The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 8, 2013

Stressed out? Troubles can be opportunities to grow in Christ

From the Pulpit

By Pastor Jim Erb

---- — We are living in stressful times. There is much uncertainty in the world around us. Problems of all kinds can stress us out.

Jesus has solutions for our stress.

We need to know that He can turn stressful situations into blessings. Graham Cooke, a minister from England, has said, “God allows in His wisdom what He could easily prevent by His power.” I have experienced this to be true. In the midst of struggles, God can deal with our shortcomings and fit us for His kingdom.

A few months ago I experienced a “mini-stroke.” After returning from the hospital, I was questioning God as to why this had happened. My regular devotional reading for that day was from 2 Thessalonians 1:5 (Message Translation), which reads, “All this trouble is a clear sign that God has decided to make you fit for the kingdom.”

That may be a needed word for you reading this. Your troubles can be opportunities for change into Christ-likeness.

Since that time God has been teaching me much that seems to prepare me for expanded kingdom activity in my life.

Jesus has an antidote for stress. He offers peace and rest. He is the “Prince of Peace” and the New Testament says there is a rest that awaits the people of God. Unfortunately it is still waiting for many.

I am learning that stress is an inside job. It is not caused by externals. It is a choice we make from the inside.

For example: Someone says, “That person makes me angry.” Not really! You choose to let that person anger you. Again: “My work stresses me out.” Not really! You choose to let stressful circumstances stress you out.

My daughter recently got a job as an office manager. There was unbelievable chaos in the office. After a day or two she said, “Dad, you wouldn’t believe the mess there. It’s so bad I just laugh at it. I can’t believe it doesn’t upset me.” So you don’t have to get stressed out in stressful situations. It is a choice you make.

I can choose to react under stress out of my sinful, selfish, critical, judgmental nature. This will get you all stressed out. Contrarily I can choose to act out of my new nature given to us in Christ. His nature is patient, kind, loving, full of righteousness and peace.

I am learning that peace and rest are companions of joy. It is impossible to have joy if I am all stressed out. That is bad news because the scripture mandates that we are to rejoice in the Lord always. It also mandates that we are to be like Jesus.

Jesus was full of joy. I know that because little children liked to be around Him. His disciples tried to keep them away from Him, but He said, “No way! Let the children come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of God.” You can’t fool the kids. If Jesus was some mean adult, they wouldn’t be climbing up onto His lap, as they did. He was full of joy.

Peace and rest are also weapons. Romans 16:20 tells us, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” As we learn to walk in the peace of the Lord we have authority to overcome darkness. Just don’t let the devil steal your peace. It will weaken your level of manifested authority in battle.

Actually, as we learn to walk in peace, God’s rest and joy, we can change the atmosphere around us. Jesus did. I love the challenge of changing the negatives around me to God’s positives.

God is watching you while you struggle. Do you get mad at God when things pressure you? What do you think His attitude is toward you while you struggle? Do your problems change his unchanging attitude of love to you? I think not!

Our struggles are opportunities for us to become more Christ-like.

To be like Him is more about delight than discipline. It’s not a chore. It’s a delight to be restful, at peace and happy.

Pastor Jim Erb is overseer of Antioch International Ministries, New Wilmington.