Jesus begs us to pull down mountains. Don’t lower your goals to ant hills just because you think more important goals are impossible, or pursuing them would cause you more “stress” than you can “handle”.
When goals are important enough for the uncertainty about whether you can reach them – the adventure – to cause you “stress”, then giving up on them will cause you something worse: despair. Depression.
The rest of the Gospel message is that God equips us with the power to take down as much evil as we will allow to trouble us!
Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily [truly] I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
If you make your goals low enough, you can be “successful”. You can even be “perfect”. You can perfectly reach them. But you will be a perfect vegetable. Bored. The guy who hid his talent under the bed hid it “perfectly”, but you may not like where he went. Matthew 25:24-30.
Where success is guaranteed, there can be no adventure. God made life an adventure by removing boring predictability.
That is, we can’t predict how far we will succeed and where we might stumble. We don’t control enough resources to reach higher than ant hills.
Adventure movies. When we watch adventure movies we always trust the hero will win in the end, although occasionally a traitorous script writer will let the hero die or even fail. But we never know how he will win, how much he will win, or how much he might forfeit before he stops running from the mountain and starts running after it. Only because of what we don’t know, the risks and dangers along the way keep us on the “edge of our seat”.
Yet nobody I know calls this experience “stress”. Everybody I know pays good money to feel it.
The vicarious experience is marketed as a “thriller”, as “exciting”, and as “entertainment”. Millions pay billions for the experience. The first 40 of the “100 Best Adventure Movies” grossed $6,207,560,000. The figure would be a lot higher if it were adjusted for inflation, since several of the movies were over 50 years old when the value of a dollar was 7.5 times as high as now.
Although we know the hero will live and marry the pretty girl, because we generally have faith in script writers, we realize the hero doesn’t know. He isn’t sure the next bullet will miss him. He doesn’t know his own inner weaknesses won’t trip him.
That is our experience as we follow the script life gives us. We don’t know if we will succeed. We don’t know if our own carelessness or laziness will cause us to “drop” victory’s “ball”.
Whether life is an adventure or a swamp of stress depends on where we look. When our eyes are on adventure’s uncertainties – the “storms” of life – we “stress” over every bullet whizzing by.
Matthew 14:28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
The popular heroes are the ones who run to danger, knocking down every bad guy and monster in their way, with no apparent fear, but only confidence that they will win. They seem stress-free. They hardly ever seem tired.
The impression that gives is that they are in control. They have thought about every danger and are ready for it. They can take safety and victory for granted, and run with joy.
The believable heroes, however, know they won’t be ready for every attack. They get tired. They don’t assume they will reach every goal. But if they are stopped they want to go down fighting, and they want to be fighting the right mountain.
They are not worry-free. But faith keeps stress from sapping their energy. Faith transforms worry into a tool to keep them focused on their mountain, not taking victory for granted.
Life adventure. What if you knew you would succeed? Wouldn’t that assurance take away most of your stress?
To the extent we know we will succeed, we have no stress. No matter how big the goal.
The part of the Gospel Message that you don’t read about in Romans Road tracts is that exactly that kind of stress-free adventure, knocking down evil as big as mountains, is precisely the kind of “real living” the Bible is talking about when it uses the word “life”.
Don’t believe me? Just one example: notice how the Bible treats the word “life” in the following passage. Notice that “life” can end while physical life continues. So “life” can’t mean mere physical life, nor can it mean eternity in Heaven. It is some kind of “full life” far beyond mere physical existence, that God makes available here and now, without making us wait for Heaven.
Notice also that one can “die” while still physically alive: so “death”, here, can’t mean Hell, or mere physical death. One can live, and die, and live again, all before one physically dies! This “death” is some kind of “spiritual death”, perhaps involving stress or fear, that can ruin our physical life well before our physical bodies die.
Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died….8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
What kind of “life” is the Bible talking about? Could it be a life full of faith, transforming God’s vision for us into adventure?
What kind of “death” is the Bible talking about? Could it be a life full of doubt, transforming God’s goals for us into stress, despair, and depression?
Stress is the opposite of faith. To stress is to be realistic about our own limits, but to be in denial about God’s promises to share His infinite power with us when we go after the mountains He makes us aware of.
Stress robs our enjoyment of life even when we live in luxury, safe, protected by God. Stress can make us experience as much Hell as is possible before we die, even if God has put us in paradise, where He had put Job, the richest, most influential man in the world, Job 29. Yet Job couldn’t enjoy it because he lived in fear. Job 3:25. In fact, he lived in fear of the very tragedies which God later allowed!
God wants us to “fear” Him, Ecclesiastes 12:13, only in the way we “fear” electricity if we violate its rules. But fear of God is impossible except to the extent we believe He controls everything else, so therefore to the extent we fear God we can fear nothing else. And we can fear God little because His Word tells of His Love.
God doesn’t want us living in fear, as Job lived. How can God deliver a man from his own imaginary terror? Only by putting him through what he fears so he can learn that with God, there is victory, and nothing to fear!
God put Job through what he feared most so he could learn there is a “song even in the night”, 35:10. God granted Job what he desired most, in the middle of what he feared most! Job desired, above all, to be able to talk directly with God. Job 13:3, 22, 9:35, 16:21, 23:3-7, 31:35. God spoke to Job for 4 entire chapters of the Bible! Job 38-41.
Clinging to Stress. If we cling to our stress, justifying it, calling it “realistic”, accepting that it is as fixed as God, so that talk of healing it only irritates us, there is a danger that we may still cling to it even after we die so that we will be unable to enjoy Heaven. Maybe this has something to do with why “the fearful and unbelieving” are at the top of the list of those who will be in Hell, in Revelation 21:8.
Romans 7:9 says .God’s Commandments cause sin to “revive”. How is that possible? Could it be that God’s commandments reveal to us – clarify for us – what is most important to us, but when we understand how much higher they are than we can reach, and our knowledge exceeds our faith that God is reaching with us, we faint with doubt and give up?
And stress?And sink in despair, depression, and fear? Which is sin?
Could that be what Romans 7:9 means?
What kind of “sin” can cause such a “death” that is not physical? Can “sin” mean not just refusal to meet another’s goals for us, but failure to reach our own goals?
Traditionally we think “sin” means God’s goals for us, which are often different than our own goals. But the word “sin” translates the Greek word “hamartia”, which means “to miss the mark”. That is, to miss our target. To not reach our goals. To fail. It is impossible to “miss” a target at which we never aimed.
So the focus of the word “sin” is not our failure to do what someone else wants us to do. It is acts, or failures to act, that hurt ourselves.
Just as children who disobey their parents hurt themselves more than their parents because their parent’s rules are mostly not for themselves but for their children, part of the rest of the Gospel message is that God’s goals for us are not at all for His benefit but for ours. Therefore when we disobey God, it is ourselves we hurt; the target we fail to hit is our own, we tragically discover.
Job 35:6 If you sin, it does not hurt God. Even if your sins are too many to count, that does nothing to God. 7 And if you are good, that does not help God. He gets nothing from you. 8 Job, the good and bad things you do affect only other people like yourself.
There is an amazing article about sin on Wikipedia. It is not listed under the word “sin” but under the Greek word “hamartia”, which the New testament translates “sin”. It barely addresses the Bible’s use of the word, but focuses on what it meant in Greek literature, which is what the word meant when it was written in our New Testament.
Its focus was not on the violation of someone else’s laws, but on the harm to the sinner himself. Some tragic consequences of our actions, we anticipate; others, we don’t; some, we suspect but try to ignore. The Bible certainly tells us that “sin” violates God’s commands, but the Bible never even implies that God wants for us anything different than what is best for us – what will best satisfy our deepest desires.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.
God commands through Moses,
“For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus 11:45.
Theologies which stop at saying “sin is violation of God’s laws” confuse what God offers us by warning us of sin. God’s warnings are not merely about minimum requirements we must meet to get into Heaven. Things we must do and not do or God will punish us with Hell. God’s warnings about sin are a plea for us to grab life by the tail and hang on for a wild ride to victory, starting now. If you stress over the “little mountains” to which God draws our attention here on Earth, along with His promise of infinite resources to pull them down, are you going to like the unimaginably greater responsibilities God will lay before us in Heaven?
Luke 19:16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
Romans 6:13 urges victory. It urges us to not give up our bodies to the emotions and rationales of failure, but to give them to God, and live!
Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
Maybe you think it is OK to stress or worry when, for example, you have a gun pointed at you.
But stress then would only be possible if you forget that God has His finger on the man’s finger on the trigger, and that even if God allows the bullet to fire He knows how to stop it before it gets inside you as He did for George Washington and in many military situations since for those who trusted the promises of Psalm 91.
God doesn’t always save His People from harm, but we may always trust God to provide us what we need to do His Will.
So please, set your goals high. As high as mountains. If “stress” is your reason for aiming low, then to warm up for pulling down mountains, make getting rid of it your preliminary goal. Trust God to “handle” it. He likes “handling” stuff for us.