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Stressed Out
By Tom Brown

            Life can be stressful. It’s difficult to juggle marriage and kids, especially if you are having problems with both. Marriage is tough already without the additional stress of arguing all the time. And if you have problems with even one child, this can compound an already stressed out life. Then you have work! With deadlines to meet, customers to see, products to make—this can be all too much to handle.

            The Bible gives a practical and spiritual solution to the stress problem:

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.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:6-9)

            The message is simple: Pray right, think right and live right.

Prayer is More than Asking

            God cares about your life and you can go to Him about every problem you face. However, prayer is more than asking. The passage says, “But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanks giving present your requests to God.” There is more to prayer than petition. Petition is part of prayer, but if it were the only thing about prayer, then why does the verse say “prayer and petition.” It is not enough to petition—you need to pray too.

            Jesus taught us that prayer begins not with asking for our daily bread, but by praising God. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Do you see that prayer begins with acknowledging the greatness and goodness of God?

            The nation of Judah faced an insurmountable problem. Three nations had conspired together to annihilate the Jews. King Jehoshaphat bowed down in prayer and then some Levites stood and praised the Lord (see 2 Chron 20:18-19). In that atmosphere of praise God spoke to them and told them, “The Battle is not yours but the Lords.” God will take care of you. So they put praisers on the battle lines and as they praised God, He confused the three nations so they actually killed off each other. The secret to their victory was praise.

            When you praise God you are really magnifying the Lord. We are all familiar with reading glasses. Recently my wife bought me some glasses to read small print or when the light is not bright. When I put them on, the print “seems” bigger to me. It is still the same size, but I can read the words better. The same is true with God. God is always large and big—omnipotent. But sometimes are eyes are not so good to see how great God is, but praise Him is like putting on glasses so God is magnified in our sight. You actually see Him for who He is! It’s time to praise God. Praising God will remove the stress.

            It’s okay still to petition God. Ask God for what you need. If your problem is at home ask God to change the situation. If it is at work or money issues then ask God specifically for what you need. There is nothing wrong with “presenting your request to God.” You have not because you ask not. God would do amazing things if we just ask Him.

            I feel such peace when I specially ask God to do something, because I have the assurance that He will grant my requests. This brings my mind under control. Don’t simply complain about your stress—do something about it by asking God for what you need. Do you think you would have the stress if God came through by solving your problem? Of course not. If you are stressed out over a lack of money, do you think if you had more of it you would feel better? Sure you would. So go ahead and ask God.

            Smith Wigglesworth was a great English evangelist, but before he entered full-time ministry he was a plumber and avid believer. One day he received a call to do some plumbing work for a wealthy lady. He arrived with such joy. He was whistling as he did his work, softly singing praises to God. The lady was impressed by his joy. She asked, “Why are you so happy?”

            He answered, “This morning my little girl woke up with a fever. So I prayed the prayer of faith, laid hands on her—and blessed be God—He healed her. Jesus said, ‘Ask and you shall receive so that your joy may be full.’ My joy is full this morning because the Lord has answered my prayer.” He preached the goodness of God to that dear lady and she got gloriously saved.

            Answered prayer gave Wigglesworth peace and joy. If he had not prayed for his daughter, he might have come to the lady’s house with stress, but because God answered his prayer, he had peace. Ask boldly and watch God come through for you.

            The first passage also adds “with thanksgiving.” This means when you pray you should have an attitude of gratitude. You can pray much but if you are ungrateful for your life, your prayers won’t do much good. I have noticed that gratitude is a very rare trait. Jesus acknowledged this. After healing ten lepers only one came back to thank Him. Jesus rhetorically asked, “Where are the other nine?” This is the way it is.

            The majority who are blessed and helped by the Lord do not see how good God is to them. Romans 1:21 tells us that people’s thinking becomes futile when they are not grateful. I have never gone to a mental hospital and met a patient who regularly practiced gratitude. It seems to me that the devil works better on those who are ungrateful.          

            The battle is in the mind. The mind is useless against Satan without gratitude toward the Lord. Protect your mind from stress by counting your blessings. Be grateful to God for all He has done for you.

Thinking Right

The next step Philippians gives us in order to overcome our stress is to “think on these things.” What things? Things which are “praiseworthy”! Let’s face it: stress is primary a mental thing.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:4-5).

            I had read this scripture many times before, but something new came to me. The word pretension struck me. We are told to demolish every pretension. Pretension is the act of pretending.

            Actors pretend to be someone they are not. For example, you enter a movie theater to see a “fantasy.” When you see a movie you are watching imaginary characters. They are inventions of the writers, directors and actors. They are not real people, but actors on the silver screen.

            Just because they are not real—and you know it—does not mean your emotions are not moved. Psychopathic killer, Freddy Krueger, swings his razor-sharp glove to the victim, and the audience screams. We feel the terror on the screen.             

            Our minds are like the silver screen. We play things in our minds which terrify us. But we need to realize that what is in the mind is only a “pretension.” It is not real. Unfortunately, people often do not differentiate between the pretension in their minds and the truth of God’s Word. They often think the pretension is true. But it is not!

            The devil works this way. He gets us to think about things that stress us out.  In the end, however, God has promised to be with us all the time. He promises to work out everything for our good. He promises to not allow us to be tested beyond our endurance. He promises us a great future, so why stress out. We know God is on our side, so there is no reason to allow a fantasy movie to be played out in our minds. Quit dwelling on the lies of the enemy.

Live Right

            After praying right and thinking right you must finally practice living right. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

            I love it! Who will be with you? The God of peace will be with you! We often hear the phrase “God be with you” but don’t know what that actually means. This phrase really means that God will cause you to be successful. Whenever the Bible says that God was with someone it refers to something God was doing for the person. How would you like God to work on your behalf? When God is working for you, you cannot fail.

            Stress is a fearful emotion caused by the feeling that the worse will happen. However, if God is with you, the worse cannot happen. And how can you get the God of peace to be with you? Practice the Word of God. There is no point to get around the importance of right living when it comes to overcoming stress.

            Much of our stress is caused by doing wrong. A man has an affair and he has so much stress trying to keep the affair secret. When his phone rings, his heart skips a beat, fearful that the mistress is calling. He spends so much time worrying over getting caught.

            Someone breaks the law, now he worries that he will get caught, go to prison or at least pay a fine. Why break the law when all it does is stress you out.

            Across the border from El Paso is Juarez. You probably have heard of the mass killings taking place in the city. Most of the killings are drug related. The drug cartels are fighting for domination in the lucrative illegal, drug market. What gets me is this: they do this so they can have lots of money, build their multi-million dollar mansions—all for what? So they have to live confined like prisoners in their mansions. They are afraid to go out for fear that an enemy will kill them, or someone will recognize them and call the police. Even in the security of their compounds, they worry that someone close to them will turn them in.

            Is this crazy? Why do all of this for money, when they can’t enjoy the money? It’s stupid to live this way.

            Well, you don’t have to be a drug cartel to live with constant stress. You can disobey God in many ways and find that your disobedience brings needless stress. And even if you do something that will not bring punishment in this life, doing wrong still brings a guilty conscience. Is that guilty conscience worth the stress?

            God has the solution for being stressed out. Read Philippines 4:6-9, slowly and meditatively. Ask God to show you how to practice this passage. Then do it, and live without stress.

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