Free Bible Study
ENCOUNTERING JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
About this series
Keep Pressing Ahead
How to Make it Through Anything
There are times in our lives when we simply get to the point that we say, "I can't take it anymore!" This depression is just too dark. This marriage is just too hard. The job I lost, the family member I buried, the junk I'm going through. And deep, down inside your heart you say, "I quit. I'm done." And though you may go through the motions on the outside, you've just had it. Your mind says, "I've got to trust God," but your heart says, "I've heard it all before and it's not working for me." You begin to drift - from people and from God. This series, drawn from Nehemiah, will help you overcome adversity and keep you pressing ahead no matter what.More from this series
I want to start with two questions. And then, I have an answer to the second question. Question number one is, what is the most difficult, distressing, discouraging situation in your life right now?
What person, what circumstance makes you feel like, I want to give up. I want to give in. Forget it. You may have not said it to anyone, but… So, I want to get that in your mind. If there’s one thing that God could just wipe away, and make right, make different, make easy, solve for you, what would it be?
Question number two is, why must you keep pressing ahead? Why must you not give up, not give in, not opt out, not even quietly quit? Why is it so important to persevere?
And here’s the answer: Because the greatest things that will ever happen in your life will be birthed or forged in adversity. Now, think of that.
The greatest things that will ever happen on this journey on earth, although we hate adversity, we hate all that comes with it – but I’m telling you, the greatest achievements you’ll ever have, the greatest relationships you’ll ever develop, the greatest discoveries that you ever have, the greatest good, the greatest impact, the greatest times when you know God, the times when you’ll be more honest with yourself, the times of greatest growth… The greatest things that will ever happen in your life will be either birthed out of adversity, or they’ll be forged and shaped during the difficult time.
And when you get with people who have lived a little bit longer, and you just start pecking around about, “How in the world did you get here, and how did this happen, and what happened?” And they will talk about pain, and difficulty, and discouragement, and redirections, and things that God did.
So, it’s true. If you would just leaf through the Bible – you just start leafing through the Bible, you’d say, “Well that’s true of Joseph; it’s true of Esther.” The New Testament – I mean, how did the early Church start off? A lot of adversity.
And it’s even true in the general world. Most people, when they quit, quit just before something great was going to happen.
I wonder what the music world would be like if Elvis would have listened to the stage manager, when he had the opportunity, for the first time, to go public, and sing at the Grand Ole Opry? And the stage manager said, “Son, keep driving trucks. You’re never going to make it.” Hmm.
I wonder what would have happened to all the people that love those Western novels, when Louis L’Amour got several hundred rejections before anyone ever said, “We think you might be able to write a book”?
I wonder what would happen if Thomas Edison, on try number nine hundred and ninety-nine, would just say, “I’m done. You know what? This light bulb stuff, this whole electric stuff, it’ll never work.” He had over a thousand failures before he discovered how the light bulb would work.
And then, I think of where the basketball world would be, or Michael Jordan, if he would have said, “They cut me from my high school team. I guess I’m not very good at this.”
So, here’s what I want you to see. What are you just on the other side of? What are you going through right now, that God is saying, “Don’t bail out. Don’t opt out. Don’t quietly quit. You need to persevere. You need to let Me use this adversity, this difficulty, this pain.”
And we’re going to talk about why God does it, but then how to overcome the number one enemy. Because what happens is, you get discouraged, and I get discouraged, and we quit.
And sometimes we act like we’re doing it on the outside, but we quit on the inside. And so, the very thing that God wanted to do doesn’t happen. The marriage that could have been saved doesn’t get saved. The kid that could have got the encouragement doesn’t get it. The ministry that was just ready to break loose – “Well, forget it. It’s never going to work.”
The person who said, “This time I’m going to make it. I’m going to break this addiction,” and, aw, they get a setback – “Oh forget it. I’m discouraged.” They quit.
And the thing is, then the ripples… Your relationships. The ripples of all the people, and all the network of those who come behind you.
Last week we said, “Adversity is an uninvited, unwanted friend,” but notice, “in the hands of an all-knowing God.” And God has three purposes for adversity, at least three.
First, to wean us from our self-dependency and pride. To usher us, second, into a deeper intimacy with Jesus. And, third, to redirect our paths. It’s during hard times you realize, You know, that’s not the right person. That’s not the right decision. That’s not the right job. To redirect our paths for our greatest good, and His greatest glory.
If you were here last week, I tried to give a little overview of God’s positive purposes for adversity, and that we believe all these lies: “It’ll never work out. I’m a failure. You can’t make it. It’s not fair. God doesn’t love me.” Lots of lies.
And now, I want you to get your pen or pencil out, because I want you to fill these in, by way of review, and if you weren’t here this will get us started. Let me tell you why God brings adversity in your life.
Number one, you need to remember, it’s normal. We taught on it last week, so I won’t give you the passages, but you need to remember, difficult, painful, tribulation, trouble, bad circumstances, unfair treatment – it’s normal.
Number two, it’s expected. Peter would say to people persecuted, “Just expect it. It’s a fiery trial. God will use it for good. He’s going to use it to test you.”
Third, it’s purposeful. This doesn’t get wasted, unless you bail out. He is going to make you, and do things in you and through you – it could never happen apart from what you’re going through.
Number four, it’s powerful. Something happens inside of people. They get established. They get strong. There’s character. There’s confidence. There’s a skill set. There’s capacity of what happens when people go through hard things.
And, finally, it’s temporary. Right? It’s not going to last forever.
Now, if you weren’t here last week, this is one of those messages that rang with people. Here’s what you need to understand: If you don’t get thinking clearly about adversity, and what God says, man, I will tell you, you will spend your whole life trying to avoid it. You’ll try to manipulate; you’ll try to maneuver.
God has the adversity, or the difficulty, or the problem, or the circumstance in your life because He knows you perfectly, and He’s all wise, and He’s good, and He wants to use it in ways to grow you deep, to give you good, to strengthen your relationships, to draw you closer to him, And then, both use you in ways, in the future, to help other people you never could if you didn’t go through it.
Now, with that said, God has a promise for you. And it’s a promise we don’t like; it’s one of those promises. Here’s God’s will for you – are you ready? Sometimes you’re, “What’s God’s will? If I just knew God’s will... It’s so difficult. It’s hard. God, show me Your will.”
Here’s God’s will: You have need of endurance – hupomeno – so that once you’ve done the will of God – you don’t bail out, you don’t give in, it’s a great attitude, I’m trusting, it’s by faith, it’s hard, I don’t like it, I’m honest with God – but so that once you’ve done the will of God, you might receive that which was promised.
There’s a rich, rich reward, but the will of God for all of us going through adversity, whether it’s in your marriage, whether it’s in your singleness, whether it’s in your job, whether it’s your lack of job, whether it’s a personal issue, whether it’s a personality problem – the will of God is, “Don’t give up. Persevere. Trust Me.” And He promises, as you trust Him, He’ll do in you and through you His perfect plan and purpose.
And what we’re going to do is, we’re going to follow Nehemiah as he blazes the trail. And in chapter 4, he’s going to face discouragement.
If you don’t know the story of Nehemiah, pick it up in chapter 1, and what you find is a man who is the right hand man of the king. And his country was much like Romania. It was going down the tubes. There wasn’t leadership. People weren’t worshipping God. It’s a complete mess.
But he’s in a position of power, next to the king. He begins to pray. God puts a dream on his heart. He recruits a team. He takes a radical step of faith. He comes up with a plan, and the king says, “I’ll tell you what, here’s some money, here’s some timber, here are some people. You can go back to Jerusalem” – he was living in Persia at the time, the world rulers – “you can go back, and get that thing going.”
And so, the people are motivated. And the agenda was to rebuild this wall around Jerusalem, this huge wall. And as we pick up the story, they’re not quite half done.
Nehemiah chapter 4 – open your Bibles, if you will, and let’s pick it up together. First three verses, “When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry” – by the way, he will be one of the bad guys in the story – “and he was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and in the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore the wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble burned as they are?’
“Tobiah the Ammonite, who was by his side, said, ‘What they are building – if even a fox climbed on it, it would break down their wall of stones!’”
Here’s the point I want you to get: God-ordained steps of faith are almost always followed by significant opposition, and adversity. The hardest thing to get – because we just have this unconscious idea that, If I do what God wants me to do… “We went to marriage counseling.” “I’m starting to read my Bible.” “I set some boundaries for one of my kids.” “I went to an AA meeting, or a Celebrate Recovery. I’m taking these steps! I’m…”
And then, instead of things getting better, they get worse! It gets harder; it’s more difficult, and you go, “God, what’s the deal? You prompted me; You brought people into my life. I’m trying to do what You said.”
Get this clear: When you take steps to follow God, it will almost always get far worse before it gets better. Because you’re going to make a difference. You’re going to make a difference in you; you’re going to make a difference in your family. You’ll make a difference in your relationships. You’ll make a difference in the world, and every time you do, man, there’s going to be opposition.
Notice the opposition here – attack number one: words that cause us to question our worth, our work, and our probability of success. The words were criticism, right? Ridicule.
Look at the text; it’s really interesting. Notice, “What are these feeble Jews doing?” What’s he saying? “You’re inadequate. You’re not strong enough; you’re not smart enough. You don’t have the capability. Why are you trying to do this? You don’t measure up; you don’t have it.”
How many of you have that ringing in your mind? “You’ll never amount to anything! You’ll never make it here! This isn’t going to work.” It’s the attack on your worth. And so, the criticism.
And it’s not only the attack on who they are, but notice, he goes on to say, “Will they, will they, will they, can they?” It’s only three verses. And so, what are they doing? They’re saying, “They can’t do it,” but then they attack their work. You know, “If a fox would get on what they’ve built, it would just fall down.” “Who you are doesn’t measure up. What you’re doing is not worth anything.”
And so, what’s the thing? The probability of success – if I’m sitting and listening to this, I’m thinking, You know, when Nehemiah said this, it sounded like such a good idea, and I was, ‘Yeah, yeah, rah, rah, let’s go for it.’ You know what? These guys are right. Who are we to do this? This isn’t going to work. Look how high this thing is. Look how big.
Any of you feel like that tonight? “We’ve been to three counseling sessions, and we argue more now than we did before.” “I put in four hundred and thirty-three resumes. I still don’t have a job. Forget it!” “I did what they said. I called every time I was ready to take a drag on something, and… Then, nobody noticed, and, boy, last night I just got off the wagon. I guess I’ll always be stuck.” It’s how it works.”
And sometimes, those voices of criticism – sometimes they come from out there, but a lot of times they come right in here. You’re just driving in your car. You ever heard this? “You’re never going to amount to anything.” “You don’t think you can really quit.” “You know, your son is never going to change. Give it up!” “Hey, you know what? This job is a dead end. Why do you keep…?”
And you can get up, and perfunctorily go through the motions, but your heart can get turned off and you’re no longer trusting God; you’re not longer walking with God. You’re no longer believing the promise that God can see you through this.
So, that’s the first attack. Notice Nehemiah’s response, in verses 4 through 6, “Hear us, O our God, for we are despised! Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from Your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.” Literally, they’ve demoralized them.
So, what’s he do? First thing he does, he prays. And notice – part of us, we’ve got some really bad orientations toward – You hear the word prayer. I think some of us think prayer is, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” You know?
These aren’t “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayers. Do you feel the emotion in this one? Do you feel the passion? Do you feel the fight? “Oh God! What is going on here?” So often we feel ashamed to do that, or afraid to do that, or like God can’t handle it, or, “I shouldn’t talk to Him that way.”
Nehemiah is saying, “I’m on a mission from You. I’ve got something You’ve called me to do. And then, I’m getting ripped up. And I’m starting to have these feelings, and these thoughts, and these people around me thinking we’re inadequate, and we can’t make it, and what we’re going isn’t worth anything, and – I can hear them!”
And Nehemiah is thinking, I hear the buzz. As I’m getting my stuff over here, I hear them saying, “Hey, Bobby?” “What?” “You think he’s going to make –” “Nah, I don’t think we’re going to do it.” “I don’t think it’s going to work. I think Nehemiah is crazy, to tell you the truth. And did you hear that other stuff?” And so, he says, “God, I want You to intervene.”
You praying any of those kind of prayers? You stepping up and saying, “The God of the universe, who called me to do this – it is His will for this marriage to work.” “It is His will for this child to turn around.” “It is His will to be a light at that company.” It is His will for you to make a difference. It’s His will for you to be pure and free.
And so, you pray. But you pray boldly, and you pray with power, and you pray with passion, not some little, “Oh, God, will You help me? I don’t really think it’s going to work, but it sure would be nice if it would,” prayers.
And then, notice – you know what? He doesn’t just pray. He keeps pressing ahead. He just keeps pressing ahead. Look at verse 6, “So we rebuilt the wall until all of it reached half its height” – why? – “for the people worked with all their heart.”
Well, what’s he saying? “It was really hard. They were demoralized. We asked God for help, and while we’re asking Him for help, we didn’t sit around and have a pity party. We got after it. We just kept pressing ahead.” And God worked. In fact, He worked in a very, very powerful way.
The first attacks are with words, and they attack our worth, and our work, and our faith of believing what’s going to happen. The second most formidable attack, when you’re a Christ follower, and you are fulfilling what God wants you to do, is discouragement.
You’re going to face a lot of things in your life, but of all the things I’ve seen, I think the most devastating thing – I’ve seen really strong, really bright, really gifted people get so discouraged that they just quit doing what, obviously, God wants to bless, and already has.
And sometimes it doesn’t happen when things are going bad. I’ve had some of my most discouraging times where it’s almost unexplainable. I can say, “This is going well. This is going well. This is going well. God is blessing this, bless this.” And then, I’ll have these overwhelming feelings, You’re the worst person that I know, Chip. You’re a terrible pastor. You’re a bad dad. You’re a lousy husband. You said this, and so-and-so thought that, and this email said that.
And I’ll just have this quiet, little moment, while all this gets up into my head, and I’ll just have this thought of, You know what? Maybe I ought to do something else for a living. You ever have that? I just don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t think it’s going to work.
How do you respond to that? Everybody has that. And everybody has it in almost any area, on any given time.
And we’re going to learn that there are four causes of discouragement that – let’s look at the text together. Look at verses 7 through 12: “But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to the Jerusalem walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry.”
So, attack number one comes: a little criticism, a little ridicule. They pray; they press ahead. Well, now they’re making progress again. Well, the enemy sees they’re making progress, and so, okay, now they’re ticked off. Here we go. “They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to stir up trouble against us.”
Now, notice the repetition here. This is almost a reflex with this man. “But we prayed to our God, and we posted a guard day and night to meet the threat.” Prayer, action; prayer, action.
Now, listen very carefully, “Meanwhile, the people in Judah…” In other words, if you would go to the local coffee shop in Judah – we’re in Jerusalem. Judah is a surrounding area. If you go to the local coffee shop, and you hear the storekeepers, and people are talking, this is the buzz. This is what people are talking about.
Notice what he says, “The people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out,’” second, “‘there is so much rubble, and we cannot rebuild the wall.” Then, it goes on, “Also, our enemies...” So, this is what the Jews are saying, around Judah.
It doesn’t look like it’s going real well. “Also, our enemies have said, ‘Before they know it or see us, we’ll be right there and we’ll be among them and we’ll kill them, and it’ll put an end to the work.’ Then the Jews who lived near them –” I mean, this is – let’s get everybody in on the gang. “The Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’” And then, in verse 13, he responds.
If we wanted to break those apart, you see four causes of discouragement. The first is a loss of strength. And just right next to that, the problem is fatigue. What’s it say? It says, “The strength of the laborers is giving out.” You are vulnerable to get very discouraged And sometimes the problem is, you’re just fatigued. It’s too much.
You’re up early, you’re up late, you’re doing a lot. And you might even be doing a lot of the right thing. But you go, and you go, and you go, and you go, and when you get tired, and when you get fatigued, and you get emotionally vulnerable, then you are prime for discouragement.
That’s why it’s very counter-intuitive to stop and take breaks. It’s very counter-intuitive to take care of yourself. It’s very counter-intuitive to stop and do some things that are renewing, and fun, when there’s a lot to do. But as someone said, this journey is a marathon. It’s not a sprint.
You see four causes of discouragement. The first is a loss of strength. And just right next to that, the problem is fatigue. It says, “The strength of the laborers is giving out.” You are vulnerable to get very discouraged And sometimes the problem is, you’re just fatigued. It’s too much.
And when you get tired, and when you get fatigued, and you get emotionally vulnerable, then you are prime for discouragement.
That’s why it’s very counter-intuitive to stop and take breaks. It’s very counter-intuitive to take care of yourself. It’s very counter-intuitive to stop and do some things that are renewing, and fun, when there’s a lot to do. But as someone said, this journey is a marathon. It’s not a sprint.
And I will tell you, of all of these, that’s the one where I blow it the most. I try to do too much. I get really tired. I get overextended. And it’s just predictable: Discouragement comes.
The second is loss of vision. Notice their focus. Notice, they said, “Look at all this rubble.” Man, look at all this junk.” No, no, no, no, no. Look at how much progress you’ve made!
But ask yourself – See, the issue here is your focus. Are you focused on what is wrong, or are you focused on what’s right?
Third is a loss of confidence. The issue here is faith. Notice what they say here, “We cannot rebuild the wall.” Now, when there was nothing done, they said, “Let us arise and build! We can do it!” They had faith! “God’s in it; the king’s in it. The materials are here! Wow!” Now that they’re half done, “Oh, we can’t do this.”
Some of you have made tremendous progress in areas, and you’re just thinking, Oh, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. Stop, and look in the rearview mirror. And part of looking in the rearview mirror – I’ll show you a little tool I have.
I started keeping journals in college, because I am so prone to see what needs to get done, and all the time – You know what? When you live off a to-do list, man, you get twenty things done, and you wake up the next day, and there are twenty-four. I’m telling you, that’s discouraging.
So, I just learned to – I started writing things down, and I would write down what God has done. And when I start to get discouraged, I look back, and I begin to say, “Well, that got done. That got done. God did that. God did that. That was a prayer for a year. That did, that did.”
And when you look back, then you get confidence, because the God who was faithful yesterday, and last month… And you start reliving and telling stories. I mean, all of a sudden, I realize, God’s big! But where is your focus? Where is your faith?
And then, fourth is a loss of security. You notice that you’ve got the Jews, you’ve got the enemies, and the key issue here is fear.
The economy is going to go down again. You’ll never find another job. Your wife is going to leave you because you can’t provide. Your kids are going to hate you, and think you’re a nobody. This will never – right? Fear. Fear. Fear. What if…? What about…? What if…? What about…? If so, what…?
And fear is always projecting into the future, and hypothetical grace does not exist. God is not in tomorrow. Every need – I’ve had times in my life where we’ve had absolutely no money, and all we had was a roof, and some food to eat for a couple days. And I had to go back to, “What did God promise?” A roof, protection, and food for the day. Biblically, if you have food for tomorrow, you’re rich.
And all of a sudden, our “today” gets completely ruined because, “My 401(k) wasn’t what it was supposed to. And I had this plan, and I was going to retire this year, and I can’t retire this year. I had all that money saved up. It was just on paper; it was just on numbers. And when the numbers came in, it made me very happy, and when they went down, it made me very, very sad. And of course, my security is in Jesus, and not in money – of course not, except for when all the money goes, well, Jesus doesn’t seem very big and…”
Right? Loss of strength, loss of vision, loss of confidence, loss of security – okay, Nehemiah, help us. Blaze the trail, brother, because we need help. “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families” – so, okay, where are we vulnerable? Get people there; get them with people that they are really going to give their lives for – “with swords and spears and bows.”
Evaluation: “After I looked things over, I stood up and I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them’” – why? – “remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.” Where is your focus? Where is your faith?
Let’s see, now, He spoke, and the entire universe came into existence, but He couldn’t protect you, right? He spoke, and the world came into existence, but He can’t meet the need that you’re wrestling with. No. He’s awesome.
And then, action: “Fight for your brothers and your sons, your daughters, and your wives and your homes.” There’s a lot at stake, no time for a pity party. Step up! I mean, this is the greatest coach in the world, spiritually, calling the team together and saying, “Okay, action plan: Here’s where we’re vulnerable. Here, here, here, and here. You guys get there. Let’s get in teams. Let’s get in families.”
“When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.” Did you notice this guy just won’t quit? He just keeps pressing ahead. He just won’t quit. He won’t get distracted. He won’t get detracted. And so, now they’re back on the wall.
“From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, and shields, and bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried the materials did the work with one hand and held a weapon with the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed by me.
“Then I said to the nobles and the officials and the rest of the people, ‘The work is extensive and it’s spread out, we’re widely separated from one another along the wall. Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us here. Our God will fight for us!’”
Do you hear? He’s got a strategy. He’s got a plan: “We’re spread out. We may be vulnerable. The guy with the trumpet is with me. When you hear it, we’re going to gather together. We’re not going down, people. God is bigger than this. We’re going to fight.”
“So we continued the work” – verse 21 – “with half the men holding the spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. At that time also I said to the people, ‘Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem.’” Notice, the paradigm changes. He has a different plan.
The last plan was okay but the situation is different. Sometimes adversity causes us to think, Oh, we were doing this. Now there is a problem. Maybe we need to do it different.
So he says, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. Everyone who is working – nobody goes home anymore. We’re going to have a slumber party inside Jerusalem. Everybody gets to come.” “Every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day.”
And then, here’s the deal, especially if you’re in any kind of influential position. If you’re a single parent, your kids look to you. If you’re the man of the house, people look to you. If you’re involved in ministry, people look to you. Listen to what Nehemiah does: “Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off their clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.”
You hear what he’s saying? “It’s going to be tough; it’s going to be difficult. We’re going to step up. God is big. We’re going to make it.”
And, by the way, there are seasons when you get up at the crack of dawn, and you go to bed when it’s dark. You can’t live that way all the time, but under pressure, under stress, you say, “We’re all in, and whatever it takes, we’re going to do it.”
So much so, he models, “We didn’t even take our clothes off. At the end of the day, my sword is here. I put a little wash on my face, get a little food. And we’re not going to stop until we get this thing done.”
Fifty-two days, an engineering miracle. I had a friend who was in charge of all the engineers of this large company, from one side of the Mississippi to the other half of America, and he told me he studied this extensively. And he was very – you know, people that are real detail oriented, and figured out how big the wall was, and what kinds of things they had to do. And he says, “Absolute miracle. Absolute miracle, what occurred.”
Four resources that I’ve pulled out of this text that have been helpful to me. One, be proactive. You might jot next to that: “Get moving.” All right? “Get moving.” James 2:17 says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” They pray; they act. They pray; they act.
The second is, remember who is for you. Get perspective. Just remember who God really is. Mary, a little teenage girl, said – what? When the angel is speaking to her? “With God, nothing is impossible” – Luke 1:37.
Let that sink in, okay? Don’t just write – Oh, yeah, got to get that down in my notes. Get it in your heart! With God, nothing is impossible that you’re facing right now. Do you believe it, or not? Are you coming to Him, saying, “God, this is impossible! Will You intervene? I’ll do whatever. Will You intervene?” He’ll show up.
One, be proactive. Remember who God is. Then, fight. And then, the next two words are hard. Fight, fight. This is, when you face discouragement, we cave. We start feeling like, I’m a victim, I’m a victim, why, why, poor, poor, me, me. And it’s death.
It’s like the grey mist of discouragement comes in, and you start asking those questions, and it just turns dark, and black. And you gotta fight.
Paul said, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only me, but all those who have longed for His appearing.”
The reason he fought was perspective. “I’m hanging tough. I’m hanging in. I’m not going to opt out. I know that, you know what? There is a reward for me. Jesus is going to be enough.”
And I bet if we interviewed the apostle Paul, in prison, half that time, “How is this going to work out, Paul?” I think he’d say, “I don’t have a clue.” I think if you said, “Paul, do you ever get discouraged?” he’d look at you like, “Duh. Are you kidding me?” “Well, so, are you going to give up?” “Duh, no way.”
There was something – a fiber, and part of the capacity of the apostle Paul was forged and formed and birthed because of what he went through. And you are now the proud possessor of thirteen books, because his adversity kept him in prison most of the time. And his life… Here’s a guy who writes about joy, to a Philippian church, while he’s in chains.
Finally, never fight alone. Get connected. Get connected. Hebrews 3:13, “Encourage one another day after day as long as it’s still called Today, lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
If you just want two words to get you focused – Okay, discouragement is coming on. Number one: Get moving. Number two: Get perspective. Number three: Get mad.
Fight, fight, fight. You’ve got to get mad, because if you don’t get mad, you’ll feel sorry for yourself. I’m not going to let this happen. I’m not going to let this attitude happen. I’m not going to let this loss of a job make me feel like I’m not a man, not a woman. I’m not going to allow this person who said those things determine my future. I’m not going – just because they said I can’t get in that school… There are a lot of schools.
I’ll tell you what, fight! And part of you needs to get mad and say, “This is who I am. God, are You for me? Give me strength; give me direction.”
And then, the last one is, you get connected. Before I go over there, I just want to read this quote, because this quote, for me, is just… “In a mysterious way, our troubles allow us to discover and develop reservoirs of strength and perseverance that most of us don’t realize we have. When we lean on the Lord, He actually uses our struggles to expand our ability to deal with them. It’s a process that leads us to greater hope and deeper faith.”
Now, these four things – and this may not work for you, and if it doesn’t, that’s fine. But I was actually – earlier today, I was thinking, We’re going to talk about discouragement. And these people – man, they’re just like me. They’re going to struggle. So, here’s my anti-discouragement table. In terms of being proactive, as soon as I feel discouragement coming on, here are a few things, practical.
One, write a note to someone. Something I often do, immediately: get a workout. Those endorphins actually work. Do you feel like working out? Of course not. You don’t feel – Go get a workout. Help someone. I’ve been so discouraged, at times, I’ve actually gone to a hospital where I didn’t know anyone, and started walking room to room: “Is anybody discouraged or hurting here today? I’m a pastor. I will pray with you. I’m doing this –” I don’t tell them for me, but sometimes some good things happen.
So, you have to act. Take a walk. Make a phone call. Sing. But you have to do something to move you in the right direction.
Something, sometimes, too – are you ready? Have some fun. It doesn’t feel very spiritual. When you’re discouraged, have some fun. Whatever is fun for you… limited, moral, right, good things that are fun. You got it?
But do something, because a lot of times you’re right on that edge. Another thing I do is I’ll put on worship music, and I’ll just stick my headphones on, and find someplace – And I don’t feel like singing, but I just sing.
The second thing there is, “Remember who God is.” Three sources for me – this is a small stack. Those are journals. I probably have fifty or eighty of them, I don’t know. But what I’ll do is, I need to remember who God is. Psalm 103 says, “Do not forget the works of the Lord.” When you remember His works, it will cause you to remember His worth. Remembering His works, and what He did, will lead you to who He is.
And so, sometimes I’ll pick them up, and I’ll just start reading them. And I’ll think, Oh, wow, that’s right! I forgot my son was in ICU back then, and, Boy, we were really having big struggles in our marriage back then. And I’ll just start reading them.
Another thing I do is, I’ll pick up a classic book: J.I. Packer, Knowing God. And you can almost open it anywhere. Or, in my briefcase, I always keep A.W. Tozer, and I just start reading about the goodness of God, or the sovereignty of God, or the omniscience of God. What I know is, I gotta remember who God is.
Or I’ll take my little thing – Ken Boa has a little thing called Handbook to Prayer. And in it, he just prays Scripture prayer back to God. And I often start with, “God, I don’t really feel like doing this,” and I do it out loud. And I begin to pray these prayers, out loud, back to God. And what I find is the discouragement begins to dissipate because, one, I’m getting perspective; two, I’m getting renewed, instead of being fatigued.
And then, fight, fight, fight. On this one, all I can say is, I just often have to call someone that I know and say, “I’m really struggling right now. I need someone to fight with me. And here’s what it is, and here’s why I think.”
And that’s where you have to get connected. You just gotta find someone, somewhere, who you can be honest with, share with, they accept you as you are. Because the enemy wants to keep your discouragement, or what you’re discouraged about, or this secret that you have, as this thing, and bombard you forever and ever and ever, and make you feel like, You don’t measure up You’ll never change. Nothing is ever going to happen.
Just before the greatest accomplishments occur, we usually have obstacles and discouragement that rush into our experience.