Friday, April 13, 2012

Not Allowing Discouragement to Spread

6And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?  7And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD hath given them?  8Thus did your fathers, when I sent them from Kadeshbarnea to see the land.  9For when they went up unto the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into the land which the LORD had given them.  -Numbers 32:6-8 (KJV)

Many times in the Bible we find where God’s people were given to complaining, grumbling, and a negative spirit.  When this happened the effect spread throughout the people until those who had been hopeful began to join in with the complainers.  Remember that it takes several positive comments to bring us up emotionally, and only one to bring us down.  In Numbers 13 and 14 it only took 10 negative people to get the entire Israelite community to back away from God’s plan.  A million plus people were ready to call it quits and go back to Egypt because 10 people though they couldn’t do what God wanted them to do – which was take the Promised Land.  In this case discouragement spread like a virus and infected the people to the point of despair.  
Here in Numbers 32 some of the tribes of Israel did not want to go forward into the Promised Land.  Moses was concerned that if this group stayed behind that the rest of the people would become discouraged.  Moses’ concerns were justified.  The Body of Christ today must stand unified for us to accomplish what the Lord has called us to do.  If we allow discouragement to get a foothold it will hinder all we seek to accomplish in our service to Christ.  God is not about discouraging us.  God is about encouraging us to stay and remain in His will.  How easily we can be discouraged and begin to fret, worry, and back away from what the Lord has called us to do. 

Moses shared his concern that a relatively small group of people would negatively effect everyone.  He had seen it happen before.  This is why we do well to seek the Lord, have faith, and be ready to move forward when the Lord commands us to do so.  As it turns out these Israelites were willing to assist their brethren in going over and taking the Promised Land, yet what I have to wonder about is why they were willing to settle on the east side of the Jordan.  Why live in the barren, dry desert when you could live in a good land flowing with milk and honey?  God has long called His people to settle for nothing short of the fullness of God’s blessings, yet we are sometimes willing to settle for just a taste.  We can eat that dry crust of bread, yet the Lord invites us to full banquet.  Why settle for anything less?

Mark 5 gives the account of the demon possessed man who Jesus healed.  This took place among the people who dwelt in the region of the Gadarenes.  Most Bible scholars agree these people were the descendants of the Israelites who stayed on the east side of the Jordan.  These were the people who asked Jesus to leave their region after He had driven the demons out of the man.  Where was the celebration?  Where was the praise to God for the healing that had taken place?  It was lost in their bitterness over losing a small herd of pigs.  They missed out on what could have been a great movement of God’s Spirit.  Like their fathers before them they were contented to remain where they were rather than where God would have taken them.  God always is moving us forward in our faith.  Do not allow discouragement to keep us from moving to where God is calling us to go. 

Let me share with you the following keys to overcoming discouragement:
-Keep our eyes on Jesus rather than our circumstances.
-Speak words of grace rather than complaints.  Grace builds up the Body of Christ.
-Practice grace in our relationships with each other.
-Stay in the Word and in prayer.  Saturate our hearts and minds with both.
-When you feel discouraged take it to the Lord in prayer. 
-Practice divine perspective.  Ask yourself if this present problem will amount to much in the broad scheme of things.  Furthermore, will it matter in the broad scheme of eternity?
-Be willing to pray about everything and pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).
-Do not allow discouragement to gain a foothold in the heart.
-Be constantly seeking to grow in faith, grace, love, and, mercy.

Former heavy-weight boxer James (Quick) Tillis is a cowboy from Oklahoma who fought out of Chicago in the early 1980s. He still remembers his first day in the Windy City after his arrival from Tulsa. "I got off the bus with two cardboard suitcases under by arms in downtown Chicago and stopped in front of the Sears Tower. I put my suitcases down, and I looked up at the Tower and I said to myself, 'I'm going to conquer Chicago.' "When I looked down, the suitcases were gone."   Discouragement will come.  Rise up and claim God's power in Jesus Christ to overcome it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spiritually Minded to Overcome Discouragement

5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  -Romans 8:5-7 (KJV)

I hope that you are reading this blog because you not only need encouragement and inspiration, but you also have a sincere desire to be a spiritually minded person with a close walk with God. Understand, however, this will not happen all by itself. Being spiritually minded involves seriously, prayerfully, and thoughtfully taking on this challenge. Pray, stay in the Word, resist the devil, take on the attitudes of Jesus, be faithful, and continue to do so over the long haul of life. If you think I never get discouraged think again. I do sometimes. I am just as susceptible to this as anyone, maybe ever more so. What I find works best is an attitude of remain faithful at any cost. No matter what it takes, remain faithful. 

When we read the Old Testament we find that Israel’s problem was many times they had to climb out of a spiritual pit rather than defend the high ground. Recall what Jesus said about the city set on a hill; it cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). If the city cannot be hidden then at some point an enemy is going to try and take the city. If we view our lives as the city set on a hill then be certain the devil will attack. Israel gave into idolatry and godlessness many times. They allowed themselves to fall from the hilltop of faith, and then they had to fight their way up out a spiritual pit which is always more difficult. 

My friends, stay on the high ground of faith, remain there, and by the power of Christ defend this noble position. By faith we build into our lives safeguards to keep us from stumbling. These become sensible, day-by-day practices, and they become as natural to us as breathing. We put on our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6) each day. Always be on the lookout for temptations and snares, and walk forward in bold faith every day. Discouragement robs us of our spiritual vitality. It is difficult to have vibrant faith when discouragement is present, because it saps our spiritual energy. Exercise and eating right gives us physical energy. Prayer, the Word, worship, fellowship with other believers, and encouragement from others brings spiritual energy. Maintain strong faith, be spiritually minded, and we find the resources we need for overcoming discouragement. 

William Ward once said, "Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow. It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellowman, and unbelief in the promises of old. It is impatience with time, immaturity of thought, and impoliteness to God." 

Paul the Apostle spoke in II Timothy 4:7 of fighting the good fight of the faith. Discouragement hinders our power to keep fighting this good fight. God will empower us to stand, keep on standing, and then to keep moving forward. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord is indeed with us.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Fellowship of the Faith

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.  -I John 1:7 (KJV)

As I write this I am in day two of a badly needed four day vacation.  Not only am I enjoying a wonderful visit with my sister and her family, I have also had the opportunity to do a little fly fishing.  Understand, however, that this is a new experience for me and fly fishing requires skills which I am only beginning to develop.  Yesterday I spent the better part of the afternoon fly fishing in the beautiful and scenic Clinch River which flows from the Norris Dam.  The fish weren't biting, but I had the time of my life.  Around 3:00 in the afternoon I was beginning to wonder if there were truly any trout in this river.  As if in answer to my question a large rainbow trout, over a foot long, swam casually past me.  If that fish could talk he might have said, "Forget about it rookie, we're way too smart for you."

Seeing this fish strengthen my determination and I continued to work on my skills with the fly rod.  As I fished an interesting phenomenon took place.  Several other fly fishermen walked by and I engaged a few of them in conversation.  When they discovered I was a beginner they were more than happy to offer helpful suggestions and insights.  In fact, it was though I was being welcomed into a brotherhood of sorts.  That's only fair, I suppose, because they too were beginners once and agreed that we all must start somewhere.  The advice they provided was equal to any class I might decide to take on fly fishing.  It occurred to me that there was a fellowship I was sharing with these others fishermen.  They understood the challenges and complexities of fly fishing and had labored many years in the pursuit of the sport.

As I pondered this I realized how our faith in Christ is similar to this.  As followers of Jesus we share a deep and abiding fellowship with one another.  The Word of God says if we walk in the light, as Christ is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.  The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin and we are bound together in the regenerating and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.  Like fishermen who are willing to support one another, we too stand together in shared faith.  We bear one another's burdens, encourage each other in the faith, lift up those who have fallen, and pray for one another's trials.  We are called to stand together in faith, bound to each other with strong cords that cannot be broken.

What a blessing to know that we do not serve the Lord in isolation.  We have the Body of Christ, other believers, to encourage us along the way.  On another note, as I was winding up my afternoon of fishing I was approached by the local game warden who asked me if I had a fishing license.  What a blessing to reply that I did (This was the first time this has ever happened to me).  After showing him my license he too was very helpful and willing to offer advice to a new fly fisherman.  What a blessed brotherhood!

Recall the words of Jesus when he told the disciples that He would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).  Let us now go and do likewise.