthy, but you are worthy of our praise and thanks. But thank you for every good gift you have given. Thank you for moments of calm. Thank you for the relief from anxiety that you give. We bless you! We love you!
ILL.- Sir George Adam Smith tells how he and his guide were climbing the Weisshorn in the Swiss Alps. It was stormy and they were making their climb on the sheltered side of the peak. When they reached the summit, they were filled with the exhilaration. Sir George forgot about the fierce winds, leaped up and was nearly blown over the edge to the glacier below! The guide grabbed hold of him and exclaimed: "On your knees, sir. You are safe here only on your knees!"
Life is not easy. We all go through periods of stress and strain. The only safe place in this life is on our knees. The only safe place is in the arms of God.