“Take From Our Souls the Strain and Stress”
- Familiar passages are familiar because they are rich with blessings so much needed. But, because they are familiar, such passages must be considered more carefully. This text is a case in point.
- Two things should be noticed by way of introduction.
o The terms Jesus used illustrate the kind of human problem he is addressing.
§ “Do not be anxious” (v. 22) – “Take no thought” (KJV)
§ “Do not seek”, “Do not set your heart on …” (NIV) (v. 29) … “nor be worried”
§ “Fear not” (v. 32). He is talking about a way of life in which the predominant mood is worry, frustration and dread – or “strain and stress” in our souls.
o The circumstances which might provoke such experiences may be observed from the context.
§ Warnings were being offered about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the influence of their false teaching. (11:53-12:1, 10)
§ Conflict existed between some – to the point that a fellow interrupted this very serious teaching with the demand, “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (12:13)
§ There was a need for the disciples to stay alert and ready for action (12:35-40). These were crucial days. There was a need for the motivation provided by the right kind of anxiousness.
- It’s against that background that the Lord speaks these precious words to his disciples.
o He’s not offering a twelve-step program to relieve stress and strain.
o He is describing the values which produce a way of life in which any stress and strain is over appropriate matters, and is addressed in a worthwhile manner.
o Here’s what the text says (read Lk. 12:22-34) … Now what does it mean? How might we, by doing what it says, “take from our souls the strain and stress”?
1) Commit yourself to living the spiritual life
a) Jesus said these things “to his disciples” (v. 22) – people who had committed themselves to learn to live from him!
i) He said these things to them because he had just had to address the fact that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (v. 15).
ii) He told the story of the man who ended up leaving barns full of things for himself, but with no self (v. 20).
iii) He meant for his hearers to consciously decide that their treasure was going to be with God (v. 21, 34).
b) Committing yourself to a way of life where “what matters” is spiritual is the crucial first step toward taking the strain and stress from your heart.
i) James pointed out that when pleasures are at war within you, quarrels and frustrations and wrongs are sure to follow (Js. 4:1-4), making one an enemy of God instead of rich toward him.
ii) He also observed that a double-minded person is bound to be unstable in his ways, always tossed and driven like a little boat in the clutches of the great sea (1:6-8).
iii) Settle the question in your life: commit yourself to seek the kingdom as a way of life (v. 31).
(1) Tune your conscience.
(2) Establish your priorities.
(3) Decide to let God provide.
2) Recognize the fact that your value as a person comes from things more meaningful than age, looks or experiences.
a) If we are to rise above strain and stress, we will have to learn to think of ourselves as God thinks of us.
i) Our value as persons comes from the fact that we have been made in his image.
ii) We have spirits which can think, will, feel, choose and love.
iii) And we are, and have been, loved – even while we were weak, ungodly, sinful enemies of God – to such a degree that Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6-10).
(1) God has shown that he will give anything for us (Rom. 8:32).
(2) Such unearthly love has been extended toward us so that we can be called children of God (1 Jn. 3:2).
b) If you’ll look at your value that way, you’ll be relieved of so many of the things that make people anxious and afraid.
i) “Your life” – how old or young you are – will no longer be the measure of your worth as an individual.
ii) The esteem in which you are held won’t need to depend on “your body,” its appearance or attractiveness.
(1) There is no reason for any of us to allow our sense of who we are to be determined by the tags on our clothing, nor the trade names on our shoes, nor the menus we are able to order from. We can be secure in our own value as children of God!
3) Allow for human limitations in yourself and others.
a) I don’t mean by this to never try to improve or grow; I mean to be content with those things about yourself over which you have no control.
i) There are some things no one of us can change by fretting or trying – to add a single cubit to your stature, or an hour to the span of your life, for example. (v. 25.)
ii) If we can’t do such a small thing as that, it makes no sense for us to act as if we could be the general manager of the universe!
iii) Each one of us is loved and valued by God, but not one of us is, or ever will be, a god!
b) So much strain and stress could be taken away by the application of this principle.
i) It removes the pressure to play a role that doesn’t fit: I don’t have to try to be someone else.
ii) It opens the way for me to devote my thought and energy and effort to the things I can do something about: I can be productive.
iii) It soon leads me to admit that others have limitations, too. Instead of being critical and frustrated, I can accept them for who they are, and begin to build relationships with them.
4) Stand firm in the grace of God. (cf. 1 Pet. 5:12)
a) Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (v. 32)
i) “To give you” means to act by grace, to do something which has not been earned or deserved.
ii) It is, of course, the only way any of us with human limitations could expect to enter the eternal kingdom.
iii) Our Father wants to give us citizenship in his kingdom. If we will cooperate with his grace “there will be richly provided” for us “an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:11)
b) There is an attitude implied by this that is certain to take away the strain and stress from our souls.
i) Humility toward others – 1 Pet. 5:5
ii) Submission to God’s care – 1 Pet. 5:6,7
iii) Calm reserve within self – 1 Pet. 5:10,12
5) Consider yourself as part of the story which is being written by the providence of God.
a) “Providence” refers to God’s work within history, using natural means, to move us toward his eternal purpose.
i) I consider the birds and observe that God feeds them. (v. 24) God provides.
ii) I consider the flowers and observe how wonderfully God clothes them. (v. 27-28) God provides.
iii) Then I consider myself: my Father surely knows what I need, and is surely able to provide them. (v. 30)
b) The idea is that God is still at work, sustaining the birds and flowers. He values his children even more, but is just as able to provide what is best for them. We may not understand exactly how he does it any more than the birds of flowers do, but neither do we have any more reason for anxious care that he will do it than they do.
6) Do your best to be a blessing.
a) “Provide yourselves with …” (v. 33)
i) Someone observed that the “toil of the average Christian wouldn’t exhaust a butterfly.”
(1) We don’t put ourselves out much to do things to be a blessing because we are the Lord’s.
(2) And, isn’t it strange that the less we do things unselfishly for the sake of the kingdom, the more strain and stress we feel?
(3) Like the fellow in the story just before this paragraph, we are more agitated over what our brother should be made to do for us than over what we may do for our brother. (v. 13)
ii) If we are busy doing our best, we will cure much of our anxiety.
iii) What Jesus advises for the relief of strain and stress is providing ourselves “with money bags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail….”
(a) In the short term, this is not easy; it’s costly.
(b) In the long term, though, it means the gain of that which will not wear out, and cannot be carried off, and may not be ruined.
(c) Dedicated service is what the Lord means by seeking his kingdom, setting your heart on it.
(i) Lk. 12:34
(ii) Dedicate yourself to making a positive difference.
- Notice something very important: the distinction between “all the nations” (or, the pagan world) and “little flock” (v. 30, 32)
o Each of us lives in one realm or the other.
o The principles in this passage are about life in the little flock; it’s about how the Father’s children go about life.
o We become his children when we obey the gospel (Gal. 3:26-28).
- As the Lord’s flock, may we live the prayers.
“Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.”