How to Overcome Discouragement
Discouragement – (How to Overcome Discouragement)
2 Tim. 1:6
1 John 5:4
Begin with a Story:
Have you ever felt discouraged? Have you ever felt that no matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter how well you think you’ve done something, no matter how much work and effort you put into a situation that you always seem to fail? All it takes is one person to say one word to ruin the good feeling you have inside. No matter if it is something as minor, as simple or constructive criticism, or whether that person is rudely harsh, that one little thing, that one word, can burst your bubble so quickly, that that you feel that there is nothing that you can do about it.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking that nothing you ever do is ever right? I have fallen into that trap many times. I think that part of my problem is that I would look to the wrong places for encouragement. I tried to compare myself with others instead of comparing myself to the qualities that God has before me, realizing that each one of us are different. We all cannot be the best at everything; we all have our individual gifts that God has bestowed upon us. We cannot always win, someone has to fail. Over time and multiple failures we become discouraged. Or fire seems to burn out and we lose our passion that once made us effective.
We are not much different than a fireplace that has burned all night long. When you get up early on a cold winter morning and go look at that fireplace, it seems that the fire is out. The ashes appear to be gray and cold. But if you take a stick or a poker and dig around in those ashes, you will discover red-hot coals. With proper care you can rekindle the fire that seemed to be gone.
This is the word picture Paul painted for Timothy when he said in 2 Timothy 1:6-7 “Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”
Paul pictured Timothy’s pastoral gift as a fire that once blazed brightly but had almost gone out. Underneath the dull gray ashes, were still hot coals, capable of bursting into flames once again if they were stirred.
Pastors today face the same challenge. There are three things every Pastor can do to overcome discouragement and rekindle his enthusiasm.
Remember the Lay of the Harvest
Paul said in his letter to the Galatians, Chapter 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
The Law of the harvest says if you keep planting good seed in good soil in God’s time there will be fruit.
Not all fields are equally productive. You may be serving in a difficult place. The people around you may be hardened and calloused. We are to work hard no matter where we are, no matter how great or little the harvest may be. Our task is to be faithful to God, to plant good seed in the soil around us, and to let God handle the amount and quality of the harvest.
So many times, especially in our churches, even though we may be doing good, we may be doing right, we may be doing exactly as god has asked, we grow weary, we get discouraged, and the first thing we do is we give up. We are human. When we get discouraged, we don’t want to do it anymore. What’s the point? Why should we suffer? Why should I give up my time when nobody else does? Why should I be here when none of my friends are? We will reap our harvest if we don’t give up.
Paul wrote to Timothy to be an encouragement for him. Timothy was a young Pastor and looked to Paul for encouragement and for help and guidance.
So how do we get past our discouragement? How do we, like our ancestors, like those men and women in the Bible, overcome our discouragement? The youth and I have been studying Ecclesiastes, and if you have read Ecclesiastes you know that Solomon was a very depressed individual, even though he had more than any of us could ever dream. He set out to prove what good and right under the sun. Everything he tried, whether it was wine, women, song, money, wisdom, or power, Solomon still came to the same argument that there is nothing good under the sun, that all is futile, like chasing after the wind.
Solomon had a point, if we strive for things under the sun, our heart will be broken. If we put our full attention and focus on things under the heavens, what will we have to show for it?
Mathew 6:20-21 says: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Use the Right Standard to Evaluate Your Work
How do your measure success in the kingdom of God? If you attend a convention and a friend asks how your church is doing, would your answer be numerical and include nothing else?
The healthy church is reaching people for Christ and teaching them the Bible. However, in some churches great numerical increase is unlikely. All church fields are not equally productive. Do not measure success by comparing yourself to other pastors and churches. To do so only creates a sense of pride if you do better than they or jealousy, envy, and despair if you do worse.
Success in the kingdom of God is measured by faithfulness. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Part of the problem that we have with discouragement is that we put ourselves in comparison to someone else, to their standards, their successes. We make the same mistake when we put our church in comparison to another church, or our Pastor with another Pastor. It is not our responsibility to judge whether one is successful over the other, whether one is more right or more wrong. Yes I will admit that that may be different, but different does not mean wrong. This past week I was listening to Adrian Rogers on the way to work and he spoke about how the methods can change and he cited the example of the 3 ways that Christ chose to heal the blind; one by His own spittle, one with mud, and one by touch. If we were to put those three men in a room and asked what method Christ uses to heal the blind, would we have an argument about the method, or would we realize that there are many ways that the gospel teaches us to save lost souls. If we begin to compare our methods and those of others churches we may miss the bigger picture that God has put before us.
Look at our church as an example. Last year about this same time, we had an average attendance of 90 people for Sunday school. Within a month’s time, that number dropped to 40 and no one knows what happened. No one can explain it. You can look back and see little reasons here and there, people moved out of the area, some moved on, and some just quit coming. Then you look at the new Brighton church plant and they are running in the 90’s and some people are getting jealous by it. Some people look at that and say, “We must be doing something wrong.” I’m one of them. I fell into the trap of looking at our church as a number and not as a house of God. For a long time I looked at our attendance as being the measure or quality of our church. If people were not there I was let down. I started to question myself. I started to ask, “What did I do wrong?” “Was it something I said?” “Was it something I did?” “Was it the Pastor, was it something he did or didn’t do?” Was it something that we needed to change, a new program that we needed to add? Did we need new teachers in Sunday School? I thought “We need to do something!” Then I began to rack my brain to try to figure out what we were doing wrong. I was so discouraged, I was so upset that I started to question myself whether it was worth the time and effort to keep going, was it worth the time and effort that we were putting in or should we just let it fail.
I would like to say that this feeling went away quickly, but it didn’t. Today, this day, the honor that was bestowed upon me, when I found out what was happening, I realized what mentally I was doing to myself and to my ministry abilities. I realized the torment that I was putting on myself, because instead of following in obedience, and being happy and satisfied with what God has given me, the Example that Christ has put before me, I looked at it as a pass or fail depending on the number on the attendance board at church.
Christ doesn’t tell us to go and be successful; Christ says to “Go”.
Of those of us sitting in these seats today, we think to ourselves. “We’re good Christians,” but are we really listening, are we really listening to what God has called you to do with your lives. Are you here to worship, or are you here to socialize? Are you here to serve God, or are you here out of habit, or because you are expected to be here?
It is not my right to judge, only you know. We need to stop comparing our little rural church to every other church, looking at our church as a number as I once did. Our church is more than a number; it is a house of God. Am I saying that we should just ignore the fact that we have lost 50 people and we know not where? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that if we let it discourage us, if we look solely at the number of people, the quantity, instead of the quality of our believers, then we will get discouraged.
What we need to look to is the servant hood of the believers in our church. We need to decide what is most important. Is it bringing 100 people to Sunday school, is that the most important thing?
Trust In God
He is still on the throne. The work you do as a pastor is kingdom work – God’s kingdom. Depend on God for the strength to overcome discouragement. In 1 John 5:4, John said, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”
Discouragement is a powerful tool for Satan. He uses it to immobilize God’s pastors. But God is still God, and we are still His servants. Depend on Him for strength and encouragement. You are an overcomer.
We need to learn what God expects from us. Is it that we should just be here in our attendance, to do our part, to add a number to the role, or are we to be here as servants, to serve those in our community, to win souls for Christ, and on top of that to Worship.
When you sit in a pew discouraged, you can’t worship. I couldn’t. This license that you have bestowed on me today, is nothing more than a piece of paper, that was signed by the church and pastor, it was given by the Church, but this one piece of paper that in a sense truly means nothing according to face value, meant more to me in the past few weeks than anything else could have, because it was the one thing that encouraged me the most.
Lately I have felt discouraged of a great many things. Discouraged with our church, with my work performance, with my family. I felt I had lost my heart, my passion, my fire. I and others have felt this way for quite some time. It’s amazing how after talking to a number of people and getting my feelings out in the open allowed for healing. I have a great fear inside of me because of my decision to follow Christ’s footsteps, to leave the work and career than I have struggled so long for. I’ve been employed with my current company for six years. It is my second home, they are my second family, but I feel so strongly for the call of Christ that I know I must leave my home and the comforts and the privileges that come along with my career, for a life following the will of the Almighty Father.
Amy and I have made the decision for our family that we will be attending seminary, which means giving up our lives as we know them. Giving up our jobs, our home, our families, and our church. Moving out of state, placing ourselves into poverty, and doing so for one reason, and that’s to serve God. I will admit that I am scared out of my mind. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know if I can make the grades. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I can stay awake through all of the classes, but I am going to go because Christ called.
I may be the worst pastor in the world, I may be forgetful, I may have a poor bedside manner, I don’t know, but I know one thing, that as long as I follow Christ, that he will use me. Sometimes Christ has to take us to our lowest point before we wake up enough to realize, and to understand, what we are doing wrong in our lives. To realize how little we truly focus on him.
If we look back in our history of this church, and the furthest I have gone back is 12-14 years, the average attendance was between 40-50 people every year. If we look back at the programs and the things that were deemed successful in this church, outreach is not one of them. Was it discipleship, was it Sunday school, I just don’t know. I wasn’t here then. It seems to me that one of most important values in Christ’s life, one of the most important aspects in his ministry was outreach. It seems to me that is one area that we don’t focus enough attention to. And it’s not just us; there is a great many churches that fail in outreach.
We expect that if we open the doors on Sunday morning that people are going to come to church, because that’s what they were taught to do by their parents. Well that may have worked before, but when you have a whole generation of parents that quit going to church you have multiple generations of children that never knew, and that were never raised with the habit of going to church. So when you open those doors on Sunday mornings, instead of seeing happy faces walking through them, you hear the sound of lawn mowers, fishing boats, hunting rifles, you hear everything else that could happen in place of Sunday morning worship.
Is Sunday morning the only time that you can worship God? No. We need to put our trust in Him; we need to turn to Him every day, because without Him where would we turn to for encouragement.
The hymn says “Without Him I could do nothing, Without Him I’d surely fail…Without Him how lost I would be.”
Christ is the great encourager. Here is a man who came to this earth as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but instead he stood out as a suffering servant. Instead of saying look at me, look what I did, he told most of those that he healed to keep quiet and to not tell anyone. Christ did not want to be known for his miracle. He didn’t want people to focus on just the miracle that were performed; he didn’t want the attention on Himself. He wanted the attention to go to the Heavenly Father. How many times have you felt that you needed to be the center of attention? It feel good at times when people stand up and take notice of what you have done, but when that starts to detract from the real purpose that we are here for, which is Christ Jesus, and the Heavenly Father, then we become selfish.