LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–As students and faculty faced the last weeks of classes and semester-ending final exams, professor Timothy Beougher reminded seminarians about the differences between stress and worry in a Nov. 20 chapel message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Even when the “stressometer” is at 100, Beougher told the seminarians that believers should follow Paul’s example with a zero reading on their “worryometer.” Beougher is associate professor of evangelism and associate dean in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at the Louisville, Ky., seminary.
“We live in a stressful world where adverse circumstances can come out of nowhere, and blindside us, and drive us to worry,” Beougher said.
Citing the life of the Apostle Paul, as reflected in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Beougher noted the overwhelming, and seemingly endless, list of trials Paul had suffered, including beatings, jailings, shipwrecks and other dangers of diverse origins.
Although Paul had as much reason as any to be stressful, Beougher said the apostle taught first-century believers how they could handle stress through their relationship with Jesus Christ. “This is a man who had learned the secret of peaceful living in a stressful world,” Beougher said.
That secret, Beougher said, is found in the apostle’s instructions in Phil 4:6-7 where he presented alternatives that keep stress from becoming worry: resist anxious thoughts, remember God’ faithfulness and receive God’s peace.
Beougher noted it was worry, and not concern, that was being discouraged in the passage. “The worry that’s being forbidden here is that distracting worry, that paralyzing worry … that gives us a knot in our stomach, that keeps us awake at night,” he said.
Although these types of stress are harmful physically, Beougher explained the more important reason they are forbidden by Paul is because such anxiety is contrary to a sovereign, all-knowing God who has promised to take care of his children.
“If your God is small, your problems are going to seem big. If your God is big, your problems are going to seem small,” Beougher pointed out. He challenged the audience to reassess their view of God, to remember who God is and the power he has in their lives.
The key to understanding the Philippians passage and to winning over worry is found in the truth of praying with an attitude of thanksgiving, Beougher explained. He challenged the seminarians who feel crushed by the stresses of school, ministry obligations and family concerns to focus on God rather than on their problems. “We should glance at our problems, but we should gaze on God,” Beougher said.
“Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything,” Beougher exhorted the students. Rather than being “Pollyannaish,” practicing such an attitude is biblical, he asserted.
Believers should seek the opposite of worry and receive God’s peace during good times and in the midst of life’s storms as well, Beougher said. Calling the promise of verse 7 “one of the most beautiful phrases in all of Holy Scriptures,” he noted that the phrase could be rendered the peace of God will “garrison your heart,” noting the strength of God’s peace.
Beougher was careful to add, “It’s not a peace that we can manufacture. It’s a peace that only God can give.”
The ability of believers to trust in God is found in remembering three important attributes of his character: He is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving, Beougher said.
Beougher illustrated his final point by quoting the popular hymn, “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.” “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” The congregation was led in singing the hymn following Beougher’s message.
Brown is a newswriter at Southern Seminary.