Last week, we learned about the spiritual roadblock of discouragement and the destructive, self-fulfilling prophecy that it is. We learned about how critical it is not to exalt our problems, but to instead, exalt God. This morning, we’re learning how to transform discouragement into encouragement.
Life as a Christian is not a life of ease free from burdens. Life as a Christian is a life that often faces even more trials and tribulations of the rest of the world as our enemy tries to silence us. However, life as a Christian is a life lived in the power and authority of the truth and promises of our all-powerful God. We face problems in this life, but we face them filled with the Spirit of God that cannot be stopped even by death itself! Paul said it this way:
2 Corinthians 4:7-9;16-18
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Joshua and Caleb were prime examples of this lifestyle as well. They chose to stand firmly on the promises of God in spite of the outward impossibility of overcoming their great enemies. Their enemies didn’t decrease in number or size or ability. Their obstacles didn’t become any easier. They had to deal with sin in their lives. Yet, they still chose to glorify God and exalt Him over all their problems. In time, as they moved forward fighting all the way, they proved God to be true and their problems to be history.
The rest of God’s very own people chose discouragement over encouragement. They chose to run away as cowards back to their slavery and harsh treatment over trusting in God’s miraculous ability to provide. Yes God forgave them, however, there were still consequences. They missed out on the promises of God’s blessings.
The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. In life, we do not always get to choose our circumstances. However, we do get to choose what our circumstances will do to us. Will we boldly boast in our Father, praising Him for what He is going to do, or will we cower away in fear and start spreading the bad news? Do our lips glorify God or do they exalt our troubles?
Dal shared with us about perseverance, which creates character within the life of a follower of Jesus. When trials of many kinds come our way, we need not blame the enemy for stealing from us like helpless victims. We need to start instead simply praising our God for maturing and completing us so that we lack NOTHING! Our enemy may be a thief, but our God is our restorer and rewarder who promises us the ultimate victory!
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing
1 Thessalonians 5:18
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Instead of continuing to be a Moses generation that grumbles and complains, rebelling against God, and completely misses out on receiving the promises of God, let’s instead be a Joshua generation. Let’s cooperate with God and take what is ours, no matter what obstacles stand in our way!
Let’s instead choose to be a people that come boldly before the throne of God with full expectation of receiving every word that He has promised us. We must face our obstacles and impossibilities fully believing God who said that nothing is too hard for Him! We have to guard our hearts and lips from becoming naysayers and instead be worshippers who boast not in our problems, but in our God.
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
What is the one spiritual roadblock that God acknowledged that was powerful enough to stop Him from taking His people into His promises? What could exist in the life of a person that becomes greater than God? What existed in Moses’ failed generation that must not exist in Joshua’s overcoming generation? Discouragement.
God over and over again tells Joshua to be strong and VERY courageous and not to be discouraged. God was putting up the cones, signs, and barrels around the spiritual roadblock of discouragement so that His people in Joshua’s generation wouldn’t get tripped up on it the way that Moses’ generation did.
Sure, we are all facing a lot of challenges personally and we’re not exactly thriving as a church right now. However, if we choose in these seasons to exalt God and obediently follow Him, we will experience victories in our battles and certainly move forward into every one of His promises. If we allow discouragement to derail us, well, we’ll simply miss out on all that God has promised.
If we choose to simply love one another and stop speaking so strongly against each other, if we choose to build each other up instead of tearing each other down, if we choose to move forward into God’s promises instead of backwards toward Egypt, we will succeed. The choice is ours. It isn’t the pastor’s, it isn’t the elders, it isn’t our community’s choice. The choice is each and every one of ours individually.
Will we reach out to the people in our community and find ways to show them that they matter to God? Will we be like Jesus who went out to meet them where they were at and freely gave them hope, healing, and deliverance? Will we force ourselves and our opinions on them, or will we live as Jesus lived and choose to serve them meeting their spoken needs?
Marriam-Webster defines encourage as to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope. What an incredible picture of what the church should be excelling at! Inspiring others with courage, spirit, or hope. When we leave this place, we should all leave here encouraged. We should leave with an ever-increasing measure of courage, spirit, and hope. We should then be going out into the world giving them courage, spirit, or hope.
God’s word teaches us:
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
To do these things, it truly requires the Lord’s strength and courage. Anyone can murmur their opinions in whispers, anyone can fly into a fit of rage when they are mistreated, anyone can point out the negative things about a person. Anyone can jump into a group of complainers and agree with them. That’s how the world behaves, but it’s not how a person of God should.
We have received a higher calling. We have been equipped, enabled, and required to be a prophetic people who see things as they are, but also who see and call out what God sees in the situations. We are to be a prophetic people that build others up out of a heart full of kindness and compassion. We are to be a people who forgive others how Jesus has forgiven us and who are always believing the best in others and giving them opportunities to walk into it.
We are to be ones who give people courage, spirit, and hope. Most of us have had that friend who is brash and rude who speaks their lofty opinions with no regard to how it affects those who hear it. We may be a friend of God, but we should NEVER, EVER be that friend. God shouldn’t have to bring around other brothers and sisters to apologize on your behalf and clean up your relational messes constantly. Such a person is no true friend of God.
So how do we do it? How do we become an encourager? How do we inspire people to have courage, spirit, and hope?
First, be you. Realize who you truly are. Sometimes, we feel like we don’t have much to offer or feel that since we haven’t gone through what someone else has, that we can’t offer encouragement to them. You are a child of God with access to His glorious riches. You have been filled with the Holy Spirit who knows all things and who freely offers His revelation to us. You have been empowered by the all-powerful One. You have everything of priceless value to offer to others!
Just be yourself. Many people fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone. If God has brought someone into your life to encourage them, then you are exactly what they need. Sure, find common ground with that person, but don’t re-landscape your life to try and be who you think they need.
Second, listen to learn. Listen to them with an intent of better understanding them. Ask questions to better understand where someone is at and how they got there. Try to put yourself in their situation. Be empathetic. Genuinely care about them even if it was their own poor choices that put them in their discouraging situation. Ask before giving advice to see if it is wanted.
Third, be there. Assure them that they are not alone. Offer to be there for that person and actually make yourself available to them. Don’t chase and hound them down, but do open up your life to them and invite them into it. Give ways for them to reach out and contact you. You’ll find that they’ll often invite you into their life as well. This step is all about relationship and trust building.
Fourth, serve them. Ask how you can help. See if there is any way that you can come alongside of them to help them through whatever they are going through. Don’t assume that you know what they need and don’t force yourself on them.
Serving others is all about them and not about us and our opinions. A restaurant would not stay in business long if the waiters and waitresses “served” their customers by simply bringing them whatever drinks and meals they think their customers need. No, instead, they serve their customers by asking what they would like and then meeting those needs with excellence. For some reason, we get this backwards when we consider serving people in the church. We do what we think is best, forcing it on people, often sneaking around to do it anonymously, and then wonder why nobody wants what we are serving and why they keep their distance from us.
Consider the life of Jesus. When people came to Him with a need, how often did He ignore them and instead offer them what He knew they truly needed? Never. Never was it recorded that someone came to Jesus asking for their blindness to be healed and He dealt with their relationship with their mother instead. How often would Jesus have Peter sneak a drachma under the door of a home to provide for their needs? Never.
Jesus transparently met the felt needs of others. Only then would He ever go beyond that and address other issues and even that would only occasionally happen. Even when the Pharisees asked Jesus maliciously for a sign, Jesus did actually offer it; the sign of Jonah.
Now, what if we are discouraged and long to transform it into encouragement?
First, be you. Start by being honest about the things that discourage you. Don’t brush them under the rug hoping that it they will just go away. Don’t continue to push forward in life pretending that everything is OK when it truly isn’t. God will never turn away a broken and contrite heart.
Second, talk. Of course, we first and foremost need to carry all of our burdens, including our discouragement, to Jesus. However, there is freedom and healing in confession. Find someone that you trust and sit down with them to share your discouragement with them. Find someone who you know whose heart is to lead you closer to Jesus and in the counsel of His word.
Third, connect. Although this can be the hardest step for most of us, connect with another follower of Jesus deeper than mere conversation. Find someone who will be willing to walk with arm-in-arm with you through your season of discouragement. Find someone willing to literally pray with you and seek after God together with you. Find someone willing to dive into God’s word with you about what you are going through. Share your burdens with them and allow them to carry them with you.
Fourth, ask for help. Allow someone to meet your needs. We were created to need one another. When someone asks what they can do to help, be honest and let them help you. Sometimes, we become discouraged about circumstances on our own because we were never intended to bear them alone. Sometimes just allowing someone to help us carry our discouraging circumstances is the very thing that we needed to do to find breakthrough and encouragement in them. We are always better together!
Discouragement is not the end of your story so long as you don’t give up. Discouragement is a spiritual roadblock, but it is one that can be repaired and overcome. However, you can’t do it alone. You need your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to help you through it.
Allow them to encourage you and speak life and hope into your darkness. Allow them to love you and to walk with you out of discouragement and into encouragement. Find someone to speak into your life as God did to Joshua to be strong and very courageous and not to be discouraged.