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The Word For Today

Be one of the 10 per cent



'Didn't I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?' Luke 17:17 NLT

One day Jesus healed ten men of leprosy, which at the time was a death sentence because there was no known cure for it. Amazingly, only one of them remembered to come back and thank him.

What's the story with the other nine? Were they too busy to be thankful? Surely they felt grateful, yet they didn't take time express it. Did they just get caught up in other things and forget? Were they too cautious to be thankful? Maybe they thought their healing wouldn't last, so they wanted to give it time before announcing it. Or maybe they were concerned that Jesus wanted something in return that they were either unwilling or unable to give. Were they too self-centred to be thankful? In some ways, the sick life was a simpler life. Now they had to get a job, take responsibility and play a role in society. Were they too arrogant to be thankful? Maybe they thought that given enough time, they would have recovered by themselves. Plus, to be grateful is to admit to being needy. Who wants to show weakness when you have an image to protect?

If this story is any indication, nine out of ten of us have a problem with gratitude - at least when it comes to expressing it. Don't be like that. Be one of the 10 per cent! In three back-to-back psalms - 105, 106, and 107 - David repeats similar words: 'Give thanks to the Lord; for he is good! For his mercy endures forever.' Don't let a day pass without remembering God's goodness to you and thanking him for it.

Soulfood: Gen 1 Gen 2:1-3 John 1:1-18,

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See the bigger picture



'A great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.' 1 Corinthians 16:9 NKJV

One day the Chamber of Commerce in a small town invited a successful businessman to come and speak. The local economy was bad and they were discouraged, so his job was to motivate them. He took a large piece of white paper and made a red dot in the centre of it. 'What do you see?' he asked the audience. One person replied, 'I see a red dot.' The speaker said, 'Fine, but what else do you see?' Others chimed in, 'A red dot.' The speaker asked, 'Don't you see anything else besides the dot?' The audience responded with a resounding 'no!' The speaker said, 'You've overlooked the most important thing; you've missed seeing the sheet of paper!' Then he went on to explain that in life we are often distracted by small, dot-like failures and experiences. They keep us from seeing the blessings and successes that are more important than the disappointments that try to monopolise our attention and drain our energy.

Paul wrote, 'A great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries' (1 Corinthians 16:9 NKJV). Opportunity and obstacles - they go together like macaroni and cheese or fish and chips. Now, Paul didn't deny the reality of the opposition he faced; he just chose to focus on the opportunity it presented. The poet wrote, 'Two men looked through prison bars. One saw mud, the other stars.'

What are you looking at? Are you so preoccupied with what is that you've lost sight of what can be? If so, you need to step back and ask God to help you see the bigger picture.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 11-13 Matt 26:69 - 27:10 Ps 13 Pro 21:22-27,

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Establish your core convictions



'Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.' Daniel 1:8 NIV

What was Daniel's problem? What was wrong with eating the best food in the country? Most people lived on a meagre diet. Daniel was going to have the opportunity to eat, literally, like a king. Why the hard line? When you dig down into the cultural realities of the situation, more seems to be at stake. A Babylonian feast was always eaten in honour of the gods. So whenever you sat down to a meal, it wasn't just dining that you participated in, but an act of worship. This food had previously been sacrificed to a pagan god. For a Jewish teenager who took his faith in God seriously, participation would mean compromising who he was called to be. By eating their meal, he would be worshipping their god. And for Daniel, that was a bridge too far. It was about compromising his character, and that he would not do.

You don't discover your convictions when the pressure is on; you decide them in advance. It's during the good times that you determine what you will or won't do during the hard times. The psalmist said: 'How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you' (Psalm 119:9-11 NIV).

Victorious Christian living is encapsulated in these three statements: (1) 'By living according to your word.' (2) 'I seek you with all my heart.' (3) 'I have hidden your word in my heart.'

Soulfood: 1 Sam 8-10 Matt 26:47-68 Ps 54 Pro 21:18-21,

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Overcoming stress 8



'I will give you rest.' Matthew 11:28 CEV

If the load you're carrying is too heavy for you to bear, Jesus didn't give it to you. Others may have, or you may have taken it upon yourself, but Jesus had no part in it. 'If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light' (Matthew 11:28-30 CEV).

The final stress management principle Jesus taught us is: give your stress to him. You'll never enjoy complete peace of mind until you develop a relationship with the Prince of Peace. Note, Jesus didn't say, 'Come to me and I'll give you more guilt, more burdens, more stress and more worries,' even though that's what a lot of religious people seem to teach! Some churches create pressure instead of relieving it. But Jesus said, 'I want to give you rest. I'm the stress-reliever. When you get in harmony with me I'll give you inner strength.' Only Jesus can transform your lifestyle from stressful to satisfied. The greatest source of stress comes from trying to live our lives apart from the God who made us, trying to go our own way and be our own god.

What do you need? If you've never committed your life to Christ you need a transformation. Give him your life with all its stresses and say, 'Lord, please give me a new life. Replace the pressure I feel with the peace you offer. Help me to follow your principles of stress management.'

Soulfood: 1 Sam 4-7 Matt 26:30-46 Ps 52 Pro 21:17,

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Overcoming stress 7



'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' Mark 6:31 NIV

Take time out to enjoy life. Jesus did that. '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). Jesus not only took time for relaxation and recreation, he told those who'd been working hard without relief, 'You deserve a break today. Let's get some rest...take time off.' So they got into a boat, rode to the other side of the lake, and went out into the desert. Jesus was able to handle stress because he knew when to relax.

Rest and recreation in life aren't optional, and they're not 'unspiritual'. Rest is so important that God included it in the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath was made for mankind because God knows our physical, emotional and spiritual constitutions demand regular periodic breaks. Jesus survived stress because he enjoyed life. J.B. Phillips's paraphrase puts it like this: 'The Son of Man came, enjoying life' (Matthew 11:19 PHPS). And Paul tells us that God has richly provided 'everything for our enjoyment' (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV). Balance is the key to stress management.

Today if you feel burned out, check two things: (1) Are you drawing daily on God's grace, or are you depending on yourself? (2) Do you regularly set aside time for rest and recreation? The word 'recreation' means 'restore, refresh or create anew'. Are you getting the picture? If you burn out, what use will you be to God's kingdom, to your family or to yourself?

Soulfood: 1 Sam 1-3 Matt 26:17-29 Ps 34 Pro 21:14-16,

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Overcoming stress 6



'Very early in the morning...Jesus...prayed.' Mark 1:35 NIV

Make prayer your daily habit. Prayer is the great stress-reliever. Jesus began his day with prayer. He often stopped throughout the day to pray, and he ended each day with prayer. Now, if Jesus made time for prayer as busy as he was, how much more do you need to do it! Time alone with God can be a decompression chamber for life's stresses. We talk to God in prayer, tell him what's on our minds, and let him talk to us as we read the Bible. Then we look at our schedule, evaluate our priorities and wait for instructions. If we lived that way, the pharmaceutical industry would go broke because we wouldn't need a fraction of the tranquillisers they market!

Many of our problems come from our inability to sit still. We just don't know how to be quiet. God says, 'Be still, and know that I am God' (Psalm 46:10 NKJV). And one reason we don't know God more personally is because we can't be still. We're too busy to be quiet and just think. Someone said, 'It seems to be an ironic habit of man that when he loses his way he doubles his speed.' The story's told of a World War II Air Force pilot who flew over the Pacific. When he radioed the tower and the controller asked for his location, he replied, 'I don't know - but I'm making record time!' A lot of us are like that, speeding through life without knowing where we're headed.

We need to start our morning with prayer like Jesus did, and stop throughout the day to pray again and recharge our spiritual batteries.

Soulfood: S of Sol 5-8 Matt 26:1-16 Ps 39 Pro 21:9-13,

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Overcoming stress 5



'He appointed twelve...that he might send them out.' Mark 3:14 NIV

Don't try to do it all yourself. One of the reasons we get stressed out is because we think that everything depends on us. Not Jesus. He enlisted, trained and empowered twelve others so they could share the load. He delegated his work. He got other people involved.

So why don't we do that? Two reasons: (1) Perfectionism. We think, 'If I want a job well done, I'll do it myself.' That's a nice idea, but often it doesn't work well because there are just too many things to be done. We simply don't have the time and talent to do everything ourselves. It's really an egotistical attitude that says, 'Nobody, but nobody, can do it the way I can!' Do you think Jesus could've done a better job than his disciples? Of course, but even knowing that, he still let them do the work. Why? Because we need to let other people make some of the mistakes in order for them to learn, the same way the disciples learned. Don't rob others of an education. (2) Insecurity. 'What if I turn this responsibility over to someone else and they do a better job than I do?' That possibility is threatening to many of us. But you won't feel threatened if you know who you are, who you're trying to please, what you want to accomplish, and the one thing you need to focus on.

In order to be effective you must get other people involved, because you can't focus on more than one thing at a time and do it well.

Soulfood: S of Sol 1-4 Matt 25:41-46 Ps 3 Pro 21:4-8,

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Overcoming stress 4



'I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God... that is why I was sent.' Luke 4:43 NIV

Focus on one thing at a time. Are you being pulled in different directions? People constantly tried to do this to Jesus and distract him from his goal in life. The Bible says, 'At 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). Jesus was about to leave and they tried to make him stay. Here's how he responded: 'I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom...to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent' (Luke 4:43 NIV).

Jesus refused to be distracted by less important matters. Indeed, he was a master at this. Everybody tried to interrupt him. Everyone had a Plan B for his life. But in essence he responded, 'No, I must keep moving towards my goal.' And he kept right on doing what he knew God had told him to do. He was determined. He was persistent. He was focused.

So when you have a dozen different things to do, pick the most important one and stick with it until it's complete. Then pick the second most important and do the same thing, until you've completed the list. When we diffuse our efforts we're ineffective; when we concentrate our efforts we're more successful. Diffused light produces a hazy glow, whereas light that's concentrated produces fire. Jesus didn't let interruptions prevent him from concentrating on his goal. He didn't let others make him tense or stressed or irritated. And he is your example!

Soulfood: Gen 24:1-51 2 Cor 6:14-18 2 Cor 7:1,

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Overcoming stress 3



'I know where I came from and where I am going.' John 8:14 NIV

Know what you want to accomplish. Jesus said, 'I know where I came from and where I am going' (John 8:14 NIV). Can you say that too? Unless you plan your life and establish priorities, you'll be pressured by other people to do what they think is important. Every day you either live by priorities or you live by pressures. There's no other option. Either you decide what's important in your life or you let other people decide for you.

It's easy to operate under the tyranny of the urgent, to come to the end of your day and wonder, 'Have I accomplished anything at all? I used up a lot of energy and did a lot of things, but did I achieve anything important?' Busyness is not necessarily productivity. You may be spinning in circles but not accomplishing anything of real value. Preparation causes you to be at ease. Or to put it another way, preparation prevents pressure, whereas procrastination produces pressure. Good organisation and good preparation reduce stress because you know who you are, who you're trying to please, and what you want to accomplish. Having clearly defined goals simplifies life.

So spend a few minutes at the beginning of every day talking with God in prayer. Then look at your schedule for the day and decide: 'Is this really the way I want to spend a day of my life? Am I willing to exchange the next twenty-four valuable hours for these activities?' The right answer to those two questions will lower your stress level by helping you prioritise.

Soulfood: 2 Cor 11:16-33 2 Cor 12 2 Cor 13:1-14 Matt 25:31-40 Ps 19 Pro 21:3,

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Overcoming stress 2



'I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.' John 5:30 NIV

Know who you are trying to please. Jesus didn't try to please everybody, so isn't it foolish for you to try to do something even God doesn't do? It was a settled issue with Jesus: 'I'm going to please God, full stop!' And God replied, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' (Matthew 3:17 NKJV).

When you lose sight of who you're trying to please you'll always cave in to three things: Criticism, because you're overly concerned about what others think of you. Competition, because you're afraid somebody will get ahead of you. Conflict, because you're threatened by anyone who disagrees with you. Jesus said, 'Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [overcoming the stress of criticism, competition and conflict], shall be added to you' (Matthew 6:33 NKJV). By focusing on God's will you simplify your life! You'll always be doing the right thing, the thing that pleases him, regardless of what anybody else thinks. We love to blame stress on other people and on our obligations: 'You made me do...I have to...I've got to.' Actually, there are few things in life apart from our jobs that we must do. So what we're really saying is, 'I choose to [fill in your obligation here] because I don't want to handle the consequences.' Rarely does anybody make us do anything, so we can't blame other people for our stress.

When we feel pressured, we're choosing to let others put us there. The fact is, we're not victims unless we allow ourselves to be pressured by outside demands.

Soulfood: 2 Cor 9:1-15 2 Cor 10 2 Cor 11:1-15 Matt 25:22-30 Ps 24 Pro 21:1-2,

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