I have lived long enough to know that sometimes, no matter what we do, the demands of everyday living can become overwhelming. We get some unpleasant news that "ambushes" us when we least expect it. We hear from a loved one who asks more of us than we think we can physically or emotionally handle. Someone accuses us unfairly. Someone lies about us. Someone misinterprets what we say or do. The list goes on and on. When I was feeling overwhelmed myself recently, the Holy Spirit showed me an enlightening verse in the Book of Psalms: "As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in Your commands." (Psalm 119:143 NLT) I took comfort in the fact that this psalmist knew what it was like to feel pressured and stressed. But what impressed me most was his antidote. JOY. And he found it in God's commands - His Word. Not just reading or speaking the Word - but putting it into practice.
For instance, when we are under pressure, heeding God's commands in James 1:19-20 (AMP) can bring immediate and lasting peace. "Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; for the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us]." We can turn a minor problem into an enormous one by simply losing our temper and saying things we don't really mean, or that we will regret later on. That's why the apostle Paul wrote, "Steer clear of foolish discussions which lead people into the sin of anger with each other. Things will be said that will burn and hurt for a long time to come." (2 Timothy 2:16-17 TLB) Just as we can't un-ring a bell, we can't take back our words once they leave our mouths. And more times than not, the reckless things we say to others will end up doing us more harm than good. As the Bible warns, "Don't be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head." (Ecclesiastes 7:9 MSG)
One of the most important commands of God for us to heed when we are feeling stressed is James 1:5-7 (AMP): "If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him. But he must ask [for wisdom] in faith, without doubting [God's willingness to help], for the one who doubts is like a billowing surge of the sea that is blown about and tossed by the wind. For such a person ought not to think or expect that he will receive anything [at all] from the Lord." Sometimes the hardest thing for us to do when we are under pressure is to get still before the Lord in a quiet place, and ask for His wisdom and guidance for our situation. But sometimes, doing this is the only way we will hear from God what the best course of action is. Satan and his evil cohorts work overtime to keep God's people in the midst of constant activity and noise, because they know that if they can keep you from hearing the Holy Spirit's gentle instructions and promptings, they can keep you sick, broke, lonely, and defeated. Joy comes when we have received from the Lord the good things he has for us in every situation.
Next is a verse that we need to view as a direct command from God if we are going to benefit from it daily. "Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved (made to slip, fall, or fail)." (Psalm 55:22 AMP) Notice that in order for us to experience God's sustaining power in our circumstances, we must purposely surrender our burdens and cares to Him, entrusting them to Him because we believe that He really does know best, and that He always wants what is best for us. Do we have the option to resist handing our burdens over to God? Yes, we do. But when we refuse to trust the Lord's intentions in our situation, and we think we can get a better outcome on our own, we will ultimately "slip, fall, or fail," just like this verse promises. When that happens, even our little burdens will become big burdens that will eventually crush us.
In the Book of Philippians, Paul records some commands from the Lord that can restore our peace and joy quickly, if we will follow them. "Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]." (Philippians 4:6-7 AMP) Don't miss the words "specific requests" here. Christians miss out on more divine interventions simply because they don't get specific in their praying. I heard one godly man say, "If you don't ask for anything in particular, then don't expect anything in particular from the Lord." Don't be vague in your petitions. Be clear about what you are asking God for. And when He answers your prayers, there will be no doubt in your mind that He acted on your behalf in response to your requests. Paul also mentions thanksgiving in this passage, because there is supernatural power in giving thanks to God. No matter what is going on in our lives, no matter how much of a mess we are in, there is always something we can be grateful for. And when we express that gratitude to the Lord in our words and actions, heaven responds, and demons flee.
I am here to tell you today that no matter how pressured and stressed you are feeling right now, you can find JOY in God's commands!
Prayer: Lord, whenever I feel like I'm under pressure, help me to resist becoming angry or offended. Remind me to obey Your command to ask You for wisdom in faith. Don't allow me to carry my own burdens, but enable me to surrender all of them to You. Teach me how to pray specific prayers, and to express my heartfelt gratitude when I pray. Thank You that as I practice Your principles and follow Your lead, I will experience the joy and peace that are my inheritance in Christ!
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