The Walk through Pressure - Pastor's Conference

It's great to be with you guys this morning!! I want to begin with an apology. I'm not able to come to these meetings as often as I would like because our staff meetings are on Mondays. With a seminary professor on staff, Monday's are the best time for us to meet.  

Every time I get the reminders in the mail or via email, I'm a bit conflicted. Just wanted you to know it's not because I don't want to be there or don't think it important to fellowship with my brothers in ministry!

This is a pretty good way to start our message for today. Anyone ever feel the pressure to be more places than you can physically and mentally be in a day? Ever feel, at the end of the day like you just didn't get every thing done you should have gotten done?

 Last week was a 67 hour week for me. On top of counseling sessions, staff meetings, special called leadership team meetings and preparing for yesterday's message, I also had a funeral on Friday and a wedding on Saturday.

 By the way, you might wonder why I gave you my hours. I'm not required by the church to log my hours, but I do! Why? I discovered many years ago, that a minister's job is never, ever done!

 There's always going to be someone you haven't reached, someone that needs your counsel, someone who could use a visit, an issue that will need your attention and plans for future sermons and series that need to be developed!

 If you don't keep track of all you've done, it will be easy to forget just how many hours you've already put in and the weight of the things undone, needs unmet, will cause you to continue to work even to the point of neglecting your family.

 James Dobson once said,

"What does it profit a pastor to gain the whole world and lose his own family?"

 I've learned to keep my hours,  so when I take my day off on Tuesday, I can do it guilt free because I know how much time I put in last week and that I've already got over 20 hours in just two day. This makes for a guilt free day off!!!

 One of the reasons I've put my day off early in the week is because the pressure of the coming Sunday is far enough away to give me the freedom to concentrate on family.

 Let me just tell you quickly why the return of the Sabbath is a pressure to deal with. Some years ago I realized the 30 to 40 minutes I preach on Sunday morning is actually consuming human life!

 If you've got 500 folks at 30 minutes each, that's 250 hours of human life. That's almost eleven 24 hour days of human life. If I've half-heartedly prepared for a message, I've waisted 250 hours of human life.

 Most ministers would never think of misspending money put in the plate, but some never give a second thought to mis-spending people's time!

Ok, now that I've put the pressure on you and added to the stress you were already feeling, let me share with you a message I pray will help you deal with the stresses of ministry.

It's so important you not only hear the message today, but that you apply the principles. For some of you, your life literally depends on it.

Did you know stress can be a killer? Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier clinical professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine made the following statement in his book, "Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer"...

"For the first time in history the major causes of death and disease are stress related disorders."

This statement screams at ministers to learn how God would have us deal with the pressure! What better way to do this than to look to Jesus and His example!
Let's pray and ask God to teach us by His Word and let His Spirit inspire us through the example of Christ!!


 Today's passage of Scripture amazes me. Until I began preparing for this series, I had never noticed what we're going talk about this morning.

 We are in a series called the Walk! It is a close examination of how Jesus dealt with life. Two weeks ago we talked about the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth, the place where He was brought up. He was run out of the synagogue. They tried to kill Him, but He walked through the crowd and went on His way!

Undeterred from His mission, Jesus traveled to Capernaum and once again spoke at the synagogue. He refocused on His calling to free the captives by driving an evil spirit out of a man! He then left the synagogue. That's where our story picks up today… Luke 4:38...

38Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her.
Luke 4:38 (NIV)

39So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.
Luke 4:39 (NIV)

40When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.
Luke 4:40 (NIV)

41Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.
Luke 4:41 (NIV)

42At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.
Luke 4:42 (NIV)

43But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
Luke 4:43 (NIV)

44And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Luke 4:44 (NIV)

Talk about pressure, Jesus was under pressure every day and every where He went! He preached in the synagogue and healed a demon possessed man and then went to Simon's house. Simon's mother was sick, so He heals her.

Remember it was still the Sabbath, but as soon as evening came, the Sabbath ended, so the people were no longer afraid of the religious leaders and they started bringing all of their sick to Jesus to be healed. Even more demon possessed people were set free.   

What a day it had been for Jesus!! He really didn't get much of a break. Very early the next morning He got up and went out to a solitary place, but the people eventually found Him and began putting pressure on Him to stay in their village.

But Jesus, knowing others needed His message, was immediately reminded of His responsibility to preach the good news to as many towns as He could. And talk about pressure…He knew His ministry time was very limited.

As it ended up, He would only have about 3 1/2 years to accomplish all the ministry He was supposed to accomplish.

How in the world did Jesus respond to all this pressure without becoming overcome by stress? Let's take a look...

He responded by getting away to a Solitary Place!!

42At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place...
Luke 4:42 (NIV)

Now we know He didn't have long before the people found Him, but whatever time He had, was absolutely necessary for Jesus to keep the pressure from stressing Him out!

Why did He seek out a solitary place? He needed time to be alone with The Father! He needed time to Pray! I'm sure He meditated on Scripture during this time as well. And sometimes He just needed to regroup and get His thoughts together.

When Jesus received the terrible news of John the Baptist being beheaded by King Herod, Jesus responded by getting away...

13When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
Matthew 14:13 (NIV)

Listen to what happened right after He had fed over five thousand folks with two fish and five loaves of bread...

22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.
Matthew 14:22 (NIV)

23After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
Matthew 14:23 (NIV)

If Jesus needed alone time, do you think you can survive without it? You can't. I don't care how social you are or how much you love people, God created us with a need to be alone with no one else but God!

It is a real need for each of us. Without it, stress will build to the breaking point. Why does it need to be a solitary place?
Why do you need to be alone?

We need time with God absent of distractions. We need to focus our attention on God alone and sharing our heart with Him in concentrated and meditative prayer!

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

Once again we ask the question, How in the world did Jesus respond to all this pressure without becoming overcome by stress?

He responded by finding time to Rest!!

Everyone needs a break at times. Everyone! Even Jesus needed to rest. When I was just beginning in ministry, I was trying to win the whole world to Jesus right now!!

My very wise Dad pulled me aside one day and told me he was very worried about me because I was burning the candle at both ends. I think I told him I'd rather burn out than fizzle out!

He told me even Jesus rested at times and reminded me of the following passage...

22One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.
Luke 8:22 (NIV)

23As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
Luke 8:23 (NIV)

24The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.
Luke 8:24 (NIV)

25“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
Luke 8:25 (NIV)

26They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee.
Luke 8:26 (NIV)

27When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. ...Luke 8:27 (NIV)

 I said, "See there, as soon as they got to where they were going, He was right back in the thick of ministry!!"
To which my Dad replied...

 "At least He had the boat ride!"

 He had me there!!!
I read something really impressive while preparing for this message.
Dr. John Edmund Haggai wrote the following in a book first published July 1959, the year I was born...

 "Learn how to work under pressure without working under tension. This you do as you have periodic 'breaks' in your activities…It is only by this procedure that your heart continues to work for seventy years or so...

 And believe me it works. It pumps enough blood through your body every twenty-four hours to fill a railway tanker…The reason it can do this incredible amount of work is because when it is beating moderately it works only nine hours out of twenty-four!"

 Jesus once said this to His disciples…

31Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Mark 6:31 (NIV)

32So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
Mark 6:32 (NIV)

 Is there any other teaching about resting in Scripture? How about the Old Testament teaching to have a day of rest?

2By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
Genesis 2:2 (NIV)

3And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Genesis 2:3 (NIV)

 Now I want to say something here…I'm not a legalist when it comes to working on Sunday. However, I deeply respect Chic-Filet and the fact they give their people a chance to rest and to worship. Everyone needs a day of rest and if you don't have to work on Sunday, rest.

 If you do have to work on Sunday, most of us do, then pick another day as your Sabbath and rest and worship.  Again, I take Tuesday as my day off. It's the day I rest from ministry and spend time with family and sometimes just walk my trails and take pictures.

Photography is my hobby and I thank God for it. People ask me how I find time to take pictures? My camera rides shotgun with me. If I have to go to New Orleans to visit a hospital, I leave early and stop at Irish Bayou to take pictures of the Pelicans.

I've finally learned I'm not superman and need rest!
One more Scripture on this concept of rest. Jesus summed it up beautifully...

28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:30 (NIV)

Life is hard and sometimes ministry is hard, but when you come to Jesus for rest, you'll find His yoke is easy and His burden is light. In other words, He won't put more pressure on you, He will help you carry your load!!! That's what He does. He serves, He helps, He cares!!

Now I know some folks may think I'm stetting it a little bit on this next point, but I hope you'll see my reasoning.

Once again we ask the question, How in the world did Jesus respond to all this pressure without becoming overcome by stress?

Jesus responded to pressure by staying in Good Physical Condition!

I don't have a particular verse of Scripture that states how physically strong Jesus was. However, I want to point out several things to you...

He faced Satan in the desert for 40 days and at the same time fasted. Very few people are strong enough for that!

And Jesus single handedly ran the money changers out of the Temple!!

As I thought about Jesus' ministry, I realized something. He didn't set up a church office and have people come to Him! He went to the people and most of the time He walked! In fact the only time we see Him riding a donkey was when He borrowed one for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Jesus walked by the sea, He walked in the mountains, He walked in the deserts. We know Jesus was very strong physically when we see look at the details of His crucifixion.

Many people would have died after the beating, but Jesus endured that and still carried His Cross much of the distance and remained alive for hours on the Cross even after being nailed to the tree, crown of thorns and all!

During Jesus' life, He faced many pressures, but His physical shape helped Him have strength to endure the pressures without being stressed out!

Okay, here's what the world's experts at the Mayo Clinic say about physical exercise. Let me remind you, that while we've only figured some of these things out in our modern world of medicine, God has known about them because He created us with these traits!

"Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits…

It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.

Although this function is often referred to as a runner's high, a…game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.

It's meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool you'll often find that you've forgotten the day's irritations and concentrated only on your body's movements.

As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism,  can help you remain calm and clear in everything that you do.

 It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.

Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life."

Here's what God's Word has to say...

19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
1 Corinthians 6:19 (NIV)

20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:20 (NIV)

Take care of your body. Exercise and eat right. I don't have time this morning to get into the eat right thing, so I'll just let the Holy Spirit deal with your heart on that one!
Shall we move quickly to my last point before I get into big trouble...

 And last, but definitely not least...

 Jesus responded to pressure by focusing on His Goals!

46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:46 (NIV)

Jesus felt the pressure of being the light of the world. I can't imagine the pressure of knowing your the world's only hope! But rather than despise the pressure, Jesus embraced it and became the light of the world!

Pressure is not all bad. The pressure to meet a deadline, to achieve a goal, to take care of an obligation, to provide for your family, to live a Godly life, to achieve a dream, to save a life, to save a soul, these are all good pressures to have.

When you feel the pressures of life, don't focus on the pressure, or the level of difficulty of the challenge, rather, focus on the outcome, the benefit, the goal, the achievement, the blessing!
It's what Jesus did...

2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:3 (NIV)

4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4 (NIV)

And listen to Peter's advice to each of us...

6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
1 Peter 1:6 (NIV)

7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:7 (NIV)

8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
1 Peter 1:8 (NIV)

9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:9 (NIV)

And then there was Paul's amazing words to the Philippian Church...  

10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Philippians 3:10 (NIV)

11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:11 (NIV)

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Philippians 3:12 (NIV)

13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
Philippians 3:13 (NIV)

14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

 When you know God is working His plans in your life and has you in His hands, you prevent stress because your faith helps you see beyond your circumstances.

 No matter how severe, you realize God's working something greater in your life. Jesus gave us a perfect example of this when He was on trial before Pilate...

10“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
John 19:10 (NIV)

11Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
John 19:11 (NIV)

Jesus had such confidence because He knew nothing could take place in His life without The Father's permission and if it was His time to make the sacrifice, then it was His time and Pilate really didn't have the power he thought he had.

Do you realize what strength this kind of faith response to pressure can bring into your life? What ability to handle pressure and stave off stress?

When money is tight and tithes are down...
Your faith tells you, it's God's church and He will provide for its needs as well as for my family!

Or your health report comes back with some sobering news. Your faith responds by saying, "I'll take the steps my doctor tells me to take, but ultimately my life is in His hands!"
That kind of attitude right there may add years to your life!

Or some some ministry door closes in your face! Your faith response says, "Wow, I wonder what God's up to? He must have something much better for me and I can't wait to find out what it is!"

 You see, no matter what kind of pressure life throws at you, just keep your eyes on Jesus and know He has a plan for your life and respond accordingly to the pressures and you will overcome!

 So remember…

1. Find a solitary place to commune with God through prayer and meditation on His Word!

2. Don't forget to make time to rest! Even Jesus had to rest, and don't forget, God rested on the seventh day!

3. Don't forget to take care of your body by eating right and getting exercise! Remember, It is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

4. Focus on God's goals and plans for your life!

11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
Jeremiah 29:12 (NIV)

13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

 End of sermon

Sermon preparation work:

Essence of the Text in a Sentence - ESS: The pressures of ministry followed Jesus even when He left the synagogue!
Essence of the Sermon in a Sentence - ESS: The way in which Jesus responded to pressure allowed Him to handle it without becoming stressed out!
Object of the Sermon in a Sentence - OSS: I want my hearers to learn from Jesus how to respond to the pressures of life so they don't become stressed out!
Probing Question: How did Jesus respond to the pressures of life without becoming stressed out!
Unifying Word: Response
Transitional Sentence: Let's look at the ways Jesus responded to the pressures He faced!

Small Group Leader Material for our small groups!

Sermon Summary: This message is based on the story of Jesus’ interaction with a man covered with leprosy. Jesus seemed to always be in the right place at the right time to meet those with tremendous needs! The reason for this was His intentional efforts to be out and among the people! Jesus showed great compassion to this man with His willingness to actually reach out and touch the man. Back in Jesus’ day lepers were social outcast and were not to be touched. However, Jesus wanted to heal the man from his leprosy as well as the emotional trauma that came with being an outcast. The leper asked Jesus if He was willing to heal him and Jesus said, “I am willing!” This message also points out the stark difference between the leper who knew he needed physical healing and the pharisees who were blinded to their spiritual sickness. The message for Christians today is the question of whether or not one is willing to be placed in a position to show compassion to those in desperate need of a touch from God!

Community Discussion Guide

1. Have you ever had an experience where someone’s compassion made difference in your life? How so?

2. Jesus intentionally placed Himself in places where people were in great need of compassion. Are you willing and available to let God place you in places and situations to show compassion? What scares you about this?
Phil 2:1  If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
Phil 2:2  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
Phil 2:3  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Phil 2:4  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Phil 2:5  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

3. Jesus actually touched the leper with His hand and through this simple act brought emotional healing to his man. While we may not be asked to touch the  physical wounds of an injured person, what are some ways we might be asked to bring a touch of God into someones life spiritually? Example: Building a relationship with someone who has a boatload of messy trouble in their life.
2 Cor 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
2 Cor 1:4  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

4. When the leper asked Jesus if He was willing to heal him, Jesus replied, “I am willing.” There are many people who feel as if Jesus would not have compassion on them because of their failures, shortcomings and sins. Why is this simply not true?
John 6:37  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
John 6:38  For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
John 6:39  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
John 6:40  For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."