Do you ever feel like a teapot, ready to explode because of all the pressure? Perhaps you are looking at insurmountable circumstances that are weighing heavy upon your shoulders. With the tension thats prominent in world affairs and your situation, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Generally people deal with these types of emotions differently. Everyone handles stress distinctly. Pressure reveals ones' character. Proverbs 24:10 says, "If you faint during the day of adversity, your strength is small."
During difficult times, most likely the Holy Spirit is talking to us about 'acts' of faith. Proof of our standing results in our actions taken during trials. If we're believing in faith for finances, the Holy Spirit might move upon us to give. This is an action taken to activate faith to receive financially. A great example in 1 Kings 17, is the widow woman that God called upon to supply Elijah with food during a drought. Elijah had been instructed to leave the brook, and go to Zarephath and find the widow woman. As he arrived, she was gathering firewood to cook the last cake for her and her son, and then die. However, in the midst of 'lack', the prophet instructed her to give to him first, then to themselves. When she did this, the meal and oil remained plentiful as long as she continued to give to the man of God first. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17), and "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). We can hear what the Lord is instructing us to do, yet if we choose to neglect the doing, faith dies. She could have ignored the word from God and just fed herself and her son, then she would have died. But she decided to listen and obey God acting in Faith.
It's wise to assess the problem, but even more so to manage it with Faith. People that say 'this faith stuff doesn't work', are people that didn't make it a lifestyle. The Bible says, "the just live by faith". In other words, it's a manner of living! It's more than just memorizing and quoting scriptures. Faith requires doing something in compliance with the Word. Confession helps to remind us what we should do to activate our faith. If we are living it daily, the Word within us will dictate our response, instead of the event determining how we reply.
Let me clarify, action on the Word, does not force the hand of God in any situation. That's called manipulation, which is doing something with intent. Action doesn't give you faith - "faith comes by hearing... by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). Doing something releases our faith and belief in God. He then meets our faith because we believed. Some people like to limit faith to confession, because it's easy. They can stay home from church or keep from giving in the offering, thinking all it takes is saying something! Everyone has been given the measure of faith which has an appropriate action in every circumstance.
Setting in motion your faith, over your situation, could be as simple as giving praise to God before you see the result. How ever the Holy Spirit is leading you to act upon your faith, do it with boldness believing for the promise. Act upon the principles of God's Word which reveals the measure that's within you! Faith is being fully persuaded of things expected and proof of what is not yet seen.
James 1:2-4 (Amp)"Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in encounter trials of any sort fall into various temptations. Be assured understand that the trial proving of your faith bring out endurance steadfastness patience. But let endurance steadfastness patience have full play do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing."
At this very moment, people we know and even some we don't, are facing serious adversities. Family's have lost loved ones, marriages are under attack, there's financial despair for others, and some are facing job stress. Not only are there personal attacks, but our world is suffering from wars, weather related calamities, and multiple difficult issues, too numerous to list.
I know people that could verbalize Paul's words from 2 Cor. 4. "We are hedged in (pressed) on every side [troubled and oppressed in every way]........ we suffer embarrassments are perplexed unable to find a way out......; We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven).......; we are struck down to the ground...;" The only difference is, Paul had a response to the problems, "We are hedged in (pressed) on every side [troubled and oppressed in every way], but not cramped crushed; we suffer embarrassments are perplexed unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair; We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven), but not deserted [to stand alone]; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out destroyed;" He realized that the Greater One lived IN him. Paul was assured that the Lord was standing with him and was giving him strength. (2 Tim. 4:17) This gave him the ability to press on through.
In 2 Timothy in chapter 3, Paul said, "But know this, in the last days perilous times will come:" Yes we will face risky, harmful, dangerous periods of time. This is just a fact! So how does one handle these events in their life? What can we do to be victorious overcomers? How can we endure through all the hardships? We need the strength of God to get past the circumstances with which we face. Trying to do it in our own flesh causes fatigue, depressions, oppression, fear, and stress. Here are some spiritual exercises you can do that will strengthen your faith and encourage you to remain steadfast IN faith!
1) James 1:2-3 "My brethren, count it all joy, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." A great example of counting it all joy, is when Paul and Silas were imprisoned in the deepest darkest dungeon. Although they were chained and in pain from their beating, they expressed joy by singing praises to God! What did they have to be joyful about, you ask? They saw past their situation in the Spirit, knowing they served a big God, who would deliver them. The facts didn't define their attitude, but their attitude established different facts...deliverance! Their praises opened their shackles and set them free. It's time we praised the Lord to loose us from the chains of despair! Put on a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.
2) Proverbs 2:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways (course of life) acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." Putting down our feelings about our problem is hard, because emotions are prominent. Taking time in the middle of the adversity to pray and focus on the promise of God's Word, will give direction and peace. In Joshua we read, that keeping the Word of God in our heart, in our mind and upon our lips, assists us in being a doer. Therefore, we will be successful and make wise decisions. Take any fear, worry or doubt cast it down, and be persuaded that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above anything you could ask or imagine!
3) Proverbs 18:21 "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat it's fruit." Most of us are guilty of declaring our problems, complaining and stating defeat. We condemn ourselves before God can work in our behalf. On the one hand we send forth faith in a prayer, and negate it by confessing doom and gloom. To experience the presence of His power over our circumstance, we must first believe! Test what you believe by gauging what's coming out of your mouth. Because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Repent for not submitting to God and resisting the devil. Then, make a conscience effort to practice agreeing with His Word verbally! Your confession will remind you of the action of faith necessary for affirming your faith!
Remember, that no matter the dilemma we're facing, the Word of God and prayer opens the door for God to work, and Praise will keep the door open. Don't measure what you believe by what you're experiencing. Heb. 10:35-36 "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise."
Sailing a ship in stormy weather can be hazardous unless the captain has the knowledge and expertise. High winds and enormous waves can cause the ship to sink or shipwreck. Many a vessel has been lost due to treacherous seas. Like the tempest at sea, we are living in a troubled world. However, Jesus said "...in the world you will have tribulation..." (John 16:33) Paul also wrote in 2 Timothy, "...in the last days perilous times will come." (2 Tim. 3:1) Listening to the news we can see that we live in very dangerous, risky and unpredictable days. One who does not have the Lord as his Savior, is generally fearful and fretful. Jesus is our lighthouse, illuminating the path to safety. Through His direction and knowledge from His Word there is hope. (Heb. 13:20-21 "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to who be glory forever and ever. Amen") In light of the fact of circumstances we face, let's see how our Great Shepherd is characteristic of the lighthouse to us....
Psalms 23 says, "The Lord is my shepherd;" Making Jesus the ruler of your life, places Him as your protector, and watcher of your life. A lighthouse is guidance to safety. Surrendering to Him, just like sheep do to a shepherd, allows Him to be a guide of security. Sheep know the shepherds voice and where He leads they follow, unlike goats that question and butt everything that comes against them. (John 10:4)
"I shall not want." Phil. 4:19 says, "He supplies all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." As your Shepherd, He's going to make sure you have provision for every necessity. His supply is satisfying if we follow Him, as a ship that follows the light from the lighthouse. The Bible also tells us, He will give us the desires of our heart as long as we are delighting in Him. (Ps. 37:4) In the place of every need is supply.
"He makes me to lie down in green pastures;" When sheep lie down it means they are satisfied and content. Because we are in His presence there is fullness of joy we can rest untroubled as well as at peace, "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (Ps. 4:8 & Ps.16:11) Even in the midst of a stormy sea the beacon shines to give us confidence and peace.
"He leads me beside the still waters." We can be sure He's leading us to a place of refreshment and tranquility. When we delight in His Word, as we meditate day and night will place us by the rivers of water which provides sustenance. Therefore, keeping us refreshed and prosperous, quenching our thirst. (Ps. 1:1-3 & Jer. 17:3)
"He restores my soul;" God forgives our iniquities and heals all our diseases. (Ps. 103:3) Regardless of how much we mess up, when we repent He forgives. Because of His infinite mercy and grace we are restored. The Holy Spirit gently signals us during times of struggles to escort us to the sanctuary for redemption.
"He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake." We can depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13) He will usher us in the right direction and in safety. His Name is the Lord our Righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu. Ps. 32:8 God says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." Keeping our vision focused on Him assures traveling in a sheltered course.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," Life is full of tribulations and temptations. One thing for sure, is we are going to the other side of the problem. But we must remember not to set up camp in depression or sorrow. We are more than an overcomer through Him. Especially when storms are raging, there's trust in His guidance. Pro. 18:30 "As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him."
"I will fear no evil, for You are with me;" Paul wrote, that God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7) As long as we abide in the presence of the All Mighty God, we remain in His protection and fear will not affect us. (Ps. 91) Relying on the promise of His faithfulness to never leave or forsake us brings courage and strength. (Deu. 31:6-8) Just like the light signaling lost ships gives hope.
"Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." God's Word is the instruction we need to get us through our life. In Ps. 119:105, it says, His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. That means it will point us in the right direction daily and for things to come. If we refer to the Bible everyday, it will teach, correct, and admonish us in living. (2 Ti. 3:16)
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;" God is on our side. He will contend with those who contend with us. Although there are enemies, we will not just survive, but feast in the midst of them. We come out on top of situations because of Him. Ps. 18:3 says, we can call upon the Lord, and He will deliver us from our enemies. Our trust and faith in Him, will bring peace with any adversary. (Pr. 16:17)
"You anoint my head with oil;" The anointing of oil upon the head is symbolic of blessing, protection and empowerment. We are sanctified and set apart for Him. (1 Cor. 6:11) We are chosen to proclaim the praises of God. (1 Peter 2:9)
"My cup runs over." Jesus said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, overflowing, much more than is expected or needed. This is the blessing that spills over. We are blessed!
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;" As long as we remain faithful to God's Word, we shall be in His mercy. Ps. 65:11 says, God crowns the year with His goodness, and richness overflows wherever He is. Steadfastly abiding in the Word and His presence guarantees goodness and mercy.
"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever." We have guarantee of our place for eternity when Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior. This is a promise of security in eternity.
We want to encourage you to mediate on this scripture and let it become a reality in your heart. Realize that through the Word, God has given us guidance for anything we may face. He encourages us with the promises of provision, protection, healing, blessing, and His benefits. Our failure to recognize these, believe and trust Him, and receive it, puts us at risk in these insecure days. Don't shipwreck because you reject faith and a good conscience. Keep your eyes upon Jesus and sail through to the shore. You can do all things through Him, who gives you strength. (Phil. 4:13)
Many years ago while in Arkansas ministering, we visited a secluded farm. The sole purpose of going there was to get some blackberries. Fresh picked fruit is the best. We each sought out a bush and began to pick. Pastor Michael found an extremely large one that had the biggest berries, we'd ever seen. He began to choose the choicest ones and his small container filled fast. While gathering, he noticed deep within the giant bush there were even bigger berries. As he carefully tried to move the vines to avoid the thorns in order to reach in, an unsuspecting branch swung over and hit the hand holding the container. Just then all the berries, he had so thoughtfully gathered spilled to the ground, in the middle of the bush. Now all the huge fruit, he so cautiously harvested was scattered and his receptacle was empty. What had taken him twenty minutes to collect was gone in seconds. So disappointed in the loss, he looked around and found an abandoned fence post. He took that post and began to beat the bush, until he made a hole wide enough for him to crawl into. He picked up his little can and on his hands and knees, he wriggled into the bush to begin picking up all his lost fruit. He began to say, "I picked these berries, they are mine, and I'm going to have them!" All of a sudden an audible voice, that only he heard spoke to him and said, "When you seek Me like you're seeking these berries, you'll go straight to the top." When he heard this, he paused, but within a second later was back in picking and saying "I picked these berries, they are mine, and I'm going to have them!" Again the voice spoke a little bit louder to him, "When you seek Me like you're seeking these berries, you'll go straight to the top." Once more he paused and listened, but quickly began pressing in to get all that fruit he so much longed for. Then the third and final time the voice spoke, "When you seek Me like you're seeking these berries, you'll go straight to the top." Just at that moment he realized he had heard the voice of God. It wasn't until much later that evening that he became aware of thorns that had pierced him in his ears, legs and arms that he hadn't noticed during his berry quest. If one desires something, a focused determination will bring it about, although there are 'thorns' trying to hinder.
Some learning aspects of this experience, would be:
1) "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you." (Mat. 6:33) Just like in this illustration, what a man seeks is the direction that will be leading him. Becoming so ingrained in something, can be positive if seeking the right thing. God first! If one is on the hunt for their own desires, success, fame or fortune, they can get off course and self driven, which leads to trouble. And when God speaks, it's often difficult to hear Him because the attention is based on our own passions. Grasping the attitude of Kingdom business and righteousness first, means all the things that God has for us will fall in line. Our needs and wants will be fulfilled if we give Him and His desires priority.
2) Being extremely committed and focused, to the direction God has for you, will desensitize distractions. Heb. 12:1-2 says, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." Pastor Michael was zeroing in on his task at hand: "Pick the berries". His intention was to get the biggest and best at any cost. It didn't matter that the bush had thorns or that they were piercing his flesh. With tenacity and purpose he pressed in despite any obstacle. We should be that persistent when it comes to our faith! Regardless of what comes against us, others conversation, deceptive speculations, or discouragement, our resolve to keep on keeping on should prevail.
Listen people of God, life has many distractions and lots of daunting events. There's going to be 'thorns' along the way. It's what we do in the midst of them that determines what kind of person we're going to be. We can notice every little "owie" or chose to keep our vision centered on God and His Word. One thing we do, is believe what God said above any circumstance, despite how we feel or what we see. We purpose to live daily in agreement with God, which means saying what He says and thinking what He thinks. Is it easy? NO! But if you resolve to be consistent and tenacious, you will not only grow up in Christ, but not even notice the "Thorns".
Do you find yourself overwhelmed or stressed with all the things on your 'To Do' list? With all the decorating, shopping, planning, events and just regular everyday chores, it seems like the list just keeps growing. Not to mention all those that want to help add things to your list.
It's actually easy to get engulfed in feelings of pressure, thinking there's not enough time to get everything done. So, we want to help you enjoy the season and keep you from freaking out in the season. If you'll do the following we know that you'll have a lot more peace and a lot less anxiety!
1. First things first. Put the Lord first in your day. Mark 12:30 says, "And you shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and will all your strength. This is the first commandment." Love is recognizing and honoring. It's so easy to get distracted and forget God. But we must remember He IS the reason for the season. It's because of His love that we celebrate Christmas. Besides that, you'll find giving Him first place in your day, will produce peace, order and joy!
2. Take moments throughout your day to 'smell the roses'. In other words, slow down! Rushing only causes pressure and stress. Realize the task WILL get done, you WILL get to where you're going, and everything WILL come together. By slowing down you not only give yourself time to enjoy the moments, but generate peace for you and others. Life is short, appreciate it. Eccl. 3:13 "and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God."
3. Rejoice, sing and praise God. It is a proven fact that music can affect our behavior and our emotions. Ps. 63:3-5 "Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name, My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness (abundance), and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips." So listen to some beautiful Christmas music and sing along. This will help create an atmosphere of peace and joy!
Putting forth an effort to do these three things will promote joy and peace. The experience of Christmas, perhaps, will be better than ever before. And although there are challenges, remember Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!
Breathe, just breathe! Don't let the pressures of the holiday's get to you. Right now it's easy to look at your finances and feel the stress of it all. Wondering how you're going to buy Christmas presents, donate to those favorite charities, and pay all your bills on time. Or perhaps you're considering how much time you've got to get everything done. What ever your dilemma, take a deep breath and trust God. The devil wants to get you anxious and frustrated about things. And the more bothered you are, the less peace you have.
So how can you eliminate troubled thoughts? If you will begin to do the following you will experience the peace of God.
1) Cast all your care upon the Lord for He cares for you! (1 Peter 5:7) This means to throw, toss, or fling your worry over to the Lord. This does not mean in prayer we rehearse all the problems and woes. We must take the thought of concern in prayer to the Lord with the answer from the Word of God. For instance, if you're afraid that you're low in money, in prayer you would find a scripture that confirms God's answer to your need. Phil. 4:19 "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." would be one of the scriptures you could validate for God's provision to you. Praying using this scripture not only builds faith in God, but proves His answer to your problem.
2) "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." (Ps. 3:5-6) Full trust is confidence in someone. It's believing without any doubt that they will do what they said. We must arrive at the place of taking our perceptions and view them through the Word of God. That means if you are looking at your situation through the eyes of past insufficiencies, you have to cast those imaginations down, bringing your thoughts into focus with God's promise. Remember, "He is able to make all grace abound unto you that you having all sufficiency in all things, will abound to every good work." (2 Cor. 9:8) By recognizing your need for God's intervention you unlock the paths of His direction.
3) "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." (Heb. 13:15) Now it's time to exercise faith. When we believe something we act like we do! We need to give praise and thanks to God for something, even if it hasn't happened yet. This exercises our belief that we already have received it by faith. Since God operates by faith, just as He releases faith in His words, so must we. Declaring His Word over our circumstance is proving we believe and agree.
Remember the thief (the devil) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But Jesus said He came to give life and give it more abundantly. This 'Life' comes from the Word of God - it's our source to live in victory. Using these scriptures will activate faith, reveal your submission to God, and help you resist the devil's stress. Thus JOY and peace come and you have deflated the Holiday pressures.
Of all the creatures on earth I believe the less stressed is the snail. Seriously, think about it, the snail, as slow as he is, still made it to the ark before the flood. He wasn't stressing about making it! The pressures of daily life, whether it be the job or family oftentimes can be overwhelming. With the need to accomplish what's been set before us or the tasks we've chosen, stress can enter in to affect us causing illness. Too often people tend to put more on their plate than they can effectively handle. Or because of the tender nature of some, responsibilities are often added to them by leadership. All this adds stress related emotions.
The work before us, isn't easily ignored, especially when it involves others, assignments or impending target dates. The tension of fulfilling the mission usually mounts as more duties are assigned and the schedule narrows. So how does one handle stress on a day to day basis?
I am reminded of 1 Peter 5:7, of which I like the Amplified version, "Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully." I liken casting to 'heaving, throwing, or flinging'. And of course Peter didn't say, just throw part of your care...he said the 'Whole of your care'! That's all the 'how's it going to turn out, how's it going to get done, IS it going to get done, and how am I going to do it' thoughts. Then he indicates 'once and for all'! In other words, do it once and leave it! Don't take back the worry or questions. Leave them in the Lord's lap.
Doing this is very difficult for a lot of people, because they want to be in control. I think some people believe God's not interested in the 'little' BIG stuff in our life. I call it 'little' BIG stuff, because in the scheme of it all, there are bigger and grander problems than these things we call BIG! Our nature is to make mountains out of mole hills, thinking the world will fall off of its axis if we don't complete something. If the truth be said, generally it's us that determine the degree of significance. (I'm not talking about those large events with time constraints involving hundreds of people. In those cases, we just need to activate time management or delegation. Remembering we can't do everything ourself.) Regardless of the measure of importance, we should cast the whole of our care, once and for all over on Him!
Here are some helpful points to rid yourself of stress or anxiety in your life.
1) Pray! Yes, it's come to that! Prayer IS 'Casting'. It's taking whatever's confronting you and giving the guardianship of it to God. Pro. 3:5-6NIV "Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths." In more ways than not, God has the perfect way to accomplish your task at hand! You just might be surprised at the answer He has for getting it done!
2) Thank God for taking your care! Phil. 4:6-7 says, "Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus." Thanksgiving is where faith is activated. When we thank Him for the answer before it arrives, that means we believe He's given us the answer.
3) Renew your mind to the Word. In other words, find some scripture to meditate on. Phil. 4:8 "Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things." Instead of thinking about all the problems and all of what you cast over to God, find the good things about your situation to reflect on.
and 4) Praise the Lord. Praise is acknowledging what God has done, what He is doing and what He will do! It's important to know that Praise always precedes God's power. (Read 2 Chron. 20:21-22) Your praises to God will open the door for things to change and answers to come in behalf of your situation. God always sits upon the throne of praise we build. (Ps. 22:3)
I know that if you incorporate these points in your life, your stress will leave, peace will come and the help you need will arrive. Praise the Lord!
Pastors Michael & Ginny Gulotta
Pro. 11:25 "The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself."