Well once again, it is Christmas season. The stores have been putting out their Christmas items since September, marketing folks have been giving Christmas discounts since October, and now that it is December it is almost as if all the fun has been sucked out of the season. However, if we really consider that the Christmas season is not about the stores, advertising, profiteers and others and refocus our attention on Jesus and the Christmas that honors and celebrates His birth, we can still enjoy the season STRESS FREE. Yes, I said it, Christmas without stress.
Now you may think with that introduction that this is one of those messages to correct the way we celebrate Christmas, and though that is a part of it, I really want to help you overcome those little things in life that add up to create STRESS. Stress is an all year plague and though it may be compounded by holidays and events, we need to deal with all stressors not just the holiday ones.
As we approach Christmas, there is no doubt the celebrations include moments of love, joy and happiness and we need to capitalize on those moments, learn what creates them and try to create more in place of the things that cause hate, sadness, anxiety and depression. Can you imagine a holiday or really any time during the year that could always be free from stress? Well they can but sadly, it will take some time and work to overcome the bad habits we have developed over the years to make this happen.
The catalysts that lead to periods of stress and depression can vary but there are some common characteristics that we can attack to reduce the amount of time we are stressed including during Christmas. While the catalysts vary from financial too emotional to physical, we can and should do something about them.
No matter how stressful a situation, never forget the instruction from Philippians 4:6, “6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” Memorize this verse so as you feel yourself getting stressed you can quote it and keep quoting it until the situation has passed.
If you are like me, you live paycheck to paycheck. You have a pretty good idea of what it will cost you to get through each month but frequently are unable to get there. No matter how good a planner you are, when the world throws you curve balls, it makes it nearly impossible to actually keep up with all the necessities. Then when holidays such as birthdays, Christmas and so forth occur, they seem as difficult to deal with as a broken water heater, a new roof or replacing a broken appliance.
Even when you have an emergency fund, it may not be enough to cover the unexpected, when it seems you only make sufficient money to cover your day to day expenses. Here is a scenario most of us can understand:
You just finished paying your bills and were pleased to see you had a couple hundred dollars left over and then, Little Johnny comes home from school with a field trip permission slip that requires $35 plus a request for a dozen cookies. You think, to yourself, ‘ok, we have extra, I can do this.’ Then you call out, “what’s that noise?” “Not me” says Johnny and it is then you realize it is coming from the laundry room. On further examination you find the washer has conveniently self-destructed leaving parts and water all over the floor.
You call the repairman and tell him what happened, and he said, “lady, we can’t fix that, buy a new one.” So, you jump on line looking for a bargain and fortunately, find one that can be delivered the next day – so now, between Little Johnny and your appliance, you have used all your ‘extra money.’
You lean back and say, “Thank you Jesus.” A few minutes later your husband walks in and says, “you aren’t going to believe the day I had; first they rejected my project and told me no Christmas bonus and then at lunch the car broke down and it looks like it will be a $750 repair bill.
At this point you do one or more of the following:
Grab your husbands’ hand and pray for God to intervene.
All of the above
While this is a somewhat exaggerated day, we often feel like this is the norm and not the exception and while we would all like to believe we would select #4 above, it is probably more like number 5.
Why does money cause us so much hardship and stress? Why, is money the second leading cause of divorce (behind infidelity)? Money is mentioned countless times in both the New and Old Testaments. In spite of all this, we still allow it to be a significant cause of stress in our lives – I know because I am speaking from personal experience.
Here are 5 things that will help.
Start tithing. I know this sounds ridiculous after all, if I do not have enough now, how will I have enough when I give 10% away? Malachi 3:8-11 teaches us to tithe and it is the one place we are permitted to test God by tithing.
8-11 (MSG) “Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day. “You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’
“The tithe and the offering—that’s how! And now you’re under a curse—the whole lot of you—because you’re robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers.” The Message of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
There are those who will say to you that tithing is an Old Testament expectation and not necessary for today. I disagree. Luke 11:42 says,
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
In the italicized part of Verse 42 above, Jesus tells them you have tithed and should tithe but that is not enough. Don’t miss that He told them they should tithe and so should we. If you are still not convinced, please pick up a copy of Dick Benjamin’s book on tithing in the Welcome Center-it is free. In the meantime, try tithing, you will be amazed at how much you accomplish on less.
As and FYI, today’s tithe is what provides and maintains the church facility and staff. It is pretty much the only source of income the church has and without it, the church facility cannot exist.
Find a way to be contented with what you have. Sometimes we can be so discontented with what we have that we are driven to obtain more; seeking great gain. I believe that just like tithing, it may not make sense; however, when you are contented with what you have, God will trust you with more. Now be careful and understand I am not saying sit back and wait; not by a long shot. We need to use the resources, gifts, time, and talents God has given us and invest this wealth (carefully) in a Godly fashion. What I am talking about is a matter of attitude.
As some of you know, I am a huge fan of the old Warner Brothers cartoons and have some pictures and other objects in my office that supports that. One of those things is a small statue of Daffy Duck surrounded by bags of money with the caption, “BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, CHEAPER.” Through the years I worked for a number of misguided supervisors who touted some or all of these. They wanted to claw their way to the top and truly did not care if they hurt others to achieve their goals. It is not wrong to be driven to succeed, but it’s unhealthy when success dictates our happiness. It is also wrong if what is driving us towards success is not built on a Godly foundation with the Holy Spirit being the primary driver.
1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” The greatest gains you will experience in life will come when you are contented no matter what the results. This is because you truly believe that God is in control and let Him do His part.
Establish a financial vision and then develop goals that will help you achieve them. Your financial vision is what you intend to achieve financially during your life while the goals are the short, medium, and long-term personal objectives established to achieve your vision. Developing and following a budget is an example of one financial goal you can establish.
Your financial vision will be short, measurable, and attainable. It may sound like, ‘I will be debt free with sufficient income to care for my family and me and with sufficient savings and investments to cover unexpected events. No matter how old you are, it is never too late to establish a financial vision. Once you have your vision in place, every time you are inclined to make an unusual purchase, determine whether it will help you achieve your vision or whether it won’t – or perhaps will prevent you from achieving it. When you develop this habit, you will find that you waste your resources far less often. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children...”
When you not only learn to spend towards a vision rather than a moment, you are on the path to establish an inheritance for many subsequent generations. This will happen when you not only do this, but teach it to your children so they will teach their children…
Develop a servant attitude. God desires that we serve others with what we are blessed. This includes money, time, and other resources beyond our tithe.
So, at this point you are probably thinking, ‘here he goes again wanting me to do more with less.’ Well, you are partially correct but what I am encouraging you to understand is as a servant, you must help others just as Jesus did. Therefore, in reality, I am saying to do more with more.
Some of the additional ‘more’ will come from you but the lions share will be provided by God. The best leaders I have known had servant’s hearts. It did not keep them from doing their job but enhanced their ability because people were more inclined to follow them and back them up when tough decisions were necessary.
As an engineering staff manager, I reported to a director who was amazing. Every month my staff and I would get on the floor and sort out thousands of pages that we consolidated into sections. This was necessary because we had to assemble all this paper into around 40 books detailing each district’s monthly results.
When the director would come by and see us, without a word, he would get down on the floor with us and help us with this unenviable task. This director had a servant’s heart and though he had to make tough decisions that impacted us, he always stayed engaged with us and our work. He truly cared about his people. The fact that I can remember him and his leadership style 30+ years later is evidence of his servant heart.
Each of us can better serve others. No matter what we have done in the past, we still have a future to contend with and there are many who can be helped. Keep your eyes open and find opportunities to help others. My mother used to say, “if you really want to help, you won’t ask, you will just start helping.” Great advice mom, thanks.
Listen to God. When you pray, make sure you take time to listen. God wants us to hear Him, so we will be in a better position to serve others; the others He wants us to help. You may have to spend more of your hard-earned money to help others – when God orchestrates it, do it with all your heart. Now, with that said, do not be foolish and throw away your bread. What I am saying is God gives us ‘seed,’ some is intended for us to sow and some to save so we can feed our family and self. When we confuse the two one of the following will happen.
Be wise how you use your resources and listen to God, so you do not make one of the mistakes described above. When you listen, do not speak, do not keep asking Him to talk, just be quiet and let Him minister to you, when He is ready. Wait on Him. Isaiah 40:31 says,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Wait on God and He will renew you, guide you and make sure you do not fail.
In this section, I will reference jobs/employment, however, this includes persons who stay home to care for the family and house, volunteers and others. It is not limited to paid jobs.
The following are some job/home related stressors:
Discontented with your job
Excessive workload and/or responsibility
Regularly having to work long hours
Hazardous work conditions
Fears of being overlooked or unappreciated
While this is certainly not a comprehensive list, you may recognize some of these as stressors in your life. When any of these are active, do as I suggested in the introduction and start quoting Philippians 4:6 (silently or out loud depending on which is appropriate). Though many bosses think they are God, they are not, and you serve a God who is greater than all – so allow Him to intervene and in the meantime, quit being anxious.
Many situations take time and while you are waiting, no matter how personally you are involved with stressful circumstances, continue to perform as God would expect and do the best work you can. As you start to reflect on the circumstances, shift your thinking back to God and let Him handle it.
God will handle situations in His time and though it may be minutes it may also be years. I am speaking from experience here, don’t let bad job circumstances make those years miserable for you. If you do, remember it is your fault.
Last thing on Job situations – don’t quit! Just because it is tough, if you quit, you may miss great blessings that are around the corner. Earlier in the message I talked about a great boss; now I will talk about one who was not so great. Many years ago, I worked for a man in a secular job. For lack of a better way to describe him I must say at best he was a beast; he did not care about others but would do whatever he could to control his employees in and out of the job and to advance his career. Just as an example, he divorced his wife to marry a Vice Presidents daughter, got a huge promotion and then divorce her and married another woman.
Personally, I believe this man was demon possessed. I worked for him for many years and had no choice but to use the armor of God to protect myself. While working for him was not easy, one day the executive running the company (of around 15,000 employees) finally realized how abusive he was. They relocated him to a different job and promoted me into his position. Not only that, they increased the territory for which I would be responsible. Oh, and by the way, following this change, I ended up with five promotions over the next three years, the final one culminating in my move to Fort Walton Beach, FL.
Hang in there, God has a plan for each of us and even when we cannot see Him working, He is. When we wait on Him, He will never let us down.
Emotional Issues Including Death
There are many emotional issues which can cause stress and some, such as death, may intermingle with finances to create even greater stress. Here is a list of some emotional stressors:
The death of a loved one or friend
Loss of a job
Relocating to a new place
Illness or injury
Depression or anxiety
Natural events such as hurricanes
Violence or threats of violence against you, someone you care about, or your property
While this is certainly not a complete list, any of these or other circumstances can occur in our lives with little or no warning. Think about the people in the Panama City Florida area. Though they had limited warning that hurricane Michael was coming, the devastation and loss of life was terrible. Thousands lost everything they own, their homes, photos, memories, collections, artwork, vehicles and so many other things-even their lives. If you only had hours to evacuate, what would you take with you? It is a difficult question. Now think about those who were victims of the recent fires in California who lost everything with little or no notice or warning. Now consider this, many were Christians, the destroyed buildings included churches.
Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
This is God’s word telling us not to worry about the stuff, but to trust Him. While the emotions associated with losing some things or everything will always be there, we must keep them in check and we do that by trusting God. Remember the stuff we have was given by God and He knows even then what will be happening.
Often called the Faith Chapter of the Bible, Hebrews chapter 11 tells of many incredible Bible stories that required tremendous faith; people had to rely on God no matter the circumstances. I encourage you when things look grim to read this chapter in its entirety; here are the foundation verses for it. Hebrews 11:1-7:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Trusting God and then waiting takes faith and this is something we cannot take lightly. Proverbs 3:5-6, another great passage to memorize, say,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
Trust in God with all you are and all you have in you and never trust what you see, hear or experience or anything else that is not of God and then He will direct you what to do, where to go and so forth.
You will never stop emotional issues from occurring, so you must learn how to survive them with Godly dignity. When you are being stressed from some event in your life, take some time and let God do what God does. Have faith in Him and He will do one of two things; He will either take you by the hand and help you through the storm or He will stop the storm quickly. Either way, He is with you and you will overcome the obstacles.
Learn to prioritize the events and activities in your life but always keep your priorities straight:
Priority #1: God
Priority #2: Spouse
Priority #3: Children
Priority #4: Job and Personal Finances
Priority #5: Church and Ministry
Everything else is up to you but should never interfere with the items on the list above. Keep in mind, to serve God and tithe, support your spouse, and feed your children, you need a job (if you are not the homemaker). However, never use the fact that God or Family are a higher priority as an excuse not to work. On the other hand, never use your job as an excuse not to be there for God, your family, or your church.
In closing, make a valiant effort to learn how to balance all aspects of your life and only then will you see the stress levels diminish.
You will never be able to stop the world from creating stress in your life, so you really only have a couple choices.
When you choose the latter, the better choice, you and those close to you will grow and be blessed. Just a little faith can go a long way. Jesus said with faith the size of a mustard seed you can move a mountain. Muster up the faith that is needed to move the mountains in your life and let go of them.
Matthew 17:20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
There is an old adage, “Let go and let God.” Let God handle your burdens, He will not disappoint. As you grow in Christ, make sure you keep lessons such as this close to your heart because you may not always have access to a Bible, pastor or friend to help you out. However, God will always be there, and He will help you through.
Pun-ishment – The Doctor’s Dilemma
When I told my doctor’s receptionist that I felt like a deck of cards, she said, “have a seat and the doctor will deal with you soon.” The same doctor blood tested secretarial candidates to ensure there were no type O’s. I used to go to a doctor who sent patients to the local pool hall in search of remarkable cue-rs. I thought about changing doctors because mine kept losing his patients; then again, pediatricians are doctors of little patience.
You may not know this, but some surgeons barely make the cut in medical school. Speaking of surgeons, did you know their text books have no appendix? Unlike their civilian counterparts, Air Force surgeons are engaged in military operations. The NCO medic had pain in his arms due to corporal tunnel syndrome.
Do you think an Asian doctor’s fireplace would have Asian Flue? My doctor sent me to a chiropractor, it was quite an adjustment. He was a bit of a quack, so I kept ducking him. When I swallowed food coloring, he told me I was ok, but inside I really felt like I had dyed. He was also an aggressive reader who really hit the books. A well-known doctor asked his publisher why his book wasn’t selling. The publisher explained he had poor circulation.
Most doctors think they are in control, but we all know it’s the nurses that call the shots. I know a doctor who complained to the nurse about a bad cut and the nurse told him 'suture self'. The nurse laughed when the doctor injured his funny bone, she told him it was a humerus accident. I believe Doctors do better on cruises than other people because they are accustomed to see sickness.
I had a disagreement with my Doctor concerning an ailment and he reminded me he had inside information. I'm fairly lazy but my doctor seems to be ok with it – he even said if I keep it up, I could expect atrophy. A friend who is an avid golfer had a serious iron deficiency, after returning to the doctor for a follow up, he was told he was still not out of the woods. One doctor who specialized in broken bones and also drank too much was frequently plastered. The doctor told me to take some pills for 2 days and then skip a day; so I bought a jump rope.
A retired doctor whom I used to know missed giving shots, so he got a new job as a bartender. Another doctor I know announced his retirement by stating he was getting out of practice. Later he took up acting but while trying out for a part, broke his leg – fortunately he was still able to make the cast.
The eye doctor told the attorney he needed contract lenses. When I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, it turned out to be an optical Aleutian. Then there was the optometrist who wanted to start his own practice but lacked the contacts.
Never forget, the rise of an orthopedic doctor is the result of falling patients.