Today, we’re going to talk about one of the biggest enemies of your mind, of your faith, of your life, of your relationships. One of the biggest enemies of the way you think: discouragement.
Maybe you feel misunderstood, misrepresented, or maybe something has happened that is a huge disappointment. Maybe you’re just beat down from things that have accrued over time. We pray this message is the beginning of encouragement to you today.
Discouragement often happens when a project, plan or relationship is not going the way we want it to go.
It’s easy to start something, and once you see the light at the end of the tunnel, even finishing can be fun. But the grind in the middle is much more difficult. It’s in the grind when we lose sight of the vision, lose sight of what finishing well will feel like. It’s in the grind, in the middle when the enemy tempts us to give up.
If you’re discouraged, you’re in good company. Moses was discouraged on multiple occasions. The Israelites got so discouraged at times. David was discouraged. Elijah was so discouraged once he wanted to die.
The Apostle Paul, of course, had many, many reasons to be discouraged. Paul had a very tough life.
24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:24-28
However, Paul later shares what keeps him going in 2 Corinthians 4:1-18, and that is our focus today. What he shares works and kept him from giving up in the midst of all that. We need to would learn to think like Paul thinks about discouragement.
How do we stay encouraged?
- Never forget God’s mercy.
If we are going to defeat discouragement, we have to keep God’s love and mercy constantly in focus. Everything in life flows out of the mercy, grace, love, and kindness of God. That is why we do not become discouraged, and we never give up.
Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 2 Corinthians 4:1
Paul starts by saying he doesn’t get discouraged because he remembers the mercy of God, the grace of God, and the kindness of God and that drives the discouragement away.
Everything you have in life is a gift of God’s mercy. Your life in itself is a gift of the mercy of God. Mercy is that God gives you what you need, not what you deserve. Mercy is when God knows every mistake you’ll make in your life, and yet He still created your life.
Mercy is that there was a debt hanging over your head, and Jesus Christ paid it. There was a punishment hanging over your head, and Jesus Christ suffered it. There was an impossible task laid out for you, Jesus Christ did it.
At the moment when you get discouraged, you stop feeling the mercy of God. You can’t feel how much God loves you and be discouraged at the same time, so it’s either one or the other.
Some Christians don’t feel God’s mercy because they only think God speaks to them in a critical voice. But lets be clear: if the voice is always negative, it’s not God. God didn’t die on the cross, rise from the dead, ascend to heaven, and send his holy spirit to live in you so He could nit-pick, nag and criticize you.
Remember that you were created to be loved by God. God made you to love you. The number one purpose of your life is not for you to do good. The number one purpose of your life is not for even to love God back. The number one purpose of your life is to be loved by God and let Him love you.
- Reject dishonesty
Nothing is more discouraging than dishonesty. When you try to be something you’re not. When you distort the truth. When you act and pose, that gets tiring and you’re afraid that other people might find out who you are, and you’re afraid that God might not love you.
Nothing’s more discouraging than trying to be something that you’re not. God does not bless fakes or phonies, God does not bless posers, God does not bless who you pretend to be. If you want God’s blessing on your life, just submit and surrender to the truth. The truth of scripture, the truth of who he made you to be.
We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. 2 Corinthians 4:2
Paul says that we don’t preach for the approval of other people. Paul says I’m just trying to be myself. I’m not trying to please everybody else. I’ve got nothing to hide, what you see is what you get. Nothing is more discouraging than trying to please everybody – why? Because even God can’t do that.
You know just about time you get crowd A pleased, crowd B gets ticked off at you. Then when you get crowd B pleased, crowd A is upset with you.
If you’re always trying to be something you’re not, you’re always going to be under stress, you’re always going to fear being exposed, and you’re going to be prone to discouragement. The truth of God sets people free.
- Remember it’s not about me
The more self-focused you are in life, the more prone to discouragement you are going to be. Every time you forget that life is bigger than you, you’re going to get either prideful, fearful, or bitter because God didn’t make the world to revolve around you. When you think everything’s all about you, then you take everything personally, and you get your feelings hurt so fast.
That’s discouraging. Here’s how Paul applies this to his preaching ministry.
You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6
God didn’t put you on earth to be about you. He puts you on earth to be about Him, He’s your Creator. Your life message is about God. He says it’s not about you.This is difficult to remember because everything in the world leads us to think that if we put ourselves first, we’ll be happy.
We’re merely servants for Jesus’ sake. What he’s talking about here is motivation. Now, motivation and discouragement go together. You can do the right thing for the wrong reason. The Why always determines the how long in your life.
If you go out on a project, or you get a goal, you get an ambition, and if you forget why you’ll get discouraged and quit. A lot of people start off in life knowing why they want to do what they want to do.
When you forget why you married the person, or why you went into that career, or why you gave your life to Christ, you’re going to stop doing the how long.
Discouragement always happens when we forget the why. So, why do you do what you do?
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6
He says, we’re weak jars of clay. God invaded earth, as a baby of peasants in a barn. The Kingdom entered through weakness, not through strength. God has always done that. He’s always used weak people who trust him so his strength can go through them.
This is what humility is all about. Humility is not denying your strengths, it’s being honest about your weaknesses and giving God the glory.
- Use my pain to encourage others
Remember, Paul went through shipwrecks, and prisons, and beatings.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Why is Paul this resilient and so resistant to discouragement? What allows him to just get back up again every time he’s knocked down? If you asked him, his response would be verse 15,
All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 2 Corinthians 4:15
He’s saying, I keep on going and don’t get discouraged because I know it’s helping others.
Studies show that human beings can handle an enormous amount of pain if they see a purpose in it. When you have pain and you don’t see any purpose, it’s unbearable, but when you can see a good purpose, then it becomes bearable.
Sometimes you will suffer for the benefit of other people and at that moment you are more Christ like than any other moment, because that’s what Jesus did. He suffered on the cross, not for His benefit, He hadn’t done anything wrong.
He suffered on the cross for our benefit, redemptive suffering. What is it in your life that’s so painful that you need to be using to help other people? Your greatest ministry will come out of your deepest hurt, if you are honest to God, honest to yourself, and honest enough to talk about it with other people. Everything’s broken on Earth, so there is suffering and pain and evil here. While we should fight it, don’t waste it, use it for good.
- Take time for renewal
Over the long haul, you’re going to figure out ways to recharge, to refresh, and to renew yourself. If you don’t learn how to refresh yourself, you’re going to get discouraged, and you’re going to give up. No matter what the project, or the goal, or the dream is.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, (wasting away) our spirits are being renewed every day. 2 Corinthians 4:16
You’re going to have to learn how to be renewed every day. That’s called daily renewal. You’ve got to renew your mind, you’ve got to renew your body, and you’ve got to renew your heart. Renew constantly.
Physically, our bodies are decaying. You can’t stop the aging process, but you can stay fresh inside. Are you letting God renew you every day? You need to spiritually renew yourself daily with time with God every day. It’s like hooking up the jumper cables to get your spirit recharged.
- Stay focused on what will last forever
Paul’s final secret for defeating discouragement is not look at the here and now. He says you need to maintain an eternal perspective. When you look into heaven, and you look into the future, you can see the coming rewards, and all the things that God has planned for you.
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
This is a matter of perspective: temporary problems, eternal rewards. You know, there are three kinds of motivation in life – internal, external, and eternal. This life is not all there is, we’re made to last forever, and we’re going to spend more time on that side of death than on this side.
Think about eternal motivation. How did Jesus handle all the pain and suffering on the cross? He was looking beyond it, to the joy that was set before him. He’s looking to the reward. He had his eyes set on eternity.
Only when you see the invisible, can you do the impossible? Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, or as Paul says, “We look forward to what we have not yet seen.”
Briefly check back on your discussion from the last week, “Rethinking My View of Myself”
Did you make any faith confessions this week?
The enemy wants to discourage you. That’s why defeating discouragement is another part of rethinking your life. Even the most godly get discouraged from time to time. The Apostle Paul had secrets to defeating discouragement. We see some of them in 1 Corinthians chapter 4.
1) Never forget God’s mercy. 2) Reject dishonesty. 3) Remember it’s not about me. 4) Use my pain to encourage others. 5) Take time for renewal. 6) Stay focused on what will last forever.
Discussion & Application
- Describe a time when someone encouraged you.
- What has been discouraging to you lately? In other words, what came to your mind during this sermon?
- Paul describes how his discouragements were used to encourage others. How can you encourage others toward Christ with the things you have suffered in your life?
- Which of the six ways to defeat discouragement do you think you need to do most right now?
Heavenly Father, help me to apply these secrets of defeating discouragement as a part of rethinking my life. I want to never forget your mercy, reject dishonesty, remember it’s not about me, use my pain to encourage others, take time for renewal and stay focused on what will last forever. Send your Spirit to help me to “not get tired of doing what is right,” for you promise that I will reap a “harvest of blessing” if I “don’t get discouraged and give up.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Have you considered joining us for Growth Track? Rock Brook’s Growth Track is a 4 step series designed to help you take the next step in your spiritual journey. Step one is August 2nd where we’ll share our story, vision and purpose of the church. rockbrook.org/connect/growth-track