Stress Out! How to Eliminate Stress from Your Life - Part 1: The Spirit of Stress
Let me start out today with a couple of dad (i.e. bad) jokes about this subject we will begin covering today:
(Hopefully today’s message is better than those jokes😊)
Stress … Stress is a very real problem in the world we live in today. With the increase in information and technology that we have in this 21st Century, the human race is living in more stress than it has ever been before. Yes, even with these conveniences we have in the world today, people have still found a way to live stressed-out lives.
So, what is the solution? Should we just throw our hands in the air and say, “I wish I was born in another time-period because it seems like we are just doomed to live our lives full of stress today.” Absolutely not—for God’s Word, which clearly gives us the answers regarding living free from the stress caused by worry and anxiety, is not just relevant to those who lived back in the Bible times; the same principles will work for us today too! Amen?
Now I am titling this particular series— “Stress Out!” Not that I am giving you permission to live a stressed-out life as the title might seem to indicate. The reason I am titling this series this way is because I want to teach you how to get the stress out of your life and how to keep it out. Yes, what I will be doing in these teachings is giving you God’s way to eliminate stress from your life. You will receive, most importantly, what God’s Word says about this subject, while also learning some of the very practical ways that I personally deal with the stress that tries to come against me.
So, let’s begin by looking at a New Testament Scripture which I believe clearly describes to us God’s perfect will in this area for all of us—and it is out of the mouth of our Savior: In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you 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.”
Hmmm … Labor and heavy laden … Sounds like both the cause and effect of stress to me! How about you? But what we learn in this passage of Scripture is that Jesus came to give us rest from the stresses of life. That’s right—by taking His easy yoke and light burden, we will find rest for our souls. That means that everything within us—our minds, emotions, and even our physical person—will enter in a supernatural rest that will free us from the stress of this world. Amen?
Now through the course of these teachings, we will go through three powerful verses and break them down in detail in order to find the nuggets that will help us to enter into this supernatural rest. But today, I want us to begin by dealing the spirit of stress. We will do this by digging into what is stress really is, how it affects us, and look at a real-life example from the Bible of a man who was faced with great stress and what he needed to know which helped him deal with it.
WHAT STRESS REALLY IS
First of all, let’s learn what stress really is: Some use the term “stress” synonymously with worry, anxiety, fear, etc. But the truth is, stress is not really the same as worry or anxiety; stress is simply our soul and our body’s reaction to the cares we carry.
Consider the definition: Stress is defined as “the state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Interestingly, in relation to the “stress” that is put on physical objects, stress is also defined as “the pressure or tension exerted on a material object.” So, stress would be more correctly viewed as the effect worry, anxiety, and fear has on us—mentally, emotionally, and even physically—because of the circumstances & situations we are surrounded with.
When defining the word “stress,” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary uses words like “force, pressure, violence and oppression” to define it. How many of you know that this does not sound godly? God does not put pressure on us, nor does He force things on us. He certainly is not oppressive and does not get violent with us. But this is what stress does. So, who does it sound like stress comes from? The devil, sin, this world, etc. Therefore, stress is not a part of God’s kingdom.
So, if stress is not of God and is a result of the curse in this fallen world, we need to understand that it is a thief—sent to kill, steal and destroy. In other words, it is an intruder, and not to ever be a part of a Christian’s life. Since stress is an intruder, we need to understand that stress cannot get in us without our consent.
Now the reason I say this is because a large part of the body of Christ doesn’t see stress this way. They see it as an understandable and even acceptable part of living in this world. But the truth is that even though we are in this world, we are not of this world. Therefore, just because the world accepts that having stress is normal, it doesn’t mean we are supposed to. You see, the Bible is explicit in teaching us that the stress caused by the cares of this world is not to have any part of our lives. In fact, it tells us exactly what stress really is—it’s a result of sin.
You see, the Holy Scriptures teach us to not let our hearts be troubled (John 14:1 & 14:27), to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6), and to not worry about even the basic essentials of our life (Matthew 6:25-34). We see in First Peter 5:7 that we are to “cast all our care on Him for He cares for us”—which teaches us that when we truly know in our hearts that He cares for us, we will then be able to effectively cast all our care upon the One who cares for us. The Lord said in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” To be afraid or dismayed would certainly be symptoms of stress, right? Therefore, we can see that the Lord commands us to be strong and courageous and not stressed out. In fact, there are countless times in the Bible that we are instructed to not fear. And that is all anxiety and worry are—they are fear’s distant cousins.
So, all I am saying is that we need to have zero tolerance in our lives for things like fear, worry and anxiety—anything that would cause stress on us. In the eyes of God, they are unacceptable—sinful even—and should be in our eyes as well.
And here is another good point we should consider: If we are told not to allow ourselves to be troubled in heart, to have any anxiety about anything, and to not worry about our life, then we must be capable of not allowing these things inside of us. Amen? In fact, if we are told not to allow these stressful things in our lives, then to allow them would be considered disobedience, right? And that is what we need to come to grips with: While the world defines stress as a natural part of life; stress is simply a result of disobedience for the believer. Therefore, we need to avoid stress, worry, fear, etc. like we would adultery, murder, and stealing. One could even make the case that these have worse consequences than these other “bigger sins.”
THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF STRESS
But God does not place such an emphasis on this and command us not to worry because He’s trying to control us. No, He “stresses” this because of how stress hurts us.
Now the world has begun to realize how detrimental stress is on our lives. They tell us that stress is actually the number one cause of sickness, disease, and physical infirmities. So, the world has come to understand that worry, stress and anxiety can have harmful effects on our physical bodies, but before science and medicine of this world came to realize this, the Word was already declaring it.
Let me share with you some Scriptures where God tells us the harmful effects of stress on our lives:
REMINDERS FOR STRESSFUL TIMES
Now speaking of fear, let me conclude today’s introduction with something the Holy Spirit reminded me of out of Second Timothy chapter one which really illustrates the Lord’s heart concerning the stresses we face in life:
The apostle Paul was writing to his son in the faith, Timothy, who was under tremendous pressure at the time of this letter. You see, Nero—one of the most demonized leaders Rome ever had—had come into power, and the threat of persecution and even martyrdom was at an all-time high. Yes, even the persecution stirred up by Saul of Tarsus could not hold a candle to the threat that now faced the church. And what made this pressure that Timothy had on him so great was that he was not just under the stress of caring for himself and his family; he was the pastor of the church of Ephesus during the time this was written! So, he had an entire church to “worry” about. The apostle Paul echoed his sentiments in Second Corinthians 11:22-28 when he gave his resume of all of the difficulties he faced in his ministry: he described being beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned, hungry, etc. etc. etc., but at the end of his list he said, “besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” So, Paul knew a thing or two about “pressure” too, which included his concern for all of the churches that he planted.
So, one might call this the epitome of stressful times for Pastor Timothy. Amen? Yes, I doubt that any of us in here today have anything in our lives that would be considered more stressful than what the apostle Paul or even Pastor Timothy were facing back then. And Paul knew this—probably by his own personal experiences and, evidently, because he was being inspired by the Holy Spirit. He knew his son in the faith needed some encouragement because a spirit of fear was apparently trying to set in even in Pastor Timothy.
So, Paul writes him, and after his initial introduction and blessings, says in verses 3-7: “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (Second Timothy 1:3-7). Wow! What powerful lessons are contained in these few verses! Let’s look at some of them:
Notice, first of all, how Paul said, “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did…” Now we will get ahead of ourselves a little here, but herein lies a good way to live free from stress like Paul did—to serve God with a pure conscience.
Did you know that not everybody does this? Many well-meaning Christians serve God, but not with a pure conscience. For example, so many do things for the Lord out of a conscience that is defiled—meaning, they are doing things that seem like good things to do, but they are doing them because they either feel obligated, because someone put pressure on them to do it, because they are afraid of disappointing God or someone else, etc., etc., etc. The bottom line is a lot of people do things, but their motivations are not pure and Spirit-inspired. And guess what the result of this: It’s going to be adding stress to our lives! “Well, I’m serving you, Lord!” they say, but is it what the Lord told you to do? I’ve seen this in both others and myself.
Now let me interject this: This probably only applies to a little over 10% of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ—because generally only about 10% of the body of Christ does ninety percent of the work. The other 90% don’t serve well at all. But the fact is, there is a small group of people in the Body of Christ who serve and serve and serve, and can slip over into doing more than the Lord would have them to do. That is why it is important for us to be Spirit-led in everything we do and not let our hearts condemn us if we don’t do something that we see the need for or that we are asked to do. Amen.
Moving on … Notice how Paul began to thank God that he had the privilege of remembering Timothy in his prayers “night and day.”
I believe this is also an important part of what kept Paul not only stress-free but also so joyful and triumphant amidst his own afflictions—he stayed connected to the Lord in prayer. And not just at night or in the morning, but both “night and day.” I think one area we fail in is we are trying to walk in peace, yet we have one foot in the Word and one foot in the world. It’s going to be very hard for one to live the peaceful life that Jesus promised us if they are not setting the Lord always before them (Compare Psalm 16:8).
And notice that the apostle Paul said he prayed like this “without ceasing.” Aren’t we told to pray without ceasing (First Thessalonians 5:17)? This is what I call “keeping the lines open”—that is, never hang the phone up. Call Him up, Call Him up, Tell Him what you want without ceasing. This is a key to casting those burdens on the Lord and receiving from Him to sustain us. (We will go into this point in much more detail in the coming weeks)
Then Paul even acknowledged the hurts, pains, heartache, and stress that Timothy was experiencing by saying, “being mindful of your tears.”
So, yes, there is certainly a place for being mindful of other’s tears—for sympathizing with, and even weeping with those who weep. But here is an extremely important point you and I need to understand and embrace: Your tears, your hurts, your pain, your pressures, your cares, etc. absolutely should mean something to me. But your tears, your hurts, your pain, your pressures, your cares, etc. should mean absolutely nothing to you. In other words, when it comes to me loving you, I should be touched with the feelings of your infirmities and show compassion on you. However, when it comes to us governing our own life—you and I should not be moved by our own feelings nor should ever tolerate ourselves going to pity parties. It’s tight but it’s right😊
However, what good friends in the faith will do is, while they will be compassionate towards their friend’s difficulties, they will also draw them back to faith. Notice what Paul said next: He said, “that I may be filled with joy … when I call to remembrance the genuine faith...”
What filled Paul with joy was remembering the genuine faith Timothy had. So, what Paul was doing here was a good job of exhortation. He was not just remembering Timothy’s faith, but was reminding Timothy himself of the faith he had inside of him—apparently because Timothy hadn’t been using much of it.
You see, evidently something like faith or peace can be in us, but not necessarily experienced by us. So, yes, Timothy needed to be reminded that there was faith in him. Therefore, do you reckon that we might need to be reminded from time to time that there is peace in us? Amen!
So, when Paul said that this genuine faith that he knew was in Timothy’s grandma and his mama was in him as well, he said, “and I am persuaded is in you also.” In other words, what he was saying was—"You got it in you, boy! That same spirit of faith that your grandmama & mama had in them, it’s in you too!”
Isn’t that awesome, how evidently virtues can be passed down from generations!?! But unfortunately, just like good things like faith can be passed down from our parents & grandparents, bad things like worry, anxiety and fear can be passed down too.
You see, there are some out there who are worry-warts, and the reason why they are worry-warts is because they were raised by worry-warts, who in turn were raised by worry-warts. In other words, these behaviors and attitudes that cause stress in our lives can be passed down from those who didn’t know the very things I am teaching you today. But that doesn’t mean we are doomed to a life of stress! No, we can reverse the curse—draw a line in the sand and say, “No more! The buck stops here!” So, just like Timothy had faith instilled in him at a young age and wasn’t currently walking in it, we could have fear instilled in us at a young age and not currently walk in it! It’s a choice either way. Amen.
Then we get to this oh so powerful verse—Second Timothy 1:6. Paul says, “Therefore…” In other words, “since you have this genuine faith in you, this is what you need to do—stir up that gift that God put in through the laying on of my hands!”
Now what did Paul mean when he said, “I remind you”? Apparently, he had spoken something to him before about stirring up this gift of God that was given to him. So, when did Paul tell him this—do we have any record of it? We sure do!
In First Timothy 4:14, Paul had told Timothy not to neglect this gift of God that was in him, given to him by prophecy and through the laying on of hands of the eldership. Well, guess what apparently happened? Pastor Timothy did exactly what most of us do—God tells to be sure to do something and then we fail to do it, and then He has to come and tell us how to get out of the condition we never should have gotten in in the first place. That is why messages like this are so important—because while a lot of us have probably heard things like this before, that doesn’t mean we are currently doing them. Therefore, we need to be reminded of these things in order to stir up our pure minds (see Second Peter 3:1).
You see, the words “stir up” that Paul used in Second Timothy 1:6 comes from a triple-compound word in the original Greek language. It comes from the word where we get “pyro” from, which obviously means “fire.” It also uses the word zoe—meaning life. And, finally, it uses the Greek word ana which means “up or again.” So, when you combine these three words together, the phrase “stir up” means to “bring a fire to life again,” or you could say it means to “rekindle” a fire.
Well, in order to “rekindle” a fire, that means that the fire had to go out. And that is exactly what had happened to Pastor Timothy—his fire had all but been quenched and he was living in the same stresses you and I do. So, his father in the faith was exhorting him to stir that fire back up—that fire of the gift of God which he had in his spirit.
But when do fire’s go out? When we neglect them! Therefore, Timothy’s fire went out simply because he had failed to give the proper attention to it. So, how do we keep the fire stirred up within us? By doing what Paul told Timothy to do in First Timothy 4:14—to give attention to reading, exhortation, doctrine, and meditating on these things, etc. (see First Timothy 4:13,15-16).
You see, saints, it all starts with us just simply reading our Bible. You would think that this was a given to most Christians, but it’s not. Very few believers actually read their Bible on a regular basis. God’s Word is food for your spirit man, church! So, in order to stay nourished in the spirit, we must feed ourselves regularly on the Word of God. Amen?
So, you getting in the Word ourselves is the first and foremost way in which we do not neglect the gift of God within us, and therefore, keep that fire stoked. But then Paul says to also give attention to “exhortation.” This is exactly what I am giving you today—a good exhortation! But did you know that you do not have to wait until church? You can “exhort” yourself in the Lord. (We will get more into this momentarily) And, finally, Paul lists the third and final way in which we give attention to the gift of God within us and not neglect it—through “doctrine.” Now “doctrine” simply describes “teaching.” So, what this means is that we need to regularly sit under good, solid teaching like you are hearing here today. Can I get an, amen?
Then, in verses 15-16, Paul goes on to describe other important factors to keeping the fire kindled in our hearts—namely, meditating on these things (i.e. what you have been reading, are being exhorted by, and what you are being taught). In other words, it is important for you to take the things you’ve heard, and give even “the more earnest heed” to those things lest you drift away from their truths (see Hebrews 2:1)—that is, aggressively and purposefully meditating on these truths afterwards.
And, finally, Paul tells Timothy to “take heed” to himself. This has a wide range of meaning too. First of all, we need to learn to take care of ourselves by not burning the candles at both ends and experiencing “burn out.” There is certainly a natural side to this as well. But it also describes “watching ourselves” in regards to making sure that our flaky flesh and squirrely soul don’t start this pity party “woe is me” stuff we’ve talked about.
A good example of all of this I’ve been describing to you that happened to Timothy is how so many of us go to a camp-meeting, a youth retreat, or some other time of spiritual refreshing and we get “fired up.” But what happens almost every time? The fire begins to subside. What once was a bon-fire of zeal and excitement begins to wane and we wind back down to where we were before we ever went—full of cares and stress. Do you know why this happens? It is because we let the fire go out by not giving attention to it and continuing to throw logs on the fire. And we throw more wood on the fire by doing these very things Paul told Timothy in First Timothy chapter 4.
But what I want you to see is the reason Timothy had yielded to these stresses of life & ministry was because:
We see this second point in Second Timothy 1:7 when he said, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
So, the apostle Paul turned his attention to the things God had given him (the benefits, if you would)—power, love, and a sound mind, saying, “Man of God, stir yourself up! Tell your soul who you are, what you have, and what you will not allow! You have a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind!”
THE SPIRIT OF STRESS
The apostle Paul goes on to say in Second Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Now the first word in this verse is significant—because it tells us why Paul said what he just said. In other words, Paul had just reminded his son in the faith that he was persuaded that he had the same faith in him as his grandmother and his mother had in them (vs. 5), and to use that faith to stir up the gift of God—the anointing—that was placed in his at his ordination. So now he tells him why he said these things. It was because of this spirit of fear that Timothy had evidently been yielding to.
So, before we go any further into this, I want you to notice how apparently fear is the polar opposite of faith. I get this from the fact that if Paul had just encouraged Timothy to get back into faith and then tells him why in this verse—namely, because God had given him this spirit of faith. Then, in verse 7, he tells him this is because God had not given him this spirit of fear. Therefore, Paul was telling Timothy to get out of this attitude of fear by stirring up the gift in him by faith. So always remember—fear and faith are completely opposite.
Well, as it pertains to what we are talking about today, if we are carrying around a spirit of stress, then we would need to be exhorted that we have a spirit of peace within us, being passed down from the Lord Jesus. Amen? Therefore, we need to stir up the spirit of peace!
So, that leads me to the next point of focus in Second Timothy 1:7: not only has God not given us a spirit of fear; He has given us a spirit of faith—an attitude that manifests itself in three ways: Power, Love, and a Sound Mind.
Notice in this verse how it is worded: The apostle Paul says that we have not received from the Lord a spirit of fear. However, He apparently has given a different spirit—because when he goes on to say, “but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” This is why I believe these three things are characteristics of a spirit of faith.
First off, we have been given a spirit of power. Now the word “power” comes from the Greek word dunamis and describes dynamic power and ability. It is where we get the word “dynamite” from. In studying this word, you will find that it describes the ability or capability of a thing. So, in this case, we have given a spirit of power—that is, the “I am able” and “I can do” attitude. Therefore, us having the spirit of power would be us possessing the attitude that says, “I am able to live stress free! I can live free from worry, anxiety, and fear! I can do all this through Him who strengthens me!” Amen!
You see, as a people of faith, we shouldn’t focus on what we can’t do. Rather, we should focus on what we can do. As I like to say, our attitude determines our altitude. I am strong in the Lord because He tells us: Let the weak say I am strong. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Then Paul said to Timothy that not only have we been given a spirit of power, but also a spirit of love.
Now one thing we must understand about a spirit of faith is that faith & love work together. Paul said in Galatians 5:6 that faith works by love. So, it is no wonder why Paul includes a spirit of love in here with a spirit of faith. Faith always expresses itself in love. On top of that, the apostle John said that perfect love casts out fear. Therefore, like faith, love is the enemy of fear and always overcomes it.
So, Paul was encouraging Timothy to let that spirit of love that had been shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5) to dominate his heart rather than the fear that was currently dominating his heart. This agape love is first the love of God and secondly the love of the souls of men. In a commentary I read—Barnes’ Notes—he explains it like so: “Nothing will do more to inspire courage, to make a man fearless of danger, or ready to endure privation or persecution, than love. The love of country, and wife, and children, and home, makes the most timid bold when they are assailed.” In short, this agape will cast out the spirit of fear and make one bold and courageous in Christ. It will cause one to forget their own self-preservation and be motivated to do more for others—including the Lord Himself—than we do for our own lives.
But here is another part of the love of God that we might need to stir up—our love for Him: Revelation chapter two speaks of this when Jesus exhorted the Church of Ephesus to return to their first love. Now our first love never leaves us even though we can leave it. This is why Jesus said to abide in His love. What I am referring to is the experience of God’s love toward us that we had either when we were saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit, or had some awakening to God’s love. It’s our heart that changes, not His love.
And, finally, Paul includes another manifestation of the spirit of faith—a sound mind. Now the use of this term is obvious because the spirit of fear dominates the mind.
The apostle Paul refers to the “spirit of the mind” in Ephesians 4:23—which is an obvious description of the “attitude of the mind.” So, yes, there is a spirit of a sound mind—that is, a way of thinking that is sober, self-controlled, and disciplined in its thought patterns.
The Greek word used for “sound mind” is only used this one time in the New Testament. It comes from the words sos, which is where we get the word “sozo” from, and means “safe.” It also comes from the word phren, the word commonly used to describe the “mind.” So, when you combine these words together, you get the word sophronismos which describes, “safe-thinking, the ability to use good judgment, have disciplined thought patterns, and the ability to understand and make right decisions.” I’ve heard one minister translate this as having “saved brains.”
So, this is the attitude that we need to have—one in which we have the mind of Christ in all things. We do not allow our minds to go into that “stinking kinda thinking.” We bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ! We cast down every imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ! We discipline both our minds and bodies—bringing them into subjection lest we become disqualified (Compare First Corinthians 9:27). And that certainly includes all of those cares, worries, and anxieties that try to come against us!
But the main point I want you to see in these verses in Second Timothy chapter one is that the spirit of stress that so many have adopted in their lives is not our inheritance. God did not give us the spirit of stress! He gave us the ability to have a new kind of attitude—an attitude that says, “I can live free from stress!,” a mentality of perfect love that does cast out all the fear, and a new way of thinking that has disciplined thought patterns and chooses the right way of thinking every day.
It has been well-said that we cannot control birds from flying around our heads, but we can sure keep them from building a nest there! Accept the fact that the Lord has said we can absolutely not let our hearts be troubled, that we can certainly not have anxiety about anything, and we surely can keep from worrying, and that we can live free from this spirit of stress.
Like Jesus said “Come” to Peter, when Peter asked Him to call for him to come walk on the water to Him—and this one word from the Lord enabled Peter to obey and walk on the water supernaturally. One could say that Peter walked on the Word. Likewise, when the Lord tells us to not worry, to be anxious for nothing, and to not let our hearts be troubled, we can walk on that Word too! Yes, we can walk on the troubled waters and live free from stress too! The Lord says to you and I today—Come!
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