Stress Management Starts In The Mind

Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.”Philippians 4:8

The battle with stress in your life begins between your ears. It’s in your thought life. What you fill your mind with determines your level of stress. If you want peace of mind, you have to control what you allow into your mind. 

For most people, the mind is like a freeway. They let anything drive through it. They watch shows that are full of junk and nonsense, scroll through social media sites that are polarizing, and listen to gossip that makes them envious. Then they’re surprised when their mind’s freeway becomes polluted with all of these things. And they wonder why their stress is so high.

The Bible offers another way. Philippians 4:8 says, “Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected”.

To lower your stress, change what you think about. In this verse, the Bible gives you eight tests for deciding if you should allow something in your mind. Ask yourself: 

  • Is it good? 
  • Is it worthy of praise? 
  • Is it true? 
  • Is it honorable? 
  • Is it right? 
  • Is it pure? 
  • Is it beautiful? 
  • Is it respected?

Think about the course of your week the conversations you have, the books you read, the songs you listen to, the websites you scroll, the TV and movies you watch, and the things you do with your free time. How do all of these things hold up to that eight-question test? Are the things you’re putting into your mind all week good, worthy of praise, true, honorable, right, pure, beautiful, and respected?

If not, it’s time to start filling your mind with different things.

Each one of those eight attributes actually describes God. So when you think about things that are good, worthy of praise, true, honorable, right, pure, beautiful, and respected, you’re really picturing God.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”.

Corrie ten Boom a Dutch Christian during World War II knew the truth of that verse. She and her family hid Jews from the Nazis and were eventually sent to death camps, where her sister and father died. But through that horrible time, she discovered the secret of living with a mind at peace. She said it like this: “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”

Whatever is going on around you, and the things you choose to think about, determine how much stress you feel. If you fix your thoughts on God, he will keep you in perfect peace.

Worry About Nothing; Pray About Everything

Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” Romans 8:32

Anytime I needed something when I was a kid, I’d talk to my mother. Sometimes I needed something expensive, but not once did I worry about where my mom was going to get the money for whatever I needed. That wasn’t my job! It was my mom’s job to figure out where the money would come from. It was my job as a kid to simply ask.

In the same way, it’s not your job to figure out how God’s going to provide. It’s your job to ask.

When you worry instead of asking, you’re acting like an atheist, like someone who believes they don’t have a heavenly Father. Worry is practical atheism living your life like God doesn’t exist or can’t be trusted.

The Bible is clear: God wants you to come to him in prayer about everything. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God”.

Worry less and ask more. Instead of worrying, pray about everything.

As Philippians 4:6 says, “Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests”.

Did you catch that? God wants you to come to him “in every situation.” You can talk to him about everything—no matter how big or small it seems to you.

Romans 8:32 says, “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”.

God has solved your biggest problem sin and everything else is small by comparison.

If God loved you enough to send Jesus to die for your sins, don’t you think he loves you enough to help you with your finances? Don’t you think he loves you enough to help you with your health? With your relationships? With career decisions? With your deadline?

God is interested in every single area of your life. In fact, he already knows what you need but he still wants you to ask him for it.

Are you ready to reduce the stress in your life? God is waiting for you to come to him with your needs. Choose to worry about nothing and pray about everything.

Give Your Worry To God

“Don’t worry about anything.” Philippians 4:6

Work doesn’t keep you up at night; worry does.

In the Bible, God gives clear direction about the role worry should play in your life. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything”.

Why do you need to let go of your worry?

Worry is unreasonable. Here are a couple of reasons why that’s true. First, worry exaggerates the problem. Have you noticed that, if somebody says something bad about you, the more you think about it, the bigger it gets? Second, worry doesn’t work. To worry about something you can’t change is useless. And to worry about something you can change is a waste of time; just go change it!

Worry is unnatural. No one is a born worrier. You might think you are, but you’re not. Worry is something you learned. Since worry is unnatural, it’s also unhealthy. Your body wasn’t designed to handle worry. When people say, “I’m worried sick,” they’re telling the truth. Doctors say that a lot of people could leave the hospital today if they knew how to get rid of guilt, resentment, and worry. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body”.

Worry is unhelpful. Worry cannot change the past, and worry cannot control the future. All it does is mess up today. The only thing that worry changes is you. It makes you miserable! It’s never solved a problem.

Worry is unnecessary. God made you, he created you, he saved you, and he put his Spirit in you. Don’t you think he’s going to take care of your needs? There’s no need to worry.

Want to learn to better manage your stress? A great first step is to refuse to worry about anything. Why? Because worry is unreasonable, unnatural, unhelpful, and unnecessary.

The Bible says, “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern” (1 Peter 5:7).

God personally cares about you and for your needs. So what should you do with all those things you’re stressed, anxious, and worried about? Let them go. Give them to God.

Happiness And Humility

“I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be.” Philippians 3:12-13

Humble people are happy people. They never stop growing and learning. 

The Bible says, “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith . . . Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it” (2 Corinthians 13:5-9).

Do you give yourself regular checkups? Try this: Wake up every day and ask God, “What do I need to work on today?” This takes humility, but it’s a habit that will lead to happiness.

Paul knew the importance of humbly growing and learning. He wrote in Philippians 3:12-13: “I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be”.

When Paul wrote this Scripture, he was an older man in prison in Rome. He was at the end of his life. He was an incredibly mature person. Yet he said he hadn’t arrived. If anybody had the right to say, “I’ve arrived spiritually,” it would be the guy who wrote so much of the New Testament. But Paul said, “No, I haven’t arrived. I’m still growing, learning, and becoming more like Christ.”

Pride is the trap that so often keeps Christians from following Paul’s example and continuing to grow in Christ. Why? Because when you think you’ve got it all together, you won’t make an effort to become more spiritually mature. Humility, on the other hand, leads to happiness because it makes you teachable.

Happiness and humility go together because they cause you to ask, “How can I be a better spouse? How can I be a better friend? How can I be a better boss? How can I be a better follower of Jesus?” When you aren’t asking these questions, you’re missing out because you’ve stopped growing and God made you to grow.

Take a step toward happiness today by humbly praying Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”.

You’ll Find Happiness As You Get To Know God

“For my determined purpose is that I may . . . progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly.”bPhilippians 3:10

Happiness is found in getting to know God a little bit better every day. 

In Philippians 3:10, Paul said, “For my determined purpose is that I may . . . progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly”

Paul became “deeply and intimately acquainted” with God because he had a relationship with him and took the time to get to know him. He understood the difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing someone and Paul wanted to really know Christ.

You don’t become “deeply and intimately acquainted” with God by accident. You don’t just wake up and accidentally fall into a relationship with Jesus. As Paul says, it’s a “determined purpose.” It’s something you have to do something about. You have to invest your time in it.

One trap that can keep you from getting to know God better is busyness. Just like busyness can destroy your relationships, it can destroy your relationship with God. 

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God”.

To grow in your relationship with God, you need to make time for him and “be still.” Just a few minutes of focused time every day can make all the difference in the world. I’m not talking hours and hours but 10 or 15 minutes each morning. Only then will you, like Paul, begin “understanding the wonders” of God with greater clarity.  

Make this your daily prayer: “Lord, if I don’t do anything else today, I want to get to know you a little bit better and I want to love you a little bit more.” As you pray and live this out, you’ll begin to experience greater happiness in your life.

Know What Counts And What Doesn’t

Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8

Every day when you wake up, you need to remind yourself of what counts and what doesn’t count. Don’t be distracted by things that are insignificant and petty.

Why is it important to remind yourself of what matters? It’s easy to lose your joy over some small thing. In fact, it’s usually the small irritations not the big issues that cause you to lose your happiness. Somebody cuts you off when you’re trying to make a turn, and you lose your happiness. The clothes you put on don’t fit anymore, and you lose your happiness. It’s the little things that sometimes affect people the most, and yet they don’t really matter.

Paul said in Philippians 3:7, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done”.

What was the most important thing in your life before you met Jesus Christ? Was it your career? Making money? Maybe it was getting a date or being popular. 

Paul said all those things are “worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Here’s a good question to ask when you’re distracted by worthless things: How much will this matter in 100 years? Many things won’t even matter tomorrow, much less for eternity. All the things you used to care about don’t even compare to the joy that comes from having a relationship with Jesus

When you become a Christian, Jesus changes your values. You no longer want to do the things you used to do. He changes your “wants.” 

When God comes into your life, you learn the joy of knowing Jesus. And that’s what really counts.

Legalism Robs You Of Happiness

“I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” Philippians 3:9

Realizing there’s nothing you can do to make God love you more is one of the most liberating feelings in the world and it is a key to happiness.

The Bible says, “We Christians glory in what Christ Jesus has done for us and realize that we are helpless to save ourselves” (Philippians 3:3).

Each time you forget this truth and think you’ve got to somehow earn God’s love, that’s legalism and it robs you of happiness.

Legalism is trusting in what you can do for God instead of trusting in what Jesus has already done for you. It’s following a list of rules and regulations to prove yourself worthy, and it’s a trap that keeps you from relaxing in God’s grace.

Paul knew how to relax in God’s grace. He said in Philippians 3:9, “I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ”. In other words, the way you earn the love of God is this: You don’t earn it. It’s not about your performance; it’s about his pardon.

How do you know when you’re being legalistic? When you’re being legalistic, you’re often judgmental of other people. That’s because it’s easier to be critical of others when you don’t feel accepted and loved yourself. Why would you want other people to feel good about themselves when you don’t feel good about yourself?

On the other hand, how do you know when you’re living by grace? When you’re living by grace, you’re gracious to others. You find it easier to forgive because you recognize that God continues to forgive you. And since you’re not trying to earn your way to heaven, you can relax.

Every morning, remind yourself of God’s grace by praying, “Lord, today I am reminding myself that I’m completely forgiven.”

The more grace you live by, the more joy you’ll have.

The Power Of Grateful Prayers

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace. Philippians 4:6-7

In Philippians 4:6-7 you’ll find one of the most difficult teachings to obey in the entire Bible: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace”

It’s not easy to stop worrying about the often-scary, everyday parts of your life, but God tells you how. He says you should pray about everything and thank him for all he has done. Grateful prayer brings peace. God says that, when you start to worry, you should pray. 

Parents understand the power of grateful prayers. Most parents wouldn’t appreciate their children always making requests and never saying “thank you” for the things they’ve received.  

God sees it the same way. He is waiting for you to ask him for what you need and want. More than 20 times in the New Testament, you’re told to “ask” him. But he wants you to ask with gratefulness.

The Bible urges you to be specific in your requests and in your praises. Instead of a simple “thank you for everything,” God wants you to tell him what you’re grateful for.

Something that can require an even bigger step of faith is when you thank God in advance. When you have the faith to thank God ahead of time before you can see how he’s working miracles happen.

The more thankful you are, the more God will work in your life. The Bible says that God inhabits the praise of his people. He uses your thanksgiving as an instrument of power in your life.

So, take a moment now, and tell God everything you’re grateful for.

Have Gratitude In All Circumstances

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

In many cultures around the world, people set aside certain days or seasons for giving thanks.  But God wants you to be intentional about your thankfulness every day. He wants you to develop this spiritual habit, one that is reflected in the life of a radical believer. The more deeply you understand God’s love, the more grateful you’re going to be.

What does it mean to be radically grateful?

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. In every circumstance give thanks because it’s God’s will for your life. That’s radical gratitude.

How can you be thankful even in difficult circumstances? You can thank God in every circumstance because he is in control. He can bring good out of evil. He can turn around the worst mistakes you’ve made. No matter what happens, God isn’t going to stop loving you.

You can find a hundred things to be thankful for in any circumstance, even when the circumstance stinks.

Radical gratitude being thankful in all circumstances is God’s will because it creates fellowship. What do I mean by that? Gratitude always builds deeper relationships between you and other people and between you and God.

If you want to get closer to someone, start expressing gratitude to that person. Maybe you’re feeling distant from your spouse. You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling because you stopped doing the things that created that lovin’ feeling early on and now you take each other for granted. Start doing what you did when you were dating: Express gratitude. Write little notes of kindness and encouragement. Call or text during the day, just to tell your spouse that you’re thankful for them.

Do you want to build your small group? Don’t just go to your gathering. During the week, contact the people in your group. Say, “I’m grateful for you, and here’s why.” You’ll find that the more grateful you are for your group, the more your group will bond.

Let us “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).

To Be Happy, Learn To Collaborate

You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

Happiness isn’t a matter of luck; it’s a matter of learning. To live a happier life, you need to learn how to work well with others. 

I call this the skill of collaboration. It’s an important skill not often taught in schools, but when learned, it can exponentially increase a person’s happiness. 

What do you need to learn in order to work well with other people?

First, learn to cooperate with others. The church in Philippi sent a man named Epaphroditus to help Paul while he was in prison in Rome. Philippians 2:25 says, “I feel that I must send Epaphroditus my brother, coworker, and fellow soldier back to you. You sent him as your personal representative to help me in my need”.

By calling Epaphroditus his brother, coworker, and fellow soldier, Paul was using three relational metaphors that represent teamwork. Life together is a family, a fellowship, and a fight. Epaphroditus was a team member. He didn’t shut himself off from the world and become a lone ranger. 

As believers, we are in the same fight together against Satan, so we need to cooperate with one other—no matter how different we all are. The best place to learn how to do that is in the church.

Second, learn to be considerate. Paul mentioned Epaphroditus again in Philippians 2:26: “He has been longing to see all of you and is troubled because you heard that he was sick”.

Notice how Paul used two examples of consideration: Paul was considerate of his coworker’s homesickness, and Epaphroditus was considerate about the Philippians’ concern. 

When you learn to be considerate of other people’s needs, fears, and doubts, you’ll be a happier person. For instance, if you are considerate of your spouse, you’ll have a happy marriage. But if you’re not thoughtful with your words and actions, you’ll have an unhappy marriage.

The Bible says, “You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

“Cultivating a life in common” takes work. Like a garden that requires cultivation to bear fruit, you’ll see how your effort bears the fruit of happiness and strong relationships.

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