Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 8, 2010

thrive, not strive

It was an interesting journey back in time as I looked through books donated to a relief auction. Popular books that I had used in the 1980’s could now be had for a simple donation. Although illustrations from these works are dated, the principles remain timeless. A quick scan of one, Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back, by Charles Swindoll was as penetrating as the first time I read it. A particular chapter caught my eye related to stress. Stress was different then, without the internet, cell-phones, twenty-four hour news and all of the other conveniences meant to make our lives easier. But stress was stress, nonetheless! What mattered then and now, is how we handle it.

Psalm 46:10a (NASB)
Cease striving and know that I am God

These are words that are quoted with great conviction, regardless of the generation. Who doesn’t want to live with a heart that is quiet and at peace before the Lord? But striving after our objectives can easily dominate our lives, thus creating stress. Anyone who is a Christ-follower should be willing to examine their level of stress vs. their willingness to cease striving. A closer look at the word cease gives us direction. The Hebrew term for this word means relax. It is counter-intuitive to think that I can accomplish more in my walk with God by being relaxed, rather than by striving. Ceasing to strive, and daily dependence on a Greater power will accomplish His purpose in and through us.

From the dated, yet relevant reading, the following words gave great 21st century advice. My old relief sale copy of Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back, quoted Tim Hansel’s work, When I Relax, I Feel Guilty. I am sure you will associate with the spirit in his words.

Slow me down, Lord.
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations – of slowing down to look at a flower,
to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to smile at a child, to read a few lines from a good book.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values, that I may grow toward my greater destiny.
Remind me each day that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than increasing its speed.
Let me look upward to the towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well.

Read and re-read those words. As you start this week, are you willing to join with me and cease striving? Is the word relax in your current vocabulary? The nature of stress hasn’t changed since the 1980’s; we’ve just added new sources of stress. Psalm 90:12 (MSG) gives us another timeless truth:

Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!

Living wisely and well is to live under the umbrella of God’s power and relax.

I have a busy week upcoming, and so might you. We can choose to slow down, relax and become better examples of what it means to be a Christ follower. Stressful circumstances may still attack, but living with a quiet heart will change the way we act and react. Timeless treasures from old books, still work!


  1. Thanks Mike

    How true !! great reflection on timeless advice — I will do my best to lower my stress !! I think that rhymes

  2. God knew I needed to hear those words now more than ever and He used you to bring them to my attention. Thank you!

  3. I hope YOU were able to relax at “The Hampton Inn” We enjoyed having you.

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