How To Deal With Pressure

People all over the world have to deal with the constant stress of pressure. How do we manage? Dr. Cook walks us through God's strategy to deal with pressure.

Scripture: Psalm 37


Alright, thank you very much and hello again radio friends, how in the world are you? Are you doing alright today? Well, this is your good friend Bob Cook and we’re back once again with the Word of God and a few precious moments that we can invest together studying His Word. Hallelujah for that. I am so grateful, so very grateful for the privilege of working with you day by day in God’s Word.

Well, we finished the 91st Psalm, and what do you say we try one more Psalm before we go into book study once again? Is that alright with you? I love the 37th Psalm, and I haven’t talked with you about that for a long, long time. Several years, I guess, in fact. Let’s look at it, shall we? The opening verses I like to call a “prescription for pressure,” God’s prescription for living under pressure. We like to think that our days are more pressure-filled than anybody else’s in decades or centuries past. Fact is, I suppose, that every era has had its pressures. If you and I had been living in the time of our Lord Jesus Christ we, like all the rest, would have been under the control of the Roman Empire, the Roman government, and there weren’t any such things as what we call human rights today. You just didn’t have any rights, unless indeed you were an official Roman citizen and then you had some rights under the Roman law. But everybody else was subject to the commands of whatever whims the local ruler might have. Lots of pressure, lots of frustration, oh surely.

Had you lived in the time, let us say, of Abraham, it would have been in a culture where you had constantly to be on the alert lest you had some marauding band of bandits come in and steal your cattle, or murder your servants or you yourself. Well, there are always pressures, so that you and I aren’t much different today, although our civilization is quite complex and technology has provided, it would seem, more opportunity just to upset you. The refrigerator always quits on the hottest day, and the furnace always quits on the coldest day. Have you noticed that? You get a flat tire just when you’re going to a wedding reception; it couldn’t happen some other time. I suppose we have more opportunity to be “bugged,” as the verb is, by our technological culture, as others may have had.

But really, when it comes down to it, the reaction to the pressures of life depends on the kind of person that lives inside you, and the attitudes that you and I have toward the life around us. And that’s what this 37th Psalm talks about. Will you look at it with me: A prescription for pressure. That takes in verse 1 through verse 9 or 10. Now the first one is “Fret not thyself.” I used to have a favorite deacon years ago when I was pastor at Weston Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia. That church was located at 58th and Thompson. You Philadelphians know right about where that might be. They later merged with Spruce Street Baptist, and then Spruce Street Baptist moved out to New Town Square. So there’s been quite a bit of change since those days when I first came as a just-out-of-college pastor in 1935. But oh, there were some precious people there, one of whom was John Houghtcamp. He had a very quiet way of saying some very wise things. I remember whenever he went to visit his in-laws he would come back and see me within a few days, and he would say “you know preacher, when you see what other people have to put up with you’re awfully glad for what God gave you.” It never fails.

And another thing he would say, when speaking about Psalm 37:1: “you know, it says ‘fret not yourself.’ When you fret, who gets fretted? Why, you do.” “Fret not yourself.” When you get upset and burned up about things, you’re the one who suffers. Can you keep that in mind, beloved, the next time you’re tempted just to light the inside fuse that leads to an explosion? This verb is “to fret,” (Hebrew verb hara.) It is variously rendered in our English Bible by a number of words. One is “to be angry,” (9 times), “to be displeased,” (4 times) “to become hot in spirit,” (5 times) “to be kindled,” (43 times) “to be wroth,” (14 times) “to burn (once), to grieve (once) and to fret oneself,” which we have here in Psalm 37:1 (4 times). The preponderance of meaning, actually, has some relationship to lighting a fire, doesn’t it? Tell me, have you ever said, “You know, that just burns me up?” Have you ever said that or thought it? I guess we all have. “That just burns me up?” Well, he says “Don’t light the fire.”

We often tell young people when we’re talking with them about sex: “Don’t light the fuse unless you’re prepared for the explosion.” But I think a parallel could be drawn here: “Don’t light the fuse of anger unless you’re willing to live with the pieces after the explosion has occurred.” Now, I’ve lost my temper different times; I’m 76! You know that there have been times when I got angry. But I cannot remember one single time when it did any good. It never does any good to lose your temper. You always have to come back and pick up the pieces. He says “don’t do it. Don’t light the fire. Fret not.” Now there are reasons for getting burned up and usually it involves people. Fret not thyself because of evildoers: people who don’t do right, people who lie, people who cheat, people who scheme and conspire and finagle, people who are two-faced and smile at you while preparing to bite you, people who are lazy, people who shirk their duty and people who give an alibi for failing, people who play games with you and try to manipulate you.

He says, “Don’t light the fire.” One reason is that it doesn’t do a bit of good. Because the situation will pass: (verse 2) “they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither the green herb.” Trust in the Lord, he’s going to last. You know, the old Pennsylvania Dutch people were quite earthy. I saw a motto in a gift shop in Lancaster County years ago and it said something like this: “Kissin’ doesn’t last, but cookin’ does.” Well, anger against people doesn’t have any future to it, but God is always on the job. Trust in the Lord! Don’t get angry at people, trust in the Lord! Oh, incidentally, there are two reasons why we get angry. One is because people do wrong and the other is because in their wrongdoing, they seem to get away with it. Do not be envious against the workers of iniquity. Envy is a feeling of inward resentment and anger and even hatred for people who have it better than you while doing the wrong thing.

People do the wrong thing and yet they have it better than I do, and so I fret, I light the fire, I get hot under the collar, I get burned up. You know that. I certainly do. But we have to re-learn it, don’t we, in the stresses of life under pressure? We have to remember that God says “don’t light the fire.” Don’t fret yourself. Why? Because you’re the one that gets fretted. The fire’s inside, but remember the ashes will be as well.

Now he says, “Trust in the Lord” (verse 3) “and do good. So shalt thou dwell in the land and verily, thou shalt be fed.” The basics of life are food and clothing and shelter and self-preservation. And he said you relate the basics of life. Now you see you get angry at people because they threaten the basics. Somebody’s conspiring against you and threatening your job. Somebody is lying about you and threatening your reputation. Someone is threatening to foreclose on the mortgage because you missed a payment and so your house is threatened: threats that result from other people’s conduct. He says “trust in the Lord and do the right thing.” Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. used to thunder it out at his students when he was in his prime. He would put his right hand up to his mouth as a sort of half-megaphone and he would say, “Do right even though the stars fall! Do the right thing!”

Well, of course. Trust in the Lord and do the right thing. Oftentimes in the work of a pastor, I would have to interrupt the conversation in a committee and say, “hey now, what is the right thing to do? Not the convenient thing, not the thing that will help save face or defuse a situation, but what’s the RIGHT thing to do? Let’s do what we will wish we had done when we stand before the judgment bar of God.” Now there are two things that you do in response to God’s command. Don’t light the fire. He says, “trust the Lord.” That’s the first thing. Commit the situation to God. Risk the situation on God. Second, do the right thing. Risk the situation on what you know to be the will of God and second, specialize in doing the right thing.

What will happen? He says you will dwell in the land, and you will be fed. God will take care of food and clothing and shelter and the basics of life if you risk the situation on him. Now the New Testament correlative of that is very plain, isn’t it? Matthew 6, verse 33. You know that one, don’t you? “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” What are the “these things?” Food and clothing and shelter and the necessary things of life. God is not going to fail you or me if we dare to trust Him. That’s part of His prescription for living under pressure.

Well, we’ll take up a little more of this the next time we get together.

Precious Father, today, oh may we trust in Thee and may we do Thy will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the king today and be a blessing!

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