Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Four Steps to Manage Stress in My Life (#4)

We have been looking at steps to manage stress in our life. Today we come to the final step, and the all-important one.

4. CHECK YOUR HEART

You have to check your schedule and your finances and your words but at some point you have to go a little bit deeper and check your heart. You have to ask the question, "Why do all of our strategies for dealing with stress and lessening stress and getting rid of stress, all the magazine articles written, all the books written lining shelves…why don't they work for me?" While practical strategies for dealing with stress are important, at some point, we have to get to the heart of the matter. That creates stress too.

Proverbs 12:25 "An anxious heart weighs a man down." There's weight that comes with anxiety that's in our heart. We take stress and we push it out, we get rid of it. We quit the job. We change our lifestyle. We move to a new place. And then slowly but surely the stress creeps back into our lives. Why does that happen? Because there's some holes in our heart that allows the stress to come creeping back in. You cannot change the internal, by only changing the external. In other words, if I have a disease in my body while I live in West Memphis, and I think the answer is to move, I don't care if I move to California, I will still have the disease in California. Let me say it again, you cannot change the INTERNAL by simply changing the EXTERNAL.

How do I know it's a hole in my heart and not just some practical problem that I need to deal with? If you only have to deal with it once, it's just practical. If you have to deal with it again and again, there's a heart problem. If you overload your schedule one time and you learn the lesson and never do it again, it's a practical lesson. We all make mistakes. But if you overload your schedule again and again and again and you tell yourself "I'm never going to do that again," and yet you do it again, there's something going on in your heart. You have to ask yourself why?

Let's look at three things that we need to be aware of as we check our heart.

  • Watch out for the attitude of pride. That's the attitude of "I can do it all."

Why do we keep over scheduling and over committing? I think it's because we really believe we can do it all. There's a church version of this that says, "I believe that God can do it all through me." It's pride either way. Because the truth is, I can't do it all. You and I have limits. God is able. God can do everything. I believe that all of us can do great things, greater things than we can imagine. We can do great things, but we can't do everything. No one can do everything. Even Jesus on the earth in bodily form, couldn't do everything. When He said "It is finished" there were still people who were sick, still problems in his family (some of His brothers still were not believers)…but He did what He could do, nothing more or less.

Proverbs 16:18 is about this attitude of pride that we all struggle with, "Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall." Some of us experience the drama of that verse everyday of our life. We wake up and think, "I can do it all!" and at the end of the day we think, "Why couldn't I get it all done?" The pride of "I can do it!" the fall of "It didn't get done." To deal with stress you have to deal with this attitude.

Proverbs 3:7-8
"Don't be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead fear the Lord and turn your back on evil. Then you will gain renewed health and vitality."
It is not healthy to be impressed with yourself. It's a great stress reliever to admit a few things. It's a great stress reliever to admit that I'm more likely to be wrong than right. And that the goal of life is not to prove that I was right but to eventually be right. That's a great stress reliever.

Do you know how much stress it creates when, at the back of your mind, you sort of know you're wrong (like in an argument with your husband or wife) yet you keep trying to prove yourself right even though you know you're probably wrong. Doesn't that create great stress?

It's a great stress reliever to admit I may not get everything done on my To Do list today. I know some of you. You wake up everyday and you've got 102 things to get done on your To Do list. You think, "If everything goes just right today I can get it all done." When was the last day that everything went just right? One day back in 1987? But that's only one day in your life. Things go wrong in our days so we have to admit and not to have pride to think I can control my day or know everything that's going to happen in a day but to say, "I may not get everything done." When you admit that, then you do the most important things first. First of all, things that have to do with your relationship with God, and then your family, and then the most important things in your company. You focus on those priorities first because you realize, "I may not get it all done." It is a great stress reliever to admit that you have limits.

Our greatest example in this is Jesus Christ. Jesus, God, came to this earth in human form and He intentionally decided to limit Himself to one place at one time. He didn't have to do that but He decided to do that. When you look at Jesus walking this earth, there were a lot of people He didn't get to heal that needed healing. There were a lot of people who needed talked to that He didn't get to talk with. There were a lot of things that needed to get done that didn't get done. He just spent time in one little country, one little place, with a few people. Yet did it stress Him? No. In fact, the Bible says He often got away to lonely places and prayed during His time of ministry. He knew the stresses of life were so great He needed time alone with God even with all there was to be done.

I look at that and think, If Jesus Christ recognized that He had limits, who am I to think that I don't have limits? It's a great stress reliever to let go of your pride and admit, "I've got some limits. I'm not right all the time. I'm not going to get everything done." Pride is one of the hard issues you have to deal with.

  • A second heart issue is the issue of envy. That's the attitude, "I can be it all."

I can't be everything everyone is, all the best of everyone. I see it in everyone and I want to be it. Proverbs 14:30 warns us about envy
"A heart at peace gives life to the body but envy rots the bones."
That's quite a picture. God has given all of us enough time to be the person He's made us to be. So we're trying to be that person but then we notice another person who's not us, who's different than us and we like the person they are and so we think, "I'd like to have their talent as well as my talent." So we try, in envy, to take their talent in too. Then we notice a person who's getting a lot of notice for what they're doing. We envy that and think, "I'd like to be them too." We try to take their thing into our lives as well as our thing. So pretty soon we're trying to be not just ourselves but four or five or six people. God has given us enough time to be the person He's made us to be and when I envy others and try to be others, inevitably it's going to put too much weight and too much stress on my life. It's the stress of "keeping up with the Jones'"— the envy. And Mr. Jones just had a quadruple bypass surgery because of the stress in his life and we're trying to keep up with that. Envy rots the bones. It's an incredible stress inducer in our lives.

If I want to reduce stress, I've got to patch that hole in my heart, the hole of envy.

  • The third – greed. Pride says, I can do it all. Envy says, I can be it all. Greed says, I can have it all.

The Bible does not say it's wrong to be rich or to be poor. It talks instead about having an attitude of contentment whether you're rich or poor. It talks instead about how most of us are going to go through times in our lives when we're rich and poor. God wants to teach us in both times. But the Bible, and particularly the book of Proverbs, warns us greatly about this "get rich at any cost attitude," about the love of money and what it does to our lives.

Greed is an attitude that none of us want to admit to but it's something that surrounds all of our lives and so affects all of us. We live in a pretty materialistic world. We live in a pretty materialistic country. Because of that we all have to deal with the influence and effects of materialism and greed in our lives. There's nothing wrong with growing your company. There's nothing wrong with increasing your income. How do you know if it's greed? How do you know if it's materialism? One test: If you think, "I have to have it to be happy," that job, that increase, whatever. Whenever you think about some thing – I have to have that to be happy, that's when you cross the line over into greed. The Bible warns us greatly about this attitude. Proverbs says in 23:4
"Don't wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to control yourself." If that's not blunt enough, Proverbs 25:16 says it this way, "If you find honey, don't eat too much or it will make you throw up."
That's blunt! But that's the truth! That's what greed does to us. I can't have it all.

The funny thing about our pride and our envy and our greed and the stress that comes out of that, we take that stress that comes into our lives and we look at whatever successes and achievements we had in our lives and because the stress was so great and hurt us so much, we tell ourselves, "I achieved that, that success came into my life, because of the stress." We actually say the stress is what helped me achieve that. Proverbs tells us that stress never helps you. It hurts you. Whatever victories, whatever achievements, whatever accomplishments you have in your life they haven't happened because of the stress. They happened in spite of the stress. If you could let go of the stress just think of what could happen in your life, think of how God could use you!

I may be able to change my schedule and I may be able to change my finances and I may even be able to work on my words, but only God can change a heart.

Only God can patch these holes in our heart. Stress happens when I carry a greater load than I was designed to bear. Pride and envy and greed and attitudes like this are caused when I take on a greater load than I was designed for and inevitably there is stress that happens. I need a heart change. Stress occurs in our lives when we live in a way that we weren't designed to live. The greatest stress, the greatest way we live outside of our design specifications is in Genesis 1 & 2 in the Bible. It says that you and I were designed to have a relationship with God. God made us to relate to Him. Of all of His creation, He made us more than anything to have this relationship with Him. If I live outside this relationship with Him, I have great stress in my life.

I've got good news for you. God doesn't want you to live that way. He has an answer for this. Jesus, when He came into the world, one of the things that He said is in Matthew 11:28
"Come to Me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads and I will give you rest." Come to Me. Talk to Me. Trust in Me. Not as some executive consultant for your life but as a new CEO in your life. Trust in Me as the manager, the director, the leader of your life.

I know some of you that have read this today, you're exhausted. You're depleted. You're really wondering how you're going to make it through one more week. Jesus Christ says to you, "Come to Me. All of you who are weary and worn out and carry heavy loads and I will give you rest."

I love you guys, and pray that you will meditate on the life-changing, life-refreshing Word of God. Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day,

Pastor Rusty

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these 4 steps. I particularly like Matthew 11:28
"Come to Me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads and I will give you rest."
Any time I say or think this verse I immediatly feel a lighter load and feel my whole body,mind and spirit begin to relax.

I will strive to work on these 4 things.
Thanks
Kay D.

marylinda said...

Oh how sweet it is to be reminded that we are not in charge of the universe HE IS .... and we can give it all to Him to bear and to rest in His arms like a child.... thank you for the reminder of who He should be in our lives.... I too shall strive to work on these 4 things...
thank you again for being used so mightly by our Lord in pastoring this flock ... my prayers are with you and your precious family ... and we covet yours too .... see ya Sunday