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Turning Stress into Joy

Turning Stress into Joy

Do you experience stress? God has an app for that!

What is an app? It is an abbreviation for “application”, a small program or piece of software for a specific purpose. They are supposed to make life simpler. In spite of their usefulness, people are still filled with stress. They are looking for answers to relieve them of stress and fill them with joy. Wouldn’t it be nice to find an app for that?

God has one. He has answers for every problem we face. They are found in His Word. Today we will look at God’s answer for turning stress into joy.

James 1:1-12 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Where’s the app in this passage? It is hard to see because we don’t always like the truth. The truth is--trials are inevitable. James didn’t say “if”, but “whenever” we face a trial of many kinds. That indicates we will all go through trials. If you are not currently experiencing a trial, be assured there is one in your future. Therefore, everyone will experience the stress associated with trials. How will we handle it? How can we consider it “pure joy” whenever we face trials of many kinds?

First, let’s look at some of the causes of trials and stress.

Overbooked schedules: Luke 10:38-42 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Like Martha, often our first response to overbooked schedules is that Jesus doesn’t care. He is not making life easier for us. Also like Martha, we often forget the most important thing—spending time with Jesus. There is too much to do.  Therefore, like Martha, we experience stress instead of joy.

However, there is rest, peace, and joy in the presence of Jesus. Mary was experiencing these things. She chose to sit at Jesus’s feet, listening to Him. It is the only thing that is needed; the only thing that is necessary. Everything else is secondary and can wait. Jesus wants us to make Him our priority, for He is where we will find rest from the stress of life and the joy of the Lord. He will not take those things away from us, but it is our choice whether or not we will have them.

(Picture of overload) Sometimes our lives feel like this. God has an app for that. Jesus said, Matt 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

If we carry any burden long enough, we will get tired. We carry many burdens in life, but often they are not His burdens. We created them. As a result, our life becomes more difficult and painful.

Jesus says “Come”. That means repent. Quit going your own way; come His way. Then we will find rest, peace, and joy. Laying aside our burdens and our life, we take His yoke of servitude. It is not a heavy yoke because it is His strength, power, grace, and presence that makes it possible for us to serve and follow Him. He does not give us more than we can bear.

Unavoidable loss: Job 1:13-22 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

The loss of a loved one, health, job, reputation, or marriage brings stress into our life. I don’t know anyone who suffered as much loss at one time as Job. What was his response? He worshipped God and praised His Name. He did not curse, complain, or turn away from God. He did not blame God. Instead, he trusted Him and drew closer to God, who alone could answer his all-consuming question—why?. This is the right way to handle the stress and grief from our losses.

I recently had an unavoidable loss with the death of my father.  It saddens me that I cannot speak to him again in this world. Nevertheless, I have this joyful app from God Almighty, Jesus Christ, John 11:25-26 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Dad believed that and so do I. Therefore, I have another joyful app: 1Cor 15:55, 57 Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting? But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lack of provision: Matthew 6:25-34  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We will have trials, but don’t worry about them before they come (What if?). Corrie Ten Boom, who suffered greatly in a Nazi concentration camp, said, "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength."

Financial issues cause a lot of stress in families and individuals. Where will the money come from to pay the bills? Worry doesn’t help. The most important question to ask is, are we seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness? Seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness is how our needs will be met because God calls us to self-disciplined lifestyles. If we are not doing this, God won’t be involved in our life in ways that lead to financial success.

Ask God, what adjustments to our living do we need to make so that the income meets the out-going (can we do without internet, cable TV, new car, clothes, etc.). A characteristic of the Holy Spirit is self-discipline. We need to obey God, discipline ourselves, and make those adjustments. With less stuff, there will be less stress. Seeking God first will produce joy.

Persecution and ridicule: 2Tim 3:12-13 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

If we are not receiving ridicule or persecution from time to time, we should question ourselves. Are we following Jesus and living a godly life in Christ? Granted, ridicule and persecution create stress in our life and are not things we desire, but Jesus has told us we are blessed when it happens, for that is the way unbelievers treated the prophets before us. Rejoice and be glad that you are counted worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ Jesus. That is what James and the other disciples did in the 1st century.

Have you ever felt hopeless, like you were drowning in the sea of life’s problems? Psalm 69:1-2 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.

God has an app for that. Let’s look again at our text. In verses 2-4, James tells us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

In other words, James is telling us to joyfully allow the trial to run its course. This joy is not giddiness, but a deep joy from the confidence that God loves me regardless of what is happening. Don’t fight the trial because God has a plan to work this out for our good. God is trying to develop something in us, called perseverance. The only way to develop it is through trials.

Why is perseverance needed? We need it to become mature, complete in Christ, and possess Christian character. Otherwise, we remain immature and unspiritual, unable to help anyone else going through a trial. Furthermore, we need perseverance to withstand the enemy’s attacks and the advancing rule of the anti-christ.

However, the trial will not mature us if we become bitter, blaming God, and don’t accept it joyfully. If we kick against what God is doing we become bitter, mad at God and everyone else, totally wrapped up in our self-pity, which is sin.

Remember, we have a limited view. We need God’s perspective about what is happening. God’s plan is perfect and complete. So, when we face a trial, James is encouraging like a rodeo fan who cheers a bronco-rider with a wild bucking trial, “Ride it out, cowboy!” by joyfully hanging on to God, even if we never understand what God is doing.

Secondly, vs 5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

When we are in a trial, we wonder what to do. Have we asked God for wisdom? Most of us forget to do this. God has promised us generous wisdom, without finding a fault. God wants us to make right decisions. He wants us to ask Him for advice. He wants us to quit making our own decisions and messing up our lives. If we are already in a mess, He doesn’t find fault and withhold His wisdom from those who humble themselves, ask, read His Word, and obey.

So, how do we get wisdom? Proverbs 9:10-12 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

First, we must fear God. That is the beginning of wisdom. Believe what He says about blessings and curses.

Secondly, we must obey Him. If we don’t obey God’s wisdom, we are a mocker and will continue to suffer. Knowledge is not sufficient. We must do what He says to get the blessings.

Thirdly, we must pray. “We have not, because we ask not,” James says later. When we are praying, fearing God, and obeying Him, stress is greatly reduced, because we are walking in His ways and trusting Him. If we haven’t done these things, we are acting foolishly.

That is why vs 6-8 say, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

If we ask, then don’t believe and obey, we will act on our own opinion and the opinions of others, leading to our downfall, because we won’t receive anything from the Lord when we do things our own way. It doesn’t do any good to say we believe God and then not obey His Word. That is double-mindedness. The truth is: what we do is what we really believe. Read His Word so you can gain wisdom and make right decisions. Then do what it says. That is true faith that will receive what is promised.

Fourthly, we should faithfully persevere while focusing on the ultimate prize, not on the storm or trial like Peter when he was walking on the water.

Vs 9-12 “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

A humble circumstance is a trial. James tells those who are experiencing this to take pride, be thankful, and feel honored, for you are in a high position (in God’s perfect place) because God will show up on your behalf! You will see His provision and receive the ultimate prize!

On the other hand, the rich are not crying out to God for help. They are relying on themselves and their money, which is a low position. Without God, they will fade away without ever knowing God’s blessings. They need to become humble. In God’s love, He may allow a trial to humble them so they cry out to Him for salvation. Then, they can take pride that God loved them enough to humble them, save them from destruction, and place them in a high position with Christ.

The one who is blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because after the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. That should be our focus. The person that loves the Lord Jesus and is focused on Him--trusts Him, praises Him, and worships Him in the midst of every trial. The Holy Spirit is preparing us for the riches of Heaven and the blessings of His Kingdom. Therefore, count it pure joy when we face trials of various kinds.

1 Peter 1:6-9 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Doesn’t God’s Word turn your stress into joy? See God does have an app for that! Read His Word whenever you feel stressed or face a trial. Read His Word even if you are not stressed or in a trial. It prevents stress because it gives us God’s perspective about what is happening all around us. Then we realize God is in control and we can greatly rejoice in this fact.

If you are still stressed, perhaps you need to repent of some sin. Sin separates us from God. Without His presence, there is no peace or joy.

However, God has an app for that! Jesus paid the penalty for our sin on the Cross. Repent of that sin today, come close to God again, and the joy of your salvation will be restored.

Maybe you need salvation and the life of Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, you cannot experience true joy. However, you can give your stressful life to Jesus by confessing Him as your Lord and Savior, repenting of your sin, and receiving His joy filled life through baptism and the indwelling Holy Spirit.