Happy New Year everybody! During the last few weeks of 2013 I blogged a series on being ready for the coming of the Lord. I believe those blogs were timely and very important as I believe we are so near to His return. To begin the New Year, however, I feel it is appropriate to minister encouragement to our readers. It is with hope we launch into new beginnings.
Exactly two years ago I went away on an annual prayer retreat. I was at a low point in my life. I wanted to quit the ministry. I felt like there was not much of a place for the service of the small traveling missionary evangelist. My dilemma was sort of paradoxical. On one hand I was so full of vision and passion with the word of the Lord burning in my heart for the Church and the nations, but on the other hand, not being able to keep up with the growing expenses of life and ministry. Frankly, I felt as if I was fighting more devils in the traveling ministry than I did when I lived on the mission field.
As I went away to the retreat I decided to write down a list of complaints and pour them out before the Lord as Hannah of old did (1 Sam 1:15-16). The list contained everything from financial debt, and lack of proper provision, to unfulfilled dreams and promises, along with the diminishing confidence in my own calling. To add to this trial, I was at this time caring for aging parents as my Dad had just been discharged from open heart surgery after a 25 day stay in the hospital, and I was also thinking about how we were going to afford college for our son Daniel.
When a person is in this place of discouragement the smallest things can set his negative emotions off into hurt, disappointment, or even anger. For me, when a supporter would drop their monthly pledge without notice, it would sting. When a church would cancel our meetings during a tough financial time or renig on a promise to schedule us, it would bring hurt and disappointment. When other ministers were able to afford all the fringe benefits of their salaried positions, and yet we struggled to pay our property taxes and heat our home for the winter, we were tempted to feel sorry for ourselves. During this time of deep discouragement, the words of wise old Solomon seemed so appropriate: “Money answers all things.”
Whenever I thought continually on my dilemma, everywhere I looked there seemed to be a dead end. So what did I do?
First, I went through a series of mental gymnastics of what else I could do to provide for my family – from taking a church or a staff position, to pursuing a different career path, and even going back to the mission field. In my heart, though, I felt like none of those things were the God answer. I had no witness in my spirit except to keep traveling, keep preaching, keep going to the cities and the nations, and just trust God to somehow make a way, and I’m happy to report that somehow He did.
Things didn’t turn overnight, but got better gradually as I prayed and fought the good fight of faith. Amazing provision happened along the way. This is where most of us live, isn’t it? Every one of us needs constant encouragement. And every one of us should be an encourager. Encouragement can come in many forms. Sometimes it is our words; sometimes it is just a hug, a smile, a tender sense of understanding and listening; an act of service, a monetary or material blessing to meet a need. When others don’t encourage you, you need to learn to encourage yourself in the Lord (1 Sam 30:6).
Discouragement is a tool of the devil and we all face it from time to time, some more than others. Discouragement in my own life has taught me to be kinder and more sensitive to others because you never know what severe trials someone may be facing. Here are 4 things that helped me overcome discouragement:
1. THINK RIGHT. The Bible says to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil 4:8). That scripture alone will eliminate many of our thoughts. I began to remind the Father and myself of His faithfulness and miraculous provision in the past. I also began to think of people who had it worse than I had. We tend to think that our own problems are insurmountable until we go into the world of others who are experiencing far greater trials than we are. Then your own problems don’t seem so bad.
2. THANK RIGHT. I stopped complaining and began to thank God for His blessings and benefits that I was enjoying in my life (Phil 2:14) (1 Thes 5:18). At this time we did not have a surplus of money, but my immediate family was in good health. I could thank the Lord for that. We were all born again and living for God. We had a moderately nice home and a roof over our heads. The scriptures admonish us that having food and raiment we should be content. Let’s count our blessings. And count right.
3. REST RIGHT. Some people rest physically, but they don’t know how to rest mentally. The Word tells us to cast our cares on the Lord (1 Pet 5:7). This is easier said than done. It took a real labor to enter into this rest. I had to constantly remind myself, and bring the Lord to remembrance of my calling and His promises to avoid being swallowed up by worry and anxiety. For me, this scripture is one of the greatest scriptures for learning to walk in the Spirit and in a state of rest. If you’re not resting then you’re not in the Spirit. It’s that simple. If you are frustrated, aggravated, agitated, full of worry and anxiety, restless, angry, bitter, etc. you are not in the Spirit. These fleshly emotions actually serve to bind things up spiritually instead of releasing them. Walking in the flesh repels God’s blessings in your life, but walking in the Spirit attracts them to you. Rest in the Lord. Cast your cares and burdens over on Him.
4. TALK RIGHT. If you constantly think on the negative side of life you will talk it, too. And it is our words that set things in motion for what we have in our lives. When the children of Israel were complaining in the wilderness notice what God told Moses: “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you’” (Numbers 14:28). What if the Lord stood in front of you and said that to you? Well, He is. This is a principle of faith in the Word of God. You have whatever you believe and say.
Practice these four things and your joy and peace will be restored. Let 2014 be a year of encouragement. And be ever so sensitive to encourage others.