A number of years ago I began a search for a way to minimize or balance the stress in my life. Stresses caused by financial insecurity, people and technical problems at work, marital relationships, child rearing and of course illness. Of greatest value to me on this quest was book called "Guaranteed Steps to Managing Stress", by Burton and Crews. The key for managing stress, both internal and externally generated, described in the book was coming to understand the Sovereignty of God.
Having read the book at time when I was also well immersed in reading Paul's Epistles in the New Testament, I had to deal with the challenges of these books while trying to understand them in context of Gods total sovereignty. At work, how could the systems I designed be successful without pointing out flaws in systems that always were people related, without solving all the problems myself, and without making enemies by excelling. How could I tolerate the failures of others that affected my deliverables without enduring stress? At home, how could I "be a good steward" of my income and yet not risk damaging an already fragile marital relationship when in my view my wife made an improper expenditure? How could I support my children when my wife became overly angry with them without risking damage to that fragile relationship? How could I chasten a Christian friend or family member when I saw them outside of Gods ideals without fearing the loss of their friendship or risking their wrath?
The answer to all of these dichotomies or "stuck places" as I call them was is coming to understand the difference between obeying Gods commands and taking ownership for the result or outcome of a given situation. Most Americans tend to be very success oriented. We have the concept driven into us from a very young age that its results that count. The process by which we go after them is not as important. A good example of "Ownership" in the New Testament is the Pharisees. They were the keepers and interpreters of the law. True the law they espoused was God's law. Yet our Lord associated them with evil. They had become "owners" of they law, They came to measure their value based on how well others obeyed the law rather than on how well they taught it. And because they felt ownership for the law, they lost the very attribute they hoped to gain -righteousness.
Obedience rather than ownership is what God wants from us. A good example of this in the New Testament is Jesus commands to his disciples to "shake the dust from their feet" after a visit to a city which did not accept their message. They were told to preach, not to convert. It is for God to own the result. He is sovereign. We can apply this concept to manage stress in each area of our lives.
At work we can realize that God is providing our employment not the company we work for as a favor to us. We are challenged in Colossians 3:23 to do all our work as good as we can as for the Lord regardless of task. In each situation we should endeavor to give our best at work. Focus on this and don't concern yourself with what the outcome of your effort will be. If it succeeds or fails, God is still sovereign and will continue to provide sufficiently for you.
At home with family problems we can also apply this principle. In all situations endeavor to obey Gods commands as they apply to the situation (including those on humility!) Do not fear for what might happen. God will be sufficient for you, your spouse and your children. Let him own the results. You just obey!
As we endeavor to lead those straying from Gods laws we must remember to obey the guidelines given to us by Paul in 1 Cor 2:4-5. Provide the guidance, counsel or chasten but do not take ownership the results lest you loose sight of Gods sovereignty. While I have been discussing ownership of results, results are often tied to material possessions. Remember what Solomon learned,in Eccl 2:26, "To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.
by David C Klem
Ownership vs. Obedience
Today, responsible people are often motivated by an attitude of ownership. They take ownership for the tasks they are given and work hard on them. The problem with this is that while ownership produces responsibility it also produces stress and worry when things go poorly and pride when things go well.
For a Christian however there is an another attitude that produces responsibility, it is an attitude of simple obedience to God. Tasks undertaken with an attitude of obedience do not cause stress or inspire pride because the person is not the "owner" of the outcome, God is. (1 Cor 2:4-5) Obedience also has the additional benefit in that it produces faith .. something extremely valuable to God. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Recognizing this, I submit that a large part of what we call "Christian Burn-out", comes from service directed by an attitude of ownership. Service directed by an attitude of obedience does not result in burn-out because God does not overwork his children. (1 John 5:3)
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