WOW Relationships of Jesus
Jesus with the Stressed Out
February 1, 2009
Are you living a busy, non-stop, frantic, three-ring circus life? Do you allow culture to dictate how you think, what you do, where you go, and what you worry or think about? Living a stressed-out life can affect you physiologically, emotionally, relationally, and financially. It will hit you if you don’t do something about it. Join Ben in the final message of this series as he looks at the lives of Mary and Martha. Martha missed the one thing, while Mary discovered the one thing. Ben will also challenge you to take heed to Jesus’ advice and example so that you can learn what to do to handle the stress in your life.
I grew up, spending part of my life in North and South Carolina. When I was a little bitty tike, my mom—somehow my dad opted out of this—took my brother Ed and me to the Ringling Brother’s Barnum and Bailey Circus. Now this was B.C., before Cliff was born. Cliff is my little brother who is 9 years younger than I am; but anyway, we went to the circus. It was in Greenville, South Carolina, as I recall, at Memorial Auditorium. Back then, that was the big deal. That was the big show! The guy who was the star of that show, if you’ll remember, was a tanned, blond headed guy. I don’t know if he was from South Africa, or England, but he had one of those really cool accents. His name was Mr. Gunther Gabel-Williams.
Any circus that’s worth their salt has three rings. You’ve got the tigers over here in one ring, and they’re doing their thing. In another ring, you’ve got the elephants, and they’re dancing and climbing on top of each other. In the third ring, you’ve got the motorcycles, and they’re all riding around in this ring without hitting each other. It’s really spectacular, and you have all these lights and sounds, and bells and whistles, and cotton candy, and all these glow toys, and all this stuff. You go to the circus for entertainment, but many times, you leave the circus absolutely exhausted and frazzled, because it’s like entertainment sensory overload! Do you ever feel that way going to a circus? Or maybe you feel like your life has become a three-ring circus? You don’t have to raise your hand. Do you ever feel that way? You have so much going on at work, at school, at church, in your relationships, in your finances, and all these things. You’re trying to juggle all these things all at the same time, and many times your life feels like a circus! Your life every single day just becomes a whirling dervish of activity after activity, after phone call, after text, after e-mail, after big-screen, after this, after that. You are just going ninety miles to nothing! You are busy! Busy, busy, busy. In our culture, it’s “in” to be busy. If you’re not busy, you’re out. Call somebody on the phone—“Hey, how’s it going?” What are they going to say? “I’m busy! Whew! I’m maxed out!” Therefore, you’re important. “I’m busy.”
Can you imagine calling someone you know tomorrow around 9:30—“Hey, how’s it going?” “It’s going great! I’m balanced! I’m working well, I’m eating right, and I’m exercising. My spirituality is in line. I’m just balanced!” It’s not “in,” right? We wear busyness and activity on our sleeve.
If you’re not busy, you’re not important! You’re not in!
What happens to us when we live this kind of busy, non-stop, frantic, three-ring circus kind of life? What happens? That leads to the “S” word—Stress. Let’s say it together—Stress. We’re going a mile a minute! We don’t slow down. All of life is stressful, but you will have a type of unhealthy stress that will happen in your life. Stress is the number one cause of health problems in our country today. Seventy percent of visits to your family doctor could be boiled down, many times, to stress.
There is a definition of stress. Put it on the screen up there. Stress is this, according to Dr. Hans Selye. He’s the father of modern stress theory. He says, “Stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand placed upon it.” In other words, when you have so much stress in your life, your body is going to react. It shoots this adrenaline, this hormone into your bloodstream. Your heart starts racing. Your body prepares for the fight or flight syndrome. Either you’re prepared to fight the stress that’s going on in your life, or you want to just run away from it. It affects your central nervous system. It can affect your stomach. It can affect your mind. It can have so many physiological effects in your life when you are really stressed out.
A while back, I had a continual time of stress. I wasn’t dealing with it appropriately, and I had this pain—by the way, if you have this pain right in the middle of your chest, it’s not a good thing. So I had this pain in the middle of my chest, and I had to go see the doctor. Why? Because of stress, overload and anxiety. That’s what it leads to, this hectic, frenetic pace we live in.
There are two types of stressors, as we know. Some stress we can control; some stress we cannot control. There is external stress. This is caused by losing your job, or by what has been happening to your so-called finances over the last 3 months. That causes stress. That is external. You can’t help it. There is external stress of getting sick, or someone you know contracts a serious illness. There is stress caused by a loss of life; someone you know has died, or passed away. That’s external stress.
There is also internal stress. Internal stress is caused by us living in a culture that is much like a three ring circus, and by allowing the culture to dictate how we think, what we do, where we go, and what we worry and think about. So a lot of stress that you and I have is internal stress. It’s stress that we cause and can control.
I was at an Italian restaurant a while back, and there was this guy came in. His wife was there, and she had their baby with her. So the guy comes in from work, and he sits down and orders himself a glass of wine, and he’s drinking that. Suddenly he gets a call on his cell phone. Then the wife hands him the baby—no lie, and the bottle. Then his junior high daughter texts her way into the restaurant, because that’s what all people do in junior high and high school is continually text. You don’t walk or breathe; you just text. So she texts her way in, and they are sitting there, and here he is on the cell phone, still working, taking care of the baby, feeding it a bottle, and relaxing with his wife with a glass of wine and dinner. He’s the man, right? He’s doing it all! Working, resting, family, date, right? I’m not down on this guy. We’ve all done that. We can laugh about it, because it’s Sunday morning, and we’re kind of detached from it; but come Monday morning, or come tomorrow night, we could be doing the same thing.
It’s funny! Do you remember when President Bush would go on a vacation to his ranch in Crawford; they’d say, “The President is going on a ‘working’ vacation.” A working vacation? That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? That’s just stupid. But you’ve got to say that in our culture!
But too much activity, too much noise, too much information—yes, too much technology can lead to a stressed out life, and you’ll experience that physiologically, emotionally, relationally, and financially. It will hit you and hit me if we don’t do something about it. What do we do? Enter Dr. Luke! He wrote Luke and the book of Acts. He tells a story in there about this lady who was really stressed out, and about this guy who came to dinner with this lady and her sister, and kind of put the “quiet” on stress.
Luke 10:38-42, “Jesus and His disciples were on their way (to Jerusalem) and 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.”
Have you been amazed the last three months, if you’ve been attending somewhat regularly; we find all these people at the feet of Jesus? Every story, every shocking statement, every WOW relationship; someone is at the feet of Jesus.
Anyway, verse 40, “But Martha was distracted, by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Jesus 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 only one thing is needed.’” Let me hear you say “one thing.”
Oh, we can do better than that! Come on! “One thing!” Only one thing! One thing is necessary, is needed. “’Mary has chosen (hold onto that word) what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
Listen: Both Martha and Mary loved Jesus. That’s beyond dispute. They both loved Him. But in this story, Martha missed out because she was stressed out. She missed out on communing with the very Son of God because she was so stressed out and distracted by many things.
Now let me say this parenthetically: Jesus is not against work. Jesus did more construction work than He did preaching. He was a construction worker for about 25 to 27 years, while He only preached for 3 years. He was a tough guy! He worked with His hands. He built things; He chopped things down. He sawed them and sanded them, and He did not have Black and Decker, or Sears, or Home Depot to turn to! He’s not saying work is bad, or that Martha preparing dinner is bad! He’s just saying that she is distracted and worried about so many things.
We can look at some contrasts between Martha and Mary in this story. Martha welcomed Jesus into her house; Mary welcomed Jesus into her heart. Martha stood in the kitchen and was busy, running around. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. Martha we can see here was worried and fretting. Mary sat and listened, and worshipped. Martha missed the one thing! Mary discovered the one thing. Martha left the lunch exhausted—“What a day!” Mary left the lunch empowered with truth and life that can never be taken away from her.
I like what one translation and one commentator said about Mary, “Mary found the organizing center of her existence.” That’s good, isn’t it? Mary found the organizing center of her existence. She realized who was in their home, and she wanted to sit at His feet, which in that culture was mainly for men of that culture. So she was breaking cultural codes here, and Jesus didn’t seem to mind. So she sat at His feet and was listening to Him! She found that one thing that was necessary right then. She discovered that one thing. She found that organizing center of her existence.
It’s kind of like Paul in Philippians 3:13 where He says, “This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind in my past; I press on!” Paul had found that organizing center of his existence. Have you found that?
Does anybody have the new Blackberry on them, the Blackberry Storm? What’s the new one? Yeah, can you bring it up here for me? Have you got it with you? Thanks man! This is totally unrehearsed. By the way, this is hilarious! This is Joe Savery. He plays pro baseball.
Who do you play for, Joe? The Philadelphia Phillies! We still love you, though you play for the Phillies! Anyway, he played for Rice years ago. You’ve got faith that I’m going to give it back to you, don’t you Joe? I don’t have one of these yet! Go sit down, Joe! That’s right! Go sit down there by your friend…There are other people, Joe, that have these; but they didn’t want to give them to me. You know what I’m saying?
Let’s just imagine that we could get a peek at Jesus’ schedule during His 3 years of intense ministry. Let’s just say he had a Blackberry. What is it? Storm or Curve? Storm! Wheww! Imagine He had a Blackberry Storm! Come on! Hebrews says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Let’s bring Jesus a little bit into the today. So He’s got a Blackberry Storm. Somehow I don’t see Jesus scrolling through His Blackberry on Monday morning and going, “Oh my goodness! It’s 7:00! I’ve got a budget planning meeting with Judas! Then at 7:45 right after that, I’ve got anger management support group with Peter! Tell Martha I’ve got the Lazarus project under control. How many? They want me to feed 5,000 people? I’ve got to get over there!” I don’t see Jesus responding to His “schedule” in that way! I don’t see Him doing that. I see Jesus very active, very engaged in life. That’s an understatement, isn’t it? But I don’t see Him hurrying around frantically without margins or space in His life, being constantly stressed out.
All right, Joe! You can have your toy back! There you go! Let’s thank Joe for being honest and volunteering!
Jesus didn’t do that. As a matter of fact, you can look at Scripture, and you can see that the more popular Jesus became, the more the paparazzi were following Him. He was in the news everywhere He went. If you start really healing people; blind people see, deaf people hear. Jesus is taking a walk on the water without a bridge. When you start doing things like that; you’re going to get to be popular. People are going to follow you. So Jesus was doing all these things; but you see, the bigger He got, and the more crowds that started following Him; the more people said, “I need, I need, do this, fix this, heal me!” Jesus began to what? Back off and withdraw.
Matthew 14:23 says, “After He dismissed them, He went up on a mountain side by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.”
Luke 5:15-16, “Yet the news about Him spread all the more, so the crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Mark 1:35-36 says, “Very early in the morning (this is after a very intense work day), while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him.”
I know what you are thinking. You’re saying, “Well, Jesus lived in a different time, a different culture. It was agrarian; it was slower paced. They didn’t have cars, or Blackberrys, or Internet, or a big screen T.V., or all this stuff—commuting, and traffic. Jesus could take time to withdraw; but I’ve got an important job, and I’ve got things to do…” God has come to earth for a little blip in history through His Son, Jesus. I don’t know—I think Jesus’ mission was pretty important. I think His job those three years to begin that start-up company that would change the world—I think He had a pretty important job too! I think He was pretty busy! I think He had a lot of demands on His time too; and yet, what did He do? He knew as the Son of God that the organizing center of His life had to be listening to the Father; withdrawing, retreating, and disconnecting from the matrix of society so He could get alone, be still, listen, get recharged and refueled to pray. Jesus didn’t just show us the face of God—what God is like. He also showed us what it meant to be fully human. I think we could listen to Him today and it would help us a lot with our stress.
There are three other things quickly. One thing is to withdraw and have times of meditation and reflection. By the way, being here on Sunday morning is a part of that; coming to a worship service and singing songs to God, or listening to them being sung, and listening to someone teach the Word of God. That’s a form of withdrawing. Not many people do that. So we’re doing part of it today; but we need to do some other things if we’re really going to appropriately handle stress in our lives. The culture is not going to change. “Once things slow down, then I’m gonna…” I’ve discovered things don’t slow down! They don’t, do they? They don’t…
One thing we’ve got to do to handle the stress is this: You’ve got to exercise; that is, primarily doing something that helps your cardiovascular system, or lifting weights; but you’ve got to exercise. You say, “Well what about Jesus?” Well, see, Jesus had this built into His schedule. Within His three year ministry, it is estimated that He walked some 3,125 miles, and another18,000 miles when He was a kid. They had to go to the festivals, you know, from Nazareth to Jerusalem three times a year. The dudes could party! Yeah, the Hebrew culture knows how to party. The Latino culture knows how to party! Gringos—we’re just kind of uptight! We’ve got to go do something! That’s a whole other message! It’s never done! That’s true, isn’t it? Yeah! You’ve got to exercise. Motion is lotion! If that’s your take away tomorrow—motion is lotion! Getting your body moving, getting active; that’s lotion for your mind; that’s lotion for your body and spirit.
Jesus did not say “Hey, come and then stop! Come be My disciple and then stop!” He said what? “Come and follow Me!” Christianity is a movement. He’s on the move. The cloud is moving as they’re going through the desert. Follow the cloud! It’s movement! You’ve got to exercise! You’ve got to get your body going if you want to handle stress in our society. “But I’m too busy! I cannot do that! I am too busy! My job, my life is way too important right now. I don’t have any time to walk, or to run or work out. I don’t have time to do that.”
Let me introduce you to two people. You’ve probably heard of them before. One is named William Jefferson Clinton; the other one is named George W. Bush. There are a lot of differences between these guys, but they have two things in common. One is that they were both two-term Presidents of the United States of America, and two, they both worked out and exercised when they were President of the United States of America. I know that for a fact, because my father went and visited President Clinton in the White House, and the next day they went for a jog together. Believe it or not, as big as ole’ Bill is, he can get the body moving! He ran a pretty good pace…
Are you busier than the President of the United States? If you are, what are you doing here? Leave! Go take care of business! You can’t be the leader of the free world and handle the stress unless you are exercising. Again, for Jesus and His disciples, it was built into their lifestyle! You’ve got to exercise.
The second thing you’ve got to do is to eat right. You don’t have to eat perfectly; but you’ve got to eat right. To reduce the stress in your life, you may need to cut back, or cut out on the caffeine. I like caffeine! I like coffee. I had a couple of shots of espresso this morning. I’m not against it! But sometimes when I’m going through a time that is stressful; I’d rather say, “You know what? One or two shots in the morning may be enough, or one cup of coffee may be enough.” You’ve got to control that! Maybe you need to go cold turkey and cut it out all together! They serve decaf and decaf tea at Starbucks. You can handle it, right? I bet it will decrease the stress in your life. You have to eat right. You have to eat lean protein, and you have to eat some vegetables and some fruit; got to drink some water.
I grew up in the deep South, and I love pork chops, fried chicken, roast, potatoes and carrots! That’s the kind of food I grew up on; but you’ve got to get to a point where you have a healthy diet. Again, I’m not into those goofy books like What Did Jesus Eat? But listen to what Jesus ate. I’m guessing that Jesus ate fish (lean protein), olives, and bread. He was over 21 and drank wine and water.
They cruised through Jericho where they have good oranges and fruits; so he probably ate fruit. He basically ate the Mediterranean diet, didn’t He? He was dialed in! That was part of His culture.
Today we have all these options of fast foods, fried foods, and synthetic foods. You’ve got to watch what you eat! Watching what you eat will help your stress level, and help you manage your stress. You’ve got to eat right.
The third thing you’ve got to do is eliminate certain things from your life and your schedule. There are a lot of time zappers out there that will absolutely eat your lunch. They’ll kill you! The average American spends 10.3 hours a day on T.V., Internet, radio, video games, periodicals, etc.
I love technology. We have a lot of technology in this church. It takes a lot of technology doesn’t it, my friends, to pull off this worship service, right? A big part of my job is handling, managing, and getting more and better technology. I’m not against it! However, technology can become a demon in your own personal life.
A while back, I wrote “The Twenty-Third Psalm for the 21st Century.” It is kind of an anti-twenty-third Psalm. I’ll read it to you. It says, “Technology is my shepherd, I shall not want. It makes me lie down in front of high definition screen. It leads me with incessant noise and makes me feel significant. Though I walk through the valley of no cell phone coverage—can you hear me now? You are with me! My Blackberry, my laptop; they comfort me! You set wireless access before me in the presence of my family. You anoint my head with Blue Tooth, and my e-mail overflows! Surely Microsoft and Verizon will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the data base forever, and ever, and ever, unless I am inadvertently deleted.”
The question is, when it comes to technology—“Is technology controlling you, or are you controlling technology?” Our souls would be a whole lot better off, and so would our bodies, minds, and hearts if we would learn to have times in our day and our week when we unplug the stinking computer, cell phone, texting, and big screen and get still. We’ve got to eliminate some things.
Here’s the deal! If you don’t take heed to what I believe God and Jesus is saying about stress and about the pace of your life; listen—you will be brought, eventually, to the feet of Jesus. You will! Either you have a relationship that will break down, or your body will break down with an anxiety attack, a heart attack, or whatever; or economically it’s going to break down, and you’ll be brought to your knees. Hopefully you’ll go to the feet of Jesus! You’ll be brought there, maybe kicking and screaming—“I, I don’t want to!” But you’ll be brought there. Or we can come now.
You can come to Him right now and start making some lifestyle changes now, today. “You can pay me now; or you can pay me later!” That’s kind of the deal…
Remember this: Jesus came to set us free! The Gospel, and the Gospel of grace, when we realize He’s done everything for us, allows us to rest when we need to rest! He came to set us free, folks. We need to start walking in some of those ways that will bring us freedom. The beauty of it—did you see that little word just dropped in by Dr. Luke when it came to Mary? Did you see the word that Jesus said? “Mary chose…” That’s sweet brown sugar right there! “Mary chose the better part…”
We have a choice to live stressed out, crazy, whirling, three-ring circus kind of lives; or we have the opportunity every day to withdraw, to exercise, to do these things so we can enter that fast-paced world with a sense of His purpose, and a sense of His peace. It’s a good thing. The Gospel is good news. Let’s pray.
God, thank You that the Gospel is good news for stressed out people; good news for people like us who think we’re so important. We think we invented life, and we love to worship at the altar of progress, and we’re all involved in that. I know that You are for progress, but it’s not all that. We know that You are all that, because You are the basis of life; You are the basis of Truth; You are the basis of purpose; You are the basis of peace.
God, forgive me, forgive us when we get out of whack, and we start living in a three-ring circus kind of life. You call us to the one thing which is to take time out daily, on a weekly basis, or whenever we do and just sit at Your feet to just listen to You through singing, through Your Word, through the Bible, through worship. We have to do that. God, free us up today. Help us to see freedom in this lifestyle You call us to.
Lord, right now there are some people here who simply need to know You—I mean really, really know You. Not just know about You, or Your Name—Jesus, church, God, all that. “I’m a Baptist; I’m a Catholic, I’m whatever…” but they need to know You God, like really know You in a relationship. You offer that to them. May they walk down these aisles here today.
May they just walk down the aisles and say, “Hey, I want to receive this peace, forgiveness and purpose that God talks about and offers to us.” May they stand and come down front today. We give You this time of invitation. We pray all these things in Jesus’ Name.