I’m probably telling you something you already know, but stressful anxiety levels are on the rise for many in America. I don’t know if you have heard of it or not, but the Unisys Security Index surveys more than 13,000 people in 13 countries, and is one of the only recurring global snapshots of citizen perceptions available. It measures concerns of consumers on issues related to national, personal, financial, and Internet security around the world. The most recent survey (2017) shows that levels of U.S. anxiety jumped sharply since the last survey in 2014, and came in at the highest levels since the surveys began a decade ago.
Regardless of the source of them, we all battle with the stresses of life on a routine basis. Those stresses or sources of anxiety come in numerous forms, virtually from all directions, and often in clusters whether the stressor is relational, financial, educational, professional, spiritual, emotional, environmental, or physical. So how do we deal with the recurring problem of stressful demands and avoid the accompanying discouragement and depression that life inevitably brings us?
Allow me to suggest three things from Scripture:
Know yourself. Occasionally we hear someone say that they don’t know who they are, meaning they are confused and can’t clearly define themselves. Because of circumstantial pressures we sometimes try to be who we are not. We put on masks to hide from others who we really are. When we do that, we increasingly fear we won’t be able to continually keep up the charade. And stress results. If you’ve never come to terms with who you are, it’s like trying to live a double life. Galatians 2:20 states” “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” To know who you are, you must know whose you are. Regardless of the life function or role you play, you are first and foremost a Christian for whom Christ died and in whom He now lives. Who are you? You are a completely committed faithful-follower of Christ!
Know your audience. When Verdi (the 18th century opera composer) produced his first opera in Florence, Italy, the composer stood by himself in the shadows and paid no attention to the cheers or jeers from the crowd, his eye was on one person in the crowd – the master musician, the great Gioachino Antonio Rossini. It made no difference what anyone else thought if a smile was found on the face of the great, master musician. It is the same for us as Christians. If the Master is pleased with what I have done, then everything else is okay. You and I play for an audience of one…our almighty, Triune God. In John 5:30 Jesus said: “…I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” Jesus knew what we need to know: you can’t please everyone, so he focused on pleasing his Heavenly Father— not himself or others. So must we, if we wish to avoid unnecessary stress.
Know your endgame. That is, know what you are trying to accomplish in this life before your time is up. There are many things that demand our attention. Focus on what matters! Focus on what matters to God! In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul declares: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 …Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” People who are most stressed are those who have no purpose, no plan, no target, no goals. Everyone operates under one of two basic motivating principles: priorities or pressures. If you don’t decide what’s important in your life, other people will decide for you. You can count on it. Make God’s purposes the aim of your game plan and endgame.
In better knowing yourself, your audience, and your endgame, I recommend that the mission statement of MSBC become the mission statement of your life: Touch God (worship), Transform Lives (fellowship, discipleship, service), Take Risks (evangelism/missions). Make goals in keeping with God’s purposes for your life. Worship or touching God involves loving God and people. What goals do you need to make in this area with friends, loved ones, and your Savior in mind? You will transform your life and help others do the same when you make goals in fellowshipping with and relating to other Christians, getting the Bible into your mind and actions, and ministering to the needs of others through MSBC. What plans are you making and focusing on in this area? Make it a priority to take risks in reaching out where you live and work and beyond to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those who have no relationship with Him. Are you making this a priority in your life? Having meaningful targets and making clear goals in the areas of life that matter most will simplify your life and reduce stress in the process.
Your friend & pastor,