May 15, 2019
Is stress ever a problem for you? So many folks are “all stressed up with nowhere to go,” tense, frenetic, so hurried we think it’s wrong to just get quiet and be still. We try to cope in unhealthy ways: worry, fret, eating too much, drinking, distracting ourselves by going on line, playing video games—the ways we try to cope are endless. But they aren’t working well, are they? I want to give you three ways to handle your stress that will not only help, they won’t backfire with unhealthy consequences.
A woman called her pastor to complain. She’d tried to call him all day Monday, and he wouldn’t answer. He explained, “Well, Monday’s my day off. I take one day a week to rest.” “The devil never takes a day off,” she scolded. “Yes,” he answered, “and if I didn’t, I’d be just like the devil.”
In the Twenty-Third Psalm, one of the most beloved passages in the Bible, we see that God wants His people, “the sheep of His pasture,” to learn how to get quiet and lie down in the green pastures.
The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul.”
Sheep and shepherds were all over Israel when David wrote this psalm and still are today. He was a shepherd himself as a boy. God calls us “the sheep of His pasture” because we are much like sheep.
Sheep in the Middle East begin to graze about 4:00 a.m. The shepherd leads them out while dew is still on the grass. It's quiet; the sheep will nibble here and there. By 10 or 11:00 a.m., the sun is hot, and the shepherd will find some secluded, shady spot where they can lie down for three or four hours and just chew the cud. That’s when sheep grow the fastest, putting on fat, putting on wool, and maturing. Every shepherd knows how important it is for his sheep to have a quiet time. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
Sheep are afraid to drink from rushing, gurgling streams like those in the Middle East where springs come up out of the mountainside and rush down through the ravine. But they’ll drink when the water settles in a quiet pool. The Shepherd “leadeth me beside the still waters.”
God wants you to experience regular times of “green pastures and still waters.”
If you’re going to get a handle on stress, there are 3 things you must do:
You have a Shepherd who cares for you. Say to yourself, “I am secure in Jesus.” The Bible tells us He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). Jesus Christ gives you security.
What is your Shepherd like?
“But when He saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion, because they fainted and were scattered abroad like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36).
His compassion for us caused Him to leave Heaven and come to die for us.
One of the most beautiful verses in all the Bible is Isaiah 40:11.
“He shall feed His flock like a shepherd. He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
Has he ever carried you? The Lord cares for us. He puts a weak lamb in his arms and carries it close to His heart. When I was a little lamb, a baby Christian, thank God, He carried me. If He hadn’t, I never would have made it. He carries us gently.
He left Heaven to come and give His life for you. Read all of John chapter ten, describing who the Good Shepherd is and what He does.
“I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. But he that is a hireling and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and fleeth. The wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” John 10:11-13
There were many dangers for sheep in that day: wolves, bears, thieves. A good shepherd fights for his sheep.
When you understand you may be weak like a sheep, but you have a compassionate, caring, courageous shepherd, it gives you security. He is the strong, Good Shepherd. That security helps me deal with stress.
There’s nothing you need your Good Shepherd cannot provide. He doesn’t make you lie down in brown, withered pastures or lead you beside muddy streams and dried-up water brooks. No. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. All I need and more I find in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We get stressed because we think our needs are not going to be met. “I'm not going to have what I need!” Remember, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us not to worry about food, clothing, shelter.
Most people are worried about food, friends, fame, fortune, fashion, fitness. Jesus said, “After all these things do the Gentiles [unsaved people] seek.” He's not saying these things aren’t important. But He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided” (Matthew 6:33).
If you don't find your satisfaction in Him, you're going to be stressed, because the deepest needs of your heart have not been met.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 4:4?
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
The Bible is to you what bread is to the natural man. In Matthew 5:6, He also said,
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
“Blessed” is the Greek word makarios which literally means happy—satisfied—content—joyful.
Jesus did not say, “Blessed are those who seek after blessedness; happy are those who seek after happiness,” but happy are those who seek after righteousness.
The most unhappy people in the world are the people trying to be happy. Happiness is something you never find by looking for it. Happiness is something you stumble over on your way to serve Jesus. Happiness is the by-product of righteousness.
God allows problems and heartaches to say, “Hey—there’s something wrong in this world down here.” What’s wrong is sin. What’s the answer? Righteousness.
People trying to be happy are only treating the symptoms. If you'll seek after righteousness, you'll be dealing with the infection. You’ll be dealing with stress.
Drink of the Spirit. Feed on the Word of God. That’s sufficiency. The deepest need of your heart will be met only in Jesus.
Sheep will not lie down until they're content. Have you ever seen so many people hurrying? Everybody is going, moving.
I was reading in the newspaper awhile back about a fighter plane. This is not a joke—it literally happened. The plane fired its weapon and was moving so fast, it overtook the bullet and shot itself down. Literally. I had to re-read that. The plane was moving faster than the shell. Many people I know are doing the same thing, shooting themselves down. They don’t take time to “be still and know” that God is God (Psalm 46:10), to have that serenity, that quietness.
It's not a sin to be quiet. It's a sin not to be quiet. Listen to what God says:
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah 30:15
Be still, be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10.
When the sheep rests beside his shepherd, that quiet time is the most productive time for a sheep. When we rest and meditate on the Word of God, that will be our most productive time.
In His law doth he meditate day and night. Psalm 1:2
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14
My meditation of Him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord. Psalm 104:34
I will meditate in Thy precepts and have respect unto Thy ways. Psalm 119:15
Most of us don't lie down in green grass and meditate, even those who study the Word. How much time do we take to digest and assimilate what God has given us? Most of us think we've done God a wild favor if we get to church on Sunday, and if we can halfway understand what the pastor is saying…right?
When you get home, do you meditate on what you’ve heard? When you study God's Word in the morning, do you really have a quiet time? Do you keep a spiritual journal? Do you write down the thoughts that God gives you?
Did you know that many of the things I preach to you are things God gives me after I've read the Word of God and sit back and think about it?
You ask, “How do people know what’s in the Word of God? Where do you get that?” One way is to sit back and meditate. And if you expect God to give you something, then you ought to have something to write it down with. You ought to keep a spiritual journal.
Some of us are “just too busy.” In this same “Good Shepherd” chapter (John 10), Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). If you don't make time to do this, you’re going to miss life, looking for it.
Stop and prioritize your life. I think God makes some of us lie down because we won't do it until He makes us.
David said, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray.” He said in another place, “It has been good for me that I've been afflicted.”
You see, “He maketh me to lie down.” Why make Him do it? Why not just do it yourself? Say, “Never mind, Lord, you don’t have to do it. I'd just rather slow down. I want to get quiet. I want to be still. I want to know that You are God.”
How do you deal with stress? Remember, a distressed sheep is a sheep that's not producing wool, not producing fat, not producing lambs. Your compassionate, caring, courageous Shepherd wants you to be a healthy sheep.
The cure for stress?