(The following is a summary of two sermons preached by Michael Larson in November, 2020.)
Faith in Times of Testing – Part 8
Text: James 1:21
I want us to look at a faith that leads to emotional health. The truth is, you can't be spiritually healthy if you're emotionally unhealthy. And you can't be spiritually mature if you're emotionally immature. And that's why today's message is so important on emotional health. Romans 12:11-12 says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” We're going to talk about how to keep your spiritual fervor, how to keep your emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual reserves up so that you will not be lacking in zeal.
1. Show grace to myself and others.
To make it through this crisis, you need to treat yourself, and you need to treat other people, the way God treats you. How does God treat you? Graciously. With grace. With mercy. With forgiveness.
James 4:6, it talks about God's grace and it says this: "God loves to give us more grace. He opposes the prideful, but He gives grace to the humble." God loves to give grace. He opposes proud people but He gives grace to the humble. Why does God oppose the prideful and the arrogant? Because they think they can do it all by themselves. They don't think they need God. They don't think they need God's grace. They don't think they need His mercy or forgiveness. But when we're humble, and when we admit that we don't have enough resources to make it through this situation, God opens the floodgates of heaven and He pours out His grace on the humble.
2. Start and end each day refueling my soul.
How do you refuel your soul? By getting into God's Word every day. James talks about this in James 1:21, he says, "Humbly accept God's word planted in your heart. It is able to save your souls." God says is word, the Bible, is able to save our souls. Now, if the Bible can save your soul, it can also feed your soul, it can also restore your soul, it can recharge your soul, it can refresh your soul. As David says in Psalm 23:3, "he refreshes my soul." And Psalm 92:2 says, "Every morning, I thank God for His love, and every evening, I thank Him for His faithfulness." Read your Bible at the beginning and end of each day.
3. Set and stick with a routine.
When everything's changing, if something's predictable, if something's routine, that gives you stability, that helps refresh you. Here's what the Bible says in Ephesians 5:15-16. "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” So live wisely, not foolishly. Make the most of your time, because these are difficult, evil days. You need to have a routine.
4. Stop watching so much news.
News tends to be mostly all negative, so for your own mental, and emotional, and spiritual health, you need to monitor your media intake. Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23, "Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your vision is good, your whole being will be full of light. "But if you're focused on the bad, "your life will be full of darkness." Here's the point, what I see is what I become. Proverbs 15:14 says this in the New Living Translation. "A wise person is hungry for truth, "while the fool feeds on trash."
Are you feeding on trash? There’s a lot of trash out there in the media. Psalm 119:37, it says a kind of prayer. "Keep me from paying attention to what is worthless." Instead of browsing the internet, maybe read a book, or play a game, or do a puzzle, or go bird watching. Anything besides watching the news.
5. Schedule a daily or weekly connection with the people you enjoy. Fellowship.
You need to stay connected to your family or small group or friends. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to "Speak encouraging words to each other." That's what you wanna do when you connect with people. Speak encouraging, not discouraging, words to each other.
6. Share your feelings instead of stuffing them.
I'm talking about all the negative ones that you've been bound to have felt during this pandemic. Anxiety, fear, boredom, frustration. Feelings are meant to be felt. All of the emotions you have is because you're made in the image of God. They're neither good nor bad, they're just emotions. The Bible says in Galatians 6:2, share each other's troubles and problems. That means we need to share what we’re feeling, okay? Because part of your troubles, part of your problems are the emotions you're feeling. Share each other's troubles and problems,
7. Seek advice before making major decisions.
When you’re under stress, your brain drops to lower levels, so you're not thinking your best. So before you make any major decisions, it's a good idea for you to check with other people. This is not a good time to make major decisions on your own. Proverbs 15:22 tells us that Our plans often fail because we don't seek advice. But listening to good counsel will bring success. Proverbs 11:14 says, “There is safety in seeking multiple counsel.”
8. Space renewal breaks throughout my day.
Shorter breaks taken more often will help you emotionally far more than one large break. So what you should periodically get up, stretch your body, breathe deeply, maybe go outside.
9. Serve someone suffering more than you.
Look around and you'll find somebody in a worse situation than you are. For your own mental and emotional health, you need to get the attention off yourself and you need to focus on somebody else who's hurting more than you are. You need to give back.
James 1:27. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” He's talking about public charity and private purity. Public charity, help the people who are most needy, and private purity. Serving others who have greater needs than you actually helps you refill your emotional and spiritual tank. Proverbs 11:25 promises the generous prosper and are satisfied. And those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. You wanna be refreshed yourself? Start refreshing somebody else. Look for somebody to help. Be a servant to others.
10. Control what's controllable and trust God for the rest.
God gave you a lot of His will when He gave you a brain. And he gave your brain the ability to make good choices and He gave you a will to choose. And He expects you to make wise choices. James 2:22 give us an example of the balance between God's part and my part from Abraham. “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” From Abraham's example, we see that his faith and his actions, God's part and our part, worked together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.