You will find it helpful to have a printed copy of the lesson planning sheet along side as you read the lesson. The progression will make more sense.
Three Ways to Manage Stress
Bible Passage: Philippians 4:4-9
The human need this passage meets is: to learn to manage the stress that life inevitably brings.
Learning Goals: By the end of this session, each learner should be able to. . .
(Know) three ways to manage stress from this passage.
(Feel) more peaceful in their circumstances.
(Do) consciously decide to obey one of Paul's commands to rejoice, pray, or think.
In 1984 Baltimore Colts owner, Robert Irsay moved the team to Indianapolis. A couple sued them for $30 million because his actions caused them "to suffer severe depression, severe physical and emotional disability, severe disturbance of mental and emotional tranquility and mental distress of a very serious kind." All this is to say that you know you're in trouble when your emotional stability is based on the NFL. This might seem melodramatic, but sometimes little things cause us a lot of stress. The leading causes of stress are often identified as finances, work, and family. This week, what was your leading cause of stress? Tell the person sitting next to you.
If we are alive, we have stress. Good and bad experiences both contribute to the stress in our lives. However, Philippians 4 teaches us how to manage it - so it doesn't rule us, our emotions, and our actions.
Bible Input with Life Application
Read Philippians 4:4-9
The first of Philippians' three ways to manage stress is:
The apostle Paul instructs us to Rejoice in the Lord!
What does that mean? It means that we can have joy even though we are in a difficult circumstance. Most people are emotionally controlled by their own internal moods or their external circumstances. Paul gives us another way.
When we rejoice in the Lord we are placing our confidence in Jesus. This is a choice that we can make. To reflect a spirit of joy in the midst of difficulty is a powerful witness to the strength Jesus gives His followers.
In my sales career, I have observed that most of my collegues are happy when they make the sale and sad when they lose the sale. At a certain level, this is understandable. But often, their whole week, month and year is influenced by how many sales they are making. They seem like total victims to the way their personal production is going.
Jesus wants us to draw our joy from the smile on His face. Some days will go well -- and other days will not. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. When He is the source of our joy, personal circumtances do not carry as much weight.
The second of Philippians' three ways to manage stress is: Pray
Stressful situations generate a natural form of anxiety. Paul says that instead of being overcome by the worries of life we should cast our cares upon God by praying. People who pray tend to not worry. People who tend to worry, often forget to pray. It's really that simple.
Of all the psychiatric prescription drugs prescribed in 2009 the top seven drugs are used to treat anxiety. I do believe that there are legitimate needs for these drugs. There are a lot of anxious people in the world. Could we alieve some of this anxiety through prayer? I think so.
When we pray, we are no longer depending our our power, our ideas, our wisdom. We are now depending on the Creator of the Universe' power, ideas, and wisdom. That brings peace.
The God that parted the Red Sea; the Jesus that calmed the wind and the waves; the Jesus that healed the woman - this same God and Jesus are ready to help you when you pray. Take your burdens to the throne of grace and ask for help. God cares about every detail of our life and is waiting for us to pray.
God never promises strength for next week, just for today.
The last of Philippians' three ways to manage stress is: Think
This means we take responsibility for our minds. God has given us the capacity to control our thoughts. We can choose to think on negative things, or on positive things. It's really up to us.
My thoughts are often the source of my greatest stress. I always imagine the worst!
I think about growing old and becoming dependent on others.
I think about my health failing.
I think about people not liking me.
I think about being failing at work - or even losing my job.
I think about my country becoming worse and worse.
I think about something bad happening to my children
These kind of thoughts will inevitably lead to stress and anxiety. We all have concerns, but the key is to not dwell on them.
Instead Paul says to think about what is
noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. We can take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (II Corinthians 10:5).
Every time I focus my thoughts on God, He becomes bigger and my problems become smaller.
When my wife, Peggy was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, she had to deal with her worries. She developed the habit of consciously redirecting her thoughts away from her fears and onto God. This song, based on I Peter 5:7 (Cast all your anxiety on God, for he cares for you.) greatly helped her. The words are:
I cast all my cares upon you.
I lay all my burdens down at your feet.
And anytime I don't know what to do.
I will cast all my cares upon you.
Peggy consciously sang this song day or night whenever the stresses crowded in. As she sang the song, she pictured herself carrying all of her worries in a big sack and laying it down at the feet of Jesus. Once she dropped her worries, she envisioned herself crawling up on Jesus' lap. There as a child on His lap, she felt reassured and safe. She learned to control her thoughts - to think of what was true and right.
God's Word gives us many ways to manage stress. The book of Philippians provides three of the most practical guidelines to
help us gain peace and minimize the things bring on stress and depression.
Ask Jesus to help you. He sees everything that you are currently facing. Rejoice that He is in charge. Pray and ask for help. Keep your thoughts on Him, not your surroundings. If you do, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind.