Can God help me with some relief?

Stress puts the squeeze on all of us at one time or another.  It’s natural to look for relief. As we seek to discover just how practical our relationship with God really is, we might be led to ask, “Can God help me with some relief?”

It seems like some people in Palestine had that question nearly 2,000 years ago as they went out to hear a new preacher named Jesus.  The all-knowing Jesus gave a wonderful answer in that teachable moment that we now call the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew, one of the disciples with Jesus on that day, records some of Jesus’ comments about stress.  He said, “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25).  To those stressed about grocery money, Jesus pointed out that God doesn’t let the birds go hungry.  To others who were stressed over an inadequate wardrobe, Jesus pointed out that God doesn’t let the flowers down when it comes to how they look.  His point was made in a question that he still asks us today, “Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Of course we are!  The Bible tells us that “God so loved the world!” (John 3:16).  You and I are included in that statement of good news.  God showed his love by removing the greatest stress – our sin that separated us from our God – and placing it on Jesus who took it away by his death on the cross.

God has the perfect antidote to relieve stress.  He wraps his loving arms around us and says, “I love you!  I forgive you.”  That relieves the stresses over finances or health or time crunches or job pressure . . . or anything.  Relief is as close as God’s promises, which are written for us in the Bible.  Each week we take a close look at some of those wonderful promises.  Come and share with us some genuine stress relief.

Handling Pressure

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.(2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

To which would you compare yourself? Are you kind of like an over-inflated balloon? Does the slightest pinprick cause you to burst? Or when your knot comes unraveled, do you fly this way and that until all the air is spent and you hang limp, unable to move? Are you similar to a fluorescent light bulb? Will a rap against a hard object cause you to fracture into a million tiny shards? Or maybe you’re more like a rubber playground ball, always feeling kicked around and sometimes feeling a little too squishy. Maybe it’s like a weight is attached to your foot and you’re being pulled deeper and deeper and the ringing in your ears gets louder and louder. We’re all under pressure, aren’t we? How do you handle yours?

By ourselves, we’re pretty fragile. The problems of life are usually not so considerate as to come at us one at a time. The word “bombarded” would fit rather well sometimes, wouldn’t it? Temptation pricks at our thin exterior. We are pulled in all sorts of directions by the schedule that so often dictates our lives. Tragedy and trouble shatter the peace that we want so dearly to maintain. People kick us around and criticize our ideals and decisions. Sometimes the pressure feels so great that we think we’re going to implode. The additional pressures of serving God and his people just add to all those other things.

But don’t you think God recognizes all this? By ourselves, we are fragile. But with the Lord, we’re firm. When we hear or study his Word, there’s something solid that grows underneath our delicate exterior. The Holy Spirit does his work of giving us faith and strengthening us in that faith to resist everything that the devil and the world can throw at us. And you know what it is that’s so solid, don’t you? The Bible proclaims a certainty that we just can’t find in ourselves. The good news that Jesus lived perfectly and died in our place and forgave us all our sins is not something squishy or fragile. It’s real. It’s one hundred percent done. It’s yours to rejoice in. It’s the solid foundation on which you and I stand.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my Savior, thank you for giving me something I can count on. Thank you for being what I could never be and doing what I could never do. Thank you for giving me forgiveness and heaven. When the pressures of life remind me how fragile I am, help me to trust only in you. Even in all the problems of life, help me remember that you will keep me safe in your most capable hands. Amen.

Why do I keep on sinning?

None of us have the ability not to sin! The Bible teaches, first, that a superhuman spirit, the devil, is in rebellion against God and all he represents. The devil and his allies will do anything they can to get you to join their rebellion by rejecting God’s will for your life.

Second, there’s the world we inhabit. When the first people yielded to the devil’s temptation, they brought evil into the good world God had made. Now we live in an environment that is simply not going to encourage us to put God first, as he commands.

Finally, there’s our own nature. Like the world, we human beings are a good creation of God that went wrong very early in our history. Now there’s corruption within us that makes it impossible for us to offer God the perfect obedience that he demands and deserves. Our inner corruption means that the devil’s and the world’s temptations will strike a responsive chord within us, making it hard for us to say “no.”

Above all, please be sure that Jesus’ sacrifice has won God’s forgiveness for your every sin even the ones you can’t seem to shake. Second, know that Jesus also won for us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who creates a new self inside us. This new self wants to please God with a holy life. It’s locked in mortal combat with our old self, who wants exactly the opposite; and sometimes the old self still gets his way.

You might say there’s a dogfight going on inside every Christian. You could also say that the idea is to feed the dog you want to win, and starve the other one. Keep feeding your new self on God’s Word, and watch what happens!

My Weak Faith

The first line of an old Christian hymn asks for “a faith that will not shrink.” That seems like an odd way of talking about faith shrinking. It’s the way my faith sometimes feels, however.

News stories report on people who have great faith and who are heroes. Somehow, I don’t seem to be a likely candidate.

The Bible paints dramatic pictures of “heroes of faith” Abraham, Moses, David. I can’t picture myself comparing to them.

My faith seems timid and uncertain; not heroic. Sometimes I even conclude that faith and church and religion work fine for some people, but they’re not for me.

I need to stop looking at my faith and look at Jesus instead.

Every Christian’s faith “shrinks” sometimes, but Jesus stays strong.

A father once brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus and asked if Jesus could do anything. Jesus told him, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). Nervously, excitedly, the father exclaimed: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief”(Mark 9:24)!

What matters is not so much how strong my faith feels, but what my faith rests on.

I may have very strong convictions that a bottle of drain cleaner will make my sore throat go away. Actually, it will make me sicker instead of better.

The correct medicine will assist in making me feel better, even if I don’t have much confidence in it.

Martin Luther said once that we are all “equal in Christ through faith.” Luther knew that Abraham, Moses, and David all had a stronger faith than he did, but it was the very same faith in Christ.

Faith is a gift God gives us, and whoever believes in Christ receives Christ’s blessings no matter whether he receives them with a strong faith or a weak one.

But I Need It!

Appetite is a good thing. Without it, you die. But appetite can also be a bad thing because with it sometimes we eat too much and get heavy and slow and have heart attacks.

An appetite for things is also not wrong. There is nothing wrong with a stroll through a Walmart store looking for things we need for our lives. But appetite can get out of control, even in a Walmart store.

This danger is exemplified by the statement, “But I need it!” With this appetite in view God warns, “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:16,17).

There are things that we absolutely need. We need food and clothes and shelter and air to breathe. There are many other things like that we need, which our Father in heaven wants us to have to sustain our lives and our happiness. But these things are not the most important things that we need. Jesus talked one day to two friends of his in their home. Martha thought getting supper and getting the house cleaned were things that she “needed” to do. Mary on the other hand thought she needed to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41).

Our Father in heaven says to us, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

That makes it simple. To the statement “But I need it!” there is a Godly response. Only one thing is needed. Please don’t think that is too simple. When the world passes into oblivion and we stand at God’s judgment throne Jesus will be all that we need. To know Jesus as the only one who provides good for us in this world and the next is the only thing we need.

There are things we need. We truly do. Body and soul need things. Our challenge when faced with the statement “But I need it!” is to know what God says we need.

He will always be right, and, insofar as we listen to him, so will we.