Responsive Reading: Matthew 11:18-30
Key Verse(s): Matthew 11:28
Background Scripture: Matt. 6:25-34; 1 Pet. 5:5-10
For the past couple of weeks, we have been going down the pathway of choosing to live for the better. In order to live our best lives, we have seen that we should choose God over everything and to follow His corrections. Today, I want to focus on the two monsters of anxiety and stress because it is impossible for us to live our best lives if anxiety and stress rules over us. The one thing that all of us should do with our anxieties and stress is turn it over to Jesus, and as the song says, He will work it out.
Stress Unnatural for the Soul
There are some that live with a mindset to where they believe that stress is good for us.
Stress is natural idea
The logic behind this is completely carnal (worldly) and it works against sound doctrine and the spirit. The logic begins with the idea that stress is natural for us as it is a normal part of living. So, because stress is normal, the thought is that we should learn to tolerate and accept it in our lives.
Some believe that without stress in their lives, they would become bored and unmotivated and this could lead to depression. With a little stress, the belief is that you would be driven to meet challenges head on and defeat those challenges; stress can help you with accomplishing your dreams and goals. So, in a twisted sort of way, we spin stress to be good for us because it could lead to us being happy at the end of the day. All of this, I want you to understand, comes from a carnal mindset.
Admittedly, a part of me actually understands this concept. You see, I do like to operate under a little pressure. Something about a little added pressure gets my juices flowing as there is a bit of thrill and excitement when racing against the clock. However, if you’re going to operate under stress, then you better be good at handling pressure! Should you not be able to handle pressure, just a little stress is a disaster just waiting to happen.
The soul’s natural state
Spiritually speaking, the soul is not supposed to be filled with anxiety and stress. You see, there is a reason why we see Jesus in our key verse invite all of those that labor and are heavy laden (burdened) to come unto Him.
To understand the reason as to why Jesus invites us to come unto Him with our burdens, I feel we need to understand the state that the soul should be in. To do this, let us look back, again, to the Lord’s thoughts when He created mankind.
In Genesis 1:26, scripture shows us that the Godhead said, “‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” As I have shared with you for the past month and a half, when God created mankind, we were a righteous – perfect – creation. When the Lord breathed the breath of life – His spirit – into our nostrils and we became living beings, we were a righteous – perfect – creation (Gen. 2:7). Do you understand what this means?
For those that do not understand what this means, God created us not to have any stress or worries. When we take a look back at Adam and Eve in the garden, did it seem like they had to stress about what to eat or what to wear? Absolutely not. All Adam and Eve had to do was let the Lord attend to them (Gen. 2:8-25).
Stress did not enter into the picture until man was made to toil the earth due to his sin in the garden (Gen. 3:17-19). Sin, we should understand, is the cause of mankind’s stress and worry! Sin, disobedience against the way of God, is also not natural as the Lord did not make it! Because our soul was not created in God’s righteous image, sin, I want you to understand, is not natural to the soul.
Sin is like a virus to the soul as it pollutes, corrupts, and darkens what was once righteous. Do we tolerate viruses? No. We take medicines so that our body can combat the invading virus. Because stress comes from sin, stress is essentially a symptom of the virus of sin. Why should we tolerate our soul to be stressed out?
Stress is like a rope or a rubber band that has been stretched and twisted to the max. The tension that eventually gets built up from the stretching and the twisting can lead to only one thing for that rope or rubber band – it will eventually snap into.
In its natural state, your soul is not supposed to be stretched and twisted due to our anxieties and stress. Our soul, in its natural state, should be calm and relaxed. Stress distorts our soul and it leads our soul to being in an unhealthy condition. If our soul becomes overly stressed, then we end up putting our soul at risk for one thing to happen; the soul could shatter apart.
Stress Is Not Healthy
In Proverbs 12:25, the proverb states, “anxiety in the heart (soul) of man causes depression.” In other words, an anxious soul is one that is heavy and weighed down. Your soul is not meant to be weighed down. The world says that a little stress is good for battling against depression because it can motivate us. Yet, the spiritual mindset says anxiety in the soul is the cause of depression which is not healthy.
The grave effect of stress to the soul
Your soul is who you are; it is the foundation of your desires. You often hear me say this because it is important for us to understand that our soul is the foundation for all of our thoughts, emotions, and of our actions. So, consider what a broken, shattered, and depressed soul would lead to in your life. A soul filled with anxiety would have grave effects on our mental, emotional, and physical states.
In our mental state, an overly stressed soul can become dazed and confused. Rather than thinking clearly, our thoughts become muddled and we end up being more susceptible to making poor decisions.
In our emotional state, an overly stressed soul can become cold and hollow (empty). This is certainly no good when, in its natural and healthy state, our soul is filled with peace, love, and joy – it is bright.
In our physical state, an overly stressed soul can lead to one becoming a complete and utter mess, physically. As we know, a lot of stress can lead to heart problems, having high blood pressure, and several other poor physical conditions.
So, living with a heavy and burdened soul due to stress and anxiety is simply no way for any of us to live because eventually all of that catches up with us. Sadly, many of us are living with a soul that is bent and twisted out of shape; it is completely distorted and rather than living our best lives, a lot of us are absolutely miserable! So, rather than living with a virus that is bending and twisting our soul, we must find a way to treat this virus so that we are not living with a poor and unhealthy condition.
We choose to be healthy or unhealthy
As we saw last week in my sermon – When God Rebukes You – we must learn to be open and trust in the wise counsel of the Lord (Prov. 1:5).
As we take another look at my key verse for today, the invite here from Jesus to go unto Him with our burdens so that He can give us rest is the wise counsel we must heed when it comes to our stress and anxieties. The question we must answer today is whether or not we will do this with our problems? Will we turn it over to Jesus?
You see, whether you realize this or not, our health comes down to what we choose. We choose whether we want to be in good or poor health, spiritually. You see, we choose whether or not we want to be stressed out or not; we choose whether or not we are going to let anxiety rule over us! You see, you make the choice when it comes to whether you are going to be happy or not.
Someone may think to themselves, ‘I didn’t choose for this bad thing to happen to me or to the ones I love.’ This is certainly true, but at the same time, all of us choose how we respond and react to the things that happen around us and affect us. I want you to understand that you are in control of how you choose to live. You must answer whether or not you are going to live for the better or not.
Turn It Over to Jesus
My hope is that after having gone into so great of detail about the natural state of our soul and how unhealthy and unnatural stress is for the soul, that you would choose to have power over your stress and anxiety. So, if you want to do something about stress and anxiety, let me share with you some sound doctrine in order to defeat these monstrous viruses.
Let us stop worrying
My first word of encouragement to you today in dealing with stress and anxiety is to stop worrying. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul told us to be anxious for nothing and never worry about anything (Phil. 4:6). In his first letter, Peter told us to cast all our cares upon the Lord because God cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).
Of course, telling someone to stop worrying is easier said than done, but it must be said, and at the same time, we ought to strive not to worry! Instead of giving in to our anxieties, we must first confront what it is that stresses us out so much. So, what is it that actually causes us to toss and turn and end up losing sleep? I believe that the answer is a lot deeper than work, school, or even the bills that we have to pay.
If we diligently work hard on our job, then we aren’t really worried about work, right? If we are diligently getting our school work, then our worry isn’t really about the school work, right? If we are earning money and have been getting bills paid, then we should not be too worried about paying the bills, right? So what is it?
I believe that if we dig deeper, we will see that the real answer to what keeps us awake in worry and stress are the things that are beyond our control. You see, if we take a look at the truth, we will see that we often worry about what could potentially go wrong and whether or not we can handle when things go wrong.
We seemingly have adopted this to be a truth that what can go wrong will inevitably go wrong. For many of us, this inevitability is constantly on our mind and drives us crazy. So, rather than living in worry about what is beyond our control or what could potentially go wrong, both Paul and Peter encouraged us to stop doing this. Stop worrying about what is beyond your control! Stop worrying about what has yet to happen! Turn it over to Jesus!
In a passage of scripture that ought to be very familiar to us, Jesus told us to stop worrying about tomorrow (Matt. 6:25-34)! Tomorrow is our biggest trigger for anxiety and stress when it ought not to be! Jesus said that if nature does not have to worry because the Lord cares for it, surely we ought not be so carried away in our hearts about the things beyond our control when the Lord will attend to our every need!
Too often, I feel like we live with this stress and worry about tomorrow as if God is not in control of tomorrow! No, we may not know what is ahead of us but I can promise you that the Lord certainly knows. Again the Lord said that His thoughts about tomorrow are to give us a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). God, we should remember, is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. The Lord is sovereign and He is almighty; all authority belongs to Him (Matt. 28:18).
When we get lost in our worries about tomorrow and begin to stress in our soul, I want you to understand that this shows a lack of faith in the Lord. If God tells us not to worry about tomorrow, then guess what we ought not be doing? We should not be spending a second stressing about tomorrow.
Peace and Comfort in God’s Control
With this thought in mind, my second encouragement when it comes to handling anxiety and stress would be to find comfort in God being in control. Rather than living in the worry of things potentially going wrong, we should learn to think more positively. As the writer of the book of Hebrews said, faith is the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1). Our soul should be a place of hope, rather than a place of doom and gloom!
To the Philippians, Paul encouraged, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Phil. 4:8).”
To meditate means to focus one’s thoughts; it is to reflect on or to ponder over; to meditate means to plan or project in the mind. I love that the word meditate appears in the translation of this verse because it shows how deep our thoughts should be in all that is good.
Too often we let our hearts dwell in a negative place whereas, we should be letting our heart dwell in a positive place. When we take all of our anxieties, stresses, and burdens and we turn it over to Jesus, why should we return to a negative place in our hearts? It wouldn’t make much sense to do this, yet, we will quickly go to a place of negativity after we have turned our troubles over to the Lord.
Paul said to the Philippians that should they heed what they learned and received from him – if they meditated on good – the God of peace would be with them. When we meditate on the good and positive, our soul can truly find peace. If we recall our key verse, again, let us remember that Jesus said that if we come unto Him, we will give us rest — He will give us peace.
To the disciples, Jesus said that their hearts should not be troubled (stressed) because He has given to them His peace. How did Jesus give them, and all of us who genuinely believe, peace in our hearts? He did this because He overcame sin and all of its nasty symptoms! We overcome sin and all of its nasty symptoms when we turn to and believe in Him!
Earlier, we saw the proverb that said anxiety weighs the heart down, but there is another proverb that speaks to the opposite end of this. Proverbs 14:30 states that a sound heart – one in its natural state – is life to the body. So, a soul that is calm and at peace in its natural state, gives good health to us in our physical, mental, and emotional states! Take your anxieties and your stress, and turn it over to Jesus!
Tell God everything
My final encouragement to you when it comes to anxiety and stress takes us back to a verse we covered earlier from Paul’s writings. Paul said to the Philippians, “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Phil. 4:6).”
So, my final encouragement to you when it comes to anxiety and stress would be to talk to the Lord — pray! I want you to understand that we should not be talking to God about some things, but rather, we should be talking to the Lord about everything. Again, remember what Jesus said in our key verse: Jesus called for all of us to come unto Him with all our burdens and that is exactly what we should be doing!
When you talk to and pray to the Lord, you should be like a fountain and tell Him all that is in your heart! You should be telling the Lord what frustrates you so that He can help you with your frustrations. You should be telling the Lord what you desire in your life, so that the Lord can do as He has promised and give to you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4).
When we talk to and pray to the Lord, we tell the Lord exactly what is stressing us out so that He can alleviate our stress. When we are depressed, we should let the Lord know so that He can lift us out of the pit of despair. Again, I tell you, we should tell the Lord about all of our struggles so that we do not end up staying awake driving ourselves crazy in stress.
As the song says, when you turn it over to Jesus, He will work all things out for you. Something I can testify to you today is that when I began to take all of these steps in my life, I found calm and I found peace in my heart – God gave my soul rest. If you truly want calm and peace, rather than worry and stress, learn to trust that the Lord is sympathetic to what you go through on a daily basis and He can relieve you of your burdens.