How Do I Break Out of the Overwhelming Stress?

(Today’s post by James Rooks)

Philippians 3:1-11

firebreakThe following is a text exchange between a friend of mine and me from today:
Me: “How have you been doing?”
Him: “Depends on who you ask I suppose! I need to learn how to release full trust in the Lord. Stress is starting to consume my life…but other than that doing good”

Many times the things we are seeking or working hard at are the very things that bring us the most stress. Life has a way of running a man ragged to the point where he sets up a series of firebreaks in an effort of self-preservation.   Prior to reaching the breaking point, we think that only if we can work a little harder or be a little more organized, then we can quell the storm that is brewing.  Go back a little farther, and we see a season of ease where all is well and taking things into our own hands seems normal. Good things are happening, and success seems effortless.

Sometimes the easy season is for a few days, but then we stumble a bit, only to see that the storm of stress has not only caught up with us, but that it has grown.   Then we turn to the firebreak.  In an effort to loosen the chains that entangle us, we begin pruning off things in our life (relationships, responsibilities) that we think are holding us down so that we can out run the waves of stress that are bearing down on us.   Sound familiar?

Men, this is more common than we’d like to admit.  It’s a destructive pattern that affects our ministries, job performance, relationships, and families.  How do we find a way out?

For me, today’s passage in Philippians 3 is right on time.  This text is one that I’ve been exposed to multiple times over the years, but today it hit me a little differently.  Paul is writing to the Philippians again about a topic that he’d written before, but clearly he was ok with telling them again.  He wanted to remind them of something very important: to not put too much confidence in the flesh.  He boasts quite a resume of his own achievements, abilities, and pedigree.  He then buries it all with the following:

[Phl 3:7-11 NASB] 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Why is this such a relief?  It allows me to have a singular focus: Jesus.  It says that no matter what my resume of accolades looks like, they are rubbish compared to knowing Jesus.   That any goodness I have in me is not by my own work but through faith in Christ.  That through this, I can know the power of His resurrection.   For me that takes a lot of pressure off.  It’s not like I can handle it all on my own anyway, at least not very well.  Paul boils it down to not relying on the flesh, but relying 100% on Jesus.

The times I feel the most stress and pressure are when I don’t have a singular focus on Jesus.  To be honest, that’s when Jesus has very little of my focus.  I’m often overwhelmed with it all … like the side show act at a circus trying to juggle 8 things at one time … I’m bound and determined to keep it all going.  My personal drive for greatness at work, home, in business, and at church is the very thing that adds to the weight because I’m attempting to do it all myself.

Colossians 1:18 references Christ having first place in all things.  Some versions may say supremacy or preeminence.  The application here is that focus on Jesus doesn’t mean an end to our other priorities.  Our focus on Jesus allows us to properly align our lives and our priorities under His leadership.  When this happens, we see that knowing Him is the prize; and the weight of it all is on His shoulders, not ours.

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