Skip to content

On Friday (April 22, 2011) we looked at the simple solution to living a stress-free life. I say simple because there are not many steps to follow, and none of them are complicated to understand, but I, as much as anyone else, know that it is not easy. It is a challenge for humans to stop focusing on themselves and start focusing on God. That is in fact what we need to do.

Philippians 4:8-9 gives us further direction on how to do it. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of the power of positive thinking. Psychologists and business experts alike promote the concept for personal and economic success, but the idea isn’t new. Paul suggested it thousands of years ago. It is a well established fact that if you dwell on negative things—your problems, weaknesses or shortcomings—things will only go from bad to worse. I’ve proved it myself. When I was a student, I used to have terrible exam anxiety; I always feared that I wouldn’t do well enough, that I wasn’t good enough. Finally I tried positive thinking: I can do this. I know the material. I am prepared. I can’t say that I ever became fond of doing exams, but I can say that I did better when I went in with a positive attitude.

Paul’s advice is to think about the positive--the good, noble, pure and lovely. It is very similar to his advice in Philippians 4:6-7. There he said that when you feel anxious, you should change direction by praying and thanking God. Now he expands on that, and says when you find yourself thinking negatively, you should stop yourself and start thinking about the excellent and praiseworthy things. You can control your thoughts. You first need to recognize when they need changing and then make a conscious effort to do so. Think about Jesus and all that He has done for you. Think about the wonders of creation that tell of the power of God. Read the book of Philippians. Realize from Philippians 1:6 that God is in the process of perfecting us. He has a purpose for us, and our trials have a purpose. (Philippians 1:12) Paul in all his distresses was able to keep his eye on the goal, and he encourages us to do the same. (Philippians 3:13-14) Above all, remember the hope of eternity (Philippians 3:20-21), and that our struggles here are temporary.

Paul again accompanies his instructions with a promise. If we follow his advice and example, change our outlook and attitude, and then let our actions match our thoughts, the God of peace will be with us.

Stress. There are so many circumstances in life to cause us worry or anxiety, from everyday annoyances, like getting the kids to school on time or not burning dinner, to huge tragedies. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan come to mind. So does the Chretien family. (Missing – Al and Rita Chretien) Is there really a way to be stress-free? The Apostle Paul tells us how.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul echoes Jesus' words (Matthew 6:25-34) when he tells us not to be anxious about anything. Nothing. But then he tells us what to do instead: In every situation, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. One simple sentence is the cure to all our anxiety; let’s look at it closely.

(a) In every situation. Every situation. That means the small, everyday annoyances as well as the devastating tragedies; God cares about every single detail of your life. (Luke 12:6-7) There is nothing too big or too small to bring to God, for He desires that we trust Him and rely on Him for everything. Nothing will catch Him by surprise, and He invites us to come to him boldly with any request we have. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

(b) Through prayer and petition. Some versions translate this as “by prayer and supplication”. What are the differences between these three terms? I believe that prayer is a more general term and encompasses all of our conversations with God. As followers of Jesus, we should have an attitude of prayer, or some would say live in an atmosphere of prayer, such that we feel God’s presence with us constantly and we are always in communion with Him. When we petition or supplicate, we are asking more earnestly for our needs to be met. Supplication gives more of a sense of pleading, but both terms include the idea of humility. When we are told not to be anxious, it is not that God expects us to stop caring about the situations in our lives. What He wants is for us to bring our cares to Him, and especially to lay at His feet the responsibility of all those things that are out of our control.

(c) With thanksgiving. I think when we have a lot going on that concerns us, we sometimes forget to be thankful. We focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. God has given us so many blessings, and many of them we take for granted. In I Timothy 6:8, Paul said that he would be content just to have food and shelter. I’m sure that if you are reading this on a computer, you have so much more than that. We need to take time to thank God for our blessings, but we also need to thank Him for all the things we see as hardship as well. Ann Voskamp, author of one thousand gifts, has said, “If I can take everything in my life and see it as grace, a good gift from God’s hand, and give thanks for it, there is joy in this. That joy really is a function of gratitude. And gratitude is a function of perspective. Can I see the things to be grateful for? If I can see the things to be grateful for, I can find joy.”

So, can we be stress-free? Yes. In fact we are commanded to be stress-free, but it is a command with a promise. If we will take all of our cares to God, and if we will be thankful, we will have peace that is beyond our comprehension, peace that comes from knowing that God loves us and has all things in His control. A peace unlike any earthly peace. (John 14:27) This peace will protect our hearts and minds the same way that a sentinel stands on guard to protect the garrison—a way that will keep us free from anxiety.

------------

one thousand gifts is available (and on sale) from Dayspring. If you are interested click the photo.