Radio Broadcast

Learning How to Stop Stress Before it Starts, Part 2

We hear a lot today about reducing stress and the health benefits of living with less of it. The question is, how do you do that? How do you get ahead of the stress that comes at you each day? Well, there is a way to stop stress before it starts. Chip walks you through some simple steps you can take to gain victory over stress.

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Number four: Admit mistakes and imperfections. If we could just liberate one another, one of the core values, we only have four at Living on the Edge, and we did it with the acronym, LOTE. The L is for live it out. We gotta be what we want others to become. The O is for own your stuff. Don’t blame, don’t tell someone else, it wasn’t on time, it was you’re late. I love that one. One of the new guys that’s working for us, he was executive pastor of a huge church about 13,000 people and you know has all this capacity and had this great reputation, he just started working with us six or seven months ago and I get this email, “Hey Chip, sorry man, haven’t done this in years. I thought my plane was to leave at this time, it’s no one else’s fault, I didn’t look at the thing. I missed my plane. I’ll miss the meeting. I blew it. Sorry.” I wrote him an email back. I said, ‘Hey, Rick. Let me tell you this, you made my day. Thanks so much. You didn’t tell me it was someone else’s fault. You didn’t tell me your assistant blew it. You didn’t tell me that you’d renegotiated things and thought it might be better to come a second day but you’re really sorry there was no smoke, there were no mirrors. You made a mistake, welcome to the human race. You owned your stuff. Way to go. Keep it up.”

Do you realize how much stress we’re under to slightly bend the truth to say, “The traffic was really heavy.” Of course it was very heavy and you left a half hour late. Right? You would really love to do it - really you never want to do that in a million years - but you can’t. You know, just you forgot. How bout that one? I forgot to call you back. Once I was checking my messages from somewhere and I thought, and it’s just human I think, I thought to myself, “Okay, I was busy. I was traveling. Um, there’s got to be a legitimate excuse. This is important relationship and it’s been four days.” And then I had this little thought from the Holy Spirit, “Why don’t you just tell him you forgot? Isn’t that what happened?” “Yeah, but that doesn’t sound very spiritual Lord”, “Yeah, I know, but, is it the truth?” “Yeah.” “Do you think human beings ever forget, Chip?” “Yeah.” Why don’t you just tell him you forgot?”  “Okay.” So I called this guy and I said, “Hey.” It was really one of those really important type things, and I said, “Hi, this is Chip, and by the way, I realize it’s been a number of days and it sounded pretty urgent, but I just forgot.” And you know at the other end of the phone, it wasn’t like, “You are a terrible person! You will now be sent to, if there’s a purgatory, you will now go there!” I mean it was just, “Hey man I understand.” Admit your mistakes.

Five: laugh more often. Don’t take life or yourself so seriously. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” All I can tell you is, in my time tonight, I just want to help you all with some real practical things about how life really works. I don’t know who some of your spiritual heroes are but some of mine, I’ve discovered are the funniest people in the world and the most fun to be around.

A number of years ago I spoke at Saddleback and went out to dinner with Rick Warren and a few of the associates and I thought we were going to get kicked out of the place. We laughed so much. If you’ve ever heard Erwin Lutz of Moody Church, he does the best Billy Graham imitation in the world. He’s hilarious. James MacDonald - you do not want to drive in the same car without covering your eyes. He’s a nut. And he’s laughing all the time. I mean the people that I know that have inspired me and helped me have a great sense of humor and they laugh and they have fun. I just want to encourage you, a lot of the anger, a lot of the stress will leave when you just lighten up a little bit and enjoy yourself.

Number six is take care of yourself. I mean this is one that you almost don’t want to say because it’s going to go over the top but I’ll just say it just so can have good stewardship. You need enough rest, you need to eat good food, and you need to work out enough to keep your body in shape. When you don’t do those things, when you don’t have very much rest, when you eat stuff that’s not good for you, and you don’t do any kind of exercising, you’re gonna be angry more often. It’s just the way it is. Less sleep, less energy, and I don’t think everyone has to be “a health nut” but I think you oughta ask yourself, “If this really is the temple of God, I Corinthians 6:19-20. If this really is the temple of God, am I treating it like God’s temple?”

Then you just start slow with where you’re at and start putting more good stuff instead of bad stuff in your body and if you’ve never jogged or anything you just start walking and just do, little by little by little, but you take care of yourself and you’ll just find your anger, by the way, a lot of people that have not good eating habits and don’t work out, guess who you’re angry at? Yeah.

My background in undergraduate, and a few classes in grad work, is in psychology. There’s this weird way our minds work - when people don’t like themselves or they feel guilty or bad, they feel like they need to punish themselves, and we will actually create behaviors to produce outcomes to equalize things inside of us, and so people will eat and do things that are bad for them that create outcomes that sort of say, “Well this is the sort of person I am. This is what I deserve.” Now that, as weird as that sounds, is true. But take care of yourself. You matter. You’re important. You’re precious. You’re loved.

And then finally, know what triggers your anger. Let me give you an acronym here: HALT. This is one I got from my assistant who was in a car wreck and she’s okay. I realize sometimes I make these passing comments and, well what happened with the car wreck, she’s fine, but it was real serious. She was an amazing assistant and her name was Noreen.

She worked for Dr. Stanley and she remembered him saying this little acronym HALT when you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired – stop, halt! Don’t make a big decision. Don’t go anywhere. Don’t try and take on something. I guess, what I got from that acronym is, what I found is when I’m hungry, I’m un-nice to be with. Right?  I’m angry. When I’m lonely, my anger quotient goes up. When I’m tired, you don’t even want to go there.

I just want to encourage you, some real practical learnings about your AQ, your anger quotient’s gonna be, your environment, that’s what we talked about here, plus your perspective, we’ll look at that in just a second, times your obedience to 4:26. These are things that will minimize the stress and help you with your AQ.

AQ, my anger quotient, equals my environment. I just talked about how I can create an environment with less stress and that will lover my anger quotient. But it’s plus, P, for perspective. How do you look at life? Actually, it’s from where do you look at life? And that P we’re gonna talk about; the E is you minimize stress, to get the right perspective, we want to maximize God. You wanna get a high, clear, view of God. I’m gonna really pick up the pace, I’ve put all the verses on the left hand side, we obviously can’t teach them all the way through, but what I wanna do is give you some super practical ways to maximize your relationship with God so you get a high, holy, more kinder, loving, accurate view of who He is. Okay, you got it? You ready?

Now, you better dig in. Here we go. Let me give you six things here to maximize, or enlarge your perspective. This is what I call, “spiritual wisdom.” Number one: Get right with God. Believe in Him. Confess your sins and forgive others. If by whatever chance, you’re here and you don’t know Christ personally, don’t leave this campus until you put your faith in Christ, allow Him to forgive your sins and give you a peace that’s indescribably and a power that’s within you.

If you are a believer here, then take to heart, submit therefore to God, resist the Devil and he’ll flee from you. Submission, anything you know that God wants you to do, or to act on that you’re not, is called lack of submission. You want to say to God, “All that I am, all that I have, is yours.” If he’s been speaking to you about dealing with anger, dealing with your mate, marriage, dealing with an alcohol issue, dealing with prescription drugs, dealing with forgiving someone in the past…just do it! You‘ll be amazed! “Submit therefore to God, resist the Devil, he’ll flee from you”. Then notice, draw near to God and he’ll draw near to you. And then he talks about, well, what’s it mean to draw near to God?

“Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your heart you double minded,” and then he’s gonna go on in the passage, this is the picture of humbling yourself before God so that he can come and lift you up and help you.

God is not an angry, mean God whose arms are crossed, with a boney finger, and a tapping toe, that thinks you have messed up and you’re messing up again and he wants to whack you on your spiritual knuckles and saying, “Get with the program!” He is not down on you. He loves you, He’s for you, and He died for you. Now, certain behaviors and certain stiff arming of God will bring about, what I call Hebrews 12, the velvet vice of consequences.

He loves you so much that when you are living in a way that’s contrary to your best and His word, he will begin to bring consequences into your life. It can come in finances, in relationships, it can come in your kids, it can come in your health… He just wants to say, “Hello? I love you.”

Some of us, we keep thinking, “Why are all these things happening to me?” Just stop, and say, “Is there anything in my life that needs to be realigned with what I know is true?” Oh the perspective that you’ll get and the peace that you’ll receive.

Some people have someone that’s wounded you. You just need the last line. You need to forgive them. Release them. God’s a fair judge. He knows all things. The reason we don’t want to release people is, “Well I’m taking em off the hook.” You’re not taking them off the hook. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”

Tell you what, if God’s absolutely fair, and He’s all wise, and He knows all things, actual and possible, He knows why the person did it, what the circumstances were, you just say, “God, I’ll tell you what, either I’m gonna be the referee or you’re gonna be the referee. I don’t know the whole story. I’m gonna give this person to you”, and then here’s what’s helped me, “Now, God, when I really have been really honest about stuff in me, I do not want to get what I deserve - I mean not at all”.

We’re gonna talk about this later, but if I’m gonna receive your mercy; Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God also has forgiven you.” Get right with God. Your perspective, your life. The half-hearted, partially in, partially out, relationship with Jesus Christ is the miserable people on the face of the earth. Just come clean.

Number two: Experience God’s unconditional love and acceptance, and you have the passage I quoted it earlier today, Zephaniah 3:17. I have this picture that I try and remember and a lot of mornings, as soon as my eyes open, I have this picture of God looking down upon me, and Him saying to this, “The Lord, personal God, Elohim, is in your midst. The Mighty One will save”.

That word “save” means he’ll deliver. It’s not just save you from your sin, it means, He’s a deliverer. He’ll help you. He’ll take care of whatever you’re facing. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing. Is that your view of God? Is that how He feels about you?

Well that doesn’t come naturally to me and so, one of the things that I do, and I don’t know how it works but, some of us believe that God loves us, but emotionally, we don’t even feel like he likes us. It’s why it’s hard to pray. A lot, a lot of Christians, are like, duty: “I know its right. Walking with God is like castor oil - it’s really good for you, but it tastes terrible. I know you’re supposed to pray, I’m gonna pray down this list. Read the Bible, this is really fun. You get a little spiritual liver quiver just now and then. That was, that’s pretty good, you know?” God wants you to experience his love. A lot of that goes back to how you were raised and some teaching you got and family background.

Now this is an iPod. No, it’s actually an mp3 player, iPod is the actual name, but it is an iPod. This is loaded with music that causes my heart to remember how much God loves me. Almost every morning part of my prayer time, there’s two or three or four songs and sometimes I just tell God, “I just wanna hang out. I don’t want to get anything done. If you want me to read something, let me know. I’ve got a program I usually follow. I just want to hang”. And I put this on, and I sing along with the songs and I just worship God.

All I can tell you is, I get up, I feel loved. You know when Theresa and I go out for coffee, it’s not like okay, “What do you want to get accomplished here? Okay you want to get intimate? Okay. Um, I love you. I mean, let me hear you say it - you love me too. Good, okay we got that off. Okay, um, plan for the day. Um, let’s hold hands at 1:01. Great. Let’s walk the dog and look up and say, ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ And okay, we’ll get that one down. Okay? Uh, you think we could squeeze sex in here and make it real meaningful a little bit later? You know it’s, that should be important. You know?”

No, I mean, some of us approach our relationship, when I am with Theresa, I just wanna hang. I just like being with her. I just like looking in her eyes. I like just walking in the park. I like getting up at five in the morning when the moon’s out and the starts are just coming out when it’s cool, and sitting out on the porch, and hearing all the birds, and sipping on a cup of coffee, and just sometimes we’ll sit quietly for fifteen minutes. And sometimes we’ll talk. I just, I like her. I love her. I want to be in her presence.

God wants you to experience that. There’s multiple ways you can do that. You can take walks in nature. But see, you gotta slow down, so this is helpful for me. So that’s a little tool that I use. The second tool for me is my view of God was so warped that I have read portions of this book for about the last 32 years. It’s called The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. I will never forget hitting the chapter on the goodness of God and reading, “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and quick of sympathy, and his unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly, by His nature, he is inclined to bestow blessedness”, and I love this, “He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.”

Do you believe that or are you always trying to measure up to something? When you’re happy, God gets happy. Then I love the line, he says, “If the whole, the whole outlook of mankind might be changed, if we could all believe we dwell under a friendly sky, and the God in heaven, though exalted in power and majesty is eager to be friends with us.” God is good. God is powerful. I’m the object of His love. You know, He’s got the whole universe under control, and I bet He can handle that business deal. He’s got the whole universe under control, and you know, I bet He can handle what’s happening with the economy. He’s got the whole universe under control, and you are the object of His affection. So experience God.

Three: Accept who God made you to be. Psalm 139 is a classic passage. “He formed your inward parts, you’re fearfully and wonderfully made. His eyes saw your unformed substance.” How do you learn to accept who you are? There are lots of tools, this is the one I’m using right now (Chip holds up a journal). I probably have about 30 of these, maybe 40. I started in my last couple years of college. I don’t think it’s for everyone. If you don’t do this, don’t feel guilty. In fact, anything that I share that happens to help me that you think, that doesn’t work for me, then I would not do it.

I have a sneaking suspicion you’re not me and I’m not you. I’ve heard lots of wonderful things other people do and I think, “That sounds idiotic, that doesn’t work for me,” but I used to try it. I’m learning to accept me because I’m tracking the journey that I have with God. It’s not formal, and sometimes I make a list, sometimes I write out my prayers, some of them start out, “God, I am really tired, I’m really bummed out, and I don’t feel like praying at all, but I thought I would check in. Here’s what’s going on in my heart.”

What I realized is the more I process life with him, and then I realize, you know something, I was struggling with this two years ago and, wow, you know something, I really am changing. The grace of God is willing and working in and through me for his good pleasure. You know when you can’t see it and you can’t track it, I mean, you know, S & P 500, don’t they track stuff? Dow, don’t they track stuff? NASDAQ, don’t the track stuff? Businesses, don’t they have quarterly report? Most of us have no idea, where am I spiritually, where I have I been, where am I going, and I wonder where I’m at right now?

And sometimes, life is hard, I know, and I get really tired and really discouraged and I just think, “You know what, I don’t think my life’s going anywhere. I don’t think God’s using me at all, I don’t think...” you know, the sort of condemnation journey. I’ll go pull out one of these from like, five or ten years ago. I think man, this is a sorry dude that wrote this. You know? And that’s a sincere as he could be and I think, wow. And then I’ll read, I was praying this outlandish prayer, God did that. Wow. If He did that for me, He sure must love me because I know who I am. It’s just a journey.

And by the way, most of these passages I told you before help, you can write them on a card, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Read them over, pray them out loud to God - Your mind gets renewed. You want to maximize God. Trust God and his sovereignty. Let him be in control. I mean, this Isaiah passage, “To whom then will you liken me?” or, who’s my equal? “Lift up your eyes. See who’s created these things. He brings out their hosts, their stars by number. He calls all these”, you know, two hundred billion stars and behind two hundred billion galaxies, “all by a name. Who can know the strength of his power? Not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, my way is hidden from the Lord? Have you not known have you not heard the Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”

I don’t mean I will never through my brains in the trash and just say, “Oh whatever,” but I will do the most rigorous research I can and I will study the scriptures and I will review everything I can get my hands on to understand all the whats and the whys of this life, and then when I get done, I just realize, I don’t know anything. I have to entrust the mystery of this life and what God’s doing in the world, in people I love, in me, and at the end of the day, I have to back all the way up to this big, big P for perspective and say, “He’s good, He’s holy, He’s loving, He’s wise. He knows all things. I’m the object of His affection. He has a good plan. I won’t always understand it. He is in absolute control and He’s trustworthy.”

That will give you a different lens to look through. You either tend to look at life through the problem, the 5% of your marriage, the 10% you don’t like, the part of work, the three or four things that are bugging you. And you tend not to look at the 97% of all the grace of God and all the things that He’s done.

And when you look at the problem, pretty soon you look at people and everything through the problem and you become an angry, resentful, not very fun, sort of, uh, drinking the lemon juice type Christian. Or you take that and you pull it back and you get a high, awesome view of God and you don’t say there’s not a problem, but you see the problem in view of who God is.

We covered this one:be merciful. All I can tell you is, as you read Luke 6, love your enemies, do good to them, God’s that way. Just let people off the hook. Just give them a “Ollie, ollie, in free.” Remember when you played hide and seek? You just need to do a spiritual, “Ollie, ollie, in free! I’ve hated your guts for eleven years. I’ve been envious of you for ten. You been talking about me bad, everyone knows you have. Ollie, ollie, in free. Just taking you off the hook. Wrote your name on a piece of paper offered it to God, burnt the piece of paper. I’m just done with that.” Just let some people off the hook. The person that will get free is you.

Finally, number six: Pray about everything. We all know this very familiar passage about not being anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication of making your request known to God and that great promise of His peace. Prayer is hard for me - I think it is for most Christians. When we mentioned his name earlier, this little tool, it’s called the Handbook of Prayer by Ken Boa, and what it does is it takes just scripture and it personalizes it, and it’ll start with praise, renewal, petition, intercession, affirmation, thanksgiving, and it’s short, but you can read out loud a little portion of God’s word that’s personalized, and it leads you and then you can pray some thanksgiving.

There’s some time of confession, and some renewal, and I don’t do anything every day. I mean, I read my Bible and I pray, but sometimes I read a lot and sometimes I pray a lot. But I don’t get up with Theresa every day and go, “Okay now let’s, we need to talk for 37 minutes, we need to walk for 14.4 minutes, we need to have two and a half meals together and then we need...” In other words, what’s the relationship need? Let’s get out of the “three chapters keeps the Devil away”. Let’s talk about a heart that hungers and thirsts for the living God. That pants to be in His presence. That longs to enjoy Him. Let’s discipline ourselves and block off time, not to fulfill a duty and check off a list, but to meet a God who’s eager to be our friend.

You get a high view of God, you will get small problems. Or you’ll get a different perspective on them. Now we go back to where we were; your anger quotient equals, environment, minimizing the stress, E, plus P, perspective, maximizing God, times O, obeying Ephesians 4:26. Be angry, but don’t sin and don’t let the sun go down on your anger.