W. Frank Walton
In our hurry-up, pressure-cooker world, everyone knows about stress. Such pressure comes from the various demands our fast-paced life places on us. Sometimes, they seem like they will pull us apart.
Reading through the Gospel of Matthew, we can observe major crisis moments in Jesus’ own life, noting how the Lord handled each stressful situation. This inductive study yields five “keys” to cope with various kinds of stress in our own lives. We cannot escape stress in this world. However, by faith and trusting obedience to Jesus’ example, we can manage to keep from being “stressed out”.
REMEMBER GOD’S WORD (Matthew 3:16-4:11)
No sooner had God confirmed Jesus’ identity and mission at his baptism that Satan called it into question in the wilderness temptations. Temptation to sin is seductive stress. Each time, however, Jesus responded by saying, “It is written..” He quoted from Deuteronomy, which is the ancient record and review of God’s “son” Israel, who also went through the water into the desert to be tested regarding trust in God. Jesus knew and expertly used the very best Scripture to blunt each temptation. In the stressful arrest in Gethsemane, instead of abandoning His mission, Jesus focused on fulfilling Scripture to help Him stay the course (Matthew 26:54, 56).
Instead of falling prey to our changing moods and surging urges, contemplating Scripture helps to refocus our minds in the calm light of unchanging, eternal truth. “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Psalm 119:165). Fill your heart continually with God’s Word, which is the instrument by which the Holy Spirit encourages and strengthens you in times of trial.
DO GOD’S WORK (Matthew 8-9)
As Jesus entered on his ministry of teaching, healing, teaching and exorcism, the needs and demands placed on him were tremendous. This is the stress of overwhelming demands, with seemingly too much to do and too little time to do it. However, Jesus faced the situation without despair by doing what God had sent him to do – day by day, with one person at a time. He never was flustered nor “lost his cool”.
When the task seems to enormous to bear, remember that we can only breathe one breath at a time, do one thing at a time, take one step at a time and live one day at a time. We must prioritize our actions to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33). Do not let trivial things obscure the vital things we ought to be and can be doing. Simply do whatever you know God has given you to do for that moment and that day, without “biting off more than you can chew”. Also, consider this saying, “We must stop stewing and start doing!” Stress can come from an over active mind and an underactive body. God will be with us each step of the way. He will give us strength and guidance for each challenge confronting us.
REST IN GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY (Matthew 11:20-30)
Some cities which saw most of Jesus’ miracles still did not believe in him. This is the stress of disappointing results. Yet, Jesus’ response was a joy-filled heart and a prayer to God – who is always in charge and whose work will never be defeated.
When our agenda crashes, our hopes wither and our plans fail, we must rest in the knowledge that God has an eternal purpose. Remember with Jesus to proclaim before God: “Your will be done!” (Matt. 26:42). He alone is in ultimate control of the universe and eternity. There is not enough power in hell to defeat God in the accomplishment of His purpose. No one will ever thwart his master plan for the salvation of all those whom he has graciously determined to redeem.
SEEK GOD’S PRESENCE (Matthew 14:12-13, 23)
When word came that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, forerunner and friend, had been beheaded, Jesus went out in a boat to a lonely place for himself, apart from all human company. To cope with the stress of tragedy, Jesus made time for intimate communion with the Father he drew strength and direction for His Messianic task. Also, when the clamoring crowds tried to make Jesus a political king (John 6:15), Jesus refused the stress of popular pressure by going “on the mountain by Himself to pray” (v. 23).
The same powerful resource of prayer is ours today, if we will seek and receive it, for the work God has entrusted us (Hebrews 4:16). Prayer can relieve the stress we face and sooth our soul (Philippians 4:6-7).
TRUST GOD’S FAITHFULNESS (Matthew 26:36-44)
In the garden of Gethsemane and again on the cross, Jesus entrusted himself to the Father’s will. In the stress of pain and sorrow, He was confident, even in his abandonment on the cross, that death would not have the final word. He voluntarily yielded up His spirit to the Father’s safekeeping (Matthew 27:50).
Sometimes, life reveals no quick answers, no simple solutions, no ready escapes. Yet, God is always faithful. We can always entrust ourselves to his care, with full confidence and without any reserve. He can see us through today’s stress to tomorrow, even unto the day of eternity.