Allen Jackson - Battle With Discouragement - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you again. Our title in this session is "Big Trouble Ahead in the Battle with Discouragement". You know, we're moving through a season that's leading us towards the culmination of this age. The King is coming back. It's a triumphant ending to the story, but between here and there we have some challenging things that we will have to face. Jesus told us about it in the same way he told his disciples when they got to Jerusalem that he would be betrayed, handed over to the Romans, that he would suffer greatly and ultimately be executed. But the end of that is a resurrection.
Well, at the end of all that we're watching right now is the triumphant return of our Lord. In the meantime, there are some things that we see that are discouraging. You know, discouragement is something that shows up in your life that you didn't invite and it robs you of your courage. But we need the strength of God's Word, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the determination within ourselves to walk uprightly before the Lord. Who to trust and what to trust is more confusing than ever. So we need to fill our hearts with God's Word and recognize the voice of his Spirit. Get your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly open your heart to what God has for you today. Enjoy the lesson.
We're working through this little series under the theme of "Big Trouble Ahead". Not intended to frighten, it's really a biblical notion. The biblical word for it is tribulation, and literally it means big trouble. Unfortunately, much of the Christian world has spent the majority of their effort constructing reasons why it's not their problem. Either the kind of an escapist mentality that the Lord will deliver us and we won't have to go through trouble, or some other such thing. And I'm for any, I'm happy, first load out. I'm not looking to tribulate. On the other hand I don't want to meet a circumstance that God has told us about and be unprepared, and so my best counsel is to take all the information the scripture gives us and do your very best to be prepared until the Lord invites you to a different assignment.
So in this session I want to focus on the, I labelled it "The Battle with Discouragement". I had trouble with my title for this one. What I really want to do is there's, it seems to me that the world changed at the beginning of 2020. We didn't invite it. We didn't ask it. It started with an announcement of a virus that was coming our way from China, but it pretty quickly morphed into some other things and there were elements of control we've never seen before. Never in human history have we quarantined healthy people. Usually we isolate the sick, and this time the entire globe settled on a different response and out of that has come economic chaos, out of that has come a diminishment of the truth. In our culture we have seen an unprecedented increase in censorship. So this isn't something distant or removed from us. We're watching things happen on a scope and a magnitude that even though, in my opinion, they go against the fundamental principles of our nation we have defended the freedom of speech from my earliest memories as a child against the most horrific things.
We would allow the most heinous things to be said in the public square because we believe that we had embraced this notion that you had a freedom of speech, and those principles have been trampled on in recent months and I could, the list would grow pretty quickly, and there is the beginning of an awakening within the church. I think prior to COVID, for the most part we were asleep. We've talked about that a good bit. And that there's the beginning of an awakening, but it really is just the beginning. And so there's, for this lesson I took three responses that I have seen to be pretty prevalent, and I want to look at them in, each one for a few moments with you. And they're different, they're disparate, and my observation is probably most of us have walked through all three. So it's not intended to be accusatory or a finger-pointing session. I hope you'll find the place that most accurately describes where you are at this moment and understand the pathway beyond that so that you don't get stuck in a place that isn't helpful.
The most damaging thing I think you can do as a Christ follower is imagine you have no business left to do with God. I want to push against that with all the strength that I have, that if you have said the right prayer and sat in the right building that you have no business left to do with God. That's as mistaken as thinking that if you were healthy ten years ago, you have no reason to eat a healthy diet and exercise today. Your health today is a reflection of the choices you've been making in this recent season, and your spiritual health is the same. If you're immoral, or carnal, or ungodly, or disconnected from the Word of God, or disinterested in the things of the Spirit, there's no reason you should imagine you're a Christ follower. I don't want you to live in fear of your salvation, and I'm not opening the debate on term limits on salvation tonight. We'll do that another time. But I want you to recognize that we're in a battle, and I don't think it's interminable.
I don't know what the time period on that would be, but I would imagine it's much more brief than we would imagine. Most of the critical turning points in human history have happened relatively quickly, and I think we're at one of those pivot points and I'm very, my assignment has to do mostly with the nature of the church, and that's what I try to speak to predominantly but to do it with some awareness of the events happening around us, otherwise, it's theory. So we're going to look at these three responses, and I'm going to ask you to kind of imagine where you are. And maybe you could even, with some, a little bit of personal reflection, do a little note-taking about where you were and where you would like to be. I think all of those would be appropriate. I think it's important to understand that God's given us a choice. You can choose. You're not a victim. And wherever you find yourself tonight, whichever category you decide you're in, I want you understand you have the choice about what path you will continue on.
It's wrong to imagine that you're a victim. The whole point of the redemptive work of Jesus in the cross was that God said to humanity for all time and eternity you can choose. You do not have to lead your life under the authority and the dominion of evil. No matter how prevalent, no matter how disadvantaged your circumstance, the power of the creator of heaven and earth has made it possible through the shed blood of Jesus Christ for every one of us to be free from the bonds of darkness. So you can choose. Amen. Deuteronomy 30 and verse 19, and it's a biblical principle. It really has to do with the nature of God and the nature of his relationship with Adam and his descendants. It certainly was exemplified in the cross, but it precedes that. It's the nature of God and his relationship with us.
It's Deuteronomy 30 and 19. He said, "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I've set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him". God's instruction, his invitation is choose life, and that's really what I want to put on the table before you. We're walking through a tough time. The world's nuts. We've been locked up, and isolated, and separated. We were told to follow the science and the scientists weren't giving us enough data that we could follow. I'm an advocate for science.
And then we watched the whole process become politicized and it wasn't clear who was moving for what agenda, and then we've lost, watched freedoms and civil rights that we thought were an inherent part of our citizenship be trampled upon. The churches were shuttered and told that they were non-essential and far too many of us in the church said okay. It's been disorienting, but I want to do my best to empower you in this session. You have a choice to make, and you can choose the light, and you can choose to walk in the light, and you can choose to walk in the freedom that is ours through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is an important message.
I want to start in 2 Peter chapter 2 and verse 4. Peter, the fisherman that Jesus recruited, is talking to us a bit about judgment and our responses to the world we live in. "If God didn't spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment". He's going to make a repeated assertion here about God's judgment. He begins with the angels, that when they sinned, God sent them to hell. I hear people in public, churched people, theologically-trained people say, "Well, it's just hard for me to believe God would send anyone to hell". And usually they'll insert into the sentence a loving God, as if love is the only aspect of God's character. He's both, he's equally a just God.
Verse 5, "If he didn't spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but he protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, who by burning them to ashes it made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men, for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard".
This is the first choice I want to acknowledge because I see all of these quite frequently being embraced at different times and seasons. I spend time talking to people and they're in this first category, the choice that seems to have settled over them. I don't think they intended it, but it's the station where they find themselves similar to Lot. It says he was distressed. The literal translation would be he was tortured. The New American Standard chooses the word oppressed. I think we can live somewhere between the definition of oppressed and distressed. Lot saw the wickedness that was around him. In the NIV it said the filthy lives.
In the New American Standard it said the sensual conduct of unprincipled people, people given over to sensuality, not concerned about righteousness or integrity. And Lot's response from that torment was that distress came upon him, an oppression came upon him, and I find that's happening in this season, thus my title. I labeled it discouragement, but it's really a little broader than that. To be discouraged is pretty simple definition. Apart from the dictionary, little prefix D-I-S means without. To be discouraged is to be without courage. It's not to be blue. It's not to be despondent. It's a loss of courage, and it seems to me one of the things that's happening to God's people is we're losing our courage. The length of the struggle is greater than we would have liked it to have been.
The depth of the depravity that we're watching is more stark than we would have imagined. We're having public discourse about giving adolescents access to medical care that would change their gender without parental approval, and there's all, it sounds like crickets in response to it. We're watching things happen that are unthinkable. And if you're awake, if you've been awakened from your slumber and you watch it day after day and you don't see the response, much like Lot it settles upon you. We're going to talk about responses in a minute, but I think we've got to acknowledge that when you recognize the nature of the struggle and the depth of the depravity that we're engaged with, if you truly pause to look at it and not to avoid it, you have to understand there's a weight that comes with it.
There are some outcomes that come out of this choice. It diminishes your ability to hear, to hear from the Lord. It will impede your obedience if you yield to the oppression. If you accept it and say it's justified, if you look at the circumstances, if you focus too directly on what's happening or what's not happening, the weight of this will render you for the most part inert. It'll diminish your ability to hear, it'll impede your obedience, and it will open wide a doorway to fear.
So if that sounds like a battle that you're aware of, past, present, or could anticipate, I think a response is important. Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 14 says, "It is light that makes everything visible". We want to spend as much time in the light as we can. The sunlight is good for vitamin D, which is really good for your overall health and immune system, but the light of God's truth is even more valuable to your spiritual immune system. Spend as much time in the light as you can, as much time with your Bible, as much time with faith-filled people. Do what you have to do. Don't imagine you've taken your place in this current conflict if you're behaving by the same religious routine you had before this started. I love you. "It's light that makes everything visible. That's why it was said, 'Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.' Be very careful, then, how you live".
That's a sobering sentence. Be very careful. I could pick you up and take you to Jerusalem and my Israeli friend walked up next to you and said, "Be very careful if you walk down that street right there," you'd probably choose another street. "Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil". So here's the assignment. We want to make the most of every opportunity walking in God's wisdom, acknowledging that we're walking through a season of unprecedented evil. Now we're given the instructions. "Therefore", remember when you find the therefore, find out what it's there for, right?
"Therefore don't be foolish. Understand what the Lord's will is. Don't get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. And sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ". So if your location of late has been oppressed or you have felt distressed or discouraged, we have a pathway out from under that here. First of all understand God's will, and I think there's two simple components to that. God's revealed will is given to us in scripture.
There's a lot of things I know about God's will for me from what he says right here. I don't need any further information, or revelation, or insight. I've got to care enough about the Word of God to apply myself to it, understand what God has said for me, and then to defend that with the tenacity that I defend other things that are significant in my life 'cause God's will for you will be challenged by evil. That's why we call it evil. If it helps you with God's will, we wouldn't call it evil, we would call it something else. So God's revealed will in the scripture is the beginning point for knowing the will of God, but personal revelation will emerge. Those personal applications of God's truth will be made apparent to you as you cooperate in obedience to what's already revealed in his Word.
If you ignored his revealed will in scripture, why do you imagine it's incumbent upon the Spirit of God to give you personal application? So if you want greater clarity on God's will for your life in this season on what to do and how to behave, you bring the best compliance you know to the revelation of God's will that you have and then watch the Spirit of God give you personal application. That's the beginning point. That's in verse 17. Then in verse 18 we're given a contrast, a choice, an either or. It says, "Don't get drunk on wine," so just don't do that, "which leads to debauchery". What a fancy word. It means excess. It's discontent. It's never enough. Whatever you have you want more. You're looking at others and you think you deserve what they have. More fun, more pleasure, more grandiose, more elaborate, and the instruction is not to do that. The contrast to that is be filled with the Spirit.
So you have to decide which spirit is going to fill your heart, the spirit of the world which prefers a buzz and then envy or the Spirit of God. And if you need a little inventory to sort that out, go to Galatians and look at the acts of our fleshly, carnal nature and the fruit of the Spirit and meditate on the two and see which one more accurately defines your dreams. Not your words at church, your private dreams, and you'll have a pretty good indicator how you're doing with that contrast in verse 18. Verse 19 says, "Speak to one another of spiritual things". And then he gives us some examples of what that would look like. Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs. Talk to people about the things of the Lord.
One of the things I've been encouraging people to do for weeks and months now is when you're with your friends, talk about the things of God and what's happening in the world. Stop just talking about the world. Start talking about the things of God and what's happening in the world. Where do we begin? "Wake up, O sleeper". Come out of the stupor. Stop living in the world and bring to bear your awareness of God and what's happening in the world. I think it's horrific that Eric Metaxas would be taken down from a public venue because of his advocacy for a biblical worldview. It's absurd to me in a land that advocates for liberty and freedom for all. What baloney.
Baloney is a Greek word. It means I disagree. But have those conversations with your friends. Don't let them be dictated to you by all the other voices. Open your Bible. Talk about your daily, we're working through Exodus right now. What a wonderful book to talk about. Put yourself in the story. How would you have felt? How would you have felt when they took the straw away and you had to make more bricks? How would you have felt with your newfound leader from the wilderness when you're, on your first junket out of Egypt he gets you pinned against the Red Sea? How many of you would have voted for another leader? And would you have retracted your vote when the Red Sea began to separate? How would you have felt?
Put yourself, talk about it with your friends. Folks, we're walking through a season where we need deliverance of biblical proportion. Now remember what we're talking about is escaping this choice where despondency and despair settles over you. We need a heightened awareness of God's abiding presence. We've got to talk about spiritual things, whether we use the psalms or hymns or spiritual songs. The next verse, verse 20, says, "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks". This seems to me, this is more private, personal. Take time to give yourself, to use your words and your voice to rejoice in the Lord.
You say, "I don't feel like it". Who cares? If your feelings are dictating your actions, you're unhealthy physically and spiritually. Then in verse 21 it just, now Paul's just meddling. "Submit to one another". You know, it's Paul's letters that remind us this whole notion of body life, that we're not individuals independent. We're not independent contractors that we're actually integrated whole, that spiritual maturity only comes in community. It's a part of what we have been so awakened to struggle for that we took so for granted prior to COVID.
We're walking through days when evil is more prevalent, more emboldened than I've ever seen before, but here's the good news. Our Lord triumphed over evil. We don't have to be frightened, and we certainly don't need to be intimidated. I want to pray.
Father, I thank you that greater is he who is in us than the spirit in this world, that you have given us the victory, that through the cross you have defeated Satan and his entire kingdom. May your victory be more real in us than any threat we see. I thank you for it. In Jesus's name, amen.