Mind Viruses 4- The Stress Virus

July 31, 2017

We’ve been looking at mind viruses, the small programs or mind infections that our society produces then implants into our subconscious, so that our actions, thoughts and feelings are controlled by the virus. Most of these are incredibly subtle, but profoundly powerful in controlling our thoughts and feelings, and their effects vary from influencing you to utterly controlling and ruining your life.

 

Today I am preaching to myself, because of all the viruses we will look at, none of them affect me more than this one. Just this week I have suffered terribly at the hands of this virus, and felt it changing my though patterns and it’s almost like I am powerless to stop it!

 

Today we look at the Stress Virus, and I will be preaching to myself!

 

THE STRESS PARADOX

 

Stress has always been a part of life, so this virus is nothing new. Our ancestors stressed about crops, money, ledgers and timetables, just like we do, but what has changed is how much this is being ramped up. Modern man is infected by this virus and it is out of control across the globe. And guess what… the more blessings you have, the more you seem to stress!

 

The stress virus is implanted into us by the enemy through our society, and can be characterised by the following..

 

S= Shocking moments in our life

T=Traumatic events that occur to our life

R=Repetitious pressure from something in our life

E=Errors that we make cause stress

S=Strain from succeeding and striving through life

S=Sales relates to money-financial pressures

 

Gone are days of endlessly wandering by babbling brooks, planting crops, hours of fishing, thinking deep thoughts and being at peace. Instead, enter the fast paced, urban world of mortgages, rent, job pressures, family conflict, schedules, appointments and ATMs. Add to that the kids going every which way, a few screaming matches, too little sleep, too much TV, fear of cancer, materialism, alcoholism, drugs and paranoia, then subtract family support and close friendships, divide by dozens of opinions on Facebook, multiply it by 365 days a year and you have madness, and the resultant stress! Stress isn’t the exception, it’s the rule, and it’s the virus that infects us all!

 

Luke 21:34

 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.

 

How many of you here today are weighed down by the cares of life!, the stresses involved in living in the 21st century?

 

According to a Rev magazine article in 2003, the top 4 stressors are…

 

Money stresses.   49%

Family responsibilities    22%

Work deadlines and pressures   22%

Commuting to and from work or school   7%

 

Psalms 46:10

“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

 

GETTING CAUGHT BY CORTISOL

 

Doctors tell us that, when we undergo stress, our adrenal cortex produces a powerful hormone called cortisol, which hypes us up and slows many bodily functions deemed unnecessary in the “fight or flight” mode. It should be a short acting affect to help us cope with a fright.

 

The problem we face is that elevated levels of this hormone, which God designed to be short acting, occur when chronic stress happens, and so chronic elevated cortisol gives rise to elevated blood pressure, obesity, tiredness, heart attacks, diabetes, cancer and a whole host of horrible conditions. It decreases memory, decreases concentration and was never designed to be active perpetually!

 

But the stress virus uses this to control our lives, subtly, in a way that we not only accept it without question, but we expect it as part of our lives! It becomes the accepted pattern of 21st century living.

 

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

Even in the church, we pile stress upon stress, and often emphasise programs over people. In this church I am trying to not do that, but if you know me at all, you would know that as a pastor, an optometrist, a family man, a traveling evangelist and an avid internet marketer, I am more guilty than most of piling too many stresses upon my life!

 

STRESSED OUT- THE SYMPTOMS OF THE STRESS VIRUS

 

 

How can you tell if the stress virus is affecting you? You probably don’t even need me to ask that!

 

We should recognise that Stress is not a bad thing. It actually brings the best out in us, it causes us to reach higher, achieve more, become more. Study is stressful, but it makes you a better person.

 

 

So stress is not always a bad thing, but it should be a short term thing, little short bursts. It becomes destructive when it is never ending and it starts to cause things like increased illness, overeating or drinking, abnormal sleep patterns, loss of interest in normal activities, fogginess in thinking, disorganisation, increased impatience or irritability, relationship conflicts or reduced performance.

 

The problem is not that we cannot feel stress, because we feel stressed much of the time. It’s that we consciously accept this as normal, and do nothing to relieve the pressure! Sustained stress is not, repeat NOT normal, it is destructive, and when you’re an adrenalin junky like me, that’s hard medicine to hear. I have discovered, taking in the church as well as working, etc., that I can deal with the stress for a time but that I run down and eventually collapse. Some of you have talked to me about that, and I appreciate your concern. Stress kills, slowly but surely, if not handled right.

 

More than most Biblical writers, Paul felt stress. Like us, he felt it long term, and carried the burden of churches across Asia, and the threat against his own life. But he wrote this…

 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

So in the stress of life, we need to not lose heart and handle it correctly!

 

 

I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH! GOD’S TREATMENT FOR STRESS

 

 

So what is God’s treatment for this chronic infection of the stress virus that we all feel? Removing all stress is an impossibility in our time driven, results driven culture, and removing yourself from society and becoming a monk is not really an option. We are called to be in the world, and not of it. So how can we possibly be surrounded by such incredible and often overwhelming stress and remain unaffected?

 

 

1.      CONSIDER GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

 

I remember being at a football match at ground level, and it looked like a bunch of guys crawling around the ground trying to find a contact lens. I had no clue as to what they were doing. When I walked up into the stand, I suddenly saw the true perspective of how they were kicking and passing and what they were trying to achieve. When we are at ground level, wrapped up in day to day stresses, we fail to see things from God’s perspective, which would make a lot more sense!

 

One of the best antidotes to stress is seeing God’s purposes in the difficulties He allows in our lives. The “good” God wants to do is to conform us to the image of Christ. He may use certain situations to develop one of the fruits of the Spirit in us. Knowing that God uses every situation, even the petty, irritating situations of life, even the stressful ones, to teach us to become more like Jesus helps us to feel less stressed by things we cannot control.

 

As 2 Corinthians 4 says, concentrate on the eternal, not the temporal.

 

When we face stress, all we see is the stress. We usually cannot see the reasons why, and we certainly don’t see the big picture. God on the other hand sees and understands everything. He’s the Creator of the universe, the sustainer of life, the Creator of you, and He loves you and wants the best for you.

 

Question… From God’s perspective, can He possibly use the stress you’re under for good?

 

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

So here’s how God can and will use stress in our lives in a positive way…

 

A.     STRESS GETS OUR ATTENTION

 

CS Lewis said “Pain is God’s megaphone,” and I can attest that this is often the case. Pain is protection, such as when you put your hand into a fire, and so stress and the pain it causes can be the way God tells you to slow down or how He moves you away from something dangerous.

 

Psalms 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

 

 

B.      STRESS REFOCUSSES OUR PRIORITIES

 

 

Everyone has priorities, but they are not always God’s priorities. Even when we realign with His priorities, it doesn’t take long before we lose those priorities, before things that are urgent supersede things that are actually important.

 

Haggai 1:7

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.

 

Stress can help us stop living our life and consider our ways.  Stress can help us refocus on what is really important, eternally important not just the tyranny of the urgent!

 

C.      STRESS CAN TURN US BACK TO GOD

 

Call it human nature, but when things are going along well and we are stress free, we often drift away from God, but when stress builds and we get desperate enough, we turn to Him!

 

2 Chronicles 15:4

but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them.

 

So stress can be used by God to turn us back to Him, but sadly many turn away in their stress, anxiousness and even panic. Today you face a choice, and I’m going to ask you to turn to, not away from the Lord, believing He loves you and cares for you!

 

 

D.     STRESS DISCIPLINES US

 

Hebrews 12:5-6

 “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

 

 No one likes discipline, but often the Lord will use stress to discipline us. If stress is piling up around you, stop and ask God what you need to learn from all this. Learn the lesson and you may find the stress decreases or becomes more manageable. Get this wrong, and you get to sit the whole exam again, so I recommend getting it right!

 

E.      STRESS CREATES STRENGTH AND STAMINA

 

I bought a workout DVD and it doesn’t work! I watched it 10 times and I don’t feel a bit fitter!  If you want to train your body and build strength and stamina, you need to place it under some sort of stress. That’s how we train our bodies, and that’s also how God trains our spirits.

 

1 Timothy 4:7-8

Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

 

So if you want to become great for God, expect stress and see it through. Remember, quitters never win, and winners never quit.

 

So that’s the first point in God’s treatment for chronic stress, and He does use it for your good if you trust Him and obey Him and let Him mould you into His image. Seeing things God’s way gives meaning to your stress, but what are other steps to coping with 21st century stress?

 

2.      GIVE IT UP TO JESUS

 

When it comes to the stresses that come against you, you need to learn to let go and let God!  We tend to pile these upon ourselves, try and deal with them, get anxious and stressed about them, then start to collapse. If you’re like me, you want to solve all the problems of the world, even when you can’t.

 

Bill Newman talks about a time in a US town when mums were together, and the kids were silent. They investigated, and found the kids playing with a nest of baby skunks. One mum shouted,”Quick children, run!” So they all picked up a skunk and ran, and skunks don’t like to be squeezed.

 

Listen, give it up and let go…

 

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.

 

Give that stressful situation to the Lord and stand back, don’t pick it up and take it with you!

 

 

3.      TAKE BREAKS

 

If you undergo a sustained amount of stress, taking regular breaks is a key. Later this week, before I work several days, attend a pastor’s conference and travel with Bill Newman to Sri Lanka, but I am taking 3 days for Fiona and I to go away. We feel we need it, and we need it regularly. And so do you!

 

After sending the 72 out to minister, Jesus recommended this…

 

Mark 6:31

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

 

I know things seem urgent, but trust me, the pressure, the stresses, the demands people make will all be there when you get back!

 

Jesus rested and relieved the stress. When I rest I often feel guilty because I think of the things I should be doing. That’s stinking thinking, and that’s a product of the stress virus. We need to come apart and take some time out to rest, or we will fall apart!

 

4.      SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GOOD FRIENDS

 

You go like the company you keep…

 

1 Corinthians 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

 

So if you are stressed, don’t surround yourself with negative people. Chose the people you talk to wisely, and gather positive, uplifting and godly people around you. I have done this, and I can tell you having some of my friends praying with me instead of feeding my negativity makes all the difference in times of great stress.

 

 

5.      GUARD YOUR HEART

 

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

 

The Hebrew word for keeping your heart with vigilance means to guard, to watch over and to blockade. When we face stress, we must guard our hearts vigilantly. Why?

 

Stress has a way of orienting us toward all the things that are wrong in our lives. We need to guard our hearts and minds against negativity and pessimism. There are times when we will not understand God or His ways, for His ways are higher than ours, (Isaiah 55:8), but He gives us enough information about His character that even when we do not understand the problems we face or the stress we are under, we can rest in His faithfulness and His holy goodness.

 

In the midst of our stress and pain, He delights in us when we trust Him, especially when we do not understand. We guard our heart during stressful times by checking our thinking and taking every thought captive…

 

2 Corinthians 10:5

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

 

So guard your heart in times of stress by taking every negative thought captive and not tolerating even a single one!

 

 

6.      CULTIVATE A THANKFUL HEART

 

The greatest sin of the western world is an ungrateful spirit. We live in a society that is basically ungrateful for the many blessings we share. Australians whine and moan about everything, when we are given money to not work, free medical, subsidised housing, the right to free speech, glorious weather and the list goes on. We need to learn to have a gratitude attitude, even when under stress.

 

James 1:2-4

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

If you are under stress, even extreme stress, be thankful, if not for the pain, for the many small mercies you have in your life. Have you got a car? A phone? A roof over your head? Food? Have you got relationships that matter, a church that loves and supports you? Let’s be thankful in all things, not stressing about what we haven’t got!

 

7.      PRIORITISE

 

Sometimes we get stressed out and the stress virus digs into our subconscious because we are majoring on minor things. At the end of our life, many of us will realise that we have spent most of our time on what matters least, and the least time on those things that really matter most.

 

We worry and stress about so many things, what we should do, eat, where we should go. Jesus tells us directly not to worry and stress about such things, but prioritise the things of God…

 

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

 

Decide today what is really important in your life, choose your priorities, and live for them. Life is full of choices. When we become more intentional about the way we spend our time and energy, we learn to say no to things that are just not that important.

 

And in eternity only 3 things live forever… God, His Word and the souls of men and women. Invest in those things, and make them the priority.

 

 

8.      RECOGNISE AND REMEMBER OUR LIMITS

 

Psalms 139:2-4

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

 

Often our lives become filled with stress because we refuse to accept our human limits. We are not God. We are not all-knowing or able to assume total control of every stressful situation we face. We are human beings. We need to sleep, eat, and relax. Yet, at times we live our lives in a way that ignores these realities, which can result in a host of stress-related ailments.

 

When we are feeling overwhelmed, perhaps that is a reminder that we are not living within the limits and boundaries that God has created for us. It may be time to reevaluate, cut back, say no, or slow down. I preach to myself here, and have recently given up a consulting job and my business group to be able to pastor this church properly without killing myself!

 

The final step is the most important, and is in fact the main reason why I have withstood much of the stress that has been thrown at me by this virus.

 

Remember, stress can affect the body, mind, and spirit. We must pay attention to each area to reduce the effects of stress on our overall well-being. If we do not learn to control stress, it will eventually control us.

 

To protect our bodies, we need to get adequate rest, exercise regularly, eat well, and learn to breathe deeply. To protect our minds, we should think truthfully, refuse to make mountains out of molehills, and set priorities. Finally, to protect our spirits, we need to meditate on God and His Word, learn to trust God, and pray without ceasing. We need to…

 

9.      COME EACH DAY TO THE LORD

 

If you are overwhelmed with stress, you are carrying a burden you shouldn’t be!

 

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Some of you here are carrying stresses and burdens you shouldn’t be. You’re like an ox dragging a load that’s too heavy, with an ill fitting yoke that rubs and pulls and causes pain and discomfort.

 

Many people long for rest, long for relief from the constant stress this virus inflicts upon them. This morning, Jesus’ words call out to you, saying, “Give me your impossible burdens. I will carry them.” Jesus says that He will take from our shoulders the heavy burdens that are burning us out, the stress we face in life that this virus tells us we have to just handle, and replace them with an easy yoke, a light burden. Submission to Christ does not place us in bondage to a harsh taskmaster but under the loving care of the gentle and lowly Saviour.

 

Jesus is in touch with the stress and burdens of life that we carry and understands how much they hurt and exhaust us. When we give our troubled hearts to Him, He gives us rest for our souls. That kind of rest will cure our stress burnout and renew our enthusiasm for Him. The kind of rest that can face any stress in life, knowing that He will bear it for us, and we need not bear it alone!

 

Some of you need to start handing these burdens over to your Master, and the only way to do this is to spend time with Him, not once a month, not weekly at church, but every day. Open His Word, read it daily (Bible reading plan), pray constantly, releasing the burdens consciously over to Him.  This needs to be a deliberate, daily, ongoing process, but if you commit yourself to daily handing the stresses over to Him, within a week you won’t know yourself.

 

This morning, answer the Father’s call…

 

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

What are you bearing this morning? What pain, what pressure, what stress?

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