Reversing The Distress Cycle

God wants you to live in a place where your heart has unshakable security and tranquility. The Hebrew word is shalom, and the Bible gives us a “Shalom Cycle” that keeps us centered and grounded in God’s peace. 

But the Shalom Cycle begins to break down when…

  • …gratitude is replaced by grumbling 
  • …trust in God’s future grace is replaced by unbelief
  • …taking our worries to God is replaced by self-reliance

Anxiety causes our mind to race through all sorts of “what if” scenarios. My friend Josh Schram points out, “There are no benefits at all to having anxieties!” 

The disciples of Jesus were in an anxiety-producing situation—they were in a boat going through stormy seas. Jesus was in the boat with them, but He was sound asleep. Instead of going to Jesus with their worries, the disciples tried to get themselves out of the situation. As they did, the “what ifs” began to mount. 

What if the boat sinks … What if we get smashed on the rocks … What if not everyone can swim … What if (gasp!) Jesus doesn’t make it out alive … What if … What if… WHAT IF?!?

Until finally they screamed at Jesus, “Don’t You even care?!” 

Sadly, their last thought was to go to Jesus, instead of making Him their first thought. 

But Jesus cared more than they knew. Years later, Peter—who was in this storm-tossed boat—wrote, “Casting all your cares—all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all—on Him, for He cares about you with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully (1 Peter 5:7). 

Not—only your big concerns. 

Not—most of your concerns. 

But—ALL of your concerns; every single thing that robs you of even a moment’s peace. 

“Jesus, do You even care?” And Jesus responds with a loving, resounding, “YES! I care about every single thing that causes you anxiety, and worry, and care. Give them all to Me!” 

Paul wrote, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6). 

If we allow the Shalom Cycle to break down, the inevitable result in the exact opposite: The Distress Cycle

 

The arrows are going the wrong way, and we’re being pulled farther and farther down. We need an about-face, a 180-degree-turn, a new direction. The Bible has a word for this: repentance. Instead of the wrong direction, turn around and go the right direction: 

  • Instead of anxiety—prayer
  • Instead of worry—worship
  • Instead of tests—testimonies 

“Jesus is more concerned about changing our hearts than about changing our circumstances. He uses our circumstances to change our hearts, IF we will trust Him.” —Josh Schram

Overcoming Unbelief Before It’s Too Late

Unbelief can shut down the “Shalom Cycle” that God intends for our lives. Even worse, unbelief can put us on a slippery slope that could be disastrous for our future! So it is vital that we understand what unbelief is, how we can recognize it in our own lives, and the steps we can take to recover from unbelief. 

First of all, let me remind you of what the Shalom Cycle looks like—

Quite simply, when we are grateful for what God has already done for us it fuels our trust in God’s future grace to meet our needs. 

But when we forget to be grateful and gratitude turns to grumbling, unbelief displaces trust.

A good way to remember how unbelief works is thinking of it as an un-complete faith. An un-complete faith is lacking power to trust God because of one of two reasons:

  • Either we don’t know there is a promise available to us,
  • Or we know of a promise but don’t think it applies to our circumstance. 

J.C. Ryle pointed out that, “Unbelief has a power to rob man of highest blessings.” 

Hebrews 3 shows us that left unchecked and uncorrected, unbelief can turn into disbelief. You can remember this word by defining it as a complete disintegration of faith. Notice in Hebrews 3 how quickly the word unbelieving becomes turns away from God, and how closely associated are the words unbelief and disobeyed (Hebrews 3:12, 19-20). 

We need to correct and reverse unbelief as quickly as possible. We do this through capturing our thoughts—or thinking about what we’re thinking about—and identifying three warning signs: 

  1. Worrying all the time—God wants you to enter His rest, not wallow in worry (Hebrews 3:11) 
  2. Making contingency plans—the Israelites forgot to be grateful and they grumbled instead. The next step (since they didn’t trust that God’s future grace would take them into the Promised Land) was to disobey by concocting a Plan B: “Let’s go back to Egypt.” 
  3. An inward focus on self-preservation—we no longer encourage others but think only of ourselves (Hebrews 3:13). 

If you detect any of these warning signs, quickly repent (Revelation 3:2-3) and then run to Jesus for help. One of the most honest prayers you can pray—and one of the prayers Jesus answers the quickest—is “Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24). 

“Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 

Take control of grumbling by gratitude
Take control of unbelief by repentance and running to Jesus for help
Then help others take control of their unbelief by encouraging one another daily

Join me next Sunday for the final message in our 4-part series on God’s Shalom. 

The Dangers In Grumbling

God wants to give us His peace. The Hebrew word is shalom and it means a deep tranquility found in a personal relationship with Jesus that is greater than all external circumstances. Sadly, many people block the shalom God wants them to have. 

The “shalom cycle” looks like this…

Our gratitude for the things God has done fuels our faith in God’s future grace. That faith-filled expectation serves as fuel for our prayers, and answered prayer gives us even more for which we can give thanks. 

But the shalom cycle can break down when we forget to be thankful. My friend Scott Troost says that ungrateful people are usually characterized by—

  • Being bitter and unforgiving
  • Constantly attending their own pity parties 
  • Struggling with low self-esteem
  • Being greedy and covetous for the things they don’t have

Scott goes on to explain how we can stop the grumbling ingratitude from derailing the shalom cycle. 

  1. Be thankful for what you have, instead of wishing for things you don’t have (Philippians 2:14).
  2. Keep a gratitude journal of all that God has done for you (Habakkuk 3:2). 
  3. Notice how God has given you strength to make it through challenging times in the past (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). 

“There’s a huge difference between being thankful for something and being thankful in something. We are to be thankful always.” —Scott Troost 

As I talked about last week—we need to think about what we’re thinking about. This is the key to spotting those grumbling, ungrateful thoughts before they derail the cycle and rob us of God’s shalom. 

Join us next week for the third part of our 4-part series in which we will be uncovering another way that the shalom cycle can become derailed. Please join us either in person or on Facebook Live. 

What Is Shalom?

Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. Some of the best definitions of shalom include ideas of completeness, soundness, and wholeness. One Jewish rabbi commented that when you say “Shalom” to someone, you’re really saying, “may you be full of well-being.” Or another way of thinking of shalom is—nothing missing, nothing broken. 

Some have tried to describe shalom as the absence of conflict, but that’s not quite accurate. On the verge of going into the Promised Land to fight their enemies, God commanded Aaron to speak a blessing of peace of the people (Numbers 6:24-26). And just before Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9-10). 

Shalom is not controlled by outward circumstances. Shalom is a deep-seated, rock-solid, unshakable assurance that I am in God’s hand. 

Isaiah describes how we live in shalom like this—

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind—both its inclination and its character—is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

How do we do keep our mind stayed on God? The Apostle Paul says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Psychologists call this process metacognition: when we think about what we’re thinking about. It’s being aware of our anxious thoughts that are robbing us of shalom and then talking back to them. 

What often robs us of peace is listening to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves! 

Someone once asked evangelist Smith Wigglesworth, “Smith, how do you feel?” He replied, “I never ask Smith how I feel. I tell him how he feels!” Exactly right! 

Why do we make our thoughts obedient to Jesus? Because one of the titles given to Jesus before He was born was Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and Jesus assures us that His peace is unlike anything we can ever find in earthly things (John 14:27, 16:33). 

God’s peace is always there, but our divided minds keep us from experiencing His peace. So Isaiah tells us to keep our mind steadfast on God’s goodness, and Paul says the same thing—Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I want to encourage you to practice what the Bible calls capturing your thoughts—or what psychologists call metacognition. Ask yourself, “Why am I thinking that?” Capture those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. Don’t let your worrisome thoughts rob you of God’s shalom.

Join me this Sunday as we take a closer look at the “shalom cycle,” including the things that can derail it. 

Shalom

God makes a promise in Isaiah about His perfect peace being made available to His people. 

Ahhh, who wouldn’t want God’s perfect peace?! Sadly, many people actually block God’s peace from coming into their hearts. You see, God’s peace is always there, but there are things we humans frequently do that keeps us from experiencing His perfect peace. 

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which is a word packed with rich meaning! There are things God-loving people can do to keep shalom at the center of their lives, and I want to share these things with you. 

Please join me this Sunday as we begin a 4-part series looking at what shalom is, how we can keep it humming in our lives, as well as the warning signs that would indicate to us a breakdown of shalom is on the horizon. 

Please join me either in person or on Facebook Live for this life-changing series.

5 Blessings You Should Expect From Your Church Experience

Place of peaceKing David loved God, and he loved God’s people. He was passionate about everyone getting as deeply connected with God as he was, so he wrote worship songs, setup worship teams, and organized the temple for worshippers.

The first song of ascent he wrote was one anticipating how good it was going to be when everyone got to the temple in Jerusalem to worship.

In fact, David was so excited about what he was expecting to happen in their worship together that he practically glowed with joy! Really! The word for rejoiced in his song means to be so cheerful and happy that you make others around you bright by your happiness. 😀

What was it that David thought was going to happen? First of all, we need to look at the name Jerusalem. Traditionally this means the City of Peace, but the two words that make up “Jerusalem” are much richer than that. Yes, -salem means “peace.” But the first part of the word (yara-) literally means water flowing through, or an arrow being shot out.

In other words, David anticipated that we are going to a peaceful place to be sent out full of peace, to take that peace to others who don’t have it, but desperately need it.

While we are in our “Jerusalem” (for us in the New Testament, this is our “church,” even if it’s just two or three people getting together), here are five blessings you should expect—

  1. Unity—with all the “tribes” joining together.
  2. Praise—joining together to tell God how great He is!
  3. Learning—we come together to learn God’s statutes.
  4. Judgment—what?! How is judgment a blessing? If you are nervous about being judged, just remember Who does the judging in God’s temple: the Holy Spirit. He judges us in a loving way, and in a way that allows us an opportunity to see our sin, repent from it, and experience unconditional forgiveness. That is exciting!
  5. Peace, security, prosperity—the word shalom is used multiple times in the closing verses of this song. The best definition of shalom is: nothing missing, nothing broken. In other words, when we gather together to worship we should expect that God will heal any dis-ease we have, that He will supply what has fallen short, that He will fill up what’s empty.

With those five blessings in mind, here’s the declaration all Christians can make—

Inside these walls…
we live in unity
we praise the Lord
we learn God’s laws
we judge ourselves by God’s standards
repenting, confessing, forgiving, and being forgiven
we fight for peace
we bless God and one another
We descend back to the valleys
to take this message to valley-dwellers
that they, too, may pilgrimage
with us to Jerusalem
It starts here in God’s family!
It starts with me!

 

Check out the full video of this message, where I explain each of these ideas more fully. And if you’re in the area, join us on Sunday as we continue our look at the Psalms of Ascent.

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