Handling Stress

Psalm 23:2

Today weíre going to look at verse 2 in the 23rd Psalm.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.

Thatís Psalm 23:2.

Now the sheep over in the middle east get up and begin to graze and meander around about 4:00 in the morning.

The shepherd begins to lead them out of the sheep fold...

The dew is still on the ground...

Itís very quiet, and the sheep begin to graze.

And then about 10:00 to 11:00 in the morning it gets very hot.

If possible then the shepherd will find some secluded and shady place with green grass...

And allow the sheep to lie down.

The sheep will lie down for 3 or 4 hours and chew their cud.

Itís at that time...

When the sheep gets quiet, and the sheep gets still...

It begins to digest the grass that itís eaten.

It begins to duminate or chew the cud as we call it.

And itís at that time that the sheep is growing the fattest.

Itís at that time that the sheep is putting on the fat Ė the weight Ė maturing.

Every shepherd knows how important it is for his sheep to have a quiet time.

He makes me lie down.

I want to talk to you today about how to deal with stress.

Or how to handle stress.

Is stress ever a problem to you?

Now be honest.

So many people I know are all stressed up and no place to go.

Youíre just tense and fretting and running around so much in a hurry.

Sometimes we think that itís wrong, so wrong for us to be quiet.

To be still!

I heard of a woman who called her pastor up and said, "Pastor, Iíve tried to call you all day and I couldnít get you."

And the pastor said, "Well, Monday is my day off."

He said, "I was resting. I took a day off."

And she said, "The devil never takes a day off."

And he said, "Yes, and if I didnít Iíd be just like the devil!"

Now listen friends, God wants his sheep to learn how to get quiet.

And to lie down in the green pastures and to drink the still water.

Shepherds tell us that sheep donít like to drink from rushing water.

There are a lot of places like that where the water comes up out of a spring and runs down a mountainside.

And the sheep are afraid to drink of that, but they will drink when the water gets in some quiet pool.

So he leads me beside the still waters.

Now I want to talk to you about how to handle stress.

Do you know the reason we are stressed?

The reason we are stressed is because we are like sheep.

Psalm 100:3 says: we are the sheep of his pasture.

That is how God describes us.

We are the sheep of his pasture.

You say, "Isnít that great? Iím one of his sheep."

Now folks, God wasnít necessarily trying to compliment us when he said that weíre one of his sheep.

Thatís not really a compliment, itís a description.

When you study about sheep you will find that a sheep is not the smartest animal around.

As a matter of fact...

A sheep is loaded with dumbness.

A sheep is an animal that is not just too smart.

You say, "Hey, Iím pretty smart. I graduated at the top of my class...Iíve been educated."

Now I am talking about in spiritual realms.

You see, Jesus had to say to Nicodemus...

He was a master teacher of Israel...

Jesus said, "You are a master teacher and yet you donít know these things."

You see, intellectually he was up there...but spiritually he was ignorant.

The Bible says: there are none that understandeth, no not one.

In the spiritual realm we are like sheep.

Not only is a sheep dumb...

But let me tell you something else about sheep.

Sheep are so defenseless.

Other animals can defend themselves pretty good...

A horse can run...

A lion can bite...

A tiger can claw...

A bear can crush...

A skunk can stink...

A snake can strike...

A cow can kick...

But a sheep cannot run Ė he has weak muscles, poor eyesight...they donít have good hearing.

A sheep is pretty defenseless.

As a matter of fact, the Bible says, as a lamb headed toward the slaughter.

Just kind of defenseless.

You think of sheep as needing someone to defend them.

And folks, thatís the way we are.

Thatís the reason why the apostle Paul had to say to the Corinthians, our sufficiency is of God.

We donít have it in ourselves.

But not only do you think of the defenselessness of a sheep...

Not only do you think of the ignorance of a sheep...

But let me tell you something else about a sheep.

They donít have a good sense of direction.

A sheep is easily lost.

What does the Bible say?

Isaiah 53:6: we all like sheep have gone astray.

Sheep will browse here, nibble here, graze here, nibble over there...

They donít know theyíre getting farther away.

But he gets further away from the flock...

Further away from the foal...

Further away from the shepherd...

Then he is out there and he is lost.

Now itís bad enough that he is lost, but he canít find his way home.

The cows come back to the barn...

The horse comes back to the stable.

Did you ever try to get rid of a cat?

They come home.

You hear of a homing pigeon...

But never a homing sheep.

Sheep donít come back, they have to be sought...

They have to be brought.

Thatís just the nature of a sheep.

And what did God say about his people in Hosea 11:7?

My people are determined to turn from me.

Do you know what that means in plain English?

We have a tendency to get away from God.

Thatís the sheep nature.

And when you think about these things...

When you think about the ignorance of a sheep...

And the weakness and the defenselessness of a sheep...

Then when you think of their nature to get lost...

Then you think about the dependence of the sheep...

It needs somebody to take care of it.

Sheep can sometimes become cast...they roll over on their back and canít get up.

Its hooves are straight up and it canít roll over.

Then they become easy prey for the buzzards and wolves.

But also the gasses will build up on the inside and the sheep begins to blow up.

And before long the circulation is cut off and this cast sheep will die.

I think that is what David had in mind when he said:

Why art thou cast down, oh my soul!

We get in a cast position, and the shepherd needs to come and turn the sheep up and put us back on our feet.

Has he ever done that for you?

I mean when you were down and couldnít get up...

And you couldnít get yourself up...

Thank God for the shepherd.

Folks we are like sheep.

And because we are like sheep...

Thatís why we have a tendency to be stressed.

Itís not necessarily a compliment to call us a sheep, but itís a fact.

We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Now, with all that...

How do you handle stress?

I believe verse 2 has a lot to say about how to handle stress.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside quiet waters.

There are three things that stand out in this verse.

#1 Ė is the security we have in the shepherd.

I want you to say, "I am secure in Jesus."

He leadeth me...he maketh me...

Who is he?

Jehovah the shepherd.

Remember we said the Jehovah of the OT is the Jesus of the NT?

Remember Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd."

Jesus is the good shepherd...

Jesus is the great shepherd...

Jesus is the chief shepherd.

He is the one who makes us...

He is the one who leads us.

Now let me give you some characteristics of a shepherd that are in the word of God.

The first is compassion.

Matthew 9:36: When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

When Jesus saw the people of his day...

All scattered and running here and there...

Frantic, fainting, failing, complaining, full of stress...

The Bible says (KJV): he was moved with compassion.

Do you know what the word "moved" means?

Itís a nasty word, it means convesled, he was moved right here with compassion.

Do you know what the word "compassion" means?

Com Ė meaning with...

Passion Ė meaning feeling or to suffer.

Jesus was convulsed when he saw those sheep.

He saw them as sheep having no shepherd.

Thatís what caused him to come from heaven to die for us.

As you think of the shepherd think of compassion.

Then as you think of the shepherd think of care.

Isaiah 40:11: he tends his flock like a shepherd (he is the shepherd, we are the sheep).

He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

Thatís great!

Arenít you glad the Lord is so good to us?

Arenít you glad the Lord gives us what we need and not what we deserve?

Has he ever carried you close to his heart?

You know when the lamb is weak and he takes those little baby Christians...those are the lambs.

I see them join our church...they donít know our church...they donít know anything...

Many of them are new Christians.

They come out of sheer paganism.

Weíre so wrong to put them through a theological test...

And say, "You canít do this and you must do that."

And "Why did you fail?"

Friends, Jesus doesnít do that.

Jesus picks them up and carries them close to his heart...

And folks, when I was a little lamb he carried me.

If he hadnít I would have never made it.

He didnít say, "Rutt hog or die."

He is a compassionate and caring shepherd.

He carries us gently.

But not only is he compassionate and caring.

There is another characteristic...he is a courageous shepherd.

I love that about our Lord.

Do you remember reading in John chapter 10, where it deals with Jesus saying, "I am the good shepherd."

He said something very wonderful in John 10:11.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.




(Verse 12) The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.

(Verse 13) The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Now folks, the wolves are after me and after you.

There were many, many dangers for the sheep in that day.

There were wolves and bears and lions and thieves who would come to slaughter and steal the sheep.

Wild dogs and scavengers of all kinds.

And Jesus said, "A false shepherd, one who is only paid by the hour...a hired hand...

Will flee, but a good shepherd will fight for his sheep."

I remember reading in the Bible when the disciples said, "Jesus donít go to Jerusalem."

"Donít go down there, down there they are going to hunt you...

Jesus, down there they are going to kill you!

Donít go to Jerusalem! Whatever you do."

But the Bible says, "He set his face like a flint toward Jerusalem."

The courage of our shepherd.

Friends, I want to tell you, when you understand that you may be weak like a sheep...

But you have a compassionate shepherd, a caring shepherd, and a courageous shepherd...

The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

You see in that same chapter, 10:7...

Jesus said, I am the gate for the sheep.

You say, "Well is he the shepherd or is he the gate?"

The answer is yes. The shepherd becomes the gate.

You ever seen a sheep fold?

The shepherd will build an enclosure out of stone in a circle or a square...

He brings all the sheep inside...

That is the sheep fold. He counts them all and makes sure they are all there.

Then the shepherd has a small opening and when they are all accounted for...

The shepherd will lie down across the opening.

And no one or nothing gets in or out without him knowing it.

I am the gate...I am the gate...

What Jesus is saying is that nobody can get to you unless they come through me.

Do you like that?

Man, I do.

Thatís the reason he said...

(Verse 27) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.

You see folks, what you need...

In order to deal with this stress...

Is #1 Ė security...

He maketh me...he leadeth me...

I may be weak like a sheep, but he is a strong shepherd.

He is the good shepherd.

Thatís the first thing I see in this verse and thatís security.

And that security helps me deal with stress.

Now not only do I see security...

But I also see sufficiency.

Look at it: he makes me lie down in brown, dried up pastures...

Is that it?

He leads me beside muddy ponds and dried up water holes.

No, he makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside the quiet water.

All I need and more, I find in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why do we get stressed?

We get stressed because we donít think our needs are going to be met.

My goodness, Iím not going to have what I am going to need...

Do you remember that passage in Matthew when the Lord is telling us not to worry?

He says, what do people worry about?

He says, donít worry about what you are going to eat...

Thatís food.

Donít worry about what you are going to wear...

Thatís fashion.

Food, friends, fame, fashion, fitness...

Thatís what people worry about.

Jesus said, after all, these things do the Gentiles seek.

He didnít say these things are not important...

He didnít say any of them were not important.

But what did he say? Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

These things donít even take on significance until your deepest needs are met.

What is he talking about when he is talking about green grass and still waters?

Do you think he is talking about having your bank account full?

Listen, Psalms 22, 23 and 24 are a trinity of Psalms.

Now go back to Psalm 22:26...

The poor shall eat and be satisfied.

What shall they eat?

Look at the end of the verse.

They who seek the Lord will praise him.

Thatís the food.

They shall praise the Lord that seek him.

Look in verse 29.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship.

God wants healthy sheep.

What does the green grass talk about?

Itís the green pasture of his word.

What do the still waters speak of?

The calmness of his voice.

You are to meditate on him, thatís your satisfaction.

If you donít find your satisfaction in him, you are going to be stressed.

Because the deepest needs of your heart will never be met.

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 4:4:

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

That the Bible is to you what bread is....

To the natural man.

Then Jesus said in Matthew 5:6:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.

Hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

Do you know what the word "blessed" means?

Itís a Greek word and it literally means "happy" or "satisfied" or "content" Ė joyful.

Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 5:6: blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

How many people do you know today who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness?

The green pastures of his word...

The still waters of his spirit...

How many people do you know who have a hunger for the word...

And a thirst for the spirit?

How many?

Not many.

Let me ask you another question.

How many happy people do you know?

Not many.

He didnít say, "Blessed are those who seek after blessedness"...or

Happy are those who seek after happiness...

He said, "Blessed are those who seek after righteousness."

Did you know the most unhappy people in the world are the people who are trying to be happy?

Did you know that?

Watch this: the next time you go on a vacation and to go a resort...

Look on the faces of the people walking the streets.

Generally the most miserable faces are in resort places.

Just look downtown.

The happiest faces are the people who are working at a service station somewhere, working in an office...

People who seek to be happy generally are not.

Itís a strange thing.

Happiness is something you never find by looking for it.

Happiness is something you stumble over on your way to serve Jesus.

When you are serving the Lord Jesus, happiness is the byproduct of righteousness.

Do you know what unhappiness comes from? It comes from self-centeredness and sin.

God engineered it that way.

God so loves you that he has engineered you that you will not be happy without Jesus.

Thatís the reason God said to Adam and Eve when they left the Garden of Eden...

Cursed is the ground for your sake.

Not for your judgment Ė but for your sake.

I put a curse on the ground...thorns and thistles will it bring to you.

When you pick a rose Ė you Ďoh!í

When you skip on a rock Ė you say, "ouch"!

God wants your path to be rocky Ė why?

God wants your roses to be thorny Ė why?

The worst thing that could happen to man would be to have a desired heart and live in paradise.

He would never know that anything was wrong.

So God gives us thorns...

God gives us thistles...

God gives us problems...

God gives us heartaches...

To say, "Hey, there is something wrong in this world down here!"

What is wrong is sin...

What is right is righteousness.

Now what most people are trying to do is to get rid of those thorns and thistles instead of the problem that caused them.

Suppose you go to the doctor and youíve got fever and pain and swelling...

Evidently there is an infection on the inside.

But all the doctor does it to give you some strong medicine to kill the pain and reduce the fever.

But he never deals with the infection.

Now he is not a good doctor.

Now I want him to kill the pain if he can...

But only to get at the infection...

Thatís the problem.

Folks, people who are trying to be happy are only treating the symptom.

If youíll seek after righteousness, youíll be dealing with the infection.

Seek righteousness, then youíll be happy.

Then youíll deal with the stress.

He makes the to lie down in green pastures.

Thatís his word.

He leads me beside quiet waters.

Thatís his spirit.

What I am trying to say is this...

What you need to have the deepest need in your heart met...

Is to worship God!

To drink of the spirit is to feed on the word of God.

Thatís sufficiency.

What do we have in the good shepherd...

A Ė Security...

B Ė Sufficiency...

C Ė Serenity.

He makes me lie down.

Sheep will not lie down until they are content.

Have you ever seen so many people hurrying?

When I go to town they are going everywhere.

Why donít they just stay home?

Everybody is going Ė moving.

I read about a fighter plane (this is not a joke)...

This plane was moving so fast that it fired its cannon ...

It overtook the bullet and shot itself down.

I had to read that.

The plane was moving faster than the shell and it literally overtook its own bullet and shot itself down.

And a lot of people are doing the same thing.

I mean they are shooting themselves down.

They do not take time to slow down and be still and know that God is God.

To have that serenity...that quietness.

Itís not a sin to be quiet Ė itís a sin not to be quiet.

Let me give you some scripture.

Listen to what God says here.

Isaiah 30:15: In quietness and trust is your strength.

Psalms 46:10: be still and know that I am God.

Do you know what the sheep is doing when it lies down?

Itís chewing the cud.

A sheep has a second stomach and it puts that sweet grass and that clover and alfalfa...

He puts it down in that second stomach, itís loading up.

Then the shepherd says, "Now lie down and digest what you have got."

So the sheep brings it back up and begins to chew on it and taste it.

That is when the sheep is growing.

Thatís the most productive time for the sheep, that quiet time, that serenity.

Do you know what that is?

If that green grass is the word of God...

What is the sheep doing when it is chewing the cud?

Itís meditating.

In his law he meditates day and night.

There are so many scriptures on meditation.

Write these down...

Psalm 1:1-2, we talked about that...

Psalm 19:14: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sigh. Oh Lord, My rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 104:34: May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.

Psalm 119:15: I meditate on our precepts and consider your ways.

Do you know what is wrong with most of us?

We donít lie down in the green grass and meditate.

Even those of us who study the word of God...

How much time do we take to really, really digest what God has given us?

Most of us think that we have done God a wild favor if we get to church on Sunday.

And if we can halfway understand what the pastor is saying.

And when you get home, do you really meditate on what you have heard?

When you study Godís word in the morning do you really have a quiet time?

Do you keep a spiritual journal?

Do you write down the thoughts that God gives you?

You say, "How do people know whatís in the word of God? How did he get that?"

There is but one way to get it and thatís to sit back and chew the cud and meditate.

And if you expect God to give you something you ought to have a pen to write it down with.

In his law does he meditate day and night?

You see, some of us are just too busy.

If you donít have time to do this, you are too busy...you are going to miss life.

In the same chapter, John 10: the good shepherd chapter.

Jesus said: I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.

You are going to miss life looking for it.

Sometimes I hear people tell young people this: Make all the money you can, just so you make it honestly.

Thatís not good advice, because if you make all the money you can...

You are going to be making money when you ought to be doing something else.

You are going to be making money when you ought to be quiet with God.

Iím not against making money and Iím not against business.

But I am trying to tell you that you need to stop and prioritize your life.

Do you know what God does to some of us?

He makes us lie down.

He makes me lie down.

I mean, we wonít do it unless he makes us.

David said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray."

He said in another place...

It has been good for me!

That I have been afflicted.

He makes me lie down!

Why donít you just do it yourself and say, "Lord, you donít have to do it that way."

"Iíd just rather slow down. I want to be quiet...I want to be still...

And know that thou art God!"

How do you deal with stress?

Remember, a distressed sheep is not producing wool...itís not producing fat...

Itís not reproducing...

He makes me lie down.

Why does the shepherd do that? Why?

Because he loves the sheep and he wants healthy sheep.

If you are over-stressed...

Finding Jesus Christ is your security.

Heís the good shepherd.

Find in him sufficiency.

In green pastures.

Find in him serenity.

He makes me lie down.

Can you find in him as David said...

The Lord is my shepherd.

Not a shepherd Ė we all know that...

Can you say he is my shepherd.

If not, can I help you today to receive Christ as your personal Savior?

You can be saved in a car driving down the street...

You can be saved anywhere.

You can be saved right where you are.

If you are not saved or if you are not certain that you are saved...

I want to help you right now at this moment.

Would you begin to pray a prayer like this, just out of your heart...

Just pray silently...

"Dear God, I need you and I want you...

I want to know you personally...

I want my sin forgiven...

I want you to live in my heart...

I want strength for living...

I want to know that Iím going to heaven when I die...

I know you died for this lost sheep.

You paid for my sins.

Thank you for paying for my sins.

Thank you for loving me so much.

Now Jesus, come into my heart, forgive my sin, save me."

Did you ask him?

Then by faith, according to the promise of his word, would you thank him for saving you?

The Bible says, for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Just say, "Thank you Jesus for saving me.

I receive it by faith right now.

You are now my shepherd, my Savior and my God forever.

In your name I pray. Amen."