Depression / Discouragment

OUR HOPE CAN HANDLE ANY CHALLENGE

 This is the fourth in a 5 part series on Tuesdays that present the great truth of biblical Hope.

Our Hope Can Handle Any Challenge

In Christ we are never hopeless!

Our hope will be challenged in a variety of ways – but our hope can handle every challenge

The hope we have is that salvation’s entire promise will be fulfilled        

God has promised that his sovereignty and goodness will fulfill that hope

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, 30and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30)

Our enemy cannot alter this hope, so he tries to distort our perspective about hope

What are some of the major challenges to our hope, and why can our hope can handle them?

The Challenge of Sin  

Satan lures us into sin and then uses it to condemn us.

He floods our thoughts with a barrage of accusations declaring God’s anger and rejection.

He wants us to give up our zeal by telling us that we will never be godly.

Hope meets the challenge

v30 tells us those who have been “justified” (saved) will eventually be “glorified” (perfected). 

Our salvation is guaranteed by Christ’s work, not by our maintenance of salvation

v29 reminds us that our salvation began by God coming to us – He is totally committed to the preservation of our relationship with Him

The Challenge of Success and Prosperity

It seems that nothing leads us to take our minds off God faster than success.

At first we thank God, but over time we become lax and fall into thinking we are self-sufficient.

We become forgetful and lesser hopes take over our attention. We spend less time with God and think about his graces less often

Our focus increasingly is on what we are accomplishing, what we think we need to do, and our ever lengthening list of wants

Hope meets the challenge

Simply look up and there Christ is – he has never left us or stopped his labors on our behalf

v28 reminds us that “we know” wonderful truths about God

We are surrounded with memorable works of God and the wonderful promises of God

Our hope is so extraordinary, just to look at one facet, is enough to outshine the empty hopes of our own success

The Challenge of Disappointment and loss

The reality of living in a world groaning under bondage (vs 20-22) is that pain and disappointment are never far

We are regularly assaulted by thoughts that “God may be real, but He is not near”

We take our failures and multiple burdens to be evidences that God has stepped back

Hope meets the challenge    

Our hope is nothing less than the person of God himself and His inability to be unfaithful

vs 28-30 repeatedly remind us that we are on an eternal trajectory. In fact life can only make sense when we look at it with an eternal perspective

God is taking our life somewhere and the final destination is not here

The Challenge of Shallow Hopes

The world is incessantly offering us their false hopes

When the world around us is only talking about these empty hopes, we can get lost in the clutter of it all. The sheer volume of hearing about them creates an obscuring fog of shallow hope.

When we see people enjoying some of these hopes, we start to think they are worth pursuing.

The world’s hopes are not a mirage, but they are a veneer – they are shallow and will wear away

Hope meets the challenge

Our hope is not simply something held out to us to grab, we are a new creation

v28 tells us our hope is in God’s work

All the efforts of this world combined cannot match the grandeur of what God is accomplishing in us and for us

The Puritan preacher, Richard Sibbes wrote:

“As an adult is no longer satisfied with children’s games; so we are no longer satisfied with what the world offers”

We have been made for greater hopes than the world could ever provide – and we have tasted that they are wondrously good

Spit out the false hopes people are trying to feed you and nourish your soul on the person of Christ who is the Bread of Life. Refresh your soul with the person of the Holy Spirit who is the Fountain of Living Waters

EVERYONE IS IN A WHEELCHAIR

Kim Ordile

When Lou Ordile showed me this article written by his wife Kim, I immediately asked if I could share it with all of you, God has given her excellent insights through her significant struggles.

Kim and Lou along with their children, Joseph and Jessa have shown the power of God’s grace in the midst of life’s great difficulties. May their heart be our own!

Back in 2012 my health started to decline. 

Today the wheelchair is my reality. 

But this is not about me, for God has graciously reminded me that everyone feels like they are in a wheelchair:

The feeling that things are out of my control

Being pushed in directions I didn’t plan on going

The fear of going too fast or the frustration with going to slow

Heart ache due to broken dreams

Angry from having to live with limitations, consequences, boundaries and restrictions

Coping with changes that impact my identity, or who I thought I was

Anxiety that I might be rejected

A sense of pain, and the lack of comfort or contentment to make it go away

I have found the only way for me to resolve any of these feelings is on my knees before God.

God loves me and he loves you, and he longs to be in relationship with us.

Hard times cause our hearts to long for something deeper and real. This is found when we are in relationship with the God who created us. Accepting that Jesus is God’s Son and that he died and rose again to pay for our sin, is the way to God. 

God is the only One that can give us peace, a purpose, a true identity, contentment, and the security of being unconditionally loved. 

I pray that no matter what your wheelchair is – that you will receive God’s love for you. I have found his love to be true even in my wheelchair!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13  

Kim Ordile

A STORY OF LIFE WITH CANCER

the-hardest-peace-Kara-Tippetts-oatmeal-smiles

Kara Tippetts

. . . was the wife of Jason and the mom of four beautiful children

. . . cancer was not imagined as part of her story

. . . neither was it invited in

. . . yet it invaded Kara’s body and the lives of all her family

The Hardest Peace is Kara’s story about God’s grace which came along with the invasion.

Kara opened her heart and life so we could see the hard and gritty, as well as the lovely and gracious. Woven through every part is her clarity about Christ and her abiding trust in Him. It is an excellent book.

This is how Kara describes writing “The Hardest Peace”:

The writing of this book helped me through the diagnosis of cancer finding more and more corners in my body: my brain, my bones, my liver, my lymph system. The writing of this book caused me to look at my story and seek the grace to walk this hard path with cancer.

On March 22, 2015 Kara left the dust of earth to breathe the air of Heaven. Shortly before her death, Kara wrote:

My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping. But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live. I get to draw my people close, kiss them and tenderly speak love over their lives. I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves. I get to laugh and cry and wonder over Heaven. I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus—and He will provide. He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love, will cover us all. And it will carry us—carry us in ways we cannot comprehend.

You can read more from Kara about this journey with life and cancer via her blog ‘Mundane Faithfulness’. 

WHY DO WE REMAIN IN DISCOURAGEMENT? (Part 4)

Today we finish our four-part series on reasons why Christians remain in discouragement:

#4.  We remain in discouragement by remaining in the shadows

When we come to Christ, we leave the darkness of sin and unbelief, and enter the light of God’s presence and truth. We are no longer in darkness, because the light of the gospel shines in our lives

If you are in the darkness of unbelief, the only encouragement I can give you is the good news (gospel) that Christ will give you light if you repent of your sin against God, and place your trust in Christ as the payment for your sin.

Every believer has this light, but some Christians keep to the edges of the things of God.

Their lives may not be in the dark, but they are in the shadows. Our perspective is easily distorted when we are in the shadows.

The shadows breed sin

In the shadows, sin doesn’t look so serious.

But the shame of sin and its hardening effect will keep us vulnerable to discouragement, because we are walking in compromises that keep us from seeing or embracing the fullness of God and his grace.

The shadows breed fear

Difficulties are distorted and more frightening in the shadows.

When my daughters were young, they didn’t like their closet doors open at night. In the darkness, the contents of the closet created shapes which frightened them. Living in the shadows of compromise will do the same to us

When we live in the brilliant light of God’s presence, we see the wonderful reasons for casting discouragement aside.

When we live in the warm light of God’s presence, we are reminded that the One who cares for us is greater than anything that is against us

We may have reasons to be discouraged, but in Christ we should not stay in discouragement

WHY REMAIN IN DISCOURAGEMENT? (Part 3)

We continue in a four part series on Tuesdays that examines reasons why Christians remain in discouragement:

#3. We remain in discouragement by not having a solid biblical foundation

Doctrines are like the tools in a workman’s truck. The more tools he has, the more work situations he can successfully handle. In a similar way, we are called to be “a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed and correctly handles word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

The more we understand biblical truths, the more prepared we are for whatever comes our way.

This is particularly important because life usually does not provide us with warnings about what discouraging situation it is about to throw at us

~ Is your biblical framework a grab bag of religious sayings and ideas?

~ Do you get information from a myriad of sources that often contradict one another?

There is nothing wrong with learning from many sources, it can actually be helpful. However (and this is a big “however”), we need to learn from good sources that are doctrinally sound.

Sadly, there are Christians who think they don’t need to give a lot of attention to biblical “doctrines”. Some say they just need a relationship with God. While this statement has truth in it, biblical doctrines tell us about God. Every biblical doctrine is a truth God has shared so we will know the real him.

How can you have a close relationship with someone when you choose to ignore what they say about themselves?!

A doctrine is a truth about God typically presented in a clear and organized manner.

To be blunt, it is not very wise to say we don’t need truths about God presented in a clear and organized manner.

And what is the alternative, to ignore truths about God or to learn them without organized clarity?

Without a strong biblical foundation, we do not have the discernment to stay away from deceptive principles which will collapse on us (Ephesians 4:14-15). Nothing will discourage a Christian more than to have what we thought was true of God collapse on us.

Imagine a contractor who pours dirt and debris into his cement mix because he is lazy or it saves him money. The eventual homeowner will eventually pay a high price for that hidden failure. 

The Bible repeatedly warns us against bad teaching. So we need to discern who is throwing debris into their teaching.

This debris includes teaching that is man-centered, earthly-minded, or temporally focused.

Why do Christians fail to have a solid foundation of biblical knowledge?

  • We don’t take it seriously
  • We lack a consistent pursuit of it
  • We make poor choices is where we get ‘biblical’ teaching
  • We neglect the spiritual oversight of pastors who God has given to protect us

Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us that the church and its leadership are “given” to equip us so we will mature and be discerning of bad theology.

Deceptive teaching is carefully prepared to look good on the surface, but it will fail us, because God doesn’t stand behind it

Growing in biblical understanding makes it harder for discouragement to take root.

Paul prays in Ephesians 1:18, that “the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened”. If biblical truths are not understood, much of their benefit cannot be used

In Acts 20:27 Paul said he had not neglected to teach “the whole counsel of God”.

~ Make sure you are reading the whole counsel of God’s Word.

~ Be engaged in a church that highly values biblical teaching (shown by how seriously it pursues the discipleship of its members)

When your foundation is secure, you will know how to withstand the discouraging situations that come your way.

WHY DO WE REMAIN IN DISCOURAGEMENT? (Part 2)

Last week, we began a series that looks at reasons why Christians remain in discouragement. Today we look at the second reason:

#2.  We remain in discouragement, when we are disconnected

When we are disconnected from God

We remain in discouragement when we think God has pulled away from us. Yet, God has promised that his covenant presence “will never leave or forsake us”.

Remember God is the One who came to us and initiated the relationship we have with Him. This was not something we prodded God into

When we are convinced of God’s commitment to be with us, we are encouraged to keep working at that relationship.

~ Whenever we open His Word, it contains His heart for us.

~ Whenever we come in prayer, He is listening to us.

~ Whenever we worship in Spirit and truth, He is pleased with us.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus showed us the importance of persisting in our connection with the Father. Matthew 26:44 tells us Jesus “went again and prayed the third time, saying same words”.

Jesus pursued the Father as long as his heart remained burdened. Do we expect that we will need to do less?!

Yet even in prayer discouragement tries to follow us

This happens when we make our problem the primary focus of our prayers. We talk to God, but we are looking at ourselves. Our prayers seem to reinforce the weight of our burden

This is because we are making God a servant to our desires. Then we are deflated when God doesn’t fulfill our expectations. Instead prayer should be about worshiping God’s greatness and his faithfulness which he has shown we can trust.

When we are disconnected from God’s people

The local church is a significant way in which God has chosen to minister to us. We see this vividly in the Body of Christ word picture found in I Corinthians 12

How can we expect to be encouraged in God, if we consistently remain in disconnect from God and His people?

These are not just matters of negligence, they are sins of omission. In fact, they are violations of what Jesus calls the two Greatest Commandments!

We were created to be involved with God in the context of the Church community. Leaving discouragement involves becoming more engaged in biblical community with God and with His people

WHY DO WE REMAIN IN DISCOURAGEMENT?

There are understandable reasons for why we become discouraged. We live in a broken world and our lives share in that brokenness. And some of us have a temperament that more easily allows discouragement to take root in our heart.

However, from a biblical perspective, believers should not remain in discouragement.

This begins a four part series on Tuesdays that will examine reasons why we remain in discouragement. Today we look at the first reason

# 1. We remain in discouragement when we minimize God’s mercies

God’s mercies are greater than our discouragements

If you are not convinced, read Ephesians chapter 1 and make a list of the mercies we have in Christ. Go ahead; I can wait until you are done.

Each mercy in this list outweighs all discouragements combined. If Ephesians 1 doesn’t provide the full encouragement you need, read Romans 8 as well.

If both chapters fail to move you, your discouragement problem is really an unbelief problem. If our heart is not beating, we’re dead. This is as true of our spiritual heart as it is with our physical heart

For those who often find themselves in seasons of discouragement, regularly read these two chapters as well as the Psalms. When you find a Psalm that speaks to your heart – add it to your favorites list

God’s mercies are more persistent than our discouragements

Lamentations 3:23 reminds us His mercies are “new every morning”.  God’s mercies are never outworked by what discourages us.

Discouragement does not have a greater commitment or work ethic than God who gave His Son for us!

God’s mercies are complete

There is no half-heartedness in them. Simply review the birth, life, ministry, death, and promised return of Jesus to abundantly prove this point

God’s mercies will outlast our discouragements

The only eternal discouragement is hell, and by God’s mercy those who are in Christ are lifted out of that discouragement.  God’s mercies contain eternal blessings that will only increase when we are glorified in heaven.

As my father has often said about true Christians, “the best is always yet to come”. No matter how bad things seem or are – the best is coming closer every moment.

Put your hope in God’s mercies, they can carry the weight

Since God’s mercies are greater than our discouragements, remaining in discouragements is a sign that we’re not giving God’s mercies our full attention

The hopes we have in Christ can stand up to any scrutiny we want to give them

“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5)

God’s mercy has reversed the very nature of our joys and sorrows

Before Christ:  we had limited joys that were temporary and unimaginable sorrows that were eternal

In Christ:  we have limited sorrows that are temporary and unimaginable joys that are eternal

LONELINESS

Loneliness has many causes

It may be that our circumstances have isolated us

Perhaps we don’t fit in with other people’s expectations

Or people we cared about – have left our life

Loneliness can also be the result of attitudes and actions that have driven people away

I don’t know your situation, but I do know we often get stuck in our loneliness, becoming unsure how to get out.

I have two suggestions for you regardless of why you lonely

First, change your focus from trying to find acceptance from others, to how God can use you to touch others.

This means relationships are no longer under the expectations of what people will be for you. Instead expectations are on how God will work in and through you.

You cannot control how people treat you, but you can be confident that God wants to use you to touch people with His love and for His gospel. This should excite us, because there are no purposes more wonderful than those that God has in using us.

Right now, there are people around you who are hurting.

It may not show on the outside, but it does not take much digging for their pain to come to the surface.

Become attentive to people.

Look for ways to serve them.

People will usually be receptive to those who genuinely seek to serve them; partly because it’s relatively rare, and partly because people are looking out for themselves.

The simple question of asking people how you can pray for them can open many opportunities to show you care.

This concern can have a powerful impact.

You will find your life filling with involvements that are God focused, and encouraging. It is incredibly satisfying when you can step back and see that God is using your in various relationships

If you are not sure who to start with, look for people the world pushes off to the side

Look for those who are being mistreated. Pay attention to people from their perspective rather than you own. There is work in all of this, but people want to be near those who care for them.

Second, make God the relationship that truly satisfies you.

It pleases God when we enjoy the good things He has created for our enjoyment – but our contentment should be in Him alone.

God deeply loves us . . He has saved us . . and He is committed to graciously finishing His work in us. These realities should all bring contentment.

When we compare what God has waiting for us, with what we think is missing from our present life, there really is no comparison.

Can you say you are content in Christ even if nothing else changes in your life?

This is something we must work at and “learn” (Philippians 4:11). But once learned, it is a precious reality, because nothing can then take contentment from us.

Make your relationship with God, the one that fills your heart, satisfies your soul, and fulfills what you have been thinking relationships should be.

Although we can feel lonely, it is impossible as a child of God to be outside of love or to be alone

6.19.12

REJECTION REALLY HURTS

I can vividly remember the time in my life when people rejected me.

It hurts that much!

Rejection often starts early as children find obscure and silly reasons to label someone as an outcast

The pain of rejection is repeated throughout our lives: 

When our parents are too busy, or a parent leaves our life

When a teacher or coach dismisses our honest efforts

When we are always last to be picked for a team

When a friend chooses to join a “cooler” crowd

When a love interest cuts us off

When family members lash out with cutting words

When people at work fail to include us in their conversations, or their lunch excursions

When our failures causes people to scatter from us

When our convictions anger people, or bring out words of disdain

When no one ever hits our like button on Facebook

When in our own church, no one comes up to say hello

Now for the WONDERFUL news!

Christ will never reject those who honestly call on Him to be saved

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:13

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1

“I will never leave you nor forsake you” Hebrews 13:5

Once we have been received by Christ, all heaven accepts us with open arms – always and forever

Romans 8:15  tells us God “adopts” those Jesus saves.

God will never turn away from His children

God will never ignore, dismiss or misuse His children

God will never, never, ever reject us.

Not for anything!

Come to that relationship

Rest in that relationship

Rejoice in that relationship

And may we reveal the heart of God for others who bear the pain of rejection

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.08.14

A Joy Surpassing Our Struggles 

 James abruptly jumps into the deep end of the Christian life

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4)

James assumes we will “meet” trials and a “variety” of them

This is nothing new, in John 16:33 Jesus said, “in the world you will have tribulation”

If we are taught or expect that trials in this life can disappear, that is simply unbiblical

James gives us a wise perspective for all “trials” (v2)

How we think about trials should bring “joy” to us

This does not mean difficulties bring only joy (Matt 26:38 with Hebrews 12:1-2

The phrase “all joy” or “pure joy” means the highest joy

We have reason amidst our hurt and struggle to also have joy

This is not a ‘grin and bear it’ attitude, it is joy over what else is happening

God is active in our trials, they are not evidence that he distant or angry at us

God is in the center of our events and he is producing something (v3)

God is being perfect toward us, so that we may become “perfect” in him (v4)

Our natural perspective in difficulties is to think the best good is for them to go away!

However, Romans 8:22 compares our current “groaning” to the pains of childbirth

You want the pain to end, but not at the expense of that child

Struggles are real, but they are also temporary and purposeful

We have no promise that the trials of life will be removed or reduced

However, we do have promise that life in our trials can be more fruitful, contented and joyful

To trust God, means all things take on a God perspective

To love God, means all his ways are so worthy – we see them as praiseworthy

What do trials accomplish that is joyful? (vs 3-4)

1.  God uses trials to produce “steadfastness” in us

We are to “know” that difficulties “test” or prove our “faith” (v3)

Trials teach us that we cannot trust in ourselves or depend upon the world

These trials reveal that God is worth trusting and following

Trials help us see that walking with Christ is the one thing we must never neglect

  • Rather than accuse or doubt God, we keep worshipping Him
  • Rather than think obedience is not worth it, we know that submission to God is always our ‘true north’
  • Rather than get back at those who hurt us, we pursue God’s agenda for them
  • Rather than compromise to stop pain at any cost, we persist in whatever steps will honor God
  • Rather than wallow in self-pity , we rejoice that the Holy Spirit is transforming us
  • Rather than be examples of inconsistency, we become witnesses that the gospel is real!

2.  God uses trials to work toward our completion (v4)

“Perfect and complete” means we become all God purposed for us

“Lacking nothing” means there will be nothing left to add

Through trials, God is fulfilling the wonderful plans he has for us:

  • To be ‘like Christ’
  • To ‘love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength’
  • To live ‘filled with the Spirit’
  • To be mature disciple-makers

Just as birth pains have precious results, so do our labor pains

We don’t like struggle, yet for God’s covenant people, they are filled with graces

Peter repeats James in a way that exalts those graces  1 Peter 1:3-7

A joyful perspective sees: 

1.  God truly is all glorious

2.  God has a great heart for us     

3.  We have a wonderful eternity with him

What do you ‘see’ about God in your trials?