Philippians 4:4-7

A
stressed person is much like a stressed lawn. No longer healthy and
alive they begin to resemble a walking corpse. Maybe some vestiges of
life remain underneath, but to the watching world, the stressed
person is unhealthy and dying.

Sitting in a
jail cell in a prison in Rome with a death sentence hanging over him,
the apostle Paul had all the outward signs that would lead to stress.
He was dependent on others for his survival; misunderstood and
opposed by many; uncertain about his future. He should have been
stressed, but he was not. He provides us with some simple yet profound
statements for managing stress.

Aerate the Lawn: Learn to Laugh (v.4)

Rejoicing
is clearly a scriptural command. To ignore it is disobedience. Paul
commands us to engage our sense of humor, see the bright side, find
the joy, and delight in laughter.

Laughter
is to the soul what aeration is to the lawn. Aeration pokes holes in
the lawn to loosen the soil so it can breathe so the roots of the grass
can grow and the lawn can become healthier.

A good hearty belly laugh, the kind that makes you hold your sides and
rock back and forth, can act like a good workout and an “internal
massage” to reduce the stress in your life.

Pull the Weeds: Don’t Be Anxious (v. 6)

Worry
and anxiety are a great source of stress. Worry is assuming
responsibility that God never intended for us to have. It’s playing
God, trying to control the uncontrollable. The English word worry
comes from the German word wurgen, which means “to strangle, to
choke.”

Worry is like weeds in the lawn that
choke the grass. Worry chokes out your joy, stifles your maturity and
spirit, harasses you mentally, strings you out emotionally, strangles
you spiritually, and cuts off your motivation.

Every time I find a weed in my lawn, I pull it. One day it hit me: I
don’t have to pull weeds where the grass is thick. Instead of
spending all my time pulling weeds, maybe I need to invest time
making the grass as healthy as possible. The thicker the grass, the
fewer the weeds.

That’s where the next guideline comes in.

Water Often: Pray About Everything (v. 6)

When
the stresses of life come you have two options: Panic or pray. We are
to pray about everything, not just the religious stuff. God is
interested in every detail of your life. Speaking of details, the
word petition means a specific, detailed request. Most people pray
vague and general prayers that are lifeless and powerless.

To root out the weeds of worry in the lawn of your life you need
healthy grass. Water is essential to a healthy lawn. Water loosens
the soil, nourishes the roots, and provides nitrogen and oxygen to
the grass. Because of the abundance of rain in the spring, or a
sprinkler system, the grass is healthy and lush.

Prayer is like that rain. God showers us with his blessings and raining down his care upon us.

The Unconditional Guarantee (vv. 7, 9)

Is
stress overtaking you? Are the weeds growing in your heart choking
out your very life? Are you looking for peace of mind? Look at the
unconditional guarantee:

The peace of God will
guard your hearts and minds. The word guard is a military word
meaning to guard or post a sentinel. God will guard your mind and heart
when you have a relationship with him and trust him moment by moment.
When the stressful events of life come, God will put a garrison, a
sentry guard, around your heart and when worry comes knocking on your
door he will protect you with his peace.

The
God of peace will be with you. Not only do we have protection from God,
we have the presence of God. Just as God was with the children of
Israel in the desert, just as he was with Paul in prison, he is with
you and me when we face the disappointments, problems, and stresses
of life. That is one promise we can count on. He is with us. What
better guaranteed do we need?

___________________
Sermon
brief provided by: Rick Ezell, a pastor and author in
Naperville, IL

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