I think the Apostle Paul would laugh at some of our goals of “stress-free living.” Not because he would have had a desire for stress, but because of the lengths we go to avoid it!
We see stress as an enemy, but in reality, it is part and parcel of life—especially life in the ministry.
- How can you bear one another’s burden without enduring some stress?
- How can you love and lead people without demands on your time and energy?
- How can you be on the front lines of spiritual battle without the tension of spiritual warfare?
Yes, there is stress involved in ministry.
But there is a difference between living with stress and living “stressed out.” In contrast to our stressed out living, God offers His peace.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…—Colossians 3:15
So how can you live with stress and simultaneously walk with the peace of God ruling in your heart?
1. Delight in the Lord.
In twenty-first century America, we are more prone to delight in our accomplishments or our possessions than we are to delight in the Lord. In so doing, we lose the stabilizing realization of God’s unconditional love for us, and we lose the chief source of a Christian’s delight—God Himself.
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.—Psalm 37:4
Even in—especially in—seasons of high demands on your time and energy, take time daily to wait on the Lord—to simply delight in His presence.
2. Decide to trust.
God knows the responsibilities He has entrusted to your care! Trust Him.
Sometimes we find it easier to trust the Lord in large trials than in the daily stressors of life. But, regardless of the size or cause of our anxiety, there is peace in committing it to the Lord, and there is wisdom in refusing to lean on our understanding.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.—Proverbs 3:5
3. Discipline yourself.
Sometimes we know something that would help relieve stress (such as exercise) or help us better meet the demands that come our way (such as healthy eating or a target schedule), but we don’t discipline ourselves to take steps of action toward these goals.
Spirit-filled temperance (indeed, one of the fruits of the Spirit is temperance) will often go further than we realize in helping us manage stress.
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.—1 Corinthians 9:27
But the fruit of the Spirit is… temperance…—Galatians 5:22–23
When you’re already stressed, it seems difficult to put out the energy that is required for personal disciplines. Yet, denying the impulses of self-indulgence is often key to regulating the aspects of stress that we can control.
4. Deny the negative.
Even the secular world knows that negative thinking increases stress. Focusing on the demands surrounding you only makes them appear larger, and focusing on your insufficient time or strength only makes those appear smaller!
Scripture gives us the perfect filter for our thoughts.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.—Philippians 4:8
Notice the phrase “think on.” This is to be a proactive choice on our part. When your mind is spinning and your thoughts are spiraling, biblically confront what goes through your mind. Think on that which focuses your heart on God’s faithfulness, and stay your mind on the Lord!
5. Delegate when possible.
Sometimes we deny ourselves relief from stress when we won’t delegate a task and trust a faithful person to get the job done.
Obviously, delegation requires training. Sometimes that investment alone deters us. We tell ourselves we don’t have time to train someone else. But in the long run, delegation accomplishes more than we could ever do alone. By delegating, we are forced to invest in others, and we benefit by a trained and capable helper.
Even the Apostle Paul was often willing to send people in his stead. Talk about investing and training—and then trusting!
For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.—1 Corinthians 4:7
But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you…. And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;— 2 Corinthians 8:16, 18
Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants…. I sent him therefore the more carefully…— Philippians 2:25, 28
And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:— 1 Thessalonians 3:2
And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.— 2 Timothy 4:12
We often long for relief from stress simply as an end in itself. The goal of a true servant, however, is not relief; it is fruitfulness.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.—Acts 20:24
Our focus is not to live stress free, but to handle stress biblically—so we can serve the Lord for a lifetime!