What’s your stress threshold? How much stress can you handle before you cross your stress threshold? You know you have passed the stress threshold when you have these symptoms: anxiety, irritability sleeplessness, moodiness, losing concentration, and appetite change. Some people eat a lot when they are stressed out and gain weight, and others lose their appetite.
I have discovered the secret to raise your stress threshold to the roof—by obtaining what I would call the License to Lead. If you have the license to lead, you will never get stressed out or burned out. Let me explain why and how it works.
You have heard that James Bond has a license to kill, but do you need a license to lead? You might think leadership does not require a license. All you need is the ability to lead. John Maxwell said, “If you want to know if you are a leader, just look over your shoulder. If there’s no one following you, you are just taking a walk.”
The Christian leadership style is known as Servant Leadership. Jesus modeled it by washing the feet of his disciples. Then do you need a license to serve?
Years ago, a young man told me that he had to take a break from the church because he felt somewhat stressed out by involving in the church activities. It was unexpected for me to hear that because I grew up in an environment seeing people enjoying serving at the church. Some were more involved than others, but until then I had never heard of anyone who left the church for that reason.
However, I took his word for it, believing that he was just taking a short break from the church. However, twenty years went by and there is no sign of him coming back. I often wondered if there were anything I could have said or done to keep him from leaving so that we would not have lost him permanently.
I am not talking about twisting his arm to stay but helping him manage his stress based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. WWJD–what would Jesus do? It triggered my curiosity about stress management based on the Bible.
On the other hand, I have heard from many people on the opposite end. For them serving at the church is the most fulfilling moments of their life.
There is a very successful and busy lawyer who always finds time to attend church and participate in the leadership and ministries of the congregation. He said something like, “Thank God for Sundays because this is the day I can take a break from the dog-eat-dog world and re-center my mind and refocus my spirit on what matters most—love, grace, and peace, joy, etc.”
For him, the church is a sanctuary from the stressful society and an oasis from the dreary desert. The church is his energy source to recharge him for another week of victory in his successful but high-stress job. It allows him to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith, as Paul said at the end of his life.
My question is, how can we turn that young man with a low stress-threshold to someone like this successful lawyer who seems nothing can knock him down.
I was looking for a secret switch that you can flip on—something I can use to advise people instantly without a long explanation.
Jesus’ disciples have high-stress assignments. They were watched and pursued by the officials to persecute them. They were preaching a message entirely new to society. Most of them were eventually executed by the authority. Stephen was stoned to death, Peter was crucified upside down, John was exiled to a remote island, and Paul was beheaded.
Most of them started out as ordinary people like you and me. Some were in a worse situation than us—fishermen, outcasts, peasants, except for Paul, who was a Pharisee.
What did Jesus say to them that turned these cowards into stalwarts, or supermen and superwomen?
Talking about superwomen, I recently re-watched the story of Joan of Arc, a 17-year-old peasant girl with a license to lead and was burned at the stake. She said, “If I were to say that God sent me, I shall be condemned, but God really did send me.” With this statement, she revealed her license to lead.
That’s what happened to heroes and heroines throughout history. They received the license to lead. It is the key to expounding Matthew 9:35–38,
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt 9:35–38).
You might notice that Jesus’ statement sounds convoluted. He didn’t say, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore go and bring in the harvest.” However, he said, “therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
It sounds paradoxical because he is telling you that there’s a need for laborers, yet he asked you to ask him back to send out laborers. As a reasonable person, you might question why he did not just straight out telling people to labor in the field. Why was he asking you to ask him to send out laborers?
However, in this one simple statement hides the secret of why some people turn from zero to hero instantly.
There are a couple of theological truths in this statement.
First, God is looking for leaders to transform the world, but he respects your free will to choose. God does not force you, push you, or coerce you to be a hero. It’s your choice to be a hero or zero. God does have the sovereignty to twist your arm, but he prefers not to use it against your free will. He does not want you to become a robot.
Second, you have to ask God for permission to be a hero if you want to make the maximum impact with minimum stress. A large part of this fallen world hates heroes, and they are ready to sabotage your effort. Jesus was crucified for being a hailed as a hero for his teaching, healing, and leading. No one will burn you at the stake these days, but they have other ways to sabotage your success and make you miserable.
So, when Joan of Arc said that she was sent by God, I am sure she asked God for permission to fulfill her calling that came to her since she was thirteen. She got the license to lead. That license makes her brave, resolve, and fearless. Paul said,
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31b).
Later Paul also said,
“And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:15a).
The secret to being able to serve without stress is hidden in this one simple word, “sent.”
If you feel stressed out in what you do, maybe you need to ask God to send you to do what you do. The feeling is not enough. Some people feel called to do something, and they go ahead and do it only to find out it was not as easy as they thought.
In the Old Testament, Nehemiah felt called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, but he prayed and fast for a long time to ask God for permission and blessing for success. He had sympathy for the people in Jerusalem, but that sympathy did not give him the license to lead.
There are many things we want to do in life, especially in these days. The entire world is anxiety stricken due to the COVID-19. Many cities in the U.S. are in chaos due to the lack of leadership or conflict of leaderships.
Jesus’ words ring true at times like this,
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mat 9:36).
You might share Jesus’ compassion and want to be the shepherd at your workplace, your community, or your connections. You may even be blessed with the financial ability to support other laborer’s efforts of teaching, healing, and leading. Who knows, you may be like Joan of Arc called to lead an army to fight the good fight and liberate you own people.
Whatever mode of leadership you take, you must obtain the license to lead if you don’t want to burn out before fulfilling your calling.
How do you know you have the license to lead? You have a higher stress threshold. You don’t flame out like a straw fire. Later, Jesus said,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28–30).
His yoke is like his license for you to be his copilot. It means you lead or serve with him by your side. In his presence, you can relax. As he said, his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. With him by your side, theirs is no stress.
So whenever you feel stressed out, it is a come-to-Jesus moment, and you have to ask whom you are working for? Who permitted you to do what you do? Most people don’t want anybody’s permission, and they just do their own way, and they get bogged down by the weight of their own heavy ego.
Prophet Isaiah has a stressful job. By the way, he is also one of those people who had obtained the licese to lead. His famous quote was “Here I am, send me.” He was sent by God to deliver a message that no one wanted to hear. You can imagine how stressful it could be.
However, he had a secret to fly high and travel far. He said,
He (The Lord) gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the LORD
shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31).
The word “wait for” is translated from a Hebrew word that has a complex meaning. The term also means “bind together.” Some translation says, “those who hope in the Lord.” So, I think the closer translation should have the word “in” to indicate the sese of being “bind together,” such as “in the Lord” like we often say, “in Christ,” “brother or sister in Christ,” “love in Christ,” etc.
I would translate it as “those who are in the Lord shall renew their strength.” By the way, if you think you are too old to lead, you need to memorize this passage and recite it often.
The point is if you obtain the license to lead or the license to serve, you are sent by God, you are bound together with the Lord, you are yoked with Jesus Christ, and you are in the Lord,. In such a situation, you will renew your strength. You will mount up with wings like eagles, and you will run and not be weary, you will walk and not faint.
So, let us all remember this powerful secret weapon against stress. You may have a noble desire to make a difference with your life, but make sure you ask for permission to serve and apply for the license to lead with your prayer. It will raise your stress threshold to the roof, allowing you to fly high and run far.
May God bless you with the opportunity to make the maximum impact with minimum stress and have a fruitful life. Amen!