LESSENING STRESS THE LORD’S WAY-ASCERTAIN PURPOSE
January 13, 2019
You can find volumes of suggestions in bookstores and online about methods of reducing stress. Check this out:
“When you have had one of those ‘Take This Job And Shove It‘ days, try this: On your way home after work, stop at your pharmacy and go to the section where they have thermometers. You will need to purchase a rectal thermometer made by “Q-tip“. Be sure that you get this brand. When you get home, lock your doors, draw the drapes, and silence all phones so you will not be disturbed during your therapy.
“Change to very comfortable clothing, such as a sweat suit and lie down on your bed. Open the package containing the thermometer, remove the thermometer, and carefully place it on the bedside table so that it will not become chipped or broken.
“Now close your eyes and say out loud five times, “I am so glad that I do not work in quality control at the Q-tip company.” https://everything2.com/title/How+to+get+rid+of+stress+using+a+Q-tip+rectal+thermometer
Now, I may be biased, but I believe we can glean much better methods for lessening stress in our daily lives by following the example of Jesus.
Last Sunday, we talked about how stress originates with our lack of identity and desperately seeking to live into the labels others place on us.
And yet, we can do something about it. Stress will lessen as we strive to realize whose we are and exorcize the baggage of what we are not.
We explored how God stakes his claim upon Jesus as his Son in Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River. And through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, God stakes his claim upon you and me. We are loved with a love deeper than even the bond of our family. We have a spiritual rootedness that is eternal. Stress lessens when we begin to identify our strong and eternal roots in God Almighty.
Today we are going to take this one step further, focusing on how stress lessens as we ascertain the purpose for which God has created us!
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What on earth am I here for?” If you are like most people, that thought doesn’t enter your mind very often. We are doers, not ponderers. We drag ourselves out of the bed each day and begin a long gauntlet of tasks that enable us and our loved ones to survive. We don’t ever ask ‘why?’…we simply inquire ‘what’s next?’ and we grit our teeth to get it done.
The issue, though, is that with such endless, mindless activity we eventually burn out. Stress sets in and begins to consume our souls like a chronic illness. We feel like tumbleweeds at the mercy of the ever-shifting, all-consuming winds of each day’s demands.
It is only through discovering a sense of overarching purpose for our lives that we begin to get a handle of the stress–finding a way to establish priorities for what is truly important and what is not.
How do we discover what on earth are we here for? Let’s turn to Luke 4 and look at the purpose Jesus sees for his life:
PURPOSE IS REFRACTED BY DIVINE INTERACTIONS
Yes, it is Saturday morning, the Jewish Sabbath Day, and, “as was his custom,” Jesus heads to the synagogue to worship. On the Sabbath Day, it is Jesus’ custom, Jesus’ habit, Jesus’ priority to join hearts with the faithful in praising God.
If you want to know God’s purpose for your life, you need to get to know God. You need to get on the same page as God. And that happens in times of joyful worship. It happens in times of solitary prayer. It happens even during intense times of hectic happenings.
The key, though, is going through our day with a God-consciousness, looking to see where God is working in our midst. It clarifies not just our identity but also our intention, of what our Lord would have us to be and to do.
Jesus goes to his church in his hometown of Nazareth on the Sabbath to meet his Heavenly Father. The folk welcome him with open arms. They’ve heard some of the miraculous rumors surrounding him. The synagogue is filled with relatives and old buddies.
One of the synagogue officials gives Jesus the honor that day of leading the service. As in the rabbinical tradition, Jesus stands and opens the scroll of Isaiah.
Jesus finds the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”…
21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus has just stated his purpose–what on earth he is here for… How did he arrive at such clarity for his life? Well, we know that
PURPOSE IS REVEALED BY PAST ORDEALS
Let’s backtrack a few pages in Luke’s gospel. Jesus emerges from the waters of baptism, assured of his divinity as God’s Son. And then he is led to spend some 40 days and 40 nights in the Wilderness of Judea.
The Wilderness of Judea is a barren, simmering stretch of wasteland between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The hills resemble brown dust heaps. Sharp, jagged rocks and cliffs abound. The sand glows and shimmers like some vast blast furnace. It is here that Jesus comes to fast for 40 days and 40 nights.
At the end of this ordeal, Jesus is left depleted of strength. It is then that his soul becomes a battleground upon which he must fight against the lures of the devil. It is then he is challenged to give up his identity as God’s Son.
This toughest test comes to Jesus in the wilderness. It is the crucible of this challenge that will define his strengths and weaknesses. He now sees clearly his call to bring good news to the poor. to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
We are the sum total of our experiences. Our past ordeals shape what we see as God’s purpose for our future.
Tyler Trent was throwing a frisbee at age 15 when his arm snapped. Not long after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. While battling cancer he still completed high school and was enrolled at Purdue University. It was there that he covered sport for the school newspaper.
His cancer came back with a vengeance but that still did not deter him from cheering on the Purdue football team. He was their biggest fan.
This past fall Tyler, while in great pain, wrote a book entitled Upset. It chronicles his life between his initial diagnosis and his final days. The book also shared how Tyler became the inspiration for the Purdue players, culminating in their upset of Ohio State. He saw the book as fulfilling the purpose God had for his short life as he donated the proceeds toward cancer research. Sales of the book have raised over $100,000. Tyler also started a program called Teens with a Cause, which helps families of cancer patients with household activities like mowing the lawn.
In spite of his weakened state, Tyler was able to join the Purdue team for the Music City Bowl on December 29. He was elected to do the coin toss prior to the game. He returned home with great joy, where he died peacefully on New Year’s Day.
The purpose for Tyler Trent’s short life was revealed by his ordeal of cancer, and his legacy lives on to inspire others, raising awareness and research funding to fight this insidious disease.
What crucible of struggle have you passed through? What ordeals have you weathered? Have you opened your eyes to see how God might use them to establish a purpose for your life right here and now?
Once we discover what on earth we are here for, we often find that….
PURPOSE IS REFINED BY FUTURE STORYLINES
We read later in Luke 4 that as the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to Jesus; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.
Jesus is fully living out his purpose to bring good news to the poor. to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And that purpose will be refined again and again as he journeys for three years throughout Galilee, Judea and Samaria. The needs of the people will grow more constant. The opposition of religious leaders will grow more intense. And looming in the distance, on a hill far away, will be the finish line–the ultimate statement of liberation for all humanity.
You and I are not the Son of God. And yet, as we seek to walk with him daily, our purpose for living is refined by future storylines yet to be written.
I turn again and again to the writer of Hebrews for inspiration:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We all tend to get bogged down in the ruts of stressful living. It takes guts to leave the ruts filled with all that muck and mire. It’s far easier just to stay put where we are.
But God tells us there are still chapters in our lives yet to be written. Our purpose is still being further refined.
Last summer I invited several folks from our church family to share their experiences in doing difficult, dirty jobs. I asked them to share how they saw God working in those jobs, and if they felt that what they did was purposeful.
Linda Carrier worked for many years as a cashier at Kroger. She shared about how there was this one elderly gentleman, a regular customer, who came up to her and hugged her one afternoon with tears in his eyes. He was moving to a local assisted living home. And he said to Linda, “I want to thank you. You always see me.”
And Linda shared with us how she came to view that as her purpose in life: To truly see others as Christ sees them…to take time to notice others…to realize the importance of sharing kind words and caring actions…for we never know what an impact that might have on another child of God. And that’s a mighty good purpose to have for one’s life.
Yes, stress lessens in our lives when we know why we are here, when we have clarity of purpose.
That purpose is refracted by divine interactions with God as revealed by past ordeals through which God led us and further refined by new storylines that God is and will be writing in our daily lives.
You want to live a less hectic, more meaningful life? Then find the purpose for which God has created you, and live it!