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Stressed Out? Try Celebrating.

Photo of Buddy BellBuddy Bell | Bio

Buddy Bell

Buddy is a native of Montgomery, Alabama. After working in campus and preaching ministry at churches in Alabama and Florida, Buddy returned to Montgomery in 1996 to serve as senior minister of Landmark. Buddy leads Landmark through preaching, overseeing the small groups ministry, and, with the Elders, casting vision for the church. He is married to Stephanie and they have four children and two son-in-laws: Laura (Charlie), Lindsey (Ben), Luke, and Lincoln…AND he is the proud Grandbuddy to 5 precious grandchildren.

Most Americans are stressed out. Maybe it’s a tight schedule. It’s a looming deadline. You wake up to a dead battery. It might be an illness you face or a relationship that’s gone bad. A business failure. A new school.[1]

Back in the 60s, when technology was just beginning to explode, there were scientists who predicted that, by the year 2000, we’re going to have such great technology that most Americans would only have to work 20 hours a week. Any of you experienced that? No, we’ve actually increased our hours.

We live at a stressed-out pace in a rather stressful time.

I’ve had a bad habit my whole life of watching the 10:00 news before bed. That doesn’t do a very good job of preparing you for a good night’s sleep, does it? You get stressed out learning about all the murders and catastrophes and scandals. In light of mass shootings, did you know that they are now selling children bulletproof backpacks?

Even if you haven’t been stressed out, you’ve probably got stress on its way. In the New Testament, James says “when you encounter various trials,” not if you encounter them.

It’s true that there is such a thing as good stress. For example, if you’re trying to build your muscle mass up, you’ve got to put your body under stress. Often some last minute stress can be productive if you’ve got that deadline at work or that paper you’ve got to finish.

So what’s the difference between good and bad stress? Good stress is temporary. But bad stress continues. You complete that assignment at work or you turn in the paper and—you keep feeling the stress. It becomes a part of everyday life. It’s very similar to guilt. It’s not bad that you feel guilt when you’ve done something wrong, but Satan would like to twist that guilt until you live each day as a guilty person. Bad stress happens when I feel stress before the event. I feel stress after the event. I actually anticipate stress before it even happens.

And think about all the consequences of perpetual stress.

Doctors say there are over 60 illnesses and diseases that are either caused by or aggravated by stress. I like the way one doctor put it: It’s not what you eat that matters, but what’s eating you. (I especially like the first part of that: it’s not what you eat that matters. That’s a relief.) But the problem is what’s eating you on the inside. That’s what destroys your health.

Our stress problem is why I want to introduce you to an amazing friend. It’s Philippians 4:4-8:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

In Kindle versions of the Bible, verses 6-7 are actually the most highlighted passages, beating out every other verse, John 3:16 included.[2]

Now, what makes this passage amazing is not just the words. They’re pretty cool, but it’s also who wrote it and when. Well, who wrote it? It’s the Apostle Paul. When did he write it? He writes the letter to the Philippians when he is in chains, arrested for preaching the Gospel. In fact, if you read Chapter 1, you realize he’s not even sure if he’ll be alive tomorrow or not. On top of that, even Christian people who don’t like him for some reason have taken advantage of his imprisonment, and they’re out saying bad things about him. Talk about stress!

Yet, you read the whole book of Philippians, and you can’t find one complaint—not even one. But the word you’ll see over and over—about 20 times—is the word rejoice.

How do you bring calmness in your life when you’re feeling stressed out? According to Philippians 4, you celebrate God’s goodness. The Greek word for “rejoice” here in verse 4 is more than a moment of joy. The verb is in the present imperative tense, which means a continual, habitual rejoicing. And, if that wasn’t enough, Paul repeats it. “Again I will say, rejoice!” As if that wasn’t enough, Paul removes the expiration date: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

This is not the trite, yellow, smiley, “be happy” emoji. It’s not being happy just because. No, it’s “rejoice in the Lord.” You can rejoice in the Lord, and here are 3 reasons why:

#1 – God’s Sovereignty

Our joy is not based on circumstances, the latest stock market, or even our health. It’s based on our belief that God is in control—whatever happens. It may not always feel like God is in control, but peace is a deep-rooted confidence that God’s got this. According to Romans 8:28, God has the ability to take the mess of life and work it together for your good. Philippians 2:13 says, “God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” As your understanding of God’s sovereignty increases, your anxiety decreases.

#2 – God’s Mercy

Sometimes your stress isn’t caused just by busyness. Often it’s caused by guilt. You might be carrying around something you did 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or maybe even yesterday. Carrying around the guilt from your stupid mistakes can cause a lot of stress.

If anybody could relate, it was the Apostle Paul.

Before he had become a Christian, Paul was devoted to persecuting and jailing Christians for following Christ. If anyone could have lived in the stress of perpetual guilt, it was Paul. And yet, Paul knew God’s mercy. He understood that his standing before God did not depend on his record, but on Jesus’ righteousness: “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:19).

The other night, my wife and I were out at a restaurant when the waitress came up and explained that someone else had paid our bill. It turns out it was someone from the church we serve. You think I accepted that? Of course I did! Just like that, God took what we owed and paid the debt. As your acceptance of God’s mercy increases, your anxiety decreases.

#3 – God’s Nearness

You ever had somebody in your life who just made you calmer? And if you found yourself uptight and stressed about life, you knew that spending time with that person would bring you peace?

That’s what the Holy Spirit is meant to do in our life. That’s why Jesus labels Him the “counselor/comforter” (John 14:16). We should probably stop praying that God would be with us. Rather, we need to recognize His nearness and enjoy it. As a believer in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit in you. Peace comes from an awareness of God’s presence.

Now, I can intellectually understand all these facts about God. He is sovereign. He is merciful. He is near. I can read all that in black and white in the Bible. But we ought to go beyond just knowing these things to celebrating them. When we celebrate, there’s a sense of peace that comes over us. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

You stressed out? Take some time to celebrate His sovereignty, His mercy, His nearness.

 

[1] A special thanks to Max Lucado whose writings inspired some of the thoughts in this article.

[2] Antonia Blumberg, “What Philippians 4:6-7 Bible Passage Can Teach Us about Managing Anxiety Today,” HuffPost, November 17, 2014 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bible-anxiety_n_6171272.