Stress Buster 101: Rest in Christ!

Recently, I’ve been catching myself say to my friends and clients in Christian Counselling: “Rest in Christ! Rest in His finished work!” I say it to people who are depressed, to people who are abused, and generally to almost anyone who is stressed out.  Much to their dismay, most of them (if not all?) would ask me: “how? what does that mean?!”

First, allow me to set the foundations of the phrase.  There are numerous verses talking about this rest but my personal favourite is found here:

Rest in Christ

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.  

For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

This generally means that we have to stop focusing and worrying about our own works and effort and shift our consciousness to the works and obedience of The Lord Jesus Christ.  Focus on His obedience to God and not ours.

Why is this? Because we human beings (or creatures) are not God, and we therefore, have this propensity to sin (to fail).  This is why when we look at ourselves, we rarely experience the feelings of pride; instead, we always see the lack and the failures which we have been carrying.  For this reason, The Lord Jesus is telling us NOT to focus on ourselves, on what we have done or on what we have not; but rather, to keep our eyes on Him and be conscious of what He has done for us.

The focus on the “me”, the “I”, or “what can I do?” or “what must I do?” is the number one cause of stress.  Time to time, The Lord instructed us to simply lay things down on His feet and to trust in Him.  We are here to flow in the truth that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).  So, instead of the “I” thinking or the “Me” consciousness, to rest in Christ involves focusing our prayers, our thoughts, and our speech on “You!”

Everyone who focused and boasted on the themselves (the “I” people) were humbled down by the The Lord.  The Pharisee documented in Luke 18:11, though visiting the temple, centred his prayers on himself saying:

Pharisee PublicanI thank thee, that I am not as the other men are..
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all the I possess.

Jesus called this man self-righteous, trusting only in themselves (Luke 18:10).  This doesn’t only happen with the hated Pharisees but to all of us; even that of the top Disciples of Christ, Simon Peter.

For a large part of his character development or we can call it his grooming stage, Peter always had this problem of self-focus.  He would always proclaim His love for The Lord and how much he loved the Lord compared to the rest of the apostles.

Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” 
Luke 22:33

Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”
Matthew 26:33

“No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!”
Matthew 26:35

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself humbled Peter down by prophesying his famous 3-fold denial.  You see, everytime we focus on ourselves, we will encounter a thought that will humble us down (or stress us out).  Even the rich man who came to Jesus and bragged about his good behaviours had a glimpse of the truth – that all his work and effort amounted to nothing before the holy and pristine standards of Jesus Christ (Mark 10:17).

This is one of the greatest lesson in stress reduction.  When we focus on ourselves and our futile self efforts, we end up losing hope and we end up functioning less effectively.  However, when we focus on Jesus Christ, our reality falls into place and we are once again reminded that the battle is His’ and not ours.  We end up being recharged, encouraged, and motivated as we flow back into His grace.

Before Peter can lead the early church, God Himself had to train Peter by making him focus less on himself and start pointing to Jesus Christ.  With all his boastings, Peter finally learned that all he is capable of is deserting and outrightly denying Jesus Christ.

In what I call the Counselling of Simon Peter, Jesus Christ taught him to convert his “I” to “YOU”.

A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time.
He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
John 21:17

Do observe that Peter’s response to the first 2 questions were a direct “Yes, I love You.”  Amidst all his focus on the self and the “I”, Peter finally learned that everything about everything is for The Lord Jesus Christ.  Our prayers, even our worship songs ought to be phrased in “YOU LORD” instead of “I love you” or “I give my life to you”.  All these thoughts centering on oneself will invite nothing but stress and burn out to our lives.  Let us live out what Jesus Christ taught Simon Peter and change our attitutde from “I” “I” “I” to “You” “You” “You”!

Bride of Christ
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16:16