ENGLISH VERSION - Bulletin Nº 31 April 25, 2021

The Stress of Faith

by Rev. Renato Souza Prates

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Detalhe da Imagem - Hand Reaching Out For Bird - by Nathan Lau

 It all starts with the children: “Be a good boy”. "Be a good girl." "Make Daddy proud." "Don't make us feel ashamed." As children get older, their social environment becomes more important. Young people feel that they need to live up to the group's standards, to be worthy of being invited to parties or to be with cool kids. Social media creates even greater pressure for him and her to be recognized and many fail to compete and pass out on their low self-esteem.

 

At university age, the pressure to perform well at school increases, along with everything else. Anxiety is the scourge of many college students, because future success seems to depend on academic performance. The pressure continues into adulthood, aggravated by job performance assessments, along with the same pressures as before: “Be a good professional”. "Be worthy of our company." "Be a good father." "Be a good mother".

 

Some of that stress seems inevitable, but what about faith? Does it relieve or cause stress?

 

In fact, faith also has its stress. Some of you may have come from a religious background with a lot of pressure to perform well or meet certain standards. You felt that you needed to be “a good Christian”, obeying the superficial and legalistic expectations of your religion. If you have ever failed to live up to expectations, then you have been humiliated and ostracized. Or perhaps, their religious experience was in a group where full acceptance was difficult to obtain. People who did not belong to the right families, who were not "cool enough" or did not grow up with other people in the group, could never be accepted.

 

The church at Philippi was dealing with some of these issues, and Paul felt compelled to face the situation head on. In Philippians 3: 1-6 he will deal with tremendous religious stress! Circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of his inclusion in God's covenant promise. For Jews, circumcision indicated a privileged position in the world. The Jews WERE privileged, as God's chosen people. Paul says about the people of Israel in Romans 9: 4-5: “Theirs is the adoption to sonship; of them divine glory, covenants, receiving the law, temple worship and promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever, is traced! Amen."

 

When the Messiah - Jesus Christ - came, all believers, not just Jews, became children of God. However, there was much debate in the church about whether Gentiles should be circumcised, as a sign of their inclusion in God's original covenant with his people. After serious discussion, the apostles decided that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised. From what Paul said, it seems that there were some people in Philippi who were trying to convince the Gentiles to submit to circumcision. They were probably not saying that circumcision was necessary for salvation, but that it was a symbol of being "a better Christian" or "perfect".

 

There may have been traces of racism or cultural superiority in this as well. Some Jews despised Gentiles, calling them "Gentile dogs". Paulo changed that, when he said in very direct language: "Watch out for these dogs, these malefactors, these mutilators (lit." cutters ") of the meat." But circumcision was more than status; a man who was circumcised was then required to obey all the commandments of Jewish law religiously. He could not eat pork (a pity ... the most delicious of all) and would have to scrupulously comply with hundreds of Jewish laws. He would be under tremendous pressure to perform well, because only by complying with Jewish laws could he be confident that he would be living as "a good Christian".

 

Paul did not tolerate the toxic faith that circumcisionists brought to the church. His faith was based on cultural pride, superficial self-righteousness and performance mentality. Paul could play the game of superiority with the best of them, since he had superior status as a born and raised Jew, a scrupulous Pharisee, a legalistic moralist and a zealous defender of Judaism. However, his testimony was of no value. In fact, he was "rubbish". What had previously been a source of pride for him, had drained his joy, made him less fair and left him without hope. Just read verses 7-11. Paul had found a better faith, which revealed how toxic his hypocritical faith had been.

 

Let's look in detail at this new faith: Paul's righteousness was not based on performance, but on accepting God's grace in Jesus Christ. In verse 9, he says he was "found in Christ, not having my own righteousness that comes from the law, but that which comes by faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God based on faith." Performance righteousness can be based on being “a good church person,” who appears to the church, contributes as expected and supports what the pastor or the leadership wants. Each church has its expectations.

 

When looking for a new community, we visit many churches before making up our minds. It was interesting to see how each denomination or group “made a church”. Some had long sermons, with "truly committed people" taking notes. Others had long times of worship, with “passionate worshipers” raising their hands. ”(In other churches, dedicated worshipers sang in the choir.) Some constantly demand the offering, while others don't even use a treasure. Some emphasize welcoming newcomers and evangelism, while others emphasize community service. Some defend patriotism, while others have a worldwide emphasis. Paul's justice did not depend on anything like that. His justice came from God, not from his own efforts. He was made righteous by faith in Christ and was sure of his acceptance by God. Paul's goal was to know Christ, not through a system of rules, but through "sharing in his sufferings."

 

In many churches, there is little talk of knowing Christ through suffering. There is much about how Christ can help people avoid suffering, prosper and be healthy and happy. Those are good things! However, while Paul suffered in prison, he found himself closer to Christ. We don't seek suffering, of course, and I hope we don't have to suffer too much. What we are to share with Christ is bondage. As Philippians 2: 7 says, Christ Jesus “did nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant ...” Jesus suffered for the sake of others. As we join him to serve others, we approach him.

 

I know people who work with homeless people, prisoners, abused women and children and adopted children. As they do the work of Christ, they know the heart of Christ with more passion. Paul's confidence was in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Philippians 3: 10-11 states: “I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and thus, in some way, reaching the resurrection of the dead. " Paul was a Pharisee and the Pharisees believed in the resurrection. But Paul's confidence increased to a different level when he met the risen Lord Jesus. This gave him strength to face his current situation and a sure hope for eternal life.

 

There is an old hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, which has a verse that says, "Strength for today and brilliant hope for tomorrow." Paul would have agreed! The resurrection guaranteed Paul the power of God in his current situation, while giving him the guarantee of a glorious future.

 

How do we deal with stress when life seems out of control? Thoughts of escape, confusion, even anger. Circumstances that we cannot change. Oppression by spiritual, political, economic and social powers and authorities. We need strength for today and a sure hope for tomorrow. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is evidence that we can trust God in the present and the future. Does this mean that we will have a stress-free life? No. Paulo did not have a stress-free life. For him he had a life that was not satisfied with the imperfection of his sinful nature. This is what he says in verses 12 to 16 of chapter 3 of Philippians. The athlete goes to the weight room, day after day. Every day, he struggles, almost beyond what he can handle. Each week there is more weight, more repetitions, more muscle stress. Because? The goal! Win the race, win the medal, achieve perfection in gymnastics or on the ice.

 

For believers, the prize is guaranteed, but not yet achieved! It is already and not yet! WHAT IS THE

 

ALTERNATIVE TO AVOID PERFORMANCE STRESS?

 

Is it to escape to a world without judgment, a life of giving in to every whim? Some people who feel the pressure of performance anxiety try to escape. They abuse alcohol or drugs. They may try to relieve anxiety in pornography or fantasies. They can go to wild parties, where anything goes. Some seek out “tolerant” people to make sure that everything they do, good or bad, is okay. Some try to redefine the standards of society and even the church, to remove the stress caused by disobedience to God's moral standards.

 

The answer to performance stress is no longer rules, OR there are no rules. It is to live as Paul described, to live with Christ, as he records in verses 17 to 21. Paul has the vision of a life lived with Jesus! It is not a stress-free life, as Jesus' life was not stress-free! Jesus accepted the stress of a just life, because he had a vision of glory to come: Philippians 2: 8-11 declares: “... He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on the cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will know that Jesus Christ it is the Lord, for the glory of God the Father.”

 

Paulo shared that vision of glory, and it made his stress totally worth it! Philippians 3: 20-21 says: “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we look forward to a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to put everything under his control, will transform our humble bodies to be like his glorious body”.

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