Conquering Stress

Conquering Stress

“Conquering Stress”

(Isaiah 40:27-31)

Series: More Than Conquerors (6 of 7)

Todd A. Linn, 3-12-06


  • Please open your Bibles to Isaiah, chapter 40.


We are nearing the end of our series of messages entitled, “More Than Conquerors.”  Next week will be our last message in the series.  The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:37 that, because of the love of Jesus Christ, we are not just conquerors, but more than conquerors.  So we’ve been learning how to conquer our emotions, learning how to “deal” with how to “feel.”  This morning, we turn to Isaiah, chapter 40 to learn how to conquer an emotion that affects millions of Americans on a daily basis.


Before we read the passage, we remind ourselves of the context.  The Prophet Isaiah is speaking to God’s people, referred to here as “Jacob” and “Israel.”  Isaiah is prophesying about a time during which the people of God are held captive by the Babylonians.  Imagine your being held captive against your will by another country.  For the people of God these would be especially stressful times and they would wonder where their God was.  Did He see them?  Did He care?  Could He do anything?  With that in mind:


  • Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.


27 Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the LORD, And my just claim is passed over by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.

30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,

31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.


  • Pray.




I read that it is a leading reason why 230 million prescriptions for tranquilizers are filled each year in America.  It is also a leading cause of one million heart attacks each year, eight million ulcers, and a leading reason why 50 million adults and two and a half million children experience high blood pressure. (Source: sermon by Claude Thomas)


I am talking about the problem of stress.  That word has become increasingly popular over the last 30 years or so.  We talk about things being “stressful” and we’re “stressed” or “stressed out.”  We go to “stress management courses” and read books and listen to CDs that teach us “how to manage stress” or “cope with stress” in a five or six easy steps.


An article in Time Magazine reports some interesting information about stress in America.  According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds of office visits to family doctors are prompted by stress-related symptoms.  The article went on to say that the affects of stress cost American business $50 to $75 billion dollars a year, that’s more than $750 for every worker in America. (Source: sermon by James Merritt).


Stress takes its toll upon the body’s circulatory system, respiratory system, and digestive system.  Stress affects us physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.


If we don’t conquer stress, it can conquer us.  If we’re not careful, stress can cause us to do some pretty crazy things.  Stress will lead us to do things we may later regret.


Recently, I saw a real-life visual illustration of a person who got so stressed out that he did something he later regretted.  This poor fellow is like the average American businessman.  He’s in a hurry and someone has gotten in his way.  I want to share with you this very short video clip that illustrates the average stressful American businessman off in a hurry somewhere.


Now let me set this video clip up for you.  This is a real situation captured on amateur video by a couple of young boys.  A boy is videotaping his two friends while they ride their skate boards.  As he’s videotaping them, he hears a car screech to a sudden stop and he looks over to his left to see a man in a sports car, waiting very impatiently for an older woman to cross the street.  Now this video is a bit grainy, but I think you’ll be able to see what happens to this man who gets seriously “stressed out.”  Take a look.


VIDEO CLIP [“Stressed Out!” 33 seconds]


Did you see what happened?  The guy gets so stressed that this older woman is in his way that he rudely honks the horn and revs the engine in an effort to speed her up.  She reaches over and hits his car with her bag.  Now I don’t know what’s in that bag, but it causes his air bag to go off!  Want to see it again?  Take another look.


VIDEO CLIP [“Stressed Out!” 33 seconds]


You can even hear the kid who’s videotaping this laugh as he watches it all unfold before his eyes.  Stress causes us to do some things we later regret.


Well, how do we “Conquer Stress?”  Does the Bible give us some instruction here?  I believe it does.  I want to show how this passage of Scripture, written some seven hundred years before Christ, applies to us in the 21st century as we learn how to conquer stress.  The passage tells us exactly what to do when we feel we are becoming stressed out.  Number one:


I. Be Encouraged by the God Who Sees You (27)


When God’s people, the Israelites, are in captivity, they become fearful, anxious, and stressed out.  They begin to wonder whether God even sees them in, whether He even knows what they are going through.  Look again at verse 27 and hear what Isaiah says to them:


27 Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the LORD, And my just claim is passed over by my God”?


Isaiah says, “Why do you say this?  Why do you say, ‘My way must be hidden from the LORD.  My just claim—that is, my complaint to God, my prayer to Him—is just passed over by God as though He cannot see and does not care what I’m going through.’”


Have you ever said that to God?  “God, you must not be able to see me.  I mean, I hear my preacher talk about how you are so powerful and I read about you in the Bible, but I guess I’m just a special case.  You must be able to see everyone else but me; poor, pitiful, me!”


Ever talk that way to God?  Ever feel that way?  Ever wonder why God has you in that job you’re in?  Ever wonder why God allowed all of those things to “go wrong” the other day?

One of the main points that Isaiah develops in this passage is that God does, in fact, see you and He does, in fact, care about you.  When Isaiah asks this question in verse 27, it’s like He’s saying, “Don’t talk that way about God.  How can you say that?  Why do you say, ‘May way is hidden from the LORD?’  You know better than that!  You know that God sees you and He cares for you.


Be encouraged by the God Who sees you.  God sees your every move.  He sees what you’re going through and He is in charge.  God could say, in the words of a song popular when I was in college:


“Every breath you take; Every move you make; Every bond you break; Every step you take, I’ll be watching you.”


So when you’re stressed, remember this: Be encouraged by the God Who sees you.  That’s the first step.  Isaiah develops this teaching in the next verse.  He says:


28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.


Isaiah says, “You must not have enough information about God.  Or maybe you have forgotten what you learned.  Allow me to inform you, to enlighten you about the God Who sustains you.”  That’s step number two:


II. Be Enlightened about the God Who Sustains You (28)


Isaiah gives God’s people a little theology lesson.  He says, “Either you don’t know this or you haven’t heard it.  So allow me to enlighten you about the God we serve.  Let me share with you why God is able to help you conquer your stress.  Let me tell you about the God Who sustains you, supplying you with everything you need to get through every single day.”  See how Isaiah describes God in verse 28.  What does he say about God?  Verse 28:


The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.


Here’s the theology.  Here’s Isaiah’s teaching on the doctrine of God.  God is everlasting.  He is the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth.


Someone asks, “But what was before God?”  Have you ever been asked that?  Someone asks you that question like he was the first person to think of it, you know?  He looks at you with a skeptical smile and asks, “But hat was before God?  Everything has a cause, so what caused God?


Someone says, “Well, that is a problem.  What’s the answer?”  Friend, the problem isn’t the answer.  The problem is the question.  The question assumes something, or someone, existed before God.  But God is everlasting.  He has always been.  He is eternal in nature.  There never was a time that God was not.  He has always been.  He is the “uncaused cause,” if you please.  Now I know that’s hard for human beings to understand, but that’s one of the reasons that God is God and man is man.  God created us.  Who are we to try to figure out the things known only by an everlasting God?


Isaiah is enlightening God’s people about their God.  He reminds them that God is everlasting.  He’s the guy who created the ends of the earth, including everything inside the earth, which includes them.  He is an awesome God Who has the ability to sustain them, to supply them, in their time of need.  What else does God enlighten them about?  He tells them that God:


. . . neither faints nor is weary.


That’s the God you and I serve!  He is unlike man.  In a moment, Isaiah will say in verse 30, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary.”  That is, “Even the ones we consider to have the most energy eventually faint and become weary.”


We know that’s true.  We watch a little boy and a little girl run around the living room and play.  They are running and running and tumbling and laughing; their faces red, their hair matted with sweat, and what do we adults say—we who are sitting their on the couch drinking a coke, shaking our heads—what do we say?  We say, “Oh, if only I had (what?) half the energy of those kids!”  But you give that little boy and that little girl enough time and what happens?  Eventually, they become weary.  Eventually they wind down.  Oh, it may take them awhile, but eventually they crash.  And they’ll crash anywhere.  It may even be right there on the living room floor, but eventually they faint and become weary.  Not God.  He neither faints nor is weary.  Be enlightened about the God Who sustains you.  Then Isaiah says in verse 28:


His understanding is unsearchable.


That’s Isaiah’s way of saying, “God is in control.  He knows everything about you and your situation, inside and out, and He has a plan for you, though you may not understand it completely.”


That’s really comforting for me to know when I start to feel stressed.  God’s understanding is unsearchable.  That is, God’s plan for my life includes some things that I may not understand.  So rather than getting stressed out I’m going to remember that God knows what I don’t.


God knows what I don’t.  Say that with me: “God knows what I don’t.”  Right!  He knows the things you and I just don’t know.  Write that out in the margin next to the phrase, “His understanding is unsearchable.”  If you don’t think it’s a sin to write in the margin of your Bible, write out next to the phrase, “His understanding is unsearchable,” write, “God knows what I don’t.”


I have reminded myself of this teaching even over this past week.  I go through stuff, just like you do.  Something happened this week and I began to ask God what He was up to.  I started to feel a little stressed, you know.  For me, I can feel my face flush and become sensitive to the touch.  My heart races a bit.  So I take some deep, slow breaths, and I look up to God.  I say, “God, I know You’re here.  I know You’re in this.  And while I don’t know why this is happening, I know that You know what I don’t.  And so, I’m trusting in You.  Help me.  Lead me.  Guide me.  I’ll rest in You.”


We’re learning how to conquer stress.  When we become stressed, Isaiah teaches us how to “deal” with how to “feel.”  He says, “Be encouraged by the God Who sees you, be enlightened about the God Who sustains you and, number three:


III. Be Empowered by the God Who Strengthens You (29-31)


Look at verse 29:


29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.


When you and I start to feel stressed, we need to be empowered by the God Who strengthens us.  He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.


And there again is that teaching we saw earlier, verse 30:


30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,


We are human beings.  Our bodies, created by God, are subject to the effects of the Fall.  Because of sin in the world, everything is less than perfect, including our bodies.  Even the best of us, the most conditioned of us, the most physically fit of us, eventually become faint and weary—including “the youths” and “the young men.”


We run out of strength.  And when we run out of strength—be it physical strength, emotional strength, or spiritual strength—you know what happens?  We become stressed.


Now watch this teaching in verse 31.  Isaiah says:


31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.


But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;


I used to think to “wait on the LORD” meant to just kind of stop and be still, and be quiet, and meditate.  That’s not exactly what it means to “wait on the LORD.”  The Hebrew word translated “wait” here is not a passive term, but an active term.  It doesn’t mean that, when we’re stressed, we just “chill out” and do nothing, but rather it means that we’re to do something.  What are we to do?


The meaning of the word “wait” there is much like we use it today when in a restaurant.  We come into the restaurant and we sit down.  After a few moments, Lord willing, a “waiter” comes over to our table.  He may even ask, “Is anyone ‘waiting’ on you?” or he may say, “My name is John and I will be ‘waiting’ on you.”  What he means, of course, that he is going to be serving you, coming into the room periodically, looking at you expectantly, seeing if there is anything he can do.


That is why, in helping us understand the meaning of the phrase, “wait on the LORD,” the Amplified Bible offers the parenthetical words, “expect, look for, and hope in Him.”


To “wait on the LORD” means we do something.  It is an active term.  We turn to Him, we look up to Him, we place our faith in Him.  And if we’ll do that, the Bible says what follows:


31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.


The word “renew” there is a word that is best translated here as “exchange.”  Those who, when they become stressed, go to God, will “renew,” will “exchange” their dwindling strength which has become faint and weary with God’s strength, the God who never faints or becomes weary.


This is precisely why we must, we must, turn to God and be empowered by the God Who strengthens us.  If we try to deal with stress on our own, we will go from “stress” to “distress.”  Exchange your strength for God’s.  Be empowered by the God Who strengthens you.


And when you do, you will “mount up with wings like eagles, you will run and not be weary, you will walk and not faint.”  Why?  Because you will be flying, running, and walking in the strength of God rather than flying, running, and walking in the strength of man.


How can you “wait on the LORD?”  May I say to you that you absolutely, positively, must have a daily quiet time with God?  You must.  If you will have a daily time where you get alone with God, you will have opportunity to regularly exchange your strength for His.


The old hymn has it right: “Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;

Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.”


You and I must take time each day to speak with the Lord and feed upon His Word.  Get up in the morning and talk to God.  Tell Him that you need Him.  Then open His Word, the Bible, and read a little Scripture.  Ask God to talk to you in His Word.  He will if you will “wait upon Him,” turning to Him, looking up to Him, expectantly.  And when you feel the pressures of life crowding in around you, God will exchange your strength for His and you’ll be alright.


Concluding Illustration:


In storms like the storms we’ve been having lately, most birds fly away, they flee from the storm.  The eagle, on the other hand, seems to long for the storm.  The thermal under-drafts of the storm cause the eagle to soar higher and higher than it can under normal conditions.


The storm also compels the eagle to fly higher and faster.  Normally an eagle can fly about 50 miles per hour.  But when he is in the strong wind currents of a storm he can fly up to nearly 100 miles per hour.  The eagle uses the turbulent winds to stay up longer because, rather than using his own strength, he uses the strength of the winds, and he glides through the air. (Source: James Merritt)


Sometimes a storm comes our way and you and I instinctively flap our arms in stress.  “What am I going to do?!”  Quit flapping your arms.  Wait on the LORD.  Turn to Him.  Look up to Him, expectantly.  Exchange your strength for His.  Allow Him to lift you up, up higher than the storm.  Allow Him to empower you by lifting you up and letting you soar above the storms and stresses of life.  If you will do that, you will conquer stress.


  • Let’s stand for prayer.


The greatest stress we face is the stress of not being prepared to meet “the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” . . . .


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