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Overcoming Stress: Part 2

Last week’s blog was on what stress is and where it comes from. If you haven’t read that post, I suggest you read it first, or at least go back and read it after this one. Basically, stress comes from the feeling of being overwhelmed by circumstances, of being loaded down with things that need dealing with. It’s can be the feeling of losing control of life to external circumstances. The cure for being stressed is to have faith in God to guide you through the trials and tribulations of life, not to eliminate them. Jesus tells us, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” ( John 16:33). The implication is that in Christ we also will overcome the world.

This promise of Christ concludes a series of teachings Jesus gave to His disciples that started with Matthew 14:1: “Let not your heart be troubled: You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Through this discourse to His disciples, Christ lays the foundation of the Christian’s relationship with Him. It gives the substance of your contract with Christ that is the foundation of the New Testament. Summed up in a nutshell, this passage says that Christians will have problems in life, and sometimes they will be serious problems. The Holy Spirit is given to us to guide you through those problems ( John 14:16-21).

A contract has two parts. Each party must provide some benefit to the other. In other words, party A provides some item or service, and party B gives something in return. If either party defaults on his end of the deal, the contract is void. The New Testament is actually the New Contract that God has given us since the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. God sets forth the conditions of the contract that is spelled out in John 3:16: God so loves you that He gave His only begotten Son, that if you believe in Him, you will have eternal life with God in Heaven. The evidence of your truly being reborn in Christ is your having a new nature that bears fruit for God. Jesus gave the parable of a fruit tree that doesn’t bear fruit being cut down. A person who does not follow Christ’s commandments was never His to begin with.

The three conditions in living the fruitful life spelled out in the New Contract are a cleansing from sin through judgment and confession to God (John 15:2,3). abiding in Christ (John 14: 1-8), and obedience to His commandments (John 14:15; 15:10, 12; Galatians 6:2). Those are the commandments that we must fulfill to hold up our part of the contract. Jesus said He never knew them. This is important: A true Christian can never lose salvation. God knows everything from eternity past to eternity future. Those who leave and go back to the world were never His to begin with.

God will sometimes bring hardships down on a person to get that person to return to following Him. The 12 historical books of the Old Testament, Joshua through Esther, recount time after time when the nation of Israel disobeyed God and returned to Him. When they went their own way, God gave them more problems than Jimmy Carter has peanuts. When Israel followed God and lived for Him as a nation, they prospered. The point is simply this: To get relief from stress, you have to follow Christ’s commandments through faith in Him as your Savior, and have faith that He will take care of you.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:1, 3). But, without faith it’s impossible to please God because a Christian must truly believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

You also have to have faith that God will relieve your stress if you surrender your own wants and wishes to His will for your life: “Therefore I say to you, take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?… Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say to you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not clothe you, O you of little faith?… But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Take therefore no thought for tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient to the day are the problems thereof” (Matthew 6:28-34; emphasis added).

So, there is the recipe for stress relief. Truly believe that Christ is your Savior, and the Holy Spirit dwells in you as a guide through the problems of life. Faith in the seen is difficult enough. Faith in the unseen is even more difficult. Beyond that, faith is an action verb. It requires that your faith be put into action, and that action is for the glorification of God. It amounts to evangelism. Everything a Christian does is for God’s sake, for His benefit. And, what He desires most is for people to come to Him. Accordingly, it behooves you to learn the lesson the Hebrews took centuries to learn, that it is in following Christ’s commandments and having the faith to put Him in control of your life that stress is relieved. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz won’t cut it here. Medications do not cure stress, they only mask the symptoms temporarily. To relieve stress you need to tell God, OK, you’re the boss, what do you want me to do? Not all your problems will go away, but the Holy Spirit will deal with what is beyond your capacity to control. And, if God is for you, what can anyone else prevail against you? Active faith takes a lot of practice, so start now.

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