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Fighting Discouragement

fighting-discouragement-1Yesterday’s sermon dealt with Discouragement that comes upon all of us. Hopefully the short 20 minute or so message will help you and you can listen to it here.

See if you can’t relate to this: Everything is going well, perhaps you had a great victory, accomplished a milestone, or did something you can take pride in and then BAM!….out of nowhere someone says something that feels like cold water being thrown in your face.

Perhaps we think of Job who, in one day, goes from being a healthy, wealthy man with sons, daughters, cattle, camels, sheep, respect and honor to having nothing except an unsupportive wife and three “friends” who are determined to find out what Job did wrong and make him admit it! Yet, for all that Job did not sin with his lips and we have a book that shows us how to deal with suffering and pain and still honor God.

We realize what was happening but Job did not. We know Satan was behind the pain, and that God held him back from doing more harm, but Job did not. And that is the way it is with those things that cause discouragement, we don’t always know the back story but there are things we can do.

Consider Elijah as we read about the challenge on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18:16-40. As you read this you will see the challenge he set up. Let’s see which “God” is God! Baal or the Lord?  A simple test. Set up the sacrifice and call on your God to light the wood!

All day Baal’s prophets tried and nothing happened! Then Elijah set up the altar and went a step further….he soaked the altar 3 times with 4 containers of water. Then he prayed and BOOM! God answered with fire that consumed everything, even the stones! God made it clear that Baal was no god and the prophets of Baal were put to death.

Such a victory would stick with you and should make you feel invincible but it was Jezebel’s threat against Elijah that caused him to run in fear down to Mt. Horeb. Read through the next chapter and see what happened.

  • Elijah was afraid and ran
  • Then he complains to God that he is the only one left
  • God tells him to go back and assigns him several tasks
  • God also tells Elijah that, contrary to what he thinks, there are others who have not bowed down to Baal.

How does this help us out?

We all become discouraged. If Elijah did after such a great victory, why not us too? But God did not seem to rebuke him for that, he just sent him back to take care of business and reminded him that he was not alone….God was still in control!

Others have felt that way too.

  • Moses thought Israel would follow him after he killed the Egyptian but they didn’t.
  • Joshua conquered Jericho and then was defeated at Ai
  • Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers.
  • Paul often was in despair about this or that congregation.

We should also realize that not all situations of discouragement come from spiritual causes. Jobs can be moved or taken away, friends can disappoint us, politicians and campaigns can cause anxiety {sidenote: we should pray to be able to accept whatever result God allows to happen.}, and especially, discouragement can come from within when we say the wrong thing, let someone down, fail to meet the expectations we have of ourselves.

Some, of course, do deal with the spiritual life we live. Sometimes Christian brothers let you down, sometimes someone leaves the church or just moves to a different congregation, sometimes a family moves to another city and the departure is noticed keenly.

It is easy to feel discouraged sometimes but here are some things that I hope will help us minimize that discouraged feeling.

First, God is your first stop!

Job certainly desired to talk to God about his situation and Joshua fell down before the Lord in prayer after the defeat at Ai. This is a good action to take. We need to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

Second, get busy to do something.

Elijah was sent to do a task. Joshua was told to get up and remove the sin from Israel because IT had led to the defeat. Moses had to spend time in the wilderness tending sheep before he was ready to lead God’s people. We are created in Christ to do good works for the Lord (Ephesians 2:10) and we have never promised a rose garden. In fact, we are told we will have bad days from time to time. Still, the reward of an Eternal Day awaits us.

Third, we need to press on!

Paul could have been discouraged by those preached the Gospel out of envy to cause him distress but he rather rejoiced that the Gospel was being preached. (In other words, he was no skin off his nose if someone else preached the Gospel.)

Paul simply continued to try and accomplish the goal of getting to Heaven. To do this, he forgot the things that were behind and pressed on toward the high calling that he, and all Christians, have.

Forgetting what is behind allows us not to focus on past victories and get complacent or past failures which sabotage our efforts with discouragement and keep us from serving God.

So when we do have those feeling so discouragement, let us go to God in prayer, seek to do His will, press on in His Kingdom….”and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1b-2)”

Question: What are the steps you take when you feel discouraged?

Press on toward the goal!

The beginning of the year brings all sorts of desires, decisions, and declarations of change and improvement. We are going to start good habits and terminate bad ones. While times of reflection and changes are common during birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and such, most people think about who they are and who they want to become at the beginning of the year.

A question that will help you do this is the following:

What one thing, if you started doing it today, would help you make the biggest progress toward your primary goal? Perhaps you might even ask what one thing, if you stopped doing, it would have the same effect?

Of course, having goals to improve are only as good as the primary goal. If your goal is to climb a ladder and you get to the top but find out you are on the wrong wall, what good is it? If your primary goal is to lose weight and be healthier, it is probably going to be a poor secondary goal to set the record for consecutive days of eating Big Macs.

Hopefully if you answered the question about what would move you toward your primary goal, your primary goal was something like “getting to Heaven” or “serving God”. Paul’s mission statement or primary goal from Phil 3 was just that.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:12-14)

Paul in his desire to get to Heaven, to gain the prize, to reach his goal did several things that were born out of his desire to gain Christ and to be found in Him. Two things that he did were first, not to think of himself as already there. By keeping a more humble perspective, Paul was then able to continue pressing on toward the goal. He didn’t pull up, he keep the effort going.  The other thing that he did was to forget what was behind him while he pressed on.

The past things in our life have a tendency to affect our present. If we remember past successes, we may feel as if we deserve more than we do. If we remember past failures, the guilt or shame of that may cause us to give up.  Paul did not focus on past successes or past failures. He pressed on toward the goal of the prize of the upward calling in Christ.

All this though is an explanation to his audience of how, even though he could have confidence in the flesh, he chose rather to have his trust in Christ. He rejoiced in the Lord, a calm happiness regardless of the efforts necessary to live that life. He does this to encourage his readers to imitate him and those that follow his example. We learn from mentors and Paul encourages us to have them.

If you wish to hear both lessons you can hear part one and/or part two.

 

 

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