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How does sunscreen work? I mean, you’re Mom always yelled at you to have it on when you went outside. We’ve all probably failed at one time or another trying to get a tan, so how does it work anyway? You apply this sticky go to your skin and all of a sudden it what? Blocks the rays of the sun?

Well, apparently the SPF on a sunscreen bottles stands for ”Sun Protection Factor,” and refers to how well the sunscreen protects against UV radiation. Inside sunscreen there are in-organic chemicals that act as a reflectant and when applied.  The chemicals scatter the light away from the skin, similar to how white paint reflects light. Remember, the white-colored noses on beach-goers back in the day? Those were due to these compounds; but because manufacturers make the inorganic particles much smaller now, we don’t see the white color.

So that’s one answer to how sunscreen works. Another answer is…. you apply it. Right? It only works when you apply it. Carrying the bottle of sunscreen to the beach doesn’t help you.

We’re closing out a six week series on being overwhelmed. Why did we do it? Why was this a subject matter we studied? Well, because it applies to us all. I certainly became more aware of it these last weeks didn’t you? Church goers mockingly said to me, “Do you feel overwhelmed?” And do you know what? I did.

Feeling overwhelmed affects us all.

I know it affects you, many of you have come up to me, or called me or I’ve seen it out on social media how this topic has been helpful to you.

But somewhere in here, like sunscreen we need to apply it. We have to put it on if it’s going to help. We can’t just study this, we can’t just take it with us, ultimately we need to put it on – in order for it to work.

We’ve been looking at the book of Daniel these past weeks and it’s been fun to revisit those stories, but for today we’re going to need to visit our old buddy, Paul.

Who was Paul? Paul was a Pharisee, he was a Christian bounty hunter, he was a persecutor of the early church that is until he met Jesus along the roadside. A man who was once an enemy of Christ goes on to write a third of the New Testament.

Much of his writing is correspondence, it’s emails its letters and listen to what he writes to the Philippian church

Philippians 4:10-13

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

We’ve studied Philippians 4:13 on a few of these weeks and Paul adds to it by saying,  I know it what it means to have and to have not. I have lived in times of blessing and times of overwhelming. I have had food on the table and a working air conditioner a car that runs, a healthy family – and I also know what it means to be out on the street.

And through it all (he said)… “I have learned the secret.” And what does he say? What’s the secret? It’s verse 13, what does he say?

“I can do it.” (right?) I can do it.

I think being overwhelmed causes us to have doubt and anxiety and it causes us to think negative thoughts. The stacks of plates, the flat tire – it makes us all think. “I can’t do it.”

Paul says, “I feel ya – I’ve been there, but let me tell you a secret. You can. You can do it.”

Tell me something, where is Paul when he writes this book? He’s in Prison. Yes.

Look up the page a bit at verse 4, look at what he says there…..

v4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

The book of Philippians is often called the “book of joy.” Think about that….  Paul is writing ….the book of joy …..from prison. He says….

Philippians 4-9:4-9

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

The overwhelming circumstance is the UV light coming down from the oppressive, hot sun. It’s the day that is so hot, that the moment you walk outside to do a little yard work, you give up before you start.

“I can’t do this.” Do set backs and disappointments cause us to give up?

Do overwhelming circumstances cause us to quit?

Paul says,  “In those moments – Choose joy” Why? Because Joy is a choice.

Listen, in an overwhelming circumstance we can choose – we can be the victim or be the victor. Paul says we can be joyful In the Lord. With God, we can do it.

What can we do? Anything!

Now, I’m not talking about being “happy” – there is a huge difference between happiness and joy. Happiness depends upon “happenings.” When we watch a funny movie or attend a party, the circumstance brings about my happiness.

But Joy,…… the Bible tells us ….is a gift –  Joy comes from God who lives in us, not from what is “happening” outside of us.

Remember Paul is in prison when he writes this letter.  And if we understand his predicament, his circumstance, then he is obviously and understandably not “happy.” Correct? Prisoners are not happy.

Paul is in prison – his future is uncertain; and yet he says, “rejoice! Have Joy!” So Joy is not just an emotion. It is a choice; it is an attitude – it’s an attitude towards life. It’s an attitude towards overwhelming circumstances.

Paul didn’t look inward at himself or his predicament of prison, those things would only add to his feeling of being overwhelmed. No, Paul was always looking to God, trusting in God to lead and to provide.

Listen to the prophet Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk says, “though this” is happening and this and that… right? He says, “there is no fruit on the vines and the fields are failing, and the animals are gone….”  all overwhelming circumstances yes? And then he says what?

Habakkuk says “though this……I will.” Habakkuk knows that he can choose his response. He can either sink further into depression or ….rejoice in God’s presence and power.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s not in denial. Times are still bad, times are still tough, even Jesus wept, but joy says that sorrow doesn’t win. Joy says that death and illness doesn’t win. Joy says this overwhelming circumstance doesn’t win.

Happiness is the result of our happenings, but the choice to rejoice is ours every single day.

When you go to apply the lessons from Overwhelmed to your life, remember you can always choose joy.

I know it’s a hard thing to do, to smile when the world around you looks like a prison, but I want to give you some tips that might help. Paul mentions a few things in Philippians that adds to his joy and the first one is prayer.

Unburden v6 … do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

STORY: There was a man walking down road with a large sack of potatoes on his shoulder. It was so heavy ……that he had sweat on his brow and he limped when he walked……. another man driving a pickup truck saw him and pulled over man pulled over…..and offered him a ride…….the first man climbed into the passenger side,……but kept sack on his shoulder……after a while the driver looked over and said, …….”Put that sack on the floor and relax”….. the first man replied, ……no sir,…. I will not do it …’s enough that you would carry me to town,…. but I’m not gonna ask you to carry my burden to.”

And that is just what we do to the Lord sometimes. ”Why pray when you can worry?”  right?

We are carrying a burden the Lord never intended us to carry……but we are so hard headed we just won’t give it up.

When we had a question at school, we would give it to a teacher.
When we are sick and broken, we give control over to a Doctor.
When there is a legal problem that we cannot solve, we’d gladly give it to a lawyer.

But when we face difficulties and when we have burdens in life, we stubbornly keep them to ourselves.

Paul tells us very clearly, to let those overwhelming circumstances go.

Give them to God.

Did you know that prayer is actually an expression of faith in God and His promises in the Bible? Prayer says that we trust that the things that God says He will do – He will do.

Jesus says in Mark 11:24 I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received  it, and it will be yours.

The author of Hebrews 4:16 writes Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This may be your time of need. This may be your desperate hour. Don’t let it pass you by, don’t shoulder that burden a second longer. Part of your overwhelming feeling could simply be that you’re carrying something you were never meant to carry.

COUNT: Next in v8 Paul instructs us: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”

What are the things you can think about? What about how about how blessed you are! I think some of our Overwhelming thoughts come from comparison. We compare ourselves against others. We just aren’t where we want to be, or we listen to the negative voices, like we talked about last week, we look for affirmation from the wrong places. Well one way you can replace those Overwhelming thoughts is to replace them with better thoughts.

I want you to understand, ….truly understand how blessed you are this morning.

I know we often compare ourselves so let’s compare. Let’s say that we could reduce our world down to 100 people that would represent every man, woman and child on the planet. What would the statistics look like?

Out of 100 people…..

52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would not be white
30 would be white
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death: 1 would be near birth
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
6 persons would possess 598% of the entire world’s wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.
Only 1 would own a computer.

In fact if you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep — you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness — you are luckier than the million who will not survive the week.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace
— you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthiest people.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation — you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If your parents are still alive and still married —you are very rare, even in the United States

If you can read —you are ahead of two billion people who cannot read at all

If you can attend a Church without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death — you are freer than three billion people in the world.

Are you feeling blessed yet? You now if we can remember to count our blessings and give our troubles to God in prayer, it will become easier and easier to choose joy.

Because what does Paul say will happen if we stop being anxious about life? He says

TRANSFER v7 ….the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do you know what this is? How to get the Peace of God which surpasses all understanding?

I think we experience the Overwhelming of life most when we trust in our own power, wisdom and strength. But if we really want the peace of God then we need to transfer our trust and place our trust in God …. for everything.

Now if you’re here this morning and you’re a Christian, and your life overwhelming… it could be because you’ve tried doing life YOUR WAY. And I don’t mean to make this sound condemning, because I do it to –  once in awhile we all get sidetracked followin our own agendas.

In fact, even people who’ve been Christians most of their lives forget the promise from Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

And so the danger for every Christian is to put God on a shelf somewhere and make their life decisions without giving any thought to what God wants. The danger is when we spend our lives our way, spend our talents our way, and spend our money our way.

So, if you’re a Christian here today – and you’re Overwhelmed with your life – you may need to do some inner searching and ask yourself if you’ve been living life God’s way… or YOUR way.

But, now, if you’re here this morning, and you’re NOT a Christian and you’ve begun to sense how lost your life is… well then we have THE answer for you to.

Because Jesus said He had come Luke 19:10 “to seek and to save what was lost.”

This is good news for us all, this is what each person here is thankful for and so if you want to know how to OVEROME, instead of feeling OVERWHELMED then let me tell you it’s as simple as A,B,C,

Admit that you are a Sinner

There is no shame in admitting you’re not perfect. If Heaven was a reward for a perfect or a good life, none of us would measure up.

All have sinned and continue to fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)

And guess what? Once you decide to follow Jesus – you’re still not perfect. Bu right now you are surrounded by people who (like Christ) accept you as you are – faults and all.  – A Church is a family, a family made up of people who are imperfect and broken and hurting. But a family who loves their Savior (and that leads us to “B”)

Believe in Jesus

Do you believe that God became man and walked among us? Do you believe that Jesus came to show the world what things like hope and grace and love looked like? Do you believe that Jesus stands ready to offer you a new life? Jesus is the key

There is no salvation by anyone else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved . (Acts 4:12)

And so if you can admit you’re a sinner and you can believe that Jesus is King, then the Bible says we need to confess it.

Confess Jesus as Your Lord and Savior

If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

Belief and admission are the cornerstones of salvation. If this sounds like the life you want – the life you have always wanted. Then I invite you to bow your heads and pray with me.

Dear God, thank you for sending your son Jesus, so I could be your friend. Thank you for loving me, thank you for being with me all my life, even when I didn’t know it. I realize I need a savior to set me free from sin, from myself, and from all the habits, hurts and hang-ups that mess up my life. I ask you to forgive me of my sins, I want to repent and live the way you created me to live. Be the Lord of my life and save me with your grace. I want to learn to love you – trust you and become what you made me to be. Thank you for creating me and choosing me to be part of your family.

Right now by faith, I accept the gift of your son. Fill me with your peace and assurance so I can be a peacemaker, and help me to share this message of peace with others. In your name I pray – Amen

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What is this symbol? # It’s a hashtag. Well, it’s what we used to call the number sign/ pound symbol. It was used in C programming language and assembly language, but back in 2007, Chris Messina used it for the first time on Twitter to use it as a tool to form groups. Searchable content.

Now the word “hashtag” is a part of our every day culture.

we like

we share

we comment

Right now studies say that, 49% of America has a smart phone, and by 2017 70% of us will have one. I’d be curious if that number includes children.

For 80% of America its the first thing we do. That means you’re not even out of bed yet.

30% of Americans pull it out when they are at a meal with someone else. 40% of you are using it on the toilet.

25% of you are still using it while you’re driving (shame on you). 9% use it in church and the other 91% are lying about it. I don’t want to say that Americans are “addicted” to their cell phones, but let’s just say that they love them a lot.

We think on the one hand that we’re making memories when we whip the camera out, but at the same time aren’t we missing memories? We think we’re using it to stay connected with others, but aren’t we also at the same time disconnecting ourselves? How much time do we spend on the phone and on social media?

Now, some would argue that intimacy and friendships are just evolving into something new, but as with any new invention, something is also sacrificed and I think there are those that still lament what we are losing.

What else do we use cell phone for?

We use our phone to take pictures of ourselves. A selfie. Some have accredited Paul McCartney with taking the first selfie, but since then we have learned that is not true

And sure, it’s easy to blame a tool or an invention for behavior, but the truth is the problem is not with our cell phones.

The problem is that we use our cell phones for affirmation. We use them to be congratulated and wished Happy Birthday, we use our cell phones to confirm life events, and we use our cell phones to fish for compliments…

How do we do that? Oh with an ambiguous update…  “well that went terrible” and we throw it out there to the internet and we hope that someone ….bites. Why? Because we as humans need to be affirmed. We need to know that we’re ok, to know that we’re not crazy. We need affirmation with our looks, we need affirmation with our parenting, we want affirmation with our cooking, we want affirmation at work,

And wanting affirmation isn’t bad… it’s not wrong. But is our cell phone or our social media the place to get it?

The Bible says in  Luke 5:1-5

One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets.

The setting is a lake side, the scenery is boats, fishing nets and fishermen, the smell would be dead fish and water, gulls flying overhead. Notice this isn’t a bible study in a church or someone’s house and yet – the people come. And why do they come? To hear the word of God, from who? Jesus.  Jesus is not a pastor who makes the world come to him – he goes to the people – he steps into their world and he meets them there.

v3, Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

Jesus knows Peter, he just healed his Mother-in-law a few stories back. So, Peter is helping Jesus and if you’ve ever put a small boat out a little bit from shore, you’d know that the boat doesn’t just “sit there” by itself, every so often Peter will need to correct the position of the boat by rowing. So Peter is working.

Notice Jesus also ‘sits down’ to teach. Good! He’s in a row boat, that means Jesus knows good fishing boat etiquette. But that’s not why Luke puts it there – actually you’ll notice how often the bible says someone “sat down” to teach. In America, our teachers stand… but in the Middle East, their teachers sit.

v4, When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”

Simon replied, “Rabbi, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

Notice Peter gives a little push back – “you know, we just did this already.” Peter knows the best time to catch fish, at night. Now it is day and all of the fish will be hiding under rocks.

So, the idea that some landlubber from Nazareth is going to tell a seasoned fisherman what to do is preposterous. Peter knows he is dropping big thick visible nets in the daytime. He’s not going to catch anything.

v6 So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. 7 They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink.

Notice Peter “signals” for his co-workers. He doesn’t shout or call them – why? Well your voice is amplified on water and so if he suddenly broadcasts that he just found a mother-load of fish – who is going to come running? The competition. Or worse – you make a loud sudden noise and what? Scare the fish away…

v 8 When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” 9 Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. 10 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.

Notice how quickly Peter’s demeanor changes. Peter owed Jesus a favor so he took him out in his boat, paddled around while Jesus taught, then Jesus says “let’s do some fishing” and Peter thinks “yea right” and Peter calls Jesus “Rabbi.” It’s the word “episates” and it means “teacher” or “boss.”

But now his nets are bursting with fish and Peter has a sudden feeling of being in the presence of something far more than just a Rabbi and then Peter calls Jesus kyrios (Lord).

The first title just means a person who is in charge, but the second means a person who you owe your life. to.

v10, Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Jesus gives Peter some assurances, and tells him something incredible. He says, “Those talents and those gifts you have for fishing, I am going to put them to use.”

Jesus affirms Peter.

Now, a little back story, in Jewish culture, a well-known Rabbi could take his pick of the best and brightest students. It was like American Idol, the kids came to the judges to be tested and picked and only the best were selected.

There is a rabbinic saying that says, “Find a teacher, lose your ignorance.”

Jesus would later take this saying and flip it on its head by saying, “You did not choose me, I chose you.” (John 15:16)

So using this story of Jesus calling Peter and perhaps bringing it forward to 2015, there are a few things to consider about where we get our affirmation from.

1. We have to fish in the right spot

Any fisherman will tell you this is job one. You can have the best tools, the best boat, the best everything, but if you are not where the fish are – all your hard work won’t matter. Yes, we all need affirmation, but the problem is that we don’t know where to go.

Remember when photo albums used to be private? The only way you’d ever show someone your wedding pictures, or your baby’s first steps videos was if someone came over to see it. People used to dread seeing someone’s home movies. Now we can’t get enough of it. Now, our family photo albums are online for the world to see.

What is a “selfie” anyway? It’s an image of you, that you put out to the world in the hopes that someone else will…. what? Like it.

Yea but who else is going to tell me I’m pretty? God will.

Who is going to tell me that I’m strong? God will.

Hebrews 6:19

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain

Listen, no mater what… God is the anchor.  People are not the anchor, other sinners are not your anchor – God is the anchor.

Listen, Jesus calls you “disciple” that means when the world said that you weren’t good enough, he chose you. When the world told you that you had to play in the shallow end of the pool, Jesus came along and said, “I want you to put out to deeper waters.”

Listen, part of our overwhelming feelings can be from us trying to find our identity or finding our affirmation from the wrong source.  If we’re going to fish, we need to fish in the right spot.

2. We have to stop defending our technique

What does Peter say? “we have not caught anything….. we already did that”  He’s defending his technique. He’s saying, “I know how to do this.” Look, Rabbi, I don’t come to your synagogue and tell you how to midrash.

That’s a Pastor joke.

We’re insecure aren’t we? We look to others instead of God for our affirmation. We post perfect food we don’t eat, clean houses we don’t live in and We post bible verses that we don’t follow. And we keep doing it, because for some reason we think “this works.” But who really knows what should work for us? The one who made us.

Psalm 139:14

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

You and I are a brand new person, made by God, called by Jesus, but we’d rather have the affirmation of people – than our creator. And even as I am telling you this, you are fighting the voice in your head. “Yea, but it’s not wrong to affirm someone.”

Of course not, but our issue is we’d rather have the affirmation of strangers, BEFORE the affirmation of God. We think that our lives are so OVERWHELMED and that God doesn’t know what we’re going though, but OTHER PEOPLE do! So we crave their affirmation and their support – because “we’re all in this together.”

Or maybe…. your life is overwhelming because…. your fishing in the wrong spot and you’re too stubborn to admit that your technique isn’t’ working.

For whatever reason, Peter listens thought doesn’t he? He can see that maybe in this situation, Jesus might have some insight and what does Peter say?

“….But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

3. We have to listen to the right voice

And what happens? His life experiences a miracle. That miracle never would have happened if he followed the voices of his friends. Everyone else had already given up and were going home.

Tell me something, what happens in this story? Is it a story about how Peter catches fish? Or is it a story about how Jesus catches Peter?

Listen, you are already accepted, you already have a Father in Heaven, you don’t need to leave the nest and go looking for your Father. Read the scriptures, you are already affirmed. You are already blessed, you are already loved.

You know, one of the best ways to OVERCOME stress and anxiety is to understand and accept God’s right now unconditional love for you. Because the other voices say,  “Sure God loves people, but does he love me?”

And we allow those voices to bring up our past or our present sins and we wonder “How could God love me after what I did?” How could God pick me, with the way I live my life?

Or “I’m sure God has his favorites, but I just don’t have time to read my Bible, I don’t make it to church every week so I suppose I’m not a super Christian.”

Or maybe it’s a trial, maybe right now we’re walking through illness, or death or finances or we’re afraid of losing our job and we think, “well, here we go, God must be mad at me.” The voices say lots of things don’t they?

Let’s look at another story from Daniel – Daniel chapter 6. Daniel and the Lion’s den. Now, much like the story of Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, we have a Jewish man, he’s an outsider, Daniel is living among the Babylonians, and he’s tight with the King, in fact he’s going to get a promotion. But the locals were jealous so they decided to invent a law that they knew Daniel couldn’t keep. So the new law said that for 30 days, the people of Babylon could only worship the King, and if anyone was found worshipping any other God’s… (poof) thrown into the Lion’s den.

Daniel 6:10

Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

So much like his brothers, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, Daniel goes into this knowing full well the consequences of his actions, but even in this difficult time, Daniel doesn’t doubt God’s love.  He doesn’t assume this is happening because of some short fall, or because God hates him, he doesn’t listen to those voices does he? Rather he does what he always does and he worships God.

Sooner or later we’re all going to face our own lions, but we have to know that our God is greater. Listen, God has never brought anyone into a situation that was greater than His love for them.

Not anyone in the bible – not you

God is bigger than your lions.

Much like what we talked about last week – we have to listen to the right voice. You can listen to the inner voice, you can listen to the world, but chances are – that input won’t ultimately help you with your feelings of being overwhelmed.

Daniel didn’t bow down to the King, because it’s not the Babylonian King he needs to impress. Daniel wasn’t trying to impress Babylon. Daniel didn’t need to be affirmed by Babylon.

Daniel got on his knees and spent his face time – with God.

At the end of the gospel of John, there is a story follows the death of Jesus and what do we see? Another fishing trip

John 21:1-3

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

I’m sure these guys loved to fish, but at the same time we need to remember that for them it wasn’t just a hobby, it was a career path. And sure, this could have been for fun, but when we read this we are led to believe that this was them returning to that first day when Jesus called them.

And this needs to be a warning to all of us. Because there are going to be times when we aren’t sure what God really wants and we don’t know what direction to go. And on those occasions, the easiest thing in the world to do (and believe me, I know this to be true) is to turn back to something where we feel comfortable and where we feel in control. But the problem is that when WE’RE in control, guess WHO isn’t?! And just as the disciples ran the risk of trading out the new identity Jesus gave them, with their old identity (namely being fishers of men – with being fishers or fish) so we to can fall back into old habits of identity and affirmation as well.

v4 says Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

I’m sure the disciples don’t recognize him, but Jesus calls them what? “Children.” Yes, it’s a term of endearment, but it’s another way of calling them “students.” He’s saying, “I’m still the school teacher, you’re still the learners, we have a lesson don’t we? A lesson you still have not learned yet.”

What does Jesus say? “Have you had any luck your way?” Have you had any luck with your fishing place, your technique your traditions? Have you had any luck doing it the way you always have? Hey, how’s the old identity of being a fisherman?

Next, Jesus tells them to drop the net over the “right” side of the boat. Now, maybe there are fish there, maybe there aren’t.

Maybe Jesus can see fish on that side, maybe Jesus knows that fish will be there soon, we don’t know. What we do know, is this is exactly what he told Peter when he called Peter to be a disciple. It’s code, it’s a private joke, it’s a nod that says… “remember me.”

Remember what we can do together? Remember when I took the fisherman nametag off of you, and traded it in for one that said “disciple?”

“Remember when the world told you that you weren’t good enough, when the world has happy to cast you aside as a smelly day laborer and I hand-picked you to be my friend?’
Here they were trying to do things their own way and according to their own expertise when what they really needed was the Master’s Words; and aren’t we too often guilty of being the same way? Doing the same thing?

We think we know the best way to structure/organize our lives or even God’s church. We think we know where the fish are biting. We think we have all we need to accomplish God’s work, but we’re fishing for the wrong things, from the wrong people with the wrong technique. So what do they do? They listened to the right voice….

v6 So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

Well the first time Jesus called Peter, Peter and Jesus were strangers, but now they were friends… now they had history. But scattered in that history was also Peter’s betrayal. Peter had – had the opportunity to stand up in faith, but he fell short. And I think as the other disciples were laughing and hugging Jesus, Peter might have been off to the side with his head down.

See in those moments where Peter denied Christ. He cared more about his affirmation and self identity from people – from strangers didn’t he? He sought the approval of strangers. He wanted to be liked.

Now seeing Jesus, conquered death, knowing that Jesus was God’s son – what must have he felt? Well, probably as children feel when they let their parents down. Just this month, I took some time out to spend with Declan and he indicated to me that he would rather be with Joanna.  I was hurt and I let him know it, and it made him cry.

In that moment, I was hurt and I had acted foolishly and it came out poorly, but Declan took it all and it crushed him, because he had disappointed his Dad.

Jesus sees this in Peter, but doesn’t hold grudges, and doesn’t let him suffer, rather we see Jesus go to Peter’s side, pull him away and sits down and does what?

Affirms him once again.

John 21:15

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus tells Peter, “I know you told the crowd you didn’t love me, but I know you do, and I know you made a mistake and I know you feel sorry about it, but don’t let that drive you back to the fishing nets.”

You are not a failure. I love you.

Jesus had bigger plans for Peter, Jesus’ three questions were designed to get Peter off the sea and into the synagogue. Jesus tells him to feed the entire flock. Before, Peter was Jesus’ disciple, but now Jesus wants Peter to be more than a student, he wants him to be a minister.

What happens to Peter after this? Peter delivers the keynote speech at Pentecost and in fact, Peter became so identified with God’s presence that his mere shadow caused people to be healed.

Jesus had bigger plans for Peter and He has bigger plans for you. This is good news to all of us; especially when we mess up sometimes, God wants to forgive us and get us back on track.

See and here’s the thing, I think we are unaware of the affirmations that God gives us and the love and the identity that God gives us – because we don’t take the time to read his word. Hey guess what? You love your cell phone so much, ok, there are at least 5 good free Bible programs out there – get off facebook and instagram and twitter and get on THE BOOK! Stop liking selfies and like Jesus and follow Jesus.

So as we close here are some hashtags (some affirmations) that God says describe you – this is how your Father sees you – (and I put them there in your notes)

Mark 5:34 – #whole

Jeremiah 33:3 – #heard

Isaiah 40:31 – #renewed.

Luke 24:36 – #peaceful

John 15:10 – #obedient

Philippians 4:19 #needsmet

Psalm 46:1 – #helped

John 3:3 – # bornagain.

Matthew 6:25-33 – #worryfree

John 14:21 – #loved

Romans 5:10 #forgiven

John 15:8 – #fruitful

2 Corinthians 12:9 #strong

Colossians 1:29  – #powerful

Ephesians 2:9-10 – #savedbygrace

Listen, God wants to photobomb your selfie, if you have to be one of the 80% who checks their phone when they wake up, let it be to read a devotional or a morning prayer. Let’s find our greatest love and our true identity in the God who made us.

The old way, the fishing nets… we can leave them behind, God has called us to greater.

Of course it feels good to be affirmed by friends and family, we all crave human closeness, there is nothing wrong with that – but don’t let it become all you need. Don’t let it become all you desire. Don’t let it replace the affirmation of your Father in Heaven. Don’t let it replace His voice.

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How would it work if I wore an Texas aggies Jersey and a Texas longhorns cap? Would I get a lot of strange looks at the Wal-Mart? Probably so because those two teams are rivals. You have to pick one side or the other. And it’s that way in pro football as well, you either like the Cowboys or the Texans, apparently you can’t like both – for football fans there is no compromise.

But for our illustration today that’s a good thing. I wish people of faith were as dedicated and as hard-core about their beliefs as they are about their football. Because to compromise our beliefs as a Christ follower is a constant pressure in our culture.

And we don’t always notice it, it comes up in our talk shows, it scrolls past your eyes on social media, it’s even in your newspaper and the books you read. What do you do? How do you stand up against that pressure?

Because I think whenever we do take a stand… that can be scary. Whenever our views or our faith comes under attack, that can be scary. Being the only one raising your hand, being the only one to put your foot down, being the only one on the jury who says “not guilty” being the only one who says “not today” or “not me” – can be very scary.

Jesus said in John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

What do you do? We’re talking about what it means to feel overwhelmed and how do we take that pressure and that stress and live through it, how do we join Christ and be “over comers” who can claim victory in the sense of trials.

We are in the book of Daniel and if you remember Daniel and his 3 friends are among Israel’s elite and when King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylon forces besiege Israel. They are all carted off to Iraq where they are placed into a concentration camp and force-fed Babylonian culture every day. Daniel in his own way faces a few situations, we saw where he refused to eat the meat sacrificed to idols and we saw how we helped Nebuchadnezzar interpret his dreams when he faced execution.

But Daniel’s 3 friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have been waiting in the wings for their story to be told and it’s here in Daniel 3 where we find them.

In Daniel 3 we find that King Nebuchadnezzar is like most Kings of his day. He’s rather full of himself – like the Egyptian Kings he has a “god-complex” and it manifests in him deciding to create a 90 foot statue of himself as an object to be worshipped. And so a decree is sent out, that when the music plays, when you hear the King’s theme song, you stop whatever you’re are doing, you drop to your knees and you worship the statue.

Well this doesn’t fly with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and so the first couple times out – when the music plays – they are the only ones standing….

Daniel 3:12

There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

And naturally, nobody who is in authority likes to be ignored or disregarded. Your boss doesn’t like to be made fun of. He hears the remarks and the cutting words behind his back. So King Nebuchadnezzar finds out about this and since these young men are a part of his training program he calls them into his court and he questions them….

Daniel 3:13-15

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.

Do you hear his question? He is giving them a way out.. a second chance. He says, “Ok, we’re going to do it again… when you’re ready… you know what to do. In other words he says, “I realize this is a new program, maybe you guys were confused, you see here in Babylon you worship me (the king, that’s me) as a god. So how about we try this again?

Daniel 3:15

But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

… and there it is. The gun to your forehead. What do you do? This isn’t like a normal choice. You can have chicken or fish. No this is like you can choose chicken or death. Which on the surface doesn’t seem like much of a choice does it?

So why not compromise their faith? I mean this is scary, right? You’d be scared. So what’s the harm? “If you can’t beat em”…. how does that go?
I could certainly see a Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego huddle right here where one of them lays down the play and says,  “Look, if we get ourselves killed, who is going to look out for the welfare of the Jewish people? We’re no good to anyone if we’re dead! Even if it means bowing down to this idol, we need to survive.”

Good point, right? What’s more important? Martyrdom? Getting yourself killed won’t help anyone.  “When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do. We’re just trying to fit in so that we can stay relevant in our culture. God will excuse us.”

“What happens in Babylon… stays in Babylon.”

Because even if they bowed down physically, they don’t have to bow down in their hearts, right? They could have said, “We’ll bow down, but we won’t actually worship the idol. We’ll just make it LOOK like we’re worshipping the idol, but we’ll really worship God in our hearts.”

Or how about if they went through the motions, knowing it was wrong and then just asked God to forgive them each time. That’s got to work – because God forgives our sins,, right? I mean after all, the King has treated them really well, they get to live in on the palace grounds, they get great food, new clothes, it’s probably best not to make the King angry, tell you what, we’ll jut do this one little thing, make this one little compromise and everybody wins. The King stays happy, we get to live… and we’ll stand up for our beliefs another day.”

How many more rational excuses could we come up with?

I get it, you’re scared. You’re stressed out, you’re worried. Where is God in all of this, He is supposed to protect you and have your back.  How are you going to get out of this one, because God doesn’t seem to be providing a parachute or an escape hatch here, so maybe it’s up to you? Maybe you’re on your own here. I mean, “maybe” God will come through for you – but are you willing to bet your life on it?

That’s what King Nebuchadnezzar says, right? He challenges their God? “Who will deliver you from me?” The gun is to your head, who are you going to believe? Which voice are you going to listen to? Are you going to listen to your enemy? Or God? Because listen, you can’t find victory in listening and obeying both….  you can’t like the Aggies and the Longhorns – you have to pick one.

What do the scriptures say?

Exodus 20:4-5

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,

In our moments of fear and being scared, God’s voice doesn’t just need to be the loudest voice – God’s voice needs to be the only voice that you obey. Nebuchadnezzar says, “Bow down or die.” and what do they do?

Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say, “Our God is able to save us….. but even if he doesn’t… it doesn’t’ matter.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego don’t choose to “go with the flow, or if you can’t beat em join em” they choose curtain number two that says you “fight fire with faith.”

Listen, it’s one thing to be convicted that God is all knowing and that he’s the King and he’s in charge, but its another thing to back up those beliefs with your actions. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are not stupid, they are not ignorant, they are not blind – they can totally see the consequences here. Fire burns. Fire is scary. King Nebuchadnezzar is a very real threat. Iraq is a very real threat, but what…?

Psalm 46:1-2 says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego know that God has promised to preserve and keep His people and if necessary, He will violate His own natural laws to do it.  Listen, God will either deliver them and his name will be victorious or they will die, but they will have not compromised their faith.

Daniel 3:19-20
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated.  And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.

Have you ever seen someone’s face change in rage? Total anger? This is scary. The king is so furious with them his face changes. They’ve never seen him like this before. And so King Nebuchadnezzar orders that the furnace be made 7x hotter than normal. At this point it’s a race to see what would kill you first, the carbon monoxide poisoning, the heat alone could kill you, and then of course burning alive.

And King Nebuchadnezzar says…. “throw them in.” Isn’t this a great story to teach in Sunday school to 1st graders? These boys did everything right – they were obedient, they were faithful and what happens? They’re tossed into the fire. No angel stopped it, God didn’t give King Nebuchadnezzar a heart attack, the gun didn’t misfire – God allowed this to happen.

These boys did everything right, acted the way they should and God allowed it to happen.

Listen, just because we follow Jesus, that doesn’t mean we get to escape from scary and stressful situations. In fact Jesus promises….

John 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation...”

It’s ironic. We fight against the tribulation, try to solve it, have an answer for it, and pray against it… but Jesus promises it. But what else does he promise? That he has overcome.

Furnaces in Babylon were laid with brick. The fuel was charcoal, which could produce the high temperatures they needed. The furnace would have looked like a railway tunnel blocked at one end but with an entrance at the other. The Bible says the furnace is so hot, the heat index kills the soldiers who throw them in. This is the end, nobody can survive this.

But after a few minutes, the King sees something out of place…

Daniel 3:24-25

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

Notice that it’s in the fire – that God gets our attention in a way that he was never able to before. God is able to do something – that is only possible – if we were in the fire.

Musician Rich Mullins said, “You meet the Lord in the furnace a long time before you’ll meet Him in the sky.”

How would we ever experience God as a healer, or a savior, or a provider if we didn’t first experience the fire? Remember Jesus promises persecution, the Bible never says there won’t be trials in fact it guarantees them.

So rather than pray, “Lord get me out of this.” Maybe we should be praying “Lord, get me through this.”

Instead of three men bound, Nebuchadnezzar sees four men walking, and the fourth is like “a son of the gods,”

Daniel 3:26-27

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared,  “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.  And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.

Notice something very important. They went into the fire bound up and they came out free. The Bible says they didn’t even smell like smoke. If you’ve ever gone to a campfire or stood around a beach fire, you know that’s impossible, right? You come home from that and your clothes and hair smells like smoke.

The only thing that was burned was bondage. The only thing affected by the fire was the ropes. The only thing destroyed was the weapon of the enemy.

And the same God that sent them in – brought them out.

This is what God does – he releases the prisoners and he sets the captives free.

Do you know what else gets burned in the fire? Fear. Because when you’re in the fire with our God – he is the resurrection and the life – and all of your doubts turn to ash.

Listen, the fire that you’re in right now. It’s not burning you. It’s burning the toxins and the poison and the prison bars. It feels hot, but it needs to be hot so that it can burn away all of the falsehood and the darkness in your life.

And true, faith and compromise don’t always have this ending, we can’t promise that we won’t get hurt in the fire, but that should not deter us. In an overwhelming world – where our faith might come under attack – If the things you believe in are being trampled, that might cause you to feel some pressure – right?

So real quick I want to give you 5 truths about faith and fire from our story

Faith can not be compromised

The king was trying to scare them and intimidate them; and probably in most cases that would work. You threaten our lives, or our family, you could probably get us to do anything.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

What drives away fear? Power. David was afraid of Goliath, he would have been crazy not to have been and I am sure that these 3 young men were afraid of the King and the furnace and I am sure that they didn’t want to die, but… it doesn’t matter.  Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery over it. God has given us victory. We need a faith that does not give in to pressure. We need a faith that cannot be compromised.

Faith can not be blind
What do Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say to King Nebuchadnezzar?

“…and he will deliver us out of your hand.”

Meaning what? Nebuchadnezzar’s hand has power. He has the power to condemn them. Our faith can not be blind. We can not just walk into danger, or march head on into temptation thinking that darkness can’t touch us.

Faith isn’t Kevlar. Some preachers might preach a peach trees and rainbow gospel that if you follow Jesus and tithe every week nothing bad will ever happen to you – that’s just not true. I think the people who believe that end up finding themselves ill prepared when life becomes overwhelming.

The devil was able to touch Job, right? These 3 men were physically thrown into a fire. Jonah got eaten by a fish. Bad things WILL come our way. But see here’s the thing – when the overwhelming heat comes – the temptation is run and escape. But running doesn’t take faith. We might pray to escape, but fleeing doesn’t forge – only the things that enter the fire are shaped by it.

Joshua 1:9

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go

And it actually takes a stronger faith to go through the fire and stand strong for God than it does to escape it altogether

Faith is subject to God’s will

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say, “Our God is able.” He can do it – he have no doubts. But ultimately – he is going to do his will.

An example I use a lot and I think it’s a good one is – one lady drives around the parking lot and she says a small prayer and all of a sudden a space opens up right in front. A second lady waits outside the hospital operating room, for a son who is dying with a tumor. Why does God open up parking spaces, but not save dying children? Or does he?

These three young men knew God was able – and we need a faith that knows God is able….but a faith that also realizes that our life is subject to God’s divine will and we leave it all in His hands ……….. it won’t always go the way we want or ask. That takes faith…….it takes faith to keep holding true after things didn’t go the way we expected.

Faith knows God will deliver

The young men make two statements – they say

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand,

They say “God is able to save us… but… HE WILL DELIVER US.”

Do you see that? And that should not be foreign to us,  when we pray over those who ae sick – we pray for God’s will to be done and we say. “God will heal our friend, either in this world or in Heaven.” God is ABLE to heal our friend, but it’s his will and no matter what happens – our friend WILL be DELIVERED.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had resolved that if God’s will took them into the furnace, He could deliver them but regardless of whether they survived the furnace or not, they would be delivered from the king.

Paul writes in Philippians 1:20

Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

Paul believed he was delivered either way. He overcomes… either way. He goes on to say those famous words, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” It’s exactly what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are saying isn’t it?

Faith understands that regardless of what life brings our way we are always victorious in Christ over the enemy. So that leads us to the last truth….
Faith is forever committed

How many times have we bartered with God? God if you fix this for me… I will do this for you. I will serve you if… I will follow you if…. I’ll live for you if….

But that makes God out to be our servant doesn’t it? That’s not faith. Faith says “I serve you regardless. I follow you no matter what.

“What if life doesn’t go the way you want? What if the road is hard.”

So what.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “God will save us.. but if not…”

Let me tell you something  It takes a strong faith to say “But if not…” That takes a very mature faith.

Facing fire is scary. But sooner or later we all stand in it don’t we?

And it will either shake us, or make us.

How does our story end? Nebuchadnezzar watches these men escape his punishment and he gets even madder? No, look at what he says.

Daniel 3:28

Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him.”

Listen when you and I are in the fire…. I know we’re focused on our own overwhelming circumstances, but we never know who might be watching.  Yes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lived out their faith, but King Nebuchadnezzar witnessed it.

He saw the power and the deliverance of God first hand.

He saw them fight fire with faith

I think when we’re in the fire we worry about how we’ll survive, what we’ll do, what choices we’ll make, but I think if we act in faith, how we respond to the flames will preach better than any sermon in church.

If we face our trials with confidence.

If we don’t back down on our convictions.

We may walk through the flames, but we may also be a part of something miraculous.

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Flat Tire

God is our Father – he is the King on the throne and he doesn’t want you to stress, in fact he wants us to trust him, he wants is to rest and be reassured that he’s got this and that he has a plan. But what if we have taken on to much? What if our inbox is full and our calendar looks like a Jackson Pollock painting? Are there signs that we have over extended ourselves?

How do we know if you have too many plates on our…. plate? How do you know you’re getting dangerously close to losing a few? Are there any warning signs our lives are too hurried or that we’re living pushed to the edges?

Well, I think for one a lot of us live at

1. An Impractical Pace

As that great theologian Ferris Buhler once said, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

What does your day look like? The alarm goes off, or in my case, the baby cries. You jump out of bed, and you begin making food for the kids, or you start a pot of coffee so its ready by the time you get out of the shower. Slam a cup of coffee, eat a quick bowl of cereal while you’re standing up, kiss your wife’s cheek while you’re adjusting your tie and you’re out the door.

Weave in and out past the slow people on the road, drink some more coffee, remind yourself what day it is and what you have to do – before work – at work and after work.

Your wife texts you, don’t forget your daughter has a piano recital in the evening and if you could leave a work a little early and pick up something from the store.

You get to work and you’re already behind. Between when you left work yesterday and coming in today you have 4 voice mails and 15 emails. More coffee.  There is no finish line is there, it keeps getting pushed further and further out. And it doesn’t matter how fast you go, or what you accomplish there is always a new client, and another project.

This isn’t what I was promised growing up watching the Jetsons.  New inventions and new innovations were supposed to do work for us, help us and give us MORE free time.

What happened? Because we got the inventions – we don’t have jetpacks or rocket skates, but we have Jet travel, personal computers, Fed Ex, cell phones, microwaves, drive-through restaurants, home shopping networks, the World Wide Web — but it seems with all of that – we have not embraced the time we’re saving now we fill our free time with more and we live and move at an impractical pace.

And the irony is… we complain about the quickness of life, we say “wow, this year has really flown by” we recognize we live at breakneck speeds AND YET – we are not willing to slow down. And if we see someone who is making an effort to get out of the fast lane and slow down, we don’t envy them… no, we think they’re crazy.

We recognize that our free time is dwindling and so to recapture it…. we go even faster.

Look around, watch a commercials now and then, how often is speed the answer? Swamped at work? Go faster. Can’t stay up on your calendar? You need a faster computer or a new cell phone. You don’t have an hour to exercise, try this DVD and you can get all the exercise you need in 20 minutes. How often do car manufactures brag about how fast their cars can go? Guess what? You’re not supposed to drive fast anyway.

No time to cook? We have minute rice. You don’t have a minute? You can get a pizza delivered. How many of you…. that for every day… feels like a marathon. Every day is a race. Every day is an event. I don’t know about you, but I can’t rest even when I am at the table with family, we multi-task, or we “multi” multi-task. We can’t slow down and we can’t have fun because all the while we hear an invisible stop watch telling us to move – move – move.

We have quickened the pace of life only to become less patient. We have become more organized but less spontaneous, more productive, but less joyful. We are better prepared

to act on the future but less able to enjoy the present.

Tell me something what season are we in right now? Summer or Fall? Does it even matter? Are we connected to God’s creation anymore? It used to be that only certain foods were ripe in certain times of the year. To be in Fall used to mean something. Now we hear fall and we start thinking about holidays – which is what? Vacation? Time off? Quality time with family? No… more plans. More stress. More obligations. More work.

The sun, the moon, time of day, time of year it was all a song, it was all a rhythm that tied us the created into our creator. But now, to get more done, we have lights that make daytime whenever we want. We have pills that put us to sleep and coffee to wake us up. We make our own daylight, we make our own seasons and we’ve made our own mess.

So if we’ve made it – we can stop it. We can make daily decisions to unplug and take our foot of the gas. Give your mind and your eyes a break – turn off all your vices (I mean your devices) at least an hour before bed.

Stop going out and spend more time in. Spend time fishing, spend time in the garden, go for walks, take an hour to daydream.

You know last week I said that stress is a sin? That stress is anti-God because it means we don’t trust God to take care of things.

Well guess what? The Bible also commands us to rest. How are we doing on that one?

Exodus 20:8 remember to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy

Listen, the Bible calls those who don’t work – lazy. But it calls those who don’t rest… disobedient. More than any other commandment of God, the Bible exegetes and has commentary about this one verse. So much so that we know God rested on the 7th day of creation. And God makes us – in his image – and he tells us – NO he commands us – TO SLOW DOWN.

There is even law in Leviticus about how once every seven years, you don’t go out into the fields and work. There is Hebrew law that tells the people to give the EARTH a rest. There was a jubilee year where every so often you were to forgive all your debts and release any slaves. So the Bible even commanded us to take a REST from transactions and commitments.

In fact the Bible is very pro-reset button, isn’t it?

The Bible is pro-do-overs.

The Bible is all for new beginnings and fresh starts.

A hurried, non stop, and impractical pace is ANTI – the scriptures and if you are not building into your lives moments of rest…. I’m not talking about vacations, I am talking about daily and weekly breaks from routine, then we will pass our impractical pace onto our children and our children’s children.

If we don’t show the next generation that rest is important, that enjoying life is important then all we will do is assist in the quickening of tomorrow.

So we can blame our overwhelming feelings on the pace of life, but we can also blame it on others.

2. An idealistic expectations of others

And because of that expectation, they might not be living up to your high standards. Maybe they are not performing like we think they ought to. Yes, your life is overwhelming but it’s only because THEY have messed things up.” And now I have to wait for them to get their lives together so I can get MY life together.

You might be blaming someone right now. You might be mad at someone right now, who knows you might even be mad at ME right now. And so why do we get mad at other people? Well, because it’s easier to throw the blame on someone else rather than accept some responsibility for it yourself.

Why do marriages end? Why do couples break up? It was all her…. he was a mess. We get married “for better or worse” and some people just choose “worse” don’t they?

Sometimes when we’re walking through hard times it’s just easier to point blame and point fingers. We learned that as children. To cast blame, to point fingers, to accuse.

We learned it from our Grandfather – Adam. He bit the apple and when the hammer came down what did he say? “The woman gave it to me!”

“The snake tempted me!”

Are you facing overwhelming struggles in your life today? Are you blaming your parents for the way you were raised? Are you blaming your spouse for the trouble in marriage? Are you blaming the government or your boss for any money problems?  Or are you blaming God for a sickness or a loss?

Take a moment to examine yourself to see where you are wrong or if God may be trying to teach you to trust in Him in any way.

So I certainly think that other people play a huge factor as to whether we feel overwhelmed, we can either blame them, or be constantly trying to be liked by them.

3. An improbable desire to be liked by everyone

I hate to be hated. And I think we can all say that. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t care what people think of me” and that is a bold faced lie. We say that, because we recognize that we’re not liked by everyone and guess what… we’ve all been there. Nobody in this room is liked by everyone. We’ve all had an enemy at one time or another in our lives. We’ve all had someone who tried to take our jobs, take our projects, take our credit, take our spouse or otherwise take us out completely – and it hurts.

But here is the thing – you just have to accept it. Not everyone is going to like you and there is nothing you can do about it. When we’re teenagers, we try to fix that so we change our hair, and we change our clothes, and we change the music that we listen to, but for some reason we never learn the lesson and we carry it on into adulthood.

In fact the Bible says there were people who saw Jesus and heard him speak that believed in him, but because they were so afraid of what others thought of them – they stayed hidden.

John 12:42-43

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

There were people who lived during the time of Jesus, saw him love, heard him speak and they wanted to follow him, but didn’t because they were worried about what other people thought and they wanted to be liked by everyone.

How many obligations have you agreed to this week because you didn’t want to say no? You wanted people to think good of you, so you said YES and took on more.

But the root of the issue might go even deeper than those around us, we might also have.

3. An Unrealistic view on life

You know, it used to be magazines – magazines used to show us the lives of celebrities, amazing homes, makeup, new clothes, fast cars. And you’d flip through the magazines and dream about the life you could have. Now it’s the cooking channel and lifetime. Now we have entire TV shows dedicated to cooking better food, getting fashion make-overs and redesigning your old house into a beautiful one.

And now we have pinterst. Now if you see a dress you like, a home you like or a electronic device you like you can just “covet it” to your wall – sorry – I mean “pin it” you can PIN IT to your wall.

Wasn’t this another one of the original commandments?

Exodus 20:17

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Isn’t it crazy that built into the most earliest commands of God were these speed bumps that we’re supposed to slow us down? God purposely wanted us to live differently. God didn’t want us to reach for a life that was constantly eluding us.

But please don’t confuse this with goals. It’s good to have a goal, to set a marker to work hard and to accomplish something, but “you shall not covet” is not talking about goal making… it’s talking about never being satisfied. Yes, please – have goals – and reach them. Arrive and gain a feeling of accomplishment.

But don’t live your life constantly reaching and forever running.

If you recognize yourself here – If any of this is you – you need to get readdress, you need to stop, adjust, address, admit and make changes to restart. So how do you do that?

When I was a young adult, some friends and I got into a beat up car and we drove to Oakland for a rock concert and on the way back, in the middle of the night, we got a flat tire. Now, none of us wanted to be in downtown Oakland in the middle of the night. But we also didn’t want to drive on our rim all the way home – so we had stop and pull over.

A flat tire isn’t going to fix itself. A flat tire is a warning sign that you’re going to fast, that you’re being too carless or you’ve neglected something for far too long. And a flat tire can come from any direction. It can be something you brought on yourself, or (as we’re going to see in the case of Daniel) someone else can slash your tire.

Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian King is “the bad guy” in our story – and he’s not exactly nice (or sane). But see, being King of Babylon will do that to you.

Back then, if someone didn’t like the King, there was no formal and clean way to dismiss them. No, if the Babylonian people didn’t like you. There would be a secret coo and while your back was turned someone else would stick a knife in it. It wasn’t uncommon for Kings in the ancient day to be murdered for their throne. So, as a King that might make you a little jumpy- maybe even a little insecure.

In Daniel chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that absolutely rocked him to the core. It wasn’t the flying dream and it wasn’t the dream where he forgot he had a fifth period class and so he’d been skipping it for weeks and now he had a final. No, it was a dream that made him wake up in a cold sweat, covered in fear. So Nebuchadnezzar quickly summons all of his advisors and wizards, his best men and puts them on the task of deciphering the meaning.

Daniel 2:1-2

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams.

Did you catch that – he asks them “What did I dream?” Not, tell me what my dream means, he first says – prove to me that you guys are the best… first tell me what my dream …was.”

v3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”

We all have weird dreams don’t we? We wake up and walk into the kitchen and we say “I had a weird dream last night” which is funny because I think all dreams are weird. And we’ve all been taught to believe that our dreams mean something – something deep in our subconscious is trying to tell us something, right? And so this is what Nebuchadnezzar is feeling. This can’t be just some random thing – because notice the text says he has “dreams” (plural) so this is a reoccurring nightmare.

This wasn’t just him waking up and thinking “that was weird.” No he is being sent a message through his brain…. someone is knocking and Nebuchadnezzar is frightened. And look at what his top advisors say,

v10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean.

His top advisors say, “You’re being unreasonable king – nobody can do that and no King has ever asked that. First tell us what the dream IS and THEN we will tell you what it means.

v11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

They say, nobody could tell you what you ask except the Gods… that’s a very wise statement and a good set up for our story. So, as you can imagine this makes Nebuchadnezzar very stressed out – and so he’s going to unleash his frustration back on his advisors.

v12-13 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

So Nebuchadnezzar says “that’s it – everyone is going to die.” Now can you imagine being Daniel and his friends? Someone is coming to kill you for what? For something someone else could ….or couldn’t do.

Out of nowhere your life takes a turn. One day everything is fine – work is fine – life is fine and then BAM! You’re whole world gets turned upside down. And Daniel has been here before. Months before he was in this same spot when the Babylonians first came to the Holy Land and burned his city to the ground and killed his family.

And you and I might not be facing death – or a crazy king, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t experience moments where our world comes crashing down.

And like Daniel, our trials can come from any direction. It can be internal, it can be external. It can be something we do to ourselves, it can be something that someone does to us. So let me share some good news with you; it doesn’t have to be this way.

Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Just because everyone around you is convinced that this is the new normal it doesn’t have to be normal for you. There is an answer. There is a way out. And if you’re at that tipping point, where you’d rather walk away and disappear or end it all – you didn’t reach that point overnight. Life has been relentlessly pounding on you day after day after day and so I would offer it’s going to take time to get back to normal.  Or maybe there is good news – maybe you haven’t reached that point yet, so how can you look around and see if you’re cruising at an acceptable pace or… if you’re racing towards a crash.

Where did we leave off with Daniel? Oh yea, people want to kill him….

Daniel 2:12-13

Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

How serious is this? Is this overwhelming? Sure it is…

Daniel 2:14-16

Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon.  He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel is face with an execution and instead of accepting it, instead of throwing his hands in the air and giving up, what does Daniel do? He does what he always does and he leans into it. What did my friends and I have to do with the flat tire? You got to pull over and

1. Face your situation

What is the first step towards healing? Facing whatever it is you are up against.

Denial will never help your problems, it will only hurt them, bury them or make them grow. Like we said on the very first week, everyone needs healing, everyone needs recovery. Sooner or later we’ll all get a flat tire and so its important to address it.

If Daniel had decided that maybe the King would come to his senses and change his mind, he was betting on the wrong horse. If you want to overcome your situation you can’t run from it. You have to address your situation, you have to admit that there is a problem.

And if you can’t admit it, then you have another problem and that’s pride

Proverbs 16:18 says

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Don’t ignore your situation because you’re too proud.  The first step is facing your situation and the second step is to

2. Embrace those around you (watch Daniel again)

Daniel 2:17-18

Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,  and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

We cant do life alone, and we can’t heal alone. If life isn’t working, look around you and see if there is someone close you can hold on to.

Daniel is one of the strongest most Godly men in the Bible – he was a prophet and a leader and when faced with an overwhelming circumstance what does he do? He seeks the help of others.

We all need each other. God made us to be relational. When Jesus ascended into Heaven what was his master plan that he left in place to save the world? The church.  No more lone warriors, no more heroes like David and Moses, now there would be a movement, a people, a family.

Some of you have a terrific spouse, some of you have very supportive friends, you’ve got great kids, you’ve got a church that loves you – those are resources. Those are aids. The longer you spend in isolation, the longer you will continue to struggle.

Whatever is tearing you up inside, stop hiding it – the sooner you can ask for help – the sooner you can find relief.

3. Begin to erase the mistakes

All of our solutions are different, because all of our problems are different. What will work for me, won’t be what works for you – but what we all need to is find what’s broken and fix it, to find the darkness and pour light on it, to find the errors and correct them.

And who knows, like we talked about last week, maybe for you it begins with humility. You going to your spouse, or your parents or a counselor and asking “what’s broken inside of me?” Sometimes we’re too close to the situation to know and so we need people to speak truth into us. That’s what happened for Daniel, look at what Daniel says next….

Daniel 2:19-23

Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.  Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.  He changes times and seasons, he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;  he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.  To you, O God of my fathers,  I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

This is where we stop praying, “Lord, change my situation, change my life, change my kids, change my friends…” and we begin to pray “Lord, change me.”

Lord, change my heart.  When I finally begin to address my own brokenness and take the steps to heal it that’s when I can begin to feel the pride, the anger, the hurt and the sin in my life begin to be erased by the hand of God.

If God can bring Daniel through his trials, tribulations and near death experiences he can do it for us to. I know we’re hoping that God will just remove the situation, or that he’d transport us out of it, but that’s probably not going to happen, it’s not going to vanish if we just close our eyes.

But I believe God will lead us through it. I believe God is reaching out to us, hoping that we will take His hand, so that he can guide us through whatever this is. He wants us to learn to trust him, learn to lean on him and to ultimately learn to love him more.

And then what? We

4. Experience a breakthrough

Daniel 2:46-49

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him.  The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.  Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

Because Daniel faced his situation, God brought him through and in the end he was rewarded beyond his expectations. They all got promotions! You know I think sometimes in the heat of the moment, we feel like we’re being punished.

But you know what I think? I think most of the time it’s not punishment, it’s preparedness. God can use our pain for progress can’t he? God can use my bankruptcy for wealth, God can use my divorce for love, God can use my disease for healing.

And see here is the thing. I am only 47, so my life is guaranteed to have some more flat tires. It’s going to happen. But you know, I have never come up on a situation that has broken me, no situation has proved to be overwhelming. And even though I will experience dark times again, I know that my God is in the process of delivering me

and He wants to deliver you

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Plate spinning is a form of juggling you don’t see as much anymore.  But the reason why plate spinning is a better symbol for stress is because eventually you have to run back and spin a plate that is starting to wobble.

You never get to put anything on auto pilot. You never get to relax. Juggling plates is not easy or relaxing. And if you don’t stop it, it keeps going and going and going and going…

And so we adopt this concept of “juggling” into our work week. We say, “I have a lot of things on my plate right now.” Or “I’m just juggling a lot this week.” All to communicate this picture. Life is busy…. life is stressful.

When does it all start? School. Right? In school we get tested, we get graded, we have homework, we’re introduced to peer pressure, drama, rejection, acceptance.

Then we start to spin another plate. Love. Who do you date? Who likes you, who doesn’t like you? Love turns into another plate – marriage. Marriage turns into another plate – kids. Then family life, social life, then your career becomes a huge serving tray that you have to spin, then comes bills, then illness, then debt, then retirement and the plates they keep on coming, and they all need to stay spinning.

That’s a lot of pressure. If one more plate comes your way, we say “Oh sure, let me drop everything and handle that as well.”

And when the stress is at its highest it’s then that you remember a passage from the Bible that Jesus said…

Matt 11:30 “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And you think, Yea, right. If that’s the case, “Then why are we so stressed out?”

What is stress? Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. I’ll say…

Jesus said in John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Do you have peace in the world? What is up with being a Christian? Shouldn’t I have more peace?  Well, absolutely you should have more peace, and I do think Christ wants you to have peace, but look at what Jesus says as reassurance….

He says “take heart…. I have over come….”

For 6 weeks we’re talking about being overwhelmed. When life is too much, when the world is closing in. When each of us faces and battles darkness, depression, anxiety, and soul clenching pain. It’s when we face stress… when we face death. When we face hopelessness and when we’re standing on the edge of a cliff wondering which way we’re going to get pushed.

Christ doesn’t’ want you to be overwhelmed.. he wants to help you overcome. But notice what Jesus says specifically…. “take heart.” What does that mean? It means “don’t worry.” You see, I think (and tell me if you agree with me) that the majority of the stress in my life is fear based. It’s control based.

I have fears… and so because of those fears… I stress. I have feelings of failure – being a bad dad, bad student, bad husband, bad employee, fears of missing out – fears other people are doing things, going places, being things. Fears of abandonment – everyone is leaving me.

We’re in the book of Daniel for these six weeks and last time we saw that Daniel had his whole world turned upside down. And you know, when Daniel was a prince in Egypt. When he was living the good life long before Babylon came. At no point in the story did God approach him and say, “Now you know, Daniel pretty soon your life is going to get turned upside down. In fact, life is going to get pretty bad, pretty soon – but I want you to stay strong through it all.”

And when Israel was destroyed and Daniel and his friends were kidnapped to Babylon, they entered into a slavery concentration camp where the Babylonians sought to brainwash and reprogram Daniel. They gave Daniel new clothes, learn a new language, a new Babylonian name and they wanted Daniel to eat Babylonian food.

And even then, God wasn’t whispering to Daniel, “Ok, Daniel when they try to feed you the food offered to idols, I want you to hold your ground and I want you to refuse. Just hang in there, pretty soon you’re going to see me at work and this will all make sense to you.” That never happens. We never get a warning that a plate is going to drop.

God never tells Daniel, “Hey if you trust me and stick to your guns one day they’ll name a book of the Bible after you.  Parents will name their kids after you.”

Does Daniel ever get any guarantees or reassurances from God in the story? No.  And you and I rarely get that voice from God either do we? When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death… it’s quiet. It’s lonely. It’s dark.

And you know, I don’t know what YOUR struggle is, I don’t know what’s stressing you out, I don’t know what is causing you to feel overwhelmed this morning, but here is what I do know.

1. God is greater than anything you are going through. (and)

2. He is able to pull you through it.

Last week we read….

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

So Daniel tells his prison brainwasher guard, “No way. I am not drinking the kool-aid.” That’s a pretty bold thing to do, to openly defy the nation that just burned your home to the ground. You know sometimes we think “what can I do?” or “what can one person do, what difference can one person make?” We’re going to see, look at verse 9.

Daniel 1:9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,

How fast did this turn around for Daniel? Immediately.  We said last week that v8 is “but Daniel” well,  v9 is “and God…” But Daniel ….refused and stood his ground and God ….moved and intervened.

When is God at work? Right now.

John 5:17 Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

You see we read these stories of the Bible, stories like Daniel and we start to believe that God is a “back then” kind of God. “Sure God does things, talks to people and does miracles, but that was back then.”

I want you to hear something this morning: God isn’t stuck in the past.

Daniel 1:10

v10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

So Daniel gets some push back doesn’t he? The guy in charge says, “I’m sorry man, but I don’t want this coming back to me if you don’t become a model slave.”

And Daniel says, “Yea, I’m sorry – what was I thinking – you’re right.”

No, Daniel didn’t budge. Daniel doesn’t budge at a time when…. it would be normal for him to. When you’re a prisoner with no rights, captured by a nation who is famous for kicking down doors and lighting people on fire, nobody is going t slight you for giving in.

Daniel doesn’t do that. Why? Because Daniel wasn’t a God follower only when it was convenient or for only when things were gong his way. He was still a God follower and a God-truster even when his world had fallen apart, even during times of stress.

And because Daniel didn’t buckle or give in and compromise, how did it work out?  Daniel trusted God with the situation and what happened?

Daniel 1:14

14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who atethe king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

v17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

I know we can read that, and on the surface it sounds like Daniel won and that he scored a victory, but let’s not fool ourselves. Daniel is still a slave, still a captive. And in a situation like that you and I would not be praying about our diet, we’d be praying about release – about freedom. Believe me, Daniel still has a lot to be worried about. He still has a lot of plates crashing down around him. But…. and here is what is important for us to see.

God didn’t deliver Daniel FROM his situation, he delivered him THROUGH it. And the same God who guides Daniel, guides you. Why? Because He is a “right now” kind of God – Daniel trusted God – because for Daniel – God was in control. Whether he was home in Israel or a slave in Babylon.

So by now, most of you know I got a truck. I couldn’t stand the peer pressure any longer of living in Texas and not owning a truck and you know, one of the things I love about having a truck is, nobody can see how short I am. In fact, a truck creates this optical illusion that you’re tall.  But that illusion is shattered when they see me open my door and I have to jump out of my truck.

But what I have noticed about truck owners in Texas is, they are deeply spiritual people. They believe in the power of their trucks. They talk about what they can pull, what they can haul.  Chevy Silverado has a “Texas Edition,” because of course you want your big truck to be synonymous with a big state.

In fact, when I first moved here and I would start to relay some trouble or some issue we were having, someone would eventually say, “well, let me just get my truck….” and that was the answer. “Let me get my truck” was the solution to the problem.

We have to move Peggy’s bed from my house to hers. “well, let me just get my truck….” I need to fix this patch of dead lawn at my house “well, let me just get my truck….”

And it makes me ask, I wonder – what if followers of Jesus believed in the power of God the way Texans believed in the power of their truck?

Daniel didn’t have a truck to drive him out of this mess, but whatever the mess – whatever the stress, Daniel knew the solution didn’t he? It was God.

Turn with me over to Psalm 102.  We don’t know who wrote Psalm 102. It’s a faceless person, it’s a man, it’s a woman? We don’t know. All we know is it’s someone with an affliction. It’s someone who is walking through darkness and in their pain they cry out to God.

Psalm 102:1

Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!

That sounds like it could be any of our own prayers doesn’t it? When we walk through stressful situations, when the plates are all spinning and it feels like God is hiding. When it feels like our prayers are drifting up unheard and we plead with God – “Pease answer me.” The writer says, in v9

For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink,

Now that’s a word picture isn’t it? The author says “I eat death for breakfast.” Hey, how you are doing today Steve? “Ah you know, some days it just feels like I eat hot death for breakfast..”

Wow, I’m never talking to Steve again. The author says “I cry into my drink.” You ever had someone ask you at the grocery store, “how are things going?” And you say “fine” but inwardly you want to tell them the truth.

“You know some days it feels like I eat burned garbage all day and at night I cry into my rum and coke.”

But you don’t say that – because then you’re THAT person. The person who is depressing, the person who is a let down. And we don’t want to weigh others down with our burdens so we say “I’m great… how are you?”

Psalm 10

v10 because of your indignation and anger;  for you have taken me up and thrown me down. 11 My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

Where is God in this lament? Do you feel like God is absent? That God is silent, that God is on vacation? Watch what the author says next….

v12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;  you are remembered throughout all generations.

Tell me something – Where is God positioned? On the throne.

Yea my life is messed up, yea I have plenty of reasons to stress and sure some days it feels like I eat ash and drink tears, but….. my God is on the throne.

What does that mean? It means we realize God doesn’t sit on an actual physical throne of gold, but it does mean what? That God is in control. That God is sovereign. That God reigns. That we live in HIS Kingdom.

God is on the throne? When? In the past? No, right now. God is a right now – on the throne kind of God. Are you stressed right now? Feeling overwhelmed right now? Let me ask you – Where is God in your life?

Last week we said that God is bigger than anything you are going through and we asked “Where is your focus.” Today we’re learning that God is able to pull you through  why? Because He is on the throne. When the plates are spinning, when the plates are falling, where is God in your life?

Tell me something, if God is on the throne ….who’s responsible to make meaning in my life? HE IS. See with stress, I want to be in charge, I want to be in control and perhaps captured by ancient Babylon I’d be hatching a plan on my cell block walls about how I was going to escape with nothing more than a spoon and a poster of Raquel Welch.

But if God is on the throne than ultimately I have to accept that He is in control – and whether I escape or I’m in it for the long haul – that begins and ends with him.

So knowing that God is on the throne I want to map out what that looks like and to show you what He is responsible for  and verses for what you are responsible for. Because I think in overwhelming situations we ask big questions like, “WHAT CAN I DO?” So I want to tell you what you can do.

He reigns – so you rest

What can you do? Rest.  Listen if you watch the news at night you’d swear the world was falling apart. Why? Because that’s their job.

They’re job is to make ratings. If you ask anyone who is stressing out about crime in America, they might tell you that crime is on the rise, but the truth is – it’s not.

Today, the national crime rate is about half of what it was at its height in 1991. Violent crime has fallen by 51% since 1991, and property crime by 43%. In fact the violent crime rate is the lowest it’s been in 45 years.

The news has us stressing about crime, but the truth is… we can rest. In fact, we could be partying in the streets. But we don’t rest. We stress. We lock every door and load our guns and peer through our curtains every time we hear a noise.

We could also stress about illness – it seems everyone we know is sick. But what’s the truth? People are always getting sick. Illness is a part of our world and that if it’s not happening to us and to our friends, it’s certainly happening to other people – the hospitals are never empty.

But the flipside of that is statistically as  nation we are living longer and healthier lives.

More people are living to older ages and not just older, but healthy years. In the past two decades, medical advancements have helped people stay healthy for longer periods of time than ever before.

Well, we could also stress about ISIS and Isalm – sure we could, but before that it was Osama Bin Ladden, and before that it was Saddam and Kim Jong-il and before that there was Stalin an Mao and Hitler and the Ayatollah Khomeini. (remember him?)

Yes Isis is bad, but what’s the reality? The reality is there have always been wars, and there have always been evil men.

And so you can either spend your days watching the news and stressing about our government, our leaders, our taxes, our spending, the state of marriage in America, our nations enemies or crime …. or….

Or what? Or… you could acknowledge that God is on the throne and that ultimately He is in charge.

Psalm 47:8 God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne

God reigns where? Over the nations. Not despite of the nations, not in lieu of the nations, not responding to… but OVER. God is in control. “….Sure, he was in control in the past.”

“No, right now.” God is a right now God. God is on the throne, in charge right now.

And listen….

Nothing comes to this earth that is not first filtered through God. God is in control – yes there is sin, but God is in control. Yes there is disease, but God is in control.

Yes, there is war, yes there is crime, but God is in control and it’s not YOUR job to rule it, or govern it, or solve it – it’s God’s so stop stressing out – you can rest.

But then the question….

“Well, if God is in control, why doesn’t he do something? Why doesn’t he intervene?” That question comes up a lot as a pastor. Why? Because he’s given us freedom. And sadly some people use their God given freedom to take other people’s freedom away.

We want God to “hurry up” and to be on our time table don’t we? But see God is patient, because God would rather more of his children learn to trust him. God isn’t going to rush it, because you can’t rush grace. Tell me something, if God stepped into our world today and it ended today, how many people in your own family would go to hell? How many of your friends?

Count them on your fingers. Now tell me – do you want God to come today and end it, or do you want God to be in control, to go by His timing and to wait for his plans?

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

What does the Bible say? God is not slow. God has his own timing.

You see, we’re down here. We’re in the thick of it, and so because our view is finite, our response is urgent. We say, “Hurry GOD! It’s getting really bad down here! The world is so much worse than it was when I was a kid. I’m glad I’m not a teenager in school with today’s pressures.”

You know, it seems we’re more stressed and more worried about the state of the world than God is…. you know what God says?

Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool;

Do they still make lazyboys? I remember going to the state fair in the housewares section, and next to the guy selling ginsu knives was the lazy boy salesman. And they had these recliners where the footrest was built into the chair.

This is the picture of God in Isaiah 66. Where is God? Sitting back with his feet up. Is God stressed out in this picture? Nope.  Why not? Because he has a plan. Because he’s in charge. Because he has a bird’s eye view of the situation. Because he rules OVER the nations.

You know why we’re stressed? Because we don’t have God’s perspective, we don’t know his plans and because we falsely think we’re in charge.  Hey guess what? You’re not in charge. “Not my monkeys… not my circus.”

Hey guess what? Obama is not in charge either. Nothing comes to this earth that is not first filtered through God. God is in control. God controls all of it; and you can either accept that and live by it… or you can reject it and stress.

Listen, you’re not going to find one verse in the Bible that says it’s ok to worry or stress about life.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything

Matt 6:25 (Jesus) “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your anxieties on him

Matt 6:34

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you

Tell me something, are you breathing right now? What are YOU doing right now to make that happen? Cause you’re doing a great job at it – good for you. You got up this morning, what did you do to make that happen? How did you wake your body up from sleep? Your kids were born healthy? Congratulations – how did YOU do that?

Do you have ANY control over those things?

Matthew 6:27

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

What does that mean? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Listen to me,  Control is an illusion and stress is a sin.

Why is stress a sin? Because stress is anti-God and it flies in the face of his promises, his Kingship, His sovereignty and his throne.

God rules – God reigns!

And listen, when He rules over your life – when He rules in your life – you can release and let go of stress because you TRUST God.

He reigns and you rest. “I can’t rest” well why not? Listen if God is sovereign and he is on the throne you can rest.

Listen, if you want to know life’s biggest secret and you want to learn how some people can just relax and go with the flow, it’s this right here.

Yes… God allows pain in our lives. Yes God allows our world to come crashing down sometimes. Our nation gets burned, we’re captured, our identity comes under attack and it feels like we’re forced to eat ash and drink our tears, but…. Nothing comes to this earth that is not first filtered through God, and God is in control.

You know now – as a parent, I play the same games on my kids, my parents played on me. And one of those games is “hide in the grocery store.” Sooner or later your kid will see a toy or a distraction and run off in the grocery store and your first temptation will be to call after them and chase them… unless, you want to teach them something and then you hide.

Why do you hide? Well, you hide just well enough were you can still see them, but they can’t see you. And soon the child becomes aware of their situation. “Oh no, they ran too far ahead. Where is Mommy? Where is Daddy? Where is their support system? Where is their safety – where is their comfort?”

And what do they do? They cry out. Help. Where are you? And when you rescue them, what do they learn? They learn – Life is safer when they stay close to you. And they also learn one other thing that’s very important. That when they need help… you’ll come running.

Where do you suppose we as parents learn those lessons?

Yes, God allows pain in our lives – but it’s to draw us close to him or as in the case of Daniel and the Israelites it’s because we walk away. We forget that it’s safer at his feet.

We forget that He’s on the throne and we wander off into the dark places on the map. And before too long we realize that we’re lost.

But we don’t’ need to stress. We just need to remember that it’s His kingdom. He knows the map, he knows every sticker bush, every cave and every beast that could harm us. And when we cry out to him – he hears us – and he comes running.

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