Discouragement

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

IS IT JUST ME?

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Do you ever feel as if you are the only one who fails like you do? Or, that everyone else has life together just a little bit better than you? Yes, we are each unique, but we are very much alike in our experience with sin and failure.

Josh Blount does a good job of laying this out before us in this brief article called “The Lie of Uniqueness”. If you struggle with feeling you are the “only one” in these negative ways, please read Josh’s article and be encouraged. Because yes, you are a flawed sinner – but you are far from alone in your experience.

One way to use this knowledge is to be aware of how other people get discourage just like you, so that you can be a help to them in your common experience. That may make you just a little bit more unique in this world after all.

What To Do When You Wake Up Feeling Fragile

Maybe you never wake up with a sense of failure and fears that you cannot handle what life is serving on your plate – but I sure do!  There are many reasons why we can feel this way. Some of the reasons are quite specific and justified (we always in over our head and sometimes that makes itself obvious). Other times our sense of dread is vague and goes beyond the reality of our situation and the grace God faithfully weaves through our existence.

Fortunately the answer to this and all other problems, is to start with God. Since He is fully in control, confident, faithful, gracious and good, we can have fresh assurance that the day can be good (i.e. God honoring), even when we are otherwise barely a step beyond clueless about how to manage the multiple spinning plates that are about to come crashing down.

It turns out that the very gifted and fruitful pastor and author, John Piper, wakes up some days feeling like the rest of us who are not nearly as gifted or fruitful. In an article in his Desiring God blog, Pastor Piper shares how he finds help in “crying out” to God as his first response. You can follow this link “What to do when you wake up feeling fragile”.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.27.13

“When Life is Hard” Habakkuk 3:17-18

Habakkuk was discouraged by what appeared to be the free reign of injustice (Habakkuk 1:2-4). He addressed the issue we struggle with before God, why is life so hard?!

Life’s burdens have no sense of fairness

We know life has hard times, but we want them to fit our logic

We want difficulties to make sense and be evenly divided

We expect God to reduce the burdens of those who follow him

Like Habakkuk, we wonder when God is going to get involved

God’s response to Habakkuk is that he had plans the prophet didn’t see (1:5-6)

Often our part in these times involves waiting, but God’s plan is always in motion

At that point God’s plan involved the Babylonians conquering Israel

That makes no sense to Habakkuk (1:12-13)

How can the evil actions of godless people be your plan?

In our view, sometimes God’s plan seems no fairer than the world

Trusting God in hard times calls for trust in two areas

(1)  Trust God is always sovereign in Christ nothing is senseless or wasted

In Christ we are never at the mercy of our circumstances, because they all take place in God’s hand

(2)  Trust God’s sovereignty is always best

Eternity will reveal how God’s purpose was greater than our burden

 “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” 2 Corinthians 4:17 

What do we cling to when life is hard?

God reminds the prophet how we should be different from unbelievers who live by their pride and opinions (2:4)

Habakkuk finally confirms that those who are righteous will live by faith in the Lord (3:2)

1.  God is entirely trustworthy

When all we can see is our burden, it is hard to trust. Yet what is our experience with God?

When we trusted in God’s Savior, he did make us clean 

When we trust in God’s Word, it does strengthen our life

Like Habakkuk we have “heard the report” of God and “know his works” (3:2)

We know he has created, sustains and will judge all things

We know he is all powerful, all wise, perfect and unchanging

We know nothing can overthrow his plan that is everlasting

There will always be things that don’t make sense to us, but if we keep the gospel in view, we will have reason to trust our Lord

So let our attitude and actions show God is trustworthy   

Commit our way to the Lord because we trust him (Psalm 37:5)  

Be glad of heart because we trust him (Psalm 33: 21)

2.  God himself is sufficient reason for joy 

Habakkuk ends (3:17-18) with these powerful words  

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation”

Habakkuk will “take joy” in God even when all seems to go wrong. The reason is as v18 reminds us, “He is the God of my salvation”

Our salvation is greater than any kind of loss

No aspect of our salvation can be affected by any hardship

Habakkuk learned to bring not just his needs to God; above all he came to God with his worship

This does not mean we never have sorrow before God. Some things are sorrowful, and the Bible tells us there is a “time to cry”  

If God is our joy, it can be muted, but as John Piper says, it is “indestructible joy”

In eternity, we will glorify God for all He is doing now

Wrap up: two thoughts to carry with us 

1.  Measure what life throws at you by who God is to you

2.  Realize everyone around you has burdens too, but unlike you, they don’t all have an answer or hope