Everyone experiences pressure. It comes from work, family, friends or maybe even yourself. The pressure builds from all of these different areas and from time to time, it can feel like we’re just going to explode. We've all experienced those times in life when it seems as if everyone and everything around you is crashing in at the same time. Sometimes we start to feel like a balloon that’s being filled with air, as the balloon continues to grow, we run the risk of blowing to pieces. But what about those people that never seem to burst? Even though the pressure in their lives seems to continue to build they always remain afloat. Even though it appears as though they could not endure anymore, they remain steadfast. Do those people frustrate you too? So what differentiates those who rise to the occasion of the pressure and those who crumble underneath the weight?
Allow me to suggest that the source of your response has everything to do with how you respond. Thank about it, if you surround yourself with people who respond poorly to the inevitable pressures in life, you will likely respond poorly as well. If you surround yourself with people that are quick to throw in the towel, you will also learn to throw in the towel quickly as well. It's the adage that your parents repeated over and over to you as a teenager: "You are who you hang out with".
Now before you dismiss that old adage as something for young people and not for mature, mortgage paying adults, stop and think about how you've responded to the pressure in your own life. Aren't we sometimes as guilty as the next person when it comes to mishandling the pressure at work or at home? When the pressure mounts and your back is against the wall, how do you respond? If you're not careful, you will respond just like everyone around you is responding, for good or bad, if you're not careful, you'll fall right into line with all of the other balloon busting, pressure caving people around you.
What if you simply learned to change your input? If the only input you receive tells you to give up, cave in, rage out, whine or throw yourself a pity party then guess what? THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO! If you call yourself a Christ follower then you've clearly forgotten what God's role is, in your relationship. If you're not a Christ follower, listen up.
God tells Paul, the writer of 2 Corinthians, “Paul, my power works best in your weakness.” God doesn't need us to rise to the occasion, He's already done that for us. God doesn't need you to come up with a plan, map out a strategy or cast a new vision, He just needs you to tap into His strength for your life. God's in the business of exchanging your weaknesses for His strengths.
When we bring confusion, God provides clarity through prayer.
When we bring questions, God provides answers through His Word.
Why do we continue to grope around in confusion and darkness when God says it's unnecessary? God can be your source in the midst of the pressure. He asks for it. He wants it. He can handle it.
God clearly tells us in Matthew 11:28-30 to bring our weariness to Him.
Think again about those "annoying" people who never seem to allow the pressure to get to them. They never seem to crumble, they never seem to get rattled, they never seem frustrated. Maybe they've already realized this truth in their lives? Maybe they've already started participating in God's exchange program?
Just give it a try. Think of even one major pressure point in your life and make the commitment to give it to God. Search His Word for wisdom on the subject. Through prayer, seek His wisdom and watch to see how He eases the pressure.
I love watching football, especially the NFL. Being from Cincinnati, I am of course a Bengals fan. Now if you're reading this and you know anything about the Bengals then you know that we've had a bit of a dry spell in the consistency department. The Bengals have had more than their fair share of ups and downs over the last 30 years but as of late (at least the last 4-5 years) they have been on what I and other dedicated fans would consider an upswing. Our track record in the play-offs is sketchy and by sketchy I mean non-existent. For whatever reason, they just can't seem to win a play-off game. Maybe it's the lights, maybe it's the attention in the prime-time spotlight, who knows. But one thing is for sure, it's been rough for us.
As I've reflected on football and my love for the Bengals I have come to realize a few things. First, have you ever noticed how sports fans refer to the their favorite team? They say, "we". They say "we" as if they're actually suiting up and hitting the field with the team. We say things like, "We're number one" or "We beat you" or "We're going to the Super Bowl". That's interesting, I don't recall the article that described your contract and huge signing bonus. Why do we say, "we"? I know, I know, when we say "we" we don't literally mean "we", we're just identifying "them" as "we" for the purposes of pride and support. When we say "we" we're just trying to connect ourselves to something greater, we're trying to identify with something that we love and support and believe in...well, at least until they start losing.
Secondly, I've noticed the frequency with which people cite "their team's" past victories or defeats. The other day I heard someone say, "It's okay that we're not undefeated, we still have 13 championships." A day later someone else said, "Bengal's fans are such horrible winners. They've been terrible for so long and as soon as they win a few games, their fans just go overboard." I can't tell you the number of times that friends of mine who are Steelers' fans claim their six championships as proof of their elite status as a football team. Of course, the list could on, the Patriots have certainly created a dynasty of sorts, the Cowboys had their run in the early to mid 90's and the 49er's in the 80's. Here's the problem with this whole philosophy and more importantly how we have transferred this philosophy to our spiritual lives.
God's not concerned with your past mistakes. He makes clear in His Word in 1 John 1:9 that once we confess our mistakes, He forgives us. According to Psalm 103:12 He's taken those mistakes and forgotten about them. In our football analogy, the owner of the team has wiped the slate clean, forgotten about last year's losses or for that matter, even last week's loss. You are no longer bound by those losses. Hold your head up high, today is a new day.
Now here's where things get tough, especially for those of you who root for NFL teams that have managed to string together several championships over the course of history. Nobody cares. That was last year's team, maybe you still have the same coach or even quarterback but much of the team has changed. There are new assistant coaches, trainers, running backs, tight ends, wide-receivers, it's not the same team anymore. I know this is tough to hear but the 2015 New England Patriots haven't won 4 NFL championships, in fact the 2015 Patriots haven't won any NFL championships. The 2015 Green Bay Packers haven't won 13 Super Bowls, they too haven't won any Super Bowls. While the team names of Patriots and Packers have spanned those wins, that's it. Just about everything else is somehow different.
Here's my point. You too are different than you once were. While your name hasn't changed and you likely still look pretty much the same as yesterday, you've changed internally. Sometimes as believers we have a tendency to hold on to past spiritual victories for too long. Of course we should always look back and celebrate what God has done in our lives. But God isn't satisfied with the you of yesterday. God has something new for you everyday. You're different today then you were yesterday, you've learned, you've experienced, you've thought about things more, you've read His Word more, you've talked to Him more. Sometimes as Christ followers we go through a major season of spiritual growth and we have a tendency to just "camp there". It would be similar to an NFL team celebrating their NFL championship for 10 years in a row without another victory. Cane imagine the low turnout at the parade after a few years? People would eventually stop showing up to congratulate them on something that happened years ago right? In much the same way as football fans want a championship every year, God wants spiritual victory in your life everyday. It's perfectly acceptable to celebrate spiritual victories and to be thankful for their occurrence, but what about chasing a new championship? What about hitting the "spiritual gym" and going after something new? Something for this year, something for today! The past spiritual victories are for the "you" of the past, go out and get something for the "you" of today!