How to overcome discouragement.

 

This is going to be a two-part lesson and is one that we all need. First of all we are going to make four observations about discouragement and then we will examine some very encouraging verses. Finally we use the word discouragement in an acrostic pattern where we will use each letter to make some practical points for overcoming discouragement. The first thing we need to do is to define discouragement.Discouragement means to be disheartened, dispirited or to check the courage of. This is a good definition of discouragement.

 

The first observation I want to make is that discouragement is universal problem and not a unique one. This is very important for us to understand. Sometimes we might start thinking that we are the only ones that get discouraged. We need to realize that this simply is not true. Now I am not saying that most people become discouraged or that you and I become discouraged but that all people become discouraged. Everyone has to learn how to deal with discouragement. However, sometimes you find a Christian as described by Rom 12:3 that think of themselves to highly. They think since they are a Christian that they can never become discouraged, that in some way they are invincible. Christians who think this way are fooling themselves. Notice what Paul says in,

 

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

 

You see we need to be careful about thinking to highly of ourselves because the bible warns us that we can falland that we can become discouraged from time to time. It important that we understand this. Look at,

 

2sam 17: 10 "And even he who is valiant, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt completely.

 

Here we find men who are described as being valiant with hearts like a lion. Yet we see that even their hearts will melt and they can become disheartened or discouraged. This teaches us that even those that who are very spiritual strong have to deal with discouragement as well. For instance, elders have to deal with it. Some might think, well since they are qualified to be an elder they have to be spiritual strong to the point where they never become discouraged. But, they are human just like you and me and so theyhave to deal with discouragement just as much as the next person. Preachers have to deal with it as well. I heard a survey that suggested that the number one reason why preachers stop preaching is because of discouragement. Deacons, bible class teachers, husbands, wives and children all have to deal with discouragement. So our first step to overcoming discouragement is to realize that everyone gets discouraged from time to time.

 

Our second observation is that discouragement is serious and it demands our immediate attention. Listen to this quote. ďNeither God or man can use a discouraged person.Ē I want you to think about this quote because its very true. God cannot use a discouraged person. Let take a look at Deut 20:8 where Moses is giving instructions to the children of Israel before going to battle.

Deuteronomy 20:8 "The officers shall speak further to the people, and say, 'What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart.'

 

God is letting the children of Israel know that when it comes to battle he cannot use one who is fearful or fainthearted. This is talking about those that were discouraged. God wants the discouraged people to go home because if they stay they will begin to influence the others to loose heart. We have another example in the story about Gideon.

 

Do you remember what happened in this story? God wants Gideon to lead an attack on the Midianites. Now Gideon belonged to the smallest tribe of Israel. He started out with 32,000 people but God said thatís to many. Now we need to keep in mind that he is going up against 135,000 Midianites. Lets read,

 

Judges 7:3 "Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, 'Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.' " And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.

 

We learn that 22,000 people were discouraged and left. But you see God wants it that way, because he canít use discouraged people and he didnít want these 22,000 to affect the remaining menís attitude. So as we think about this concept surely we can see that discouragement is serious and we should deal with it as quickly as possible or we can infect others with our discouragement.

 

The 3rd thing we need to observe or recognize is that discouragement is a very effective tool of our adversary the devil. The devil has whiles and schemes and one of these is discouragement. Satan will try to deceive you, he will try to deaden you and he will try to devour you. If none of these things will work he will settle with discouraging you because if he can accomplish this he will still have you where he wants you. Paul basically tells us in2 Corinthians 2:11that we are not ignorant of satin devices and he should not be able to take advantage of us.

 

However, if we are ignorant of his devices, with discouragement being one of them, than he can take advantage of us. So we need to understand that discouragement is one of his devices and if we recognize this then he cannot use it to take advantage of us. Look at

 

Eph 4:26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.

 

Donít give him a place donít give him an opportunity to drag you down. If you are the kind that is very susceptible to becoming discouraged then your giving the devil place in your life. You are given him an opportunity to drag you down. Now lets take a look some biblical truths that will help you to stop doing that.

 

I want you to think about Jesus encounter with satin in the dessert. Satin tried his best to get Jesus to become discouraged and sin but after the 3rd attempt Jesus tells the devil,

away with you satan in Mat 4:10. Also, in Mat 16:23 Jesus tells Peter get behind me satan. Now we have to remember that Peter was rebuking Jesus for what he had said about his death burial and resurrection. So, Jesus said this to Peter because he was being an adversary to him. Peter was trying to teach the master teacher and so Jesus told him to get behind me Satin. This is exactly what we need to do when we see that Satan is trying to work his way into in our life. Tell him Satan be gone or Satan get behind me because your not going to stop me from doing the work that God has asked me to do. Notice what Jesus says in,

 

John 14:30 Jesus tells us there for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

 

Thatís the way we should try to live our lives every day not giving satin a place, living our lives in such away that we can say that he has nothing in me. Again, when we allow ourselves to become discouraged Satan has a gained a place in our lives and he will use it to his advantage.

 

Our 4thobservation this morning is that God has taught us through his word on how to overcome discouragement. Peter tells us in

 

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue..

 

Paul add this,

 

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

So you see the word of God reveals to us everything that we need to know about overcoming discouragement. Look at what Jesus says in,

 

John 14:1 "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.

 

This verse alone is enough to tell us that we should not let our heart be troubled. When David was speaking to Saul about the children of Israel in regards to the battle against the Philistines and their champion Goalith he said this,

 

1 Samuel 17:32 "Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine."

 

So let no ones heart fail this morning because of discouragement. Do not let your heart be troubled because God has revealed to us in his word how to deal with discouragement.

 

Now let us examine several verses that are encouraging to us and that will help us deal with discouragement.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

 

The first thing I want you to notice is that this is a conditional verse. It tells us that if we love God then he causes all things to work together for the good. What I find I interesting is that Joseph understood this concept long before Paul wrote this verse. Look at

 

Genesis 50:20 "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

 

Joseph is saying the same thing as Rom 8:28 says. When we become discouraged we need to remember these verses, because our God is able to cause all things to worktogether for the good. In Nehemiah 13:2 Nehemiah warns his people and reminds them about Balaam and how he was hired to curse them but God did not listen to him. Instead of allowing the children of Israel to be cursed God turned curse into a blessing and thatís what God can do for us today. Our God is awesome and so majestic that he take those things that are bad in our lives that we may consider a curse and turn them into blessing, if we will simply allow him to.

 

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

This is another excellent verse. This verse alone tells us that we can deal with discouragement. When Satan tries to use this weapon against us we should be confident and we should be bold that we can overcome it because we are in Christ and he is in us and we to can do all things through him who gives us strength.

 

Anotherverse that should bring us great comfort is

 

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 

Maybe we are so familiar with this passage that we donít apply as we should. David is speaking as a sheep and he is boasting, and he is glorying in the Shepard that he has. He is saying the Lord is my Shepard , and with this Shepard, I am not going to be in need. Because of this understanding David could say with all confidence,

 

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;

Why David? Why will you not fear evil? For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. That is why we should not fear evil because God is with us and he is our Shepard and we shall not want.

 

Heb 13: 5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 6 So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

 

This is very interesting because the Hebrews here didnít have much at all because earlier in heb 10:34 we find out that their enemies had been taking their things. But the writer here tells us what they did have. First he tells them to be content with what they did have even though they didnít have a great deal of material things. But, they had something far greater than silver or gold. They had a God who said I will never leave you or forsake you. If you have a loving God what else could you possible need.

 

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

 

This tells us in times of troubles in times of temptations and in times of discouragement we have a God that will be there to help us in our hour of need. Further down in that Chapter in vrs 10 it says this Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I think this would help us tremendously if we will just slow down and realize that we do have a God and that he is there for us.

 

Now we are going to make some practical points out or each letter of the word discouragement.

 

Let us begin with the letter D. We need to DETERMINE that we will notremain discouraged. The two main key points here are DETERMINE and REMAIN. I have already stated that discouragement in universal problem and itís a fact that we all become discouraged. But whatís important is that once we becomediscouragedwe need to DETERMINE that we wont REMAIN discouraged. Now the difficulty of this, is that we must use mental discipline. The bible talks a lot about physical discipline and self-control. But, the bible also encourages us to have mental discipline.

 

Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he

 

This tells us something about mental discipline doesnít it.

 

2Cor 10:5 tells about bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

 

It takes a great deal of mental discipline to do this. So we need to DETERMINE this morning that we are not going to REMAIN discouraged. Our god has bountifully given us his will and in his word he has given us effective ways for overcoming discouragement.

 

No look at Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.

 

Daniel had made up his mind and purposed in his heart that he wouldnot defile himself with the kings delicacies. Its important that weo be like Daniel and purpose in our heart that we will not remain discouraged.

 

Another good example of mental disciple is found in

Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. Again, we need to be like these men and exercise mental discipline by preparing hearts for God and for overcoming discouragement.

 

Now lets take a look at the letter I. Insist on finding the good in every situation. Do remember how we talked earlier about how God works all things to the good to those that love the Lord. Well when we understand this concept is only then that we can say what David did in

 

Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.

 

You see David is saying that even affliction is good for me. Why David? Why was it good for you? He said, so that I might learn your statues. Sometimes affliction in our life is what causes us to turn our hearts back to the word of God. So, let us as Christians always try to find something good about ever situation.

 

Now the letter S is Set realistic Goals that you can achieve. We must not set our goals to high nor should we set them to low. When you talk to people who have become discouraged you will find out that they have either set their goals so high that they cant ever reach them or they have set them so low that in their heart of hearts they know that they can do more. Because of this discouragement will set it in. So donít ever set your goals to high that you cant achieve them and at the same time donít ever refuse to challenge yourself and set your goals to low or discouragement will surely occur. Lets examine some verses that will help us determine how to set realistic goals.

 

First of all we need to realize that we were made in the image of God Gen 1:27, and our God who has created us has given us abilities. In Mat 25 you read about a 5 talent man, a 2 talent man, and 1 talent man. All of them had a ability. You cannot find a place in the Bible where it talks about a no talent individual because God has never made such. If we use our abilities for the Lord God will bless them. Now look at

 

Mark 1:17 Then Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."

 

I like this verse because at this time Jesus apostles were merely fisher of fish but Jesus tells them if you will follow me I will make you become fisher of men. If we will just follow Jesus in our lives today, he has the power to make us become more that what we have been. So, we are created in the image of God and God has blessed us differing abilities and by following Jesus both diligently and faithfully we have the power to become greater servants of God.

 

Lets look at another encouraging section of scripture.

 

Mark 14:3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, "Why was this fragrant oil wasted?5 "For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they criticized her sharply.6 But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.7 "For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.8 "She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.9 "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."

 

Jesus disciples complained about what the women did but in verse 8 Jesus commends her for what she did saying that she had done what she could. Friends this should be very encouraging to us because doesnít expect us do to more than we can do. He knows our hearts he knows our abilities and he knows what we can do. This should be very comforting to us and help us set realistic goals that we can achieve.

 

The letter C is CULTIVATE a positive outlook on life. Its no wonder why some Christians are discouraged just look at their outlook. Everything is pessimistic, everything is gloom and doom. We needto realize that we serve a living God who is all knowing and all powerful and has told us that he will make all things work together for good for those that love the lord. How in the world can a child of God go around with a pessimistic attitude. If anyone should cultivate a positive outlook on life itís the child of God. We should be more optimistic that anybody on the face of the earth. I want you to write this down, Outlook determines outcome. Now if you donít think thatís true let us go back to a context that we are familiar with in ,

 

Numbers 13:31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we."32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.33 "There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."

 

God had already promised the land of Canaan, that land was already flowing with milk and honey. But, remember what happened, the people there became grasshoppers in their own site and in the site of their enemy. Outlook determined their outcome. They looked at themselves and said we can not take the promise land and because that was their outlook that was their outcome. They did not take that land and they wandered for 40 years in the desert until God raised up a new generation and God wanted that new generation to have the spirit of Caleb to have the spirit of Joshua. In Number 14:24 God says that Caleb had served him with a different spirit. I like that. We as Christians should all serve God with a different spirit. We should be like Caleb because when others were saying we cant do it Caleb was saying we can do it. So you see he had the proper outlook.

The letter O is OBSERVE Gods dealings with his children.When we do this we will be encouraged. I want really hard and see if you can come up with one instance in the entire Bible where God ever forsook or failed someone. Guess what, your not going to find such an individual. This should be very encouraging to you. In fact when I think about how much mercy and how much love God had with the children ofIsrael who continually kept falling away from him I cant help but be encouraged.Look at

 

Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.

 

God stands on his promises and he will not forsake you. In fact listen to what Jesus said in John 10:29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. So observing how God has never failed us should help us overcome discouragement.

 

The letter U is USE difficult times to strengthen your faith. There is no doubts about it we are going to encounter some difficult times in our life and you are either going to use those times to destroy or weaken your faith or to strengthen your faith. I hope that you will choose the latter. Remember what Job said in,

 

Job 14:1 "Man who is born of woman Is of few days and full of trouble.

 

That is so true because we will face difficulties throughout our lives, but donítletthose difficulties overwhelm you.Look at what Paul told Timothy in

 

2 Timothy 2:3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

 

When we become Christians we become soldiers of Christ so lets us take this same advice and endure our hardships and grow from them. Look at one more passage in

 

James 5:10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord -- that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

 

Let us always strive to use difficult times in our life to grow stronger in our faith. Someone told me this once, when you think your problems are getting to big instead of drowning in them tell your problems how big your God is.

 

The letter R is RESIST your adversary the devil. You already know why we should resist him and I have already said that discouragement is one of his whiles and its one of his schemes. James tells us to resist him in,

 

James 4:7 Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Peter explains how we resist the devil in

 

1 Peter 5:9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

 

You see we are to resist the devil by being steadfast in the faith that means we have the confidence in knowing that we have power over Satan and if we resist him in whatever he throws ourway he must flee because we are children of God. It should also be encouraging to us knowing that our brothers and sisters in Christ have experienced the same difficulties we have and they did not allow themselves to fall prey to discouragement. If they can overcome their discouragement than we can to.

 

The letter A is AVOID self pity at all cost. This is what gets us in trouble sometimes. We will say nobody has every had to deal with things like I have. In fact their may be someone here that has agreed with me so far on what I taught in these lessons but they might be saying Cougan you really have no idea what I have been through my problems are so severe that I know no one else could possible have it as bad as me. But whenever we look at passages such as 1Peter 5:9 that we just read a minute ago it tells us that our brothers and our sisters have experienced sufferings just like ours. I canít emphasize it enough that discouragement is a universal problem and not a unique one. Besides all this I can guarantee you that your problems have never reached the severity of our Lords difficulties and the temptationsthat he faced while he was on this earth.

 

Hebrews 12:3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

 

When you start thinking you have it so bad just start thinking about Jesus and what he had to endure for you on this earth.In fact look at

 

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

In fact we have a song in our songbook called follow me that teaches us not to have self-pity. Please turn your song book to 395 and lets really pay attention to the words.

 

The letter G is GET involved in the Lords work. Do you know why I say this? Because any hunter can tell you that it is much harder to hit a moving target. It doesnít surprise me that Satan overwhelms us at times because we are so stagnate and we are so idle attimes that we make it easy for him. We really need to grasp this concept that its harder to hita moving target so Get involved in the Lords work and be about the Fathers business as Jesus said to his parents in Luke 2:49. The bible teaches us not to be idle. In fact when Paul went aroundpreaching the gospel he would tell them to repent, turn to god and do works befitting repentance. Acts 26:20. The more work we do for God the more we stay focused on him and the less time we have to become discouraged.

 

The letter E is ENCOURAGE others. This will help us tremendously. One of the best ways to combat discouragement is encouragement. So we need to be sure and encourage one another.We need to be more like people such as Barnabas. The apostles gave him this name because he was such a good encourager. The name Barnabas literally means son of encouragement. Acts 4:36. He was always trying to encourage those around him. We have another example found in,

 

1 Thessalonians 3:1 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone,2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.

 

You see Paul sent Timothy for the specific purpose of encouraging the Thessalonians to remain faithful to God even though the were suffering through many afflictions. So with this in mind we can see how important is for us to be encouragers like Timothy and Barnabas.

 

The letter M is MAKE prayer a daily habit. If you want help in overcoming discouragement well here it is. Jesus taught a parable that men always ought to pray and not loose heart. Luke 18:1 Now notice the implication in this verse. If we donít pray as we ought we are going to lose heart. Thatís what discouragement is, losing heart. If you are discouraged I can guarantee you this, either you have not been praying as you should or you have not been studying the word of God as you should. Now I am not saying this to be mean because this is what I have noticed in my own life as well. Besides all this we know that Jesus spent much time in prayer and we should to. In fact Jesus gave his apostles some very good advice in

 

Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.

 

This is something we should always pray for on a daily basis that we not be lead into temptation. There is one thing that I am always reminded of when comes to praying. I always think about Daniel and how it was his custom to pray to God 3 times a day. You remember how the King was tricked into signing a decree that said anyone who prayed to a god other than the king would be cast into the lionís den. Even though Daniel knew this decree was signed he was so dedicated to the Lord and knew how important prayer was that he prayed to God anyways. We are so blessed and honored to have the power of prayer so lets us not neglect to use it in overcoming discouragement.

 

The letter E is ESCAPE the past. Listen to what Paul wrote in

 

Phil 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Paul is teaching us that we should not hang on to the past we need to put it behind us and not let it drag us down. He also believes that a child of God must continually grow; there is no place for contentment in a Christians life and there is no place to stop, short of Heaven.Thatís why Paul tells us to continually be reaching forward to heaven.

 

A faithful Christian is one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness (Matt. 5:6); who lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4); and esteems the words from God's mouth more than his necessary food (Job 23:12); A Christian who is pressing forward will devote themselves to learning more about Godís way and doing their best to follow in Christís footsteps. A faithful Christian had dedicated their life to pleasing God and not themselves and they have strong desire to reach their goal of heaven. So let us always look forward toward heaven and press toward that goal doing our best not to allow our past to discourage us.

 

The letter N is NURTURE a patient spirit with yourself. Emphasizing YOURSELF.

 

1Thess 5:14 tells us to be patient with all men and if we are to be patient with all men surely that includes myself. Now I want you to think about what Ezra says in Ezra 10:13. He says, this is not a work that will be done in 1 or 2 days. In context the children of Israel had taken many foreigners as their wives which was not authorized by God and now they were going to have to put them all away. Ezra knew this would not be an easy task and certainly it would take more than 1 or 2 days. This same concept is true when it comesto nurturing and a patient spirit with yourself. As you grow up in Christ we need to realize that this is not something thatís going to happen in 1 or 2 days. Itís a lifetime of commitment and dedication to the lord daily. So donít become discouraged with yourself because you donít think your growing as fast as you should. As long as your trying to grow that is all that God wants from you. So try very hard to be patient with yourself.

 

Finally, the letter T is TAKE life one day at a time.

Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

To many times we allow ourselves to become discouraged because we are continually thinking about tomorrow. The bible tells us that we are to redeem the time for the days are evil Eph 5:16. This is why its important for us to focus in on today. Today has enough problems to keep us busy without dragging in tomorrows problems. So we as Christians need to work on this and take the advice of the word of God and Take life one day at a time.

 

We have learned many practical truths in this lesson that will help us overcome discouragement. Recognize it for what it is. It serious and it needs our immediate attention and God is willing to help every one of his children when we go through difficult times.