Third Sunday After Pentecost: Dealing With Discouragement

Third Sunday After Pentecost: Dealing With Discouragement

There is no one among us who does not, at times struggle, with discouragement. Tragically, many sins and failings come about as a result of discouragement. David became discouraged or greatly distressed because of how he found himself, as seen in I Samuel 30:1-6.

For 16 months he has been living among the Philistines in a village called Ziklag. Evidently the Philistine king liked him and trusted him and believed whatever David told him. Little did he know that David was deceiving him about the raids he said he was making into the territory of Israel but were instead raids on Amalekite villages. He didn’t know because David was lying and then covering it up by killing all the inhabitants of those villages. When the Philistines went to war against Israel, David and his men tagged along in the rear of the army. They were saved from having to fight against their own people because the Philistine generals didn’t trust them. After being dismissed from the army, David and his men made their way back to Ziklag. Everything seemed to be going well for David. Little did he know what had happened in his absence.

It is highly significant that there are no recorded prayers or psalms during the 16 months David spent with the Philistines. During this period of spiritual compromise, he seems not to have made God a high priority in his life. But that is about to change.

Let us look at I Samuel 30:1-6a

David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured-Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters”

He had spent …

16 months living in enemy territory.

16 months pretending to be loyal to the Philistines.

16 months ignoring his conscience.

16 months living by his wits.

16 months doing it his own way.

16 months away from God.

But now as he surveys the smoking ruins of Ziklag, the truth cannot be denied. All the chickens have come home to roost. David can’t blame anyone but himself. No wonder his men wept and then wanted to stone him. By his compromise, he has brought great suffering to everyone who looked to him for leadership.

There is an enormously important principle at work here.

God will not be ignored by his children. Sooner or later, he calls his children to account for their disobedience. No Christian ever gets away with sin. Sooner or later we have to face the music.

David’s life has fallen apart because he has left God out of his life. Now he comes to the moment of decision. Will he continue to run away from God? Will he continue to compromise? Or will he take the steps on the long road back to God? Of all the steps, the first one is the hardest.

Until you face the truth about yourself, you cannot get better.

As a wise man once said, “The truth will set you free, but it will hurt you first.” Until you are willing to face the hard truth about yourself, you can never be set free. What has happened at Ziklag is David’s fault, but it is also a “severe mercy” from God, designed to bring him to his knees and ultimately back home where he belongs. It is at this point that the Bible says, "David took courage in the Lord his God." (vs6) a better translation would be “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” The word encouraged means to bind together, strengthen, gird together, and make firm. God wants His people to encourage themselves in Him, not in the world. The stronger our relationship is, the more we will find our encouragement in the Lord. In a sense, we are to bind or gird ourselves in Him.

Discouragement is not wrong, and in fact, it is a part of life.

  • Moses was discouraged because of the people's rebellion.

  • Elijah became discouraged as he ran from Jezebel.

  • Jeremiah was discouraged when he saw the wickedness of the people.

  • Paul was discouraged when Demas forsook him.

  • Peter was discouraged and went back fishing.

  • Jonah was discouraged even after revival took place.

You see, it is not a matter of discouragement being sin, but a matter of how we react to a natural feeling.

Consider some reasons for discouragement to the Christian so that we might realize that discouragement is quite natural.

  1. Discouragement is the Christian's reaction to being away from home. Before becoming a Catholic their was an old Hymn we use to sing, "This world is not my home. I'm just a passing through." That is quite true to the believer. We are not home yet, and there will be times that we must be discouraged in this world.

  2. Discouragement is the flesh reacting to testing. Testing is never enjoyable. It is always difficult. The Bible said that it would be. But, it is going to accomplish a purpose. Yet, for a time, there will come discouragement from it.

  3. Discouragement is a warning signal that we have become weary and not aware enough of God. Sometimes, we need to slow down. Discouragement is God's way of slowing us down and making us realize that we need more of Him.

  4. Discouragement is the human reaction to our failures. When we try to do right but fail, it is discouraging, and realize that we need more strength. Peter was discouraged because he denied the Lord, and he went out and wept bitterly. Discouragement makes us aware of our human frailty.

  5. Discouragement is a questioning of God's power or ability. When Peter was walking on the water, suddenly the winds discouraged him, and he began to sink. Why did he try? Because he saw that Jesus was doing it. Why did he fail? Because he saw the winds and was discouraged by what was around him. Real faith comes by hearing and not seeing. You will never discover how much you can do for God until you discover how much God can do for you. Peter's faith was not founded properly. He was walking, by sight, not by faith, and then he fell, by sight as well, and became discouraged. That often happens when our faith is misdirected, and we begin to question God's ability.

  6. Discouragement is the realization of our inadequacies, in comparison, to the greatness of the task. So many times, men saw tasks that seemed too big, like Moses leading the people out of bondage or Jeremiah preaching to a wicked and rebellious people. Because of our feeling of inadequacy, we become discouraged.

  7. Discouragement is the build-up of inward sins that need cleansing. We are filled with spiritual impurities that need cleansing, but we do not know they exist. Often, discouragement points out, a fact, that there is a problem that needs to be, solved. When physical impurities overcome us, and we are filled with bacteria and germs, our bodies become weak and frail, and we must go and receive a shot to help us overcome that time of physical depression. Often spiritual depression comes about in the same way; by a build-up of sins that cause us to finally lose our spirit.

  8. Discouragement is reacting to the hardness of others' hearts. Our Lord became discouraged when He saw the hardness of the people's hearts and the lack of their willingness to follow Him. Moses became discouraged when he saw the murmuring, and the rebellion, of the people. Elijah became discouraged when he saw that there were no others who were standing with him. So often, we become discouraged when we feel that we are standing alone.

  9. Discouragement is a wonderful way to test our relationship with the Lord. Discouragement reveals that something is not exactly right, that we are not as close to the Lord as we ought to be, and that something is missing. It causes us to work harder, to be close, to Him. It shows us that we are not as intimate with Him as we ought to be.

  10. Discouragement sometimes shows us just how weak we are and how strong God is. It is not until we have come to that point of total helplessness that we can truly realize how helpless we are, even when we think we are strong. Gideon thought the battle would be a lot easier, fought with significant numbers of people because Gideon had forgotten that the battle was the Lord's. It was when he came down to the very weakest that he was the most obedient. Discouragement was a way to show him how strong God is.

  11. Discouragement is a human reaction to that which we do not understand. There are many things that God does in our lives that we do not understand why. Many afflictions come our way, and we are not sure why God allowed them to happen. We become discouraged because we do not know God's purpose. It is not avoiding discouragement that will help us. We cannot; it is going to be there. It is reacting with faith to our Lord, in a time of discouragement, that is important.

So what can we do to not be discouraged? There are weapons we can employ to deal with our discouragement. Here are a few.

  1. Go to the Lord immediately and quickly. The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the just runneth to it, and shall be safe (Proverbs 18:10) The more you walk with God, the more likely, you will run to Him when you are discouraged. The more real He is, the more you will believe, He is the One to turn to when courage is weak. The first reaction that a Christian ought to have when he comes to a time of discouragement is to go to the Lord. Discouragement cannot go away unless we go to the source of real strength and courage.

  2. Pour out your heart to God. In I Samuel 1, Hannah was discouraged because she could not have a boy. She wanted so badly to have a child, and in her time of discouragement, she simply came to the Lord, and poured out her heart to Him, and told Him how she felt. The Lord gave her Samuel. It is when we come to Him, and pour out our soul, to Him, and tell Him how we feel, that He can reach down, and wrap His arms around us, and give us the courage we need, in our time, of depression.

  3. Wait upon the Lord. Sometimes, we need to spend some time, at the feet, of the Lord. Martha was cumbered about serving and got frustrated. Jesus said to her, "One thing is needful, and Mary has chosen, that good part." Martha needed to just come and wait on the Lord that He might give her strength. The disciples seemed calm when they sat and listened as Jesus spoke. Why? They were waiting upon the Lord and allowing Him to strengthen them. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

  4. Think about the Lord. Isaiah 26:3 says Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” When our minds are turned upon the Lord, there is a peace that can overcome us even as the storm is raging about us. When our minds are upon the Prince of Peace, they cannot be filled with turmoil.

  5. Keep your faith in God's deliverance. If God is great enough to deliver us for eternity, surely, He can deliver us from all else.

  6. Remember that God is in control. How difficult it is to suddenly try to believe in a God that is working and in control! We must walk with Him to know that He is in control when those times come. David had that kind of belief when Shimei cursed him. He did not fight. He did not let him destroy him, but rather, he said, "Let God do his work, for God is in control." You see, we must have faith enough to believe that God knows what is happening.

  7. Do not try too hard to run from it. A beautiful line in (Psalm chapter 4 verse 1) is the little phrase; "Thou hast enlarged me, when I was in distress." Too often, we run, resist, resent, or rebel, rather than being patient, prayerful, wise, trusting, understanding, true, happy, and enduring. For any Christian, the best reaction to depression is to let Him have His work in our life. Noah built an ark with great persecution and harassment, but God was working and enlarging him. It was a difficult time for Abraham, waiting for the promise of a son, but God was enlarging him. Joseph was sold into slavery and persecuted greatly, as God was enlarging him. David ran from Saul for his life, but God was enlarging him. We must be careful not to run from God's will, but rather, in the times of discouragement, let God's work be done.

  8. Be reminded that God is always with us. Perhaps, Joshua was discouraged, over the death, of Moses, but the Lord said to him, in Joshua 1:9, "Be not dismayed, for the Lord thy God, is with thee, whithersoever thou goest." Joshua had never gone anywhere, without Moses, before. God is always with us. If someone else is gone, He is still there. If someone else fails us, God is still there. We must realize that God's presence is our courage.

  9. Keep looking for the coming of our Lord. (I Thessalonians 4:16-18) The greatest encourager for the child of God is the realization that one of these days, we are going to spend eternity with our Saviour and our heavenly Father.

We can be encouraged today, not because there are no discouragements. They are there; they will come. Discouragement is a part of life. However, we can be encouraged, because of the goodness of our Lord, and finding our courage within our relationship with Him. May we learn that walking with God is the key to being encouraged in the times of discouragement.