April 23, 2017

         The society we currently live in was prophesied 2500 years ago in Daniel 12:4, where the angel Gabriel said to him, “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase."  Indeed, in just the last 100 years knowledge has literally exploded, as well as our means of transmitting knowledge, and our means of transportation.  Today’s society was pure science fiction a century ago.

          And yet it seems that all of these modern inventions that are supposed to make our lives easier - computers and cell phones, cars and airplanes – have only added to our workloads, overloaded our brains, and made our lives more stressful. While they were supposed to make it faster and easier for us to remain connected and accomplish more, ask any person who wants to smash their computer against the wall, stomp on their cell phone, and curse out the airlines and bumper to bumper highway traffic on a regular basis, how much they not only desire, but desperately need, time away from all of it.

          Our Lord Jesus recognized this need in his disciples.  In Mark 6:30-32 we read, the apostles gathered around Jesus and brought Him news of all they had done and taught.  And He said to them, ‘Come with Me privately to a solitary place, and let us rest for a while.’ For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they went away in a boat by themselves to a solitary place.”   Of course what happened next is familiar to many a pastor, for in the following two verses we read, But many people saw them leaving and recognized them. They ran together on foot from all the towns and arrived before them. When Jesus stepped ashore and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.”  Like Jesus, we are called to have compassion on others who need not only our guidance, but also our encouragement, understanding, and love.

          But overloaded schedules aren’t the only cause of stress.  Stress is a chameleon that changes it colors regularly.  When we think we have finally escaped one form, we discover it has only morphed into something else.

          Let’s start at the beginning…  We often think of children as being stress-free, happy-go-lucky, without a care in the world.  And yet just talk to a child that is being bullied, a child who is desperately trying to live up to the high expectations of his or her parents and teachers, whose parents are getting divorced, or who recently lost a grandparent, parent, or sibling, and you will quickly reassess that view.   And high school?  Peer pressure is one of stress’ ugliest faces.  Peer pressure tries to get you mixed up with alcohol, drugs, casual sex, and gangs.  Then there’s academic pressure to get into college, and performance pressure if you are on a school sports team.  And it only gets worse in college.

          As you move through these stages of life, at each one you hope and pray that the next one will be easier.  Finally you graduate, and now you face the tough job market.  Finding a job, keeping a job, trying to advance in a career…  Sometimes starting over completely.  What about marriage?  It took me four tries to find my perfect mate.  Children?  The Bible says they are a blessing, but even the Bible speaks of some who aren’t.  And as Christian upbringing continues to go the way of the DeSoto, rebellious, even criminal, children are on the increase. 

          And after you go through all of this, then what?  Your body starts to fall apart.  Aging in itself is stressful.  You can’t do the things you used to enjoy.  You feel frustrated.  At times even worthless.  Women fret over their looks.  Men over their fading strength and vitality.  You have regrets over past choices, misspent days, and broken relationships. 

          So now that I have painted a picture of all of the anxiety that we face as we go through our lives, you are probably wondering if I am going to give you any good news at all!  Yes, I am not here to discourage you.  On the contrary, as I said earlier it is my job to encourage you.   Jesus knows what it is like to face stress in this world.  We often forget that he was as much true man as he was true God.  He felt pain, and grief, and stress just the same as you and I.  Even more so, when you consider that he came to this earth for the purpose of suffering beyond what any of us can even imagine.  That his disciples betrayed, denied, and abandoned Him when he needed them most.  And that even His Father had to turn away when He was on the cross as our sins were heaped upon His head. When He told his disciples in advance what was about to happen, he added these words, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).  Yes, we are to take courage in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world, even today’s world.  And we can also overcome through Jesus.  We can overcome stress, worry, doubt, and fear.  We can even overcome sin, death, and the devil.  We can have peace amid the conflict, peace amid the storm, peace amid our suffering.  Peace in knowing that we are loved and forgiven, and that the Holy Spirit is within us empowering us to love and forgive others. 

          The apostle Paul said, Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

          So let us fix our eyes upon Jesus and stand on His promises!  Amen. 


What are some ways we can deal with stress?  I like to run.  Of course, popping bubble wrap is always good!  But the best way is ?  (Give our stress to God through prayer).