Be Encouraged! Part 4, How To Deal With Discouragement

Be Encouraged! Part 4, How To Deal With Discouragement

 

Discouragement knocks on our door in a variety of ways almost every day. We get discouraged when we don’t get enough sleep or enough to eat, or when our favorite sports team loses, or when we don’t have enough money to pay for something, or when Wal-Mart no longer carries our favorite item. Maybe you are discouraged today because of the 2016 presidential campaign occurring in our nation this year. Discouragement happens all the time. So how are we to handle all this discouragement? Some of us deal with discouragement by ignoring it. Some of us deal with it by fighting against it. Some of us deal with it by caving in under it, which creates more discouragement. And there are some of us who look for that quick fix and quick way out of discouragement. Thankfully, the Bible gives us some great instruction for dealing with discouragement. Psalm 77 is one scripture that helps us. Let me share three ideas from Psalm 77 that will help you deal with discouragement.

First of all, cry to God for help. Psalm 77:1-4 (TLB) states, “I cry to the Lord; I call and call to him. Oh, that he would listen. I am in deep trouble and I need his help so much. All night long I pray, lifting my hands to heaven, pleading. There can be no joy for me until he acts. I think of God and moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. I cannot sleep until you act. I am too distressed even to pray!” In this psalm, Asaph is the author. He is listed in the Bible as one of the leaders of worship in the Tabernacle. He was from the tribe of Levi, making him a Levite and worship leader. Even as a worship leader, he was discouraged, troubled, and distressed. The specifics of his discouragement are not given. Yet, we can get a clear picture of his physical and emotional state from his words here. He is crying out to God. Over and over he cries. He is wondering if God is even listening. He holds out his hands to God all night long in prayer. He knows that nothing will change until God does something. He knows that God is his only hope. The more he thinks about his situation, the less sleep he gets. His situation is so overwhelming that he no longer has any words to say to God. Asaph is sleepless, speechless, and joyless. He is distressed and depressed. However, he is crying out to God. When you are discouraged, make sure that you cry out to God. God is the only one who really understands you and knows your pain.

Second, ask God the tough questions. Psalm 77:5-10 (NLT) states, “I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion? And I said, ‘This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.’” These are some strong words of doubt and despair from a worship leader. Asaph can remember when things used to be better. He can remember being joyful. But all of that has come to an end. He can easily see the difference between his joyful past and discouraging present. So he begins to question the sovereignty of God. Has God rejected me forever? Where is God’s kindness? Where is God’s love? Can God no longer fulfill his promises? Where is God’s grace? Where is God’s compassion? It feels as though God has turned his hand against me. Asaph was so discouraged and depressed that he doubted some of God’s basic characteristics. However, I believe God is big enough to handle our tough questions about His sovereignty and character. In fact, I believe God welcomes our doubts, fears, and tough questions. For then and only then do we come to a deeper faith in God and His sovereignty. So go ahead and ask God those tough questions of life during your seasons of discouragement.

Third, remember who God is and what He has done. Psalm 77:11-15 (NLT) states, “But then I recall all you have done, O LORD; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.” After pouring out his heart to God and asking God those tough questions, Asaph finally remembers who God really is and what He has done. Asaph recalls God’s actions. He remembers them. He meditates on them. And then he breaks out into praise, “O God, your ways are holy. You are the God of great wonders.” The reason Asaph can remember the powerful actions of God is because they were written down by his ancestors, and the stories of God were told to each generation. He, too, was in the process of writing down God’s wonderful deeds. So when you are discouraged, take the time to remember who God really is and what He has done for you. The Bible is the best resource we have for teaching us who God really is. And we also have our own prayer journals. You do have one, don’t you? If not, start keeping a prayer journal right now. Make sure to write down each day your prayers and God’s answers to your prayers. Ten years from now, you can look in your prayer journal and remember who God is and what He has done for you.

When discouraged, cry out to God, ask God the tough questions, and remember who He really is. Be encouraged! And remember, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)

 

Advertisements

Be Encouraged! Part 3, How To Give Encouragement

Be Encouraged! Part 3, How To Give Encouragement

 

How many times have you felt the need to encourage someone else, but you just couldn’t think of the right way to do it? Is there a right way or wrong way to encourage others? Perhaps looking at the definition would help. In the New Testament, the Greek word for encourage is parakaleo. It can mean “to call near, invite, comfort, and exhort.” (Strong’s) This word implies a sense of urgency in the call, as well as a loud voice in the call. As I thought about the meaning of this word, I got a mental picture of a parent saying to a child, “Come here right now!” In that circumstance, the parent is ready for some face to face exhortation and encouragement with the child. The noun form of this same verb is used to describe the Holy Spirit as our Comforter (John 16:7) and to describe Jesus as our Advocate (1 John 2:1). This word is rich with meaning and is used in a variety of ways in the Bible. So when we think about how to encourage others, it would include a variety of ideas. I want to share with you four ideas for giving encouragement to others.

This first idea is a motivation. Encourage others as obedience to God.  Our theme verse for this encouragement series has been Hebrews 10:25 (NIV). “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Remember that this instruction was written to a congregation that was suffering persecution because of their faith. As a result, some of those in the congregation decided not to attend worship. They became afraid to be seen with or identified with other Christians. Therefore, the instruction was given to stop the cowardly behavior of not attending worship and to encourage one another. In this situation, we can see how the different meanings of the word encourage could be applied. On the one hand, there is a group of people in the congregation acting like cowards. They needed to have someone get in their face and exhort them to stop acting like cowards. On the other hand, this same group was struggling with fear. They needed to have someone come along side of them to help calm their fear. It is easy to see here how the idea of encouragement is expressed with a variety of methods. Whatever method of encouragement you use, remember that your motivation for encouraging others is obedience to God.

Secondly, encourage others every day. Hebrews 3:13 (GW) states, “Encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity.” This verse was written in that same context of a congregation facing persecution. In chapter 3, the instruction was to encourage Jewish people not to harden their hearts against Jesus, but instead to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The Christians were to give this encouragement every day while they had the opportunity. In this circumstance, we can see the sense of urgency in the meaning of encouragement. Encourage each other now, every day, while you have the opportunity. Tomorrow may be too late to tell someone about Jesus. Tomorrow, their heart may turn hard. So do it now. Encourage them now.

The third idea is about the resources we have to encourage. Encourage others by using your spiritual gifts and God’s Word. Romans 12:8 (NLT) states, “If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.” You may or may not have the spiritual gift of encouragement, but the idea here is to use your gift. One of my spiritual gifts is preaching, so I use that to encourage others.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 (CEV) states, “Encourage each other with these words.” This scripture was written by Paul to encourage Christians who were worried about the end times. The teaching Paul provided about the future coming of Jesus and the rapture of all Christians was to encourage them and give them hope of a future resurrection. He told the Christians to “Encourage each other with these words.” At funerals, I often will use 1 Thessalonians 4 as well as other scriptures to encourage people. So we have spiritual gifts and God’s Word as great resources to use as we encourage others.

The fourth idea is our goal. Encourage others to build them up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV) states, “Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” We must remember that the reason others need encouragement is because they are already destroyed, beat up, torn apart, and discouraged. So our goal is to build them up.

So the right way to encourage others is to do it out of obedience to God, do it every day, do it using your spiritual gifts and God’s Word, and do it with the goal of building others up. Be encouraged and encourage others.

Next week, we will look at, “How To Deal With Discouragement.”

Be Encouraged! Part 2, How To Receive Encouragement

Be Encouraged! Part 2, How To Receive Encouragement

At Christmas, on my birthday, or on Father’s Day, I have no trouble accepting gifts. I enjoy getting, opening, and using gifts. However, when it comes to encouragement I’m not an easy person to encourage. I don’t accept encouragement easily. But I know that God wants to encourage me in a variety of ways, and He wants to encourage you too. Last week, we looked at how to find encouragement. Today, I want to share with you some biblical ideas for how to receive encouragement.

Our theme verse for this series is Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I encourage you today with that verse as you seek to encourage others and receive encouragement. Here are a couple of ideas for receiving encouragement.

  1. Anticipate God’s encouragement. We are instructed many times in the Bible to be patient and wait for God. Here is one verse from the Psalms. “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14 NLT) Two times the instruction of waiting on God is repeated here. So when we are discouraged, when life is difficult and hard, we are to wait on God anticipating his help and his encouragement. We don’t always know when or where God will encourage us, but we are to expect it, anticipate it, and wait for it.
  2. Accept God’s encouragement in whatever form it may come. Sometimes we anticipate where, when, and how God will encourage us, but it turns out to be totally different than our expectations. Colossians 4:7-8 (NCV) states, “Tychicus is my dear brother in Christ and a faithful minister and servant with me in the Lord. He will tell you all the things that are happening to me. This is why I am sending him: so you may know how we are and he may encourage you.” Paul wrote a letter of encouragement, and he sent other Christians with the letter to encourage the congregation. Tychicus is one of the people Paul sent, and he is mentioned about five times in Paul’s different letters. Here, he is introduced to the congregation because they did not know him. Imagine a total stranger walking into your congregation carrying a letter and saying, “I’m here to encourage you.” That’s kind of what happened here. Paul was in prison, so he couldn’t go in person. He sent others in his place to encourage the congregations. I’m sure the congregation would have rather had Paul in person; instead, they got a stranger. Don’t put God’s encouragement in a box. Instead, accept it in whatever form it may come.
  3. Listen to God’s encouragement. Sometimes, we fail to listen to what God is saying. Look at what God says to Joshua. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV) God begins with the question, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.” “Joshua, have you been listening to the encouragement I already gave you? Don’t be discouraged. I will be with you.” Maybe Joshua was listening. Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he needed the extra encouragement. Whatever the case, God was making sure that Joshua was listening. Make sure you listen to God’s encouragement.
  4. Act on God’s encouragement. Once we have listened to God’s encouragement, then it is time to act on it. Faith without works is dead. As we hear God encouraging us, we must believe it by faith and act on it by faith. Here is one example as Moses spoke to Joshua. “Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8 NIV) Moses handed the torch of leadership to Joshua, giving him the encouragement and instruction to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. As we read in the previous verse, Joshua needed a little more encouragement from God. However, Joshua eventually acted on this, and he did lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Make sure you act on God’s encouragement.
  5. Thank God for His encouragement. Just as we thank others when they give us gifts, we must also thank God for the encouragement He gives us. Here is one example from Paul. “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work.” (1 Timothy 1:12 NLT) In Paul’s letters, we find many examples of his thanks to people and to God. Paul understood how much grace, mercy, encouragement, and strength God had given him. Paul understood that he didn’t deserve any of it. Therefore, he was thankful, and he expressed his thanks often. Make sure you thank God for His encouragement.

These are a few biblical ideas for receiving encouragement. I hope and pray you will be encouraged. Next week, we will look at, “How To Give Encouragement.”

Be Encouraged! Part 1, How To Find Encouragement

Be Encouraged! Part 1, How To Find Encouragement

 

Do you feel discouraged lately? Do you find it difficult to make it through the week without being discouraged? Me too. I have discovered that I don’t need to look for discouragement. Instead, it looks for me. So I want to help myself and you to Be Encouraged! For the next several weeks, I want to share with you some scriptures that will help you to be encouraged and to encourage others.

Our theme verse for this series will be Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” This instruction was written to a congregation that was suffering persecution. Because of the persecution, many had stopped attending the worship services. When Christians stop attending worship, they miss out on the encouragement found in the fellowship of other believers. This instruction also points our hope in the direction of the future return of Jesus. No matter how discouraging life is, Jesus is coming back. That truth will encourage you today.

So what are some ways that you can find encouragement? Let’s begin by making a list of the ways that help us to be encouraged. Here’s a short list to get you started.

  1. Our best source of encouragement is God. Philippians 4:13 (GW) states, “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” What a great statement of faith. Paul was able to say this because he had already suffered through some of life’s most dire physical difficulties; yet, he was able to overcome because of the strength God gave him. If we have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, then we know that God provides everything we need for daily life. We can endure the discouragement of life because God gives us strength and encouragement. God is the best source of encouragement we have. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it.
  2. Another great source of encouragement is The Bible. Romans 15:4 (CEV) states, “The Scriptures were written to teach and encourage us by giving us hope.” In the Bible, we find wonderful promises from God to give us encouragement and hope. We can memorize Bible promises to help encourage us during difficult times. We find stories of people we can identify with in the Bible. We see how God worked in their life, and that gives us encouragement and hope of how God is going to work in our life. We also find in the Bible examples of how to pray and pour out our heart to God when we need encouragement.
  3. Another source of encouragement is Other Christians. Romans 1:12 (NLT) states, “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” Paul understood the importance of getting together with other Christians. He understood how that fellowship encouraged everyone in the group. He enjoyed encouraging others in their faith, and he also desired to be encouraged by the faith of others.
  4. Another source of encouragement is Music. Ephesians 5:19 (NIV) states, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” We each enjoy music, and we each prefer different styles of music. The instruction here to speak to one another with music includes a variety of music—psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. When we hear the Bible scriptures put to music or hear Christian lyrics in a song, it encourages us. When we listen to a style of music that we prefer that also has Christian lyrics, the music is encouraging. Music is a source of encouragement.

What other sources of encouragement would you add to this list? I might add food, celebrations with the family, or a good day at work. I’m sure you can think of others. But here is the dilemma. Some of the same sources of great encouragement can also be a great discouragement. If God doesn’t do what we want and when we want it, we might be discouraged. If other Christians don’t do what we want, we might be discouraged. These two examples display our selfishness, but it does happen. Music can discourage us too if the lyrics remind us of a sad event. So if you were to list all the sources of encouragement alongside of all the sources of discouragement, I’m sure you would see some overlap. We can’t hide from or escape discouragement. However, we can find encouragement.

My advice to you is to practice the activities that encourage you. Even though we know that some of the activities that encourage us will also discourage us, we must make a deliberate choice to practice the activities that encourage us. If we need encouragement, then we must seek it out by engaging in activities that will encourage. Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV) states, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

We understand the reality of life. We understand that life has its encouraging moments and its discouraging moments. We understand that the discouraging moments are often completely out of our control. One of the reasons we get discouraged is because something is happening that we can’t control. Philippians 4:9 points us in the right direction by saying, Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Paul was encouraging the Christians to put into practice the Christian lifestyle he had modeled for them. The instruction here is so basic to daily life. If we want to be at peace, if we want to be encouraged, then we must put into practice those behaviors that will lead to peace and encouragement.

Let’s get specific. I know that God is my best source of encouragement. So I choose to spend time with God in prayer every day. I know that the Bible is a great source of encouragement. So I choose to spend time reading, studying, memorizing, meditating on, and applying the scriptures. I know that the fellowship of other Christians is a source of encouragement. So I choose to fellowship with other Christians. Seek out the encouragement you need. Practice those activities that encourage you.

Next week, we will look at, “How To Receive Encouragement.”