Today we are starting a new sermon series called Life Hacks, and it is important that we all understand what a life hack is. A life hack is a trick, shortcut, or skill that increases productivity or efficiency in any area of life. A life hack is a new way of doing something that is better than the old way and there are literally thousands of life hacks you can find to help you with cooking, cleaning, travelling, parenting, entertaining, car maintenance, and health.
One of my favorite life hacks has to do with how we reheat pizza. For years ,I would reheat it in the microwave, because I just wanted it fast, but it always came out kind of soggy on top with a tough crust. If you want to reheat pizza in the microwave, place a glass of water in the microwave with your pizza. It is 100% better. If you like an even crispier crust, don’t use the microwave or a toaster oven but a skillet. Heat it for a few minutes, move it to the side, add a little water and cover the skillet so it can steam and then you will have a perfect piece of left-over pizza.
Here are some more life hacks that might be helpful…
- Watermelon – 978
- Cottage Cheese – 984
- Oil Stains – 925
- Ketchup – 927
So a life hack is finding new, better, novel, or quicker ways to do things that can make life better. For the next several weeks we are going to read through the book of James and learn some life hacks that might transform our lives. James is a very practical book and offers us some life principles and life hacks that can strengthen our faith and improve our lives. James 1:2—8, 12
The first truth James wants to teach us is that trials will come to all of us. James doesn’t say to consider it joy IF trials come but WHENEVER they come – because they will come. Trials and struggles come to all of us. As children and teens we deal with peer pressure, school pressure, the pressure to perform well in sports and music, and the pressure of pleasing our parents. As we get older there is still peer pressure, but we can add to that financial pressure, job pressure, the pressure we feel in raising children and then caring for parents. As adults we feel the never-ending pressure of being responsible for so many and so much in life.
There is tremendous pressure we face in life and with this pressure comes trials and problems and the life principle that James teaches us is that we should not try to live free FROM pressure but learn how to live free UNDER pressure. Do you see the difference? Striving to live free FROM pressure assumes that somehow we can live our life free from all trials and problems, but we can’t. The pressure of life brings problems, and as hard as we try to avoid them, the problems will come and we will feel like we have failed. There will be no freedom and no peace.
Instead of trying to live free from pressure, we need to learn how to live free UNDER pressure. This way of looking at life understands that trials will come, and since we can’t avoid them, maybe we can learn something through them. It looks at the problems in life as opportunities that God can use to actually make us stronger, more faithful, and more mature. When trials aren’t to be avoided, we experience them not as failures but as opportunities, and with opportunity comes choices, and growth, and freedom.
It’s important to read James’ words correctly. God doesn’t send trials to make us grow and mature, the trials come because we live in a fallen and broken world. The problems we face might be the negative consequences of our own choices, but they might also be tragic or difficult events that simply happen in life. We lose jobs because the market changes or businesses fail even when we have worked hard and done a good job. We can eat right, exercise, and care for our bodies as best as we can but health problems will still come because our bodies break down and were never meant to last forever. And through no fault of our own, accidents happen.
If we can understand and accept that trials will always be part of life, then we can look at these situations as opportunities God can use to mature our faith and strengthen every part of our lives.
The Apostle Paul said, God works for the good in all circumstances for those who love Christ Jesus. He didn’t say God causes all circumstances and he didn’t say that all circumstances are good. He said that God can use all circumstances, good and bad, to bring about something good in our lives. God can use all circumstances to mature our faith. Since trials have their place in making us grow, we should consider it a joy when they come, not because the trial is good but because the trial is a pathway to deeper faith, greater wisdom, and stronger love.
So here are three life hacks to help us live free under pressure. These might be new or novel ways to deal with trials, but they are effective ways to find God’s freedom in times of trial and they will mature our faith.
#1 Learn Under Pressure. When we are stressed or are struggling in life, we need to take time every day to learn something new. We need to read as much as we can. If you really aren’t a reader, listen to a podcast, or watch a TED Talk. If you aren’t familiar with TED talks, they are short video lectures on any and every topic you can think of. However you learn best, take some time to learn something new every day.
We might want to take time to learn how to more effectively deal with the specific pressure or problem we are facing, or we might want to simply learn something new to expand our horizons and give us a healthy and new perspective. It really doesn’t matter what we learn because the process of learning will stimulate our brain and open new pathways for us to think about life and our problems.
#2 Laugh Under Pressure. This might seem counter-intuitive because most of us going through difficult times really don’t feel like laughing, but laughter is a powerful force for good in our lives. For those of you who grew up reading Readers Digest like I did, it is absolutely true that Laughter is the Best Medicine. In fact, studies have shown that:
- Laughter relaxes the whole body – it relieves physical tension and stress, leaving muscles relaxed for 45 minutes.
- Laughter boosts the immune system – it decreases stress hormones & increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies.
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins – this is the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
- Laughter protects the heart – it increases blood flow, which can help protect us against a heart attack and heart disease.
- Laughter burns calories – ok not a lot, laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories.
- Laughter eases the burden of anger – it diffuses anger and conflicts faster than talking things out.
- Laughter may help us live longer – people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much.
While we may not feel like laughing during times of trial, if we can find those things that can make us laugh, and if we can share a laugh with others, it can help free us from the pressure and trials we face.
#3 Look Up Under Pressure. Perhaps this is the most important life hack to remember when we are under pressure. Don’t look down in hopelessness and give up. Don’t look around for help. While the wisdom of the world and the support of others can help us at times, if that is all we do in times of need, we will fail. Don’t look in and rely upon your own strength and power to get through the difficult times because on our own we cannot make it. We need to look up – we need to look to God who alone gives us the strength and power we need so that we can endure, and persevere, and overcome. Paul said, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
The Bible tells us again and again that we need to look up because God alone is our strength, our support, and the one who can help.
- Psalm 18:2-3, 6
- Psalm 121:1-4
- Isaiah 12:2
- Habakkuk 3:19
- Hebrews 12:1b – 3
The life principle James wants us to embrace is that we shouldn’t try to live free from pressure and problems but learn to live free under pressure. Trials will always be a part of our lives, so let’s see them as opportunities to become mature in our faith. And here’s how we can do it:
- Learn Under Pressure
- Laugh Under Pressure
- Look Up Under Pressure
Life Hacks – Trials
Don’t seek to live free FROM pressure and trials,
Learn to live free UNDER pressure and trials.
- LEARNUnder Pressure
- Identify how you best learn new material and find resources that can help you explore and experience new things.
- Read, listen to a podcast, or watch a TED talk.
- Share what you are learning with others.
- LAUGH Under Pressure
- How can time with family and friends bring you joy?
- What resources can help you laugh every day?
- Share your laughter with others in the church and world. Everyone needs a good laugh!
- LOOK UPUnder Pressure
- How can scripture, prayer, worship, and obedience to God help you strengthen your relationship with God?
- Read Psalm 18, Psalm 121, Isaiah 12:2, Habakkuk 3:19 and Hebrews 12:1-3.