New Hope Notes
What's Your Pressure Point?
Pastor Elwin Ahu
November is already here, leading up to the holiday season of shopping, gift-giving (and receiving), office parties, and family gatherings – a time of happiness and celebration, right? Yes, but it can also be a time of great pressure and stress…because of shopping, office parties, and family gatherings. In today’s economy, many peoples’ finances are extremely tight so the thought of shopping for Christmas gifts – a stress factor. Oftentimes at office parties, the whole office or organization gathers in one place including that particular co-worker that you had a run-in a few weeks ago – a pressure point. Then for family gatherings, whose family are you spending Christmas with this year anyway (his or hers?) – yet another stress factor. We may be trying to do the very best we can but because of pressures and stress, we may get pulled away from God’s best.
Outside of these types of seasonal stresses, there are so many other pressures and stress factors people deal with everyday: the recent loss of a loved one, declining health, financial struggles, and broken relationships. It is inevitable that we will all face stress factors at some point or another in our lives (or more realistically, at multiple times in each of our lives) but God knows about that and has made accommodations: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28 NASB)
Stress factors are not really the issue (because we will all have them), but stress fractures are what we are trying to avoid.
Even Jesus, the Son of God, had pressures and stresses. Let’s see as He goes with his disciples to Gethsemane to pray:
“And He…began to be very distressed and troubled [and] said…‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’ And He…fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.” (Mark 14:33-35)
Jesus was deeply grieved; I don’t think we’ll ever be able to truly understand or appreciate how deeply grieved He was. Throughout His entire lifetime, He was always surrounded by pressure. He was ridiculed, persecuted, and now facing death. He was under a lot of pressure. I think Luke describes it best:
“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 NIV)
This is not just a metaphor. Studies have shown that when someone is under extreme psychological pressure, the capillaries near their sweat glands can burst and mix with their sweat so they are literally sweating blood!
When I consider the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, and that God could have gotten Jesus out of that situation if He wanted to, I wonder why He didn’t. Maybe God did not come to Jesus’ rescue so we would know that none of us are immune to pressure.
1. EVEN IF CONDITIONS DON’T CHANGE, YOUR PERSPECTIVE MUST.
Jesus didn’t want to be in that situation…
“And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’” (Matt. 26:42)
What was in that cup that He wanted passed from Him? Do you ever feel that way – that you want that cup taken away from you?
Jesus was deeply grieved yet He came back to his disciples to see them sleeping.
“He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.’” (Matt. 26:42)
Jesus prayed the same thing three times yet God did not take away the burden. Have you ever done that: find yourself praying multiple times about the same thing yet nothing seems to be happening? The Bible says…ask and it shall be given…seek and you shall find…knock and the door will be opened. Yet why do our prayers sometimes go unanswered? And if they do go unanswered, why should we even pray?
So what was Jesus doing when He prayed over and over again about the same thing? I think He was checking His perspective and motive. “Your will be done,” He was making sure that His will was in alignment with God’s. I have a prayer that I use to get me through stressful times; I keep a typed copy of it in my wallet:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
When faced with unfortunate situations, we have two choices: to alter things or to accept it. Jesus was saying... if I can pass (altering the situation), that’d be great but if not, “…Your will be done.” As with us, we can either alter things or accept them, but we often confuse the two.
I faced a significant challenge about a year ago in which I had to deal with this very thing. It was that time when Pastor Wayne had to have a medical procedure done on the mainland to put stints in his heart. He called me and asked me to do the weekend service. It was only a few days away but of course I agreed. He later called back and said he was supposed to appear at a conference in San Diego so could I do that as well. Again, I said yes. Then he called back yet again and said he was supposed to teach six classes at the Japan DCAT (Doing Church as a Team conference) so could I do that too. What was I going to say? And if that wasn’t enough, when New Hope Tokyo Pastor Talo heard that I was going to be in Japan so he asked if I would be willing to speak at his church.
Four locations with a multitude of messages and I had just 2 weeks to prepare. Talk about blood, sweat, and fear! But the Serenity Prayer really helped me through it. When I asked myself what could be changed, it wasn’t the classes or conferences, but rather my schedule. So I told my family that I was going to need more alone time, I told my office that I would be behind closed doors, and I told God that since He had called me to the task that I would do my best and let him take care of the rest. And what happened? He did! It was a wonderful experience, perhaps the best I’ve ever had and it just confirmed the fact that when you commit your heart to do God’s best, He does the rest.
2. CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN, LET GO OF THE REST.
A study I read reported that people worry about the following:
40% things that never happen
30% the past – things that cannot be changed
12% unfair criticism against us – which we cannot change
10% health issues
92% of our worries about are about things we can’t control. That leaves only 8% of our worry going toward things that we can control. Why worry about things you can’t affect or control anyway? Instead, let go and let God, and focus on the 8% that you can control! The Bible tells us to cast our burdens at His feet and…
“[Do] not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” (1 Pet. 4:12-13)
What is Peter really trying to say? Let me summarize. Peter is saying, “Stuff happens.” Why? “…for your testing.” To see how strong our relationship is with Him.
What is Peter saying we do have control over? Our rejoicing.
We don’t have control over what is happening around us but we do control our response. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23)
I few years ago, Joy and I were celebrating our anniversary at a hotel. It had a 2-for-1 spa special. I don’t like massages but Joy loves them and since the spa used their magic words “2-for-1” I told Joy I would treat her to a massage for our anniversary. Well when the time came, the spa folks came out into the waiting room and handed us each a stack of towels and a plush bath robe. They led Joy one way to the women’s area and me to the other area for gentlemen. To make a long story short, I was so uncomfortable about the whole experience and kept wishing that it would be over until God spoke to me and said, “Relax!” Then, when I finally made a conscious effort to relax and enjoy the massage, the masseuse told me she was done. I missed the whole thing!
We do that in life sometimes…when we finally listen to God and start to enjoy things, He snatches us up and takes us home. So the lesson here is…
3. DON’T BE DISTRACTED FROM WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT.
“Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and… said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?...’ But the Lord answered... ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be take away from her.’” (Luke 10:40-42)
This story teaches us to not be so concerned about doing so many things in life – just be the child God wanted you to be in life. He tells Martha that she’s so busy that she’s missing out on the most important thing: His presence in her home. So this is a reminder to…
· KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHOSE YOU ARE.
It’s all about knowing that you are part of God’s family and when something goes wrong, He will be there.
“And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.” (Gal. 4:6-7 NLT)
God has told us that everything He owns is ours. Just relax and draw close to Him. And if you’re not under stress now, it’s the best time to draw into Him – so that when the pressure does come, you’ll be resting safe in the Lord.
I recently took my sons (Brandon 28 and Jared 7) on a retreat. The three of us packed up our stuff and jumped on a plane to Maui to do nothing but relax and be together. We left Joy at home for a little break of her own. We had the best time from eating a dozen Crispy Crème donuts in under three minutes to Brandon teaching Jared that being a real man is “doing the right things.”
We had the best time just hanging out together. I told Jared that this was not a vacation but a retreat – a time for us to strengthen our relationships – because I know that one day, we’ll each face pressures or stresses where we’ll need somewhere to turn so having our strong relationships is important.
On our way home from the retreat, Jared thanked me for taking the time and making the effort to plan the whole trip. That just touched my heart. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?
We need to have an attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness always. When the pressures and stresses of this world build up, we need to have the kind of faith and relationship with God where we know everything will be alright, according to His will.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)
Remember that even if conditions don’t change, your perspective must. You can choose to either alter or accept your situation but be sure that you are clear which you should be doing to be in alignment with God’s will. Control what you can, let go of the rest and let God take it from there. Don’t be distracted from what’s most important. Know who you are and whose you are because once you’ve figured that out, the peace of the Lord is yours forevermore.
1. What kind of pressures and stresses do you deal with in your life? How do you manage them?
2. Share about a time when you prayed and prayed but your prayers seemed to go unanswered. How did you handle it and would you handle it differently now if you could?
3. How do you determine what you can control or not? What do you think it means to let go of the rest?
4. What do you really spend your time on – things that are truly important or things that are really just distractions? How can you focus on what’s most important?
5. Who are you and whose are you? How do you demonstrate that to others each day?