Monday, October 1, 2018

Are You Too Discouraged to Continue in Christ Part II?

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again--my Savior and my God!” (Psalms 42:11 NLT)

Have you ever found yourself feeling alone, sad, let down, with little or no courage, strength, and desire to keep going? Do you sometimes look at your life and are in despair, feeling “there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life” (Psalms 142:4)? We acknowledge that discouragement and disappointments are realities that even faithful children of God have to contend with at one point or another in their lives. Some of you might even have hibernated into the depth of discouragement and taken “refuge” there. Also, we know that even Christians can cause us our biggest emotional pain. Brethren, don't despair God has called no one to be your judge, just continue to serve, repent and endure God will get you through.

In the Book of Ezra, we learn that God moved the heart of King Cyrus to make a proclamation granting the children of Israel permission to go back to Jerusalem and build a temple for the Lord (Ezra 1:1-4). The Lord also moved the hearts of the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites, and they prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:5). Work began and they were making progress, until their enemies heard the news of the temple built. At first, the enemies’ attempt to infiltrate the project in order to sabotage it from within was rebuffed (Ezra 4:1-3), but the people of the land continued to discourage the people of Judah. Using scare tactics and bribery, the people of the land eventually succeeded in discouraging the children of Judah from continuing with the project; the work on rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem stopped for about 16 years (Ezra 4:4; 24).

Feeling discouraged, dejected, despondent, and disappointed, the people shifted their focus from building God’s house to building their own houses (Ezra 5:1; Haggai 1:3-9). Just like Christians who get discouraged and distracted from their heavenly calling and start immersing themselves in the false comforts of the world, the people of Judah did not find peace, joy and bliss in their luxurious mansions, while God’s house remained unattended and in ruins (Haggai 1:4). Although they invested a lot on themselves and the land, but reaped very little in return (Haggai 1:5-9).

The Lord Does Care About Us

As Christians, the Bible reminds us that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11). While on this journey, there will be many moments of despair and down-heartedness, as the enemy attempts to sidetrack and distract us from our heavenly hope. The enemy will employ a number of tactics to accomplish this, but whatever weapons he employs, we need not be afraid for the Bible says “No weapon formed against you shall prosper....” (Isaiah 54:17). The Lord protects us and never leaves us nor forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Isaiah 54:17). However, just like the people of Judah, if we get discouraged and lose sight of our heavenly focus, we end up losing everything we invest here on earth, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Quite often, anxiety precedes discouragement and loss of hope. Knowing this, it is important for us Christians not to let anxiety and fear keep growing in our hearts. Instead, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7), we should commit and cast all our cares, problems and anxieties to the Lord, who cares for us “1 Peter 5:7”. It is also important to remember that God does not impart a spirit of discouragement or fear in His Children; He has given us a spirit of “power, love and self-discipline (sound judgement, self-control)” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Sometimes we hear people saying, “God doesn’t care about me!” or “He doesn’t understand what I am going through!” or “NO ONE loves me!” Satan uses these kinds of words and thoughts to discourage and isolate God’s children from God’s presence. The truth is that not only does God care so much about His children, that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to save us (John 3:16), but the Lord Jesus Christ is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, as He also went through the struggles of this life (Hebrews 4:14-15), and “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Instead of withdrawing from the Lord, we should have confidence that He is an eternally caring and loving God and Father, a Friend who hears us and answers us if we ask according to His will (John 15:15; 1 John 5:13-14). Knowing this, “let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Taking Responsibility for Our Actions

Many times, we, as believers, may willfully or inadvertently discourage others, by our words or actions. This could be due to making wrong judgments on others as a result of our own personal experience, or through another person’s experience. Hasty or wrong judgments, without giving people grace, can lead us to say hurtful words or take actions that deject and discourage others. Before we pass judgement on others, we should consider that we ourselves are saved by God’s grace; we therefore need wisdom to judge correctly (Matthew 7:1-3; John 7:24).

Many a times we are drawn into family feuds and end up doing things that hurt or disappoint people who have personally not wronged us. The Bible reminds us that if someone sins against us, we first should go and point out his or her fault, just between the two of us, and if they listen to us then we have won them over (Matthew 18:15). We have experienced a number of times when we hear from a third party that we wronged someone, without that someone approaching us first. Many people choose to talk to someone else or share on social media but neglect to simply do what works and what would bring peace (Matthew 18:15; Psalm 34:14). This can be very hurtful and discouraging. As Christians, we should remember that we’ll bear individual responsibility for our sins (Ezekiel 18:20), and we are warned not to not let ourselves be dragged into other people’s quarrels (Proverbs 26:17). Instead, we should be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), not fanning the flames of strife (Proverbs 10:12; 16:18; 20:3; 29:22), but speaking godly, gracious words that promote healing and reconciliation (Proverbs 16:24). Because the Lord hates false witnesses who pour out lies and stir up conflict (Proverbs 6:16-19), we should be careful not to be used by Satan to discourage others from doing what is pleasing to God.

The Apostle Paul warned Christians to “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23). Unfortunately, many Christians are still so focused on their “prized” denominational doctrines that are based on aspect (e.g. the Sabbath, speaking in tongues, healing, etc.) they look down upon and discourage other genuine Christians who are truly seeking the Lord. Brethren, this should not be so! As followers of Christ, we are all God’s fellow co-workers with one goal: to share the saving message and love of Christ and prepare for His soon return (Matthew 28:19-20, 1 Corinthians 3:7-9). The world is getting more corrupt (2 Timothy 3:1-5), division and conflict are on the increase and, winning and gaining advantage at other people’s expense is celebrated, and the love of many is growing cold (Matthew 24:12). However, as the Lord’s servants, we still have an immense responsibility not to “engage in quarrels and strife, but [be] kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. [So that] God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:24-25 ESV).

Biblical Examples of Discouragement and Disappointment

In the Bible, we see some examples of people who went through much discouragement and disappointment and overcame.
  • Joseph received dreams from God that one day he would be in a position of leadership and influence (Genesis 37:5-10). However, he was despised, hated and rejected by his brethren (Genesis 37:8, 11), persecuted, sold into slavery (Genesis 37:23-28; 39:1) and wrongly accused and imprisoned (Genesis 39:6-20). However, instead of falling into the pit of discouragement and disappointment, he stayed faithful to God, and God was with him (Genesis 39:21-23). The Lord in turn fulfilled His promises to Joseph – he was delivered him from prison and established as a great leader whom the Lord used to save an entire nation (Egypt) and establish another (Israel) (Genesis 41:39-44).
  • Nehemiah was disappointed when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed, but he has had a desire to rebuild (Nehemiah 1:1-11). The people of the land strongly opposed, discouraged, taunted, and even threatened him with violence (Nehemiah 4:1-11). Through much difficulty, Nehemiah and his men persevered and kept working (Nehemiah 4:13-21) until the wall was completed (Nehemiah 6:15). His enemies were ashamed because this work had been accomplished with the help of our God (Nehemiah 6:16).
  • Naomi returned from the land of Moab discouraged and disappointed, having lost her husband and two sons in the ten years that she was there (Ruth 1:1-13). In her own words, she wanted her name changed from “Naomi” (“pleasant”) to “Mara” (“bitter”), because her life was “very bitter” (Ruth 1:20-21). In time, Naomi begun to recognize God’s kindness (Ruth 2:20), blessing and restoration of her family (Ruth 4:14-17).
  • When David and his men arrived at their home town of Ziklag, he was downhearted when he found the entire city destroyed and all the people taken captive, including his two wives (1 Samuel 30:1-3). David, along with his men “wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep” (1 Samuel 30:4), and to add to his dire distress, the men wanted to stone him, but he found strength in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6). Because he trusted the Lord, David inquired of Him, and the Lord promised and gave him victory over to recover all that the enemy had stolen (1 Samuel 30:8; 18-19).
  • After being threatened by Jezebel and running for his life into the wilderness, Elijah felt so discouraged and alone that he prayed for the Lord to take his life (1 Kings 19:1-4). The Lord fed him, encouraged him, strengthened him, appeared to him, and sent him on other assignments (1 Kings 19:5-18). You might think that the Lord is not with you when discouragement gets the better of you; the Lord never leaves you! Each one of us in this family has experienced various kinds of challenges leading to every kind of discouragements. During these off-moments in our lives, the Lord would encourage us to remain focused on Him. The Lord has always given us strength to face and overcome our moments of discouragement. He knows that we are easily hurt, but in every step of the way, He is there to lift us up (Hebrews 13:5). What we should remember is that we are allowed to be discouraged, but sinning and hurting others in the process is very displeasing to the Lord. We should therefore not allow our discouragement to infringe on others. Our duty is to build others.
Overcoming Discouragement and Disappointment

As long as we are still here on earth, it is inevitable that discouragements and disappointments will come. While we cannot control some of the circumstances that cause these, obeying God’s Word is the one strong weapon we can use to fight back.
  • Pray by faith, even when you are discouraged and don’t feel like praying or don’t know what to pray (Luke 18:13; Romans 8:26).
  • Submit to God’s authority and command; fight temptation and resist the devil (James 4:7).
  • Be a peacemaker and love your enemies while overcoming evil with good (Hebrews 12:14; Luke 6:27-36; Romans 12:21).
  • Confess your sins and pray for others, and take your complaints to the Lord (Psalm 55:2; James 5:16).
  • Remember that God has a plan for you, to give you a future and hope. As you trust Him, even what may seem to be the worst circumstance may end up working for your good (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28).
  • Continue in the fear of the Lord, praying and taking refuge in His Word, which is alive; don’t envy sinners or the things of the flesh. Set your mind on God (Proverbs 23:17-18; Romans 8:7; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Be patient and merciful to others; remember that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and we are in need of His grace (Romans 3:23-24).
  • Take refuge in the Lord and He will deliver you (Psalms 91:1-3; Proverbs 18:10).
  • Don’t give in to fear. Set your mind on God and the Lord will keep you in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 41:10-14; John 14:27).
  • Work to please the Lord, not to win the approval of men (Colossians 3:23-25; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Thessalonians 3:13).
  • Even when facing fierce opposition or persecution, keep obeying the Lord, persevere, be strong and don’t lose courage because the Lord is with you (Deuteronomy 31:8; 1 Chronicles 22:13; Joshua 1:9; John 16:33).
  • Trust in the Lord, instead of leaning on your own understanding, knowing that His grace is sufficient. Wait patiently on the Lord (Psalm 27:14; Psalm 31:24; Psalm 127:1; Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 40:31; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • Have faith in God, keep your head up and look to Him as you run with endurance – this temporary life on earth cannot be compared to the everlasting life He has prepared for us (John 14:2; Hebrews 11:6; 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
  • Whatever trials or disappointments you go through, persevere and count it all joy (James 1:1-4).
  • Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:10).
Hope in Christ

In conclusion, Jesus Christ is our only hope, our blessed hope, and He is able to give us true joy and peace in the midst of all the turmoil around us that may cause us to be discouraged and disappointed (Romans 15:13; Titus 2:13). We should be patient even through tribulation and pray constantly (Romans 12:12) as we await the day of the Lord’s coming or when He calls us home. Don’t waste time and risk losing eternal life by holding grudges, resentment and unforgiveness. Forgive and keep forgiving those that hurt you (Matthew 18:21-22); love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, curse you or mistreat you (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28).

If you would like to overcome discouragement and disappointment, you may start by praying this Prayer of Sincere Repentance. For any questions or comments on this article or our ministry, please contact us.

Blessed Hope in Christ.
Brother Glenn and Preparing for the Ministry Team.