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Sunday, November 30, 2014

You Can Overcome the Challenge of Stress, Anxiety, and Worry - A Sermon Given November 30, 2014

These are my notes from a sermon given at the Church of Divine Guidance in Los Angeles where I am the Associate Pastor.  It's long but it will bless you and help you deal with the things in this sinful world that cause stress, anxiety, worry, and fear.  You can't get away from them because there is sin in this world and it will be here until the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ but the key is how you deal with them.

We just celebrated Thanksgiving Day on Thursday. Most of us were with family and friends, had a great meal (at which a lot of us ate too much), great fellowship, and thanked God for all He has done
for us. How He’s brought us out of very difficult situations, healed us, gave us peace, and much much more.

Then we went home or said goodbye to our guests and started thinking about how much we missed our mother, father, sister, brother, friend, and worrying about how we are going to buy all the Christmas gifts that we want to buy, or how we were going to pay our utilities, or our mortgage, or our car note, or why am I still sick, and on and on. Even during this season in which there should be joy we start or continue to be stressed, worried, and anxious.

We feel guilty about feeling this way because we remember the scripture that pastor gave us last Sunday;

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

We try what he suggested; not giving thanks for bad situations but finding something good in them (things could have been worse, at least this or that didn’t happen, I’m still in good health, etc). That makes us feel better for a while but we are still overwhelmed stressed and worried.

We also remember and quote the scripture that he gave us from Psalms where David asks the Lord make haste to help him.

 Psalm 141:1 (NKJV) A Psalm of David. LORD, I cry out to You; Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You.

Well let me give you another scripture today for you to remember;

Romans 8:28 (HCSB) We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Those in my Sunday school class will remember it from a study that we did a few months ago and so will those who read my blog, Faith The Evidence - Bible Studies.   In fact those people will remember much of what I’m going to talk about today but because I know that many of us, including me, go through stressful situations from time to time, or may be going through something right now and we need to be reminded that we can overcome stress and anxiety and win the war over worry.

It's good to be reminded of some things especially those things that the Holy Spirit reminds us of because those things are for our benefit. 

 Peter in 2 Peter 1:12 said;  "For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth."

The thing that he was reminding them of was is in verse 3 where he told them of their great spiritual wealth. He had said in verse 3 God has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

Here's the scripture that I want to give you today.  It's one that we quote all the time.

 Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

But between financial struggles, marital issues, health scares, and the run-of-the-mill problems of everyday life, it’s easy to feel weighed down and trapped by your circumstances. In times like these, it’s tempting to just throw in the towel and quit. With all the bad things that are happening and will happen, things like what's going on in Ferguson, the Ebola epidemic, terrorism you name it.  There are lots of bad things going on. How about when a police officer on duty or a young girl or boy is killed by a drunk driver, or in a fit of rage and man kills his whole family or to make it more personal when we lose a loved one or lose a job or lose our home and all these things happen in succession.

We struggle with that verse when these kinds of things happen because we try to reconcile it with what Paul writes earlier in that same chapter,

Romans 8:1-2 says 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

After all, we have been told that we supposed to experience the blessings in Deuteronomy 28 if we obey God, things like:

Deuteronomy 28:3-6 (NKJV) 3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. 5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out., etc.

Why then are these things happening and how could Paul write this. How is that possible?

Here’s what it means. 

It is the destiny of those who love the Lord to be like Jesus. God is committed to produce in us all the love, all the joy, all the patience, all the long-suffering, all the goodness, and all the gentleness of Jesus. But until that happens we are still subject to the realities of sin and death. It is God's love in Christ that sustains us and empowers us—even in the midst of our experiences of sin and death—"to be conformed to the likeness of his Son". Just look at the next verse

Romans 8:29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

God works in all things toward that purpose,  to conform us to the image of His son Jesus.

To be free from the realities of sin and death does not mean that we can live our lives unaffected by the continuing presence of sin and death in this world. 

So now let’s talk about how the Holy Spirit helps us to deal with stress, anxiety, and worry.

Stress of all kinds is a natural part of life

Job 5:7 But mankind is born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

Job 14:1 Man born of woman is short of days and full of trouble.

1 Peter 4:12  Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.).

Jesus even said that we would have difficulties.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

So then if stress is a part of life the key for the believer is realizing that Jesus provided his peace so how we deal with it is up to us. If we choose to try to do it on our own, we face a long, uphill battle that will not end well. The only way we can deal with stress is with Jesus Christ, first by believing in Him. 

Without believing in Him we are on our own, and success in coping with stress is almost impossible. 

Second, we need to trust Him and obey Him.

Here’s what Rick Warren says about stress;

"Stress is a choice. We get stressed out when we choose to focus on our own limited resources instead of focusing on the unlimited resources available through our heavenly Father."

In life, struggle, pain, suffering, worry and anxiety, creates a conflict between what we experience and what we believe. They can give us a badly distorted perspective on life- and on God. In those times, we need God to provide us with new perspective to help us see clearly again.

Psalm 141:8 But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord; In You I take refuge; Do not leave my soul destitute.

Seeing God clearly can help us see life's experiences more clearly.

As we turn our eyes to the Lord in times of pain and struggle, we will experience His comfort and hope in our daily lives. He will help us to see everything clearly again.

10 of the most common things that can cause stress. These aren’t the only things that can cause stress but these are big ones.

1. The belief that I am in control of my life rather than knowing that HE is in control of EVERYTHING (including my life)!

2. When I do not trust people and actually begin to believe the lie that, “If I want something done right then I must do it myself.”

3. When I know without a doubt what God has told me to do but I begin to listen to the “experts” who tell me that the very thing God has told me to do is impossible.

4. When I try to explain myself to those who don’t really want an explanation; they just want to argue.

5. When I refuse to take some time to disconnect and rest, claiming that the devil never takes a day off while not understanding that the devil isn't supposed to be my example.

Not taking time to relax and disconnect is a big one. God shows us how important it is to Him. In the Ten Commandments that had the most written about it was the one to take a day off.

Exodus 20:8-11 )8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. 11 For the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.

According to this, not resting is a sin. Now it doesn't matter if your day of rest is Saturday or Sunday or any other day. The Hebrew word shabbāt, translated as Sabbath means intermission. It is from a root word, shābat, that means, to repose, i.e. desist from exertion; cease, celebrate, cause; rest, rid, still, take away.

The Bible calls those who will not work lazy, Proverbs is full of sayings about being lazy and the circumstances from it, but it calls those who will not rest disobedient.
6. When I begin to take on the “Messiah complex” and begin to think about how much I need to do and how Jesus needs me rather than how much I actually NEED HIM!

7. When I worry about results more than obedience!!!

8. When I focus on the size of the problem rather than the size of God!

9. When I fail to share my worries and concerns and admit my mistakes to others for fear that it may make me seem weak and stupid. (The opposite is actually the case. Those around me actually love and respect me more when I ask for help!)

10. When I become unaware of HIS presence every single minute of my life!

So How Do We Overcome and Win The War Over Worry?

The starting point for dealing with stress is Jesus Christ. Jesus offers us great
encouragement in

John 14:1: "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

We desperately need Him in our lives. We need Him because He is the only one who can give us the strength to cope with the troubles in our lives. Believing in Him does not mean that we will have a trouble-free life or that we will not succumb to stress in our lives. 

It simply means that a life without Jesus Christ makes coping with stress is impossible.  
Believing leads to trusting.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Leaning on “our own understanding” often means adopting the world’s ways of relieving stress—things like alcohol or drugs or mindless entertainment. Instead, we are to trust His Word as our ultimate guide to a stress-reduced life.

David says, ” (Psalm 34:4) “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Perhaps no passage in Scripture better captures how to handle stress than

Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Here are a couple more;

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

He will sustain us and never fail us.

Jesus Christ offers peace if we come to Him with our worries and concerns.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.

There are two foundational beliefs that we must have in order to go through overwhelming situations. One is God is holy and God is good, and the other one is to believe in His promises.
We can’t let our circumstances dictate and shape what we believe about God. If we do then we will always walk in fear. Remember we have no control over the circumstances. But if we can remember that God is good and we can remember what it says in

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God is in control and when we realize that we can walk in freedom from stress and anxiety and worry, which often causes fear.

God is faithful.

Turn to Lamentations 3:19-27  19 Remember my affliction and my homelessness, the wormwood and the poison. 20 I continually remember ⌊them⌋ and have become depressed. 21 Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! 24 I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. 26 It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is ⌊still⌋ young.

We can all remember times that things were difficult or we needed to make critical decisions in our lives or we were launching out on something new that God directed and He was faithful then He doesn't change so He is faithful now.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  16 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

God IS faithful! Your circumstances do not dictate His character!!! You can always trust Him and know that He is in complete control.

Don’t look at what's wrong look at who God is and his character!

Let's look at 2 scriptures

Romans 5:8  But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

Instead of the word "for" let’s replace it with "for the benefit of", "on behalf of," and "instead of." then the full significance of Christ's death "for" us hits home.

Now let’s look at Philippians 1:6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

You can count on it because of the faithfulness of God who, having begun a good work, would most certainly bring it to completion.

So at the most stressful moments in your life, at the times when you feel most overwhelmed go back and read and meditate on these verses and stop and focus on God and remember these things about God:


SOVEREIGN — He reigns over everyone and everything and has never been stressed out.

UNSTOPPABLE and so are those who follow Him.

HOLY— God is perfect, which means everything He wants/desires for my life is far greater than anything I could have thought of.

CONSISTENT — I don’t have to worry about Him being in a bad mood.

GREATER than any temptation the enemy throws my way.

BETTER than anything the world has to offer.

• BIGGER than any sin or failure in my life.

GRACIOUS — He knows every stupid, foolish, sinful thing I’ve ever done (or will do), and yet He loves me anyway!

ALWAYS here with me — God has NEVER walked away from me. He doesn’t always deliver me from the fire, but He has ALWAYS walked with me through it!

FAITHFUL — If I fail to see His faithfulness in my past, I will probably not recognize the fruitfulness of my future.

THE ONE WHO PURSUES ME — He pursues me even on the days I tend to walk away from Him.

RELENTLESS — He has NEVER given up on me!

PASSIONATE — His passion and zeal that the scriptures reveal cause me to be in AWE. I could go on and on, but what I want you to see is that when stress comes into our lives it is an awesome opportunity to KNOW GOD. 

So, if you are stressed out, freaked out and feel like you are about to give out, then “check out” for 10 minutes from your busy life, sit down with a piece of paper, make a list of who the scriptures say GOD IS, and focus on that rather than your circumstances.

Let’s finish with this Charles Spurgeon devotional that I read some time ago, but it fits with our winning the war over worry and stress.

1 Chronicles 5:22 22 Many of the Hagrites were killed because it was God’s battle. And they lived there in the Hagrites’ place until the exile.

Warrior, fighting under the banner of the Lord Jesus, observe this verse with holy joy, for as it was in the days of old so is it now, if the war be of God the victory is sure. The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh could barely muster five and forty thousand fighting men, and yet in their war with the Hagarites, they slew "men, an hundred thousand," "for they cried to God in the battle, and He was entreated of them, because they put their trust in Him." The Lord saveth not by many nor by few; it is ours to go forth in Jehovah's name if we be but a handful of men, for the Lord of Hosts is with us for our Captain. They did not neglect buckler, and sword, and bow, neither did they place their trust in these weapons; we must use all fitting means, but our confidence must rest in the Lord alone, for He is the sword and the shield of His people. The great reason of their extraordinary success lay in the fact that "the war was of God." Beloved, in fighting with sin without and within, with error doctrinal or practical, with spiritual wickedness in high places or low places, with devils and the devil's allies, you are waging Jehovah's war, and unless He himself can be worsted, you need not fear defeat. Quail not before superior numbers, shrink not from difficulties or impossibilities, flinch not at wounds or death, smite with the two-edged sword of the Spirit, and the slain shall lie in heaps. The battle is the Lord's and He will deliver His enemies into our hands. With steadfast foot, strong hand, dauntless heart, and flaming zeal, rush to the conflict, and the hosts of evil shall fly like chaff before the gale.

Stand up! stand up for Jesus!
The strife will not be long;
One day the noise of battle,
The next the victor's song:
To him that overcometh,
A crown of life shall be;
He with the King of glory
Shall reign eternally.

I highly recommend this book

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