Charles Stanley - Our Great Encourager
When you experience discouragement, where do you turn? Well, all of us are going to face it at one time or the other because that's the world we live in. Then I have a choice. I can remain discouraged or I can choose not to be discouraged. There's a choice we make. And sometimes people think if they're discouraged, they're just hooked. No, you're not. It's a choice we make to remain in that state because I haven't, this choice. I can allow discouragement to drag me down into the pits of despair and the pits, for example, of depression, and all the things that go with that, and live that way. Or, I can look to our encouraging God and know in my heart that He is going to take me out of this discouragement because He's there to do what? To lift us out. He's there to remind us of who He is.
He's there to help us to understand that His best for us is not what we've always planned. His best for us is always the best. God is not a God of discouragement. And the one thing I want you to discover in this message is this. We have a God who is an awesome encourager. But if you don't know Him personally as your Savior, then it won't make any difference. You just keep on living in discouragement. And you can defend your discouragement. You can live in despair and defend it, and you can get other peoples to say with you, "Yes, I do understand. Well, if I were where you were, that's the way I'd feel". You don't want any of that stuff in your life. You don't have to live that way. We have this awesome God of encouragement, and that is the whole point of this message is for you to see He's that kind of God.
Now, if you don't know Him personally through His Son, Jesus, you won't get it. But if you're a Christian, you're a follower of Jesus, you have no legitimate defense for living in the state of discouragement. So, I want you to turn, if you will, to the fifteenth chapter of Romans, and I want us to look at a couple of verses here in this fifteenth chapter because this is what Paul is talking about. And let's start with this first verse and read just through the fifth verse. He says, for example, "Now we who are strong," well, look at this, "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please His neighbor for his good, to his edification". That doesn't mean just to bow down to everything, but help to look out for what's best for them. Then he says, "For even Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.'"
Now look at verse four and five, "For whatever was written in earlier times," in the Old Testament, "was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scripture we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus". And I wanted you to see how he puts these two words together, and that is perseverance and encouragement because they fit together. Perseverance means I don't quit, I don't stop, I don't give up, I keep going. I don't just figure out what's the easiest way to go. Perseverance means you just keep at it, whatever it takes. Encouragement means, listen, to be inspired, to be motivated, to be energized.
And so he's speaking of perseverance and encouragement. But now hold your Bible right there and turn over, if you will, to Second Corinthians for a moment, and look at this very encouraging passage of scripture, Second Corinthians chapter one. And I want you to look at something because it'll help you understand why sometimes the same word is translated two different ways. But look at this, verse three, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort". Now, look at this word. It's the same word translated encouragement on the one hand and comfort on the other. And so, the reason those two words are interpreted that way is because of the nature of the people and the situation or circumstance that Paul was writing to.
In Romans, he had one thing in mind. Here he's talking about comforting and assuring and so forth. And so, I want to look at it in the light of encouragement because if I'm comforted, I'm being encouraged. If I'm encouraged, I'm being comforted in whatever that situation might be. Now, let's look at this for a moment because I want to answer the question: What attributes does God possess that make Him our great encourager? Now, you know what an attribute is, it's a characteristic of God. So, here's the question. What is it about God, what is it about His nature, what are His attributes that make it possible for Him to be our great encourager? Well, first of all, if you will go back to Second Corinthians for a moment and look at this first chapter again. And notice how he starts off here when he says in verse three, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies".
He's a God of mercy. And mercy means He bends toward us. In other words, God doesn't stand straight, so to speak. God is always bending toward us. He's always leaning in our direction. He's a merciful God. He understands what I feel. He knows my hurts. He knows my pain. He knows what's going on in my life that would cause me to need to cry out to Him. He's a God of mercy. Don't ever forget that. Secondly, He's omnipresent, which means, watch this carefully. You're not discouraged out of the reach of God. Omnipresent means that He's everywhere, and so He's not over yonder and up here and back there. Everywhere is in the presence of God. So think about this, you're discouraged about something.
You say, "I feel so lonely". Well, if you just major on feeling lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, you'll get more and more and more discouraged. But if you think, "Wait a minute now, my God is a God who's omnipresent. If He's omnipresent, I can't be by myself". He is a living God who lives within us. He's a God of encouragement. A third characteristic, attribute would be that He's omnipotent. That is, He has all power. He governs all things. I don't have to wonder if whatever state I'm in, whatever I'm facing, I don't have to wonder if God's going to be able to handle it. Because you can't weigh all that God has. You can't measure all that God has. He is omnipotent, He has all power.
Now, watch this, if I'm serving a God who has all power, and this God is living within me through the presence of the Holy Spirit, there isn't anything too big, too great to keep us discouraged. God is there to help us through it no matter what. But if I don't know Him and have no experience with Him, I can still live in the dungeon of discouragement. So, He's omniscient. He, listen, He knows everything. He has all the knowledge. This is why somebody says, "Well, I don't know what to do". Now, watch this, you may be discouraged today about whatever decision you are facing and you say, "I don't know what to do". He knows everything about your circumstance. He knows why you're there. He knows how you got there. He knows exactly how to bring you out of that. He has the answer for all of that. He's omniscient. He knows it all. That knowledge, listen, that knowledge is within you in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Remember what Jesus said to His disciples? "I'll be with you always, even to the end of this age". What He promised to them, He's promised to every single one of us. As a child of God, you have the wisdom and the knowledge of God within you. Now, He is also a God of grace, encouraging us when we don't deserve it. For example, when you sin against God or you say the wrong thing or have the wrong attitude and so forth, what do you do if you're a true child of God and really want to do what's right? You ask Him, "Lord, I ask You to forgive me for this". And what do you do? You say, "Well, Lord, You said in Your Word if I confess my sins, agree with You about it, if I confess my sin, You're faithful and just, that means You always will and you always have the right to because Jesus paid my sin-debt on the cross. You're faithful and just to forgive me of my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness".
What an awesome God. What an awesome promise. He knows we're not going to be perfect. He knows we're going to fail. If you ask Him to forgive you and to cleanse you and to sanctify you and to help you to walk faithfully before Him, He will enable you to do it. You keep living in sin... what's He doing? He's going to be faithful. Listen to what He said. He's faithful and just to forgive us and He's faithful to keep His own word toward us. So, a person chooses to live in sin, disobedience to God, then He's still going to be faithful. And the hand of discipline will come down. He, listen, He is an encouraging God. Thank God He lays the rule of discipline on us when we need it, amen? Otherwise, you just keep going the same direction and wreck and ruin your life. So, He's an awesome God of grace. He is a patient God.
And in the second epistle of Peter, and he's talking about God's patience, and here's what he says. He says, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you". God is patient with us. How many times in your life has God begun to deal with you about something, you didn't want to deal with it? You put it off. He wanted to have you go to someone and ask for forgiveness for the way you treated them. Or He wanted you to deal with something in your life that only you and He knew about, but you just kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off. Listen, if our God were a stern, hard-nosed God, second time you did it, that'd be the end of it. What does He do? He waits and waits and waits. And I look back in my own life and think, "God, how did You put up with me that long? Why could You have been so patient"?
Watch this, because His all-knowing mind knows that out here you will change, you will get the point, you will move on, but He also knows when you won't. And so the fact that He's patient with us, think about what a wonderful attitude that is. That God is patient with you and me, not because we deserve it. We're talking about His characteristics, that's who He is. Then if you will notice, He's a God of wisdom. He always chooses the best for us, always the best. And to bring about decisions that are best for us. Look in Romans chapter eleven for a moment, and I want you to look at this particular verse, verse thirty-three. Listen to what he says. "Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways"!
What an awesome verse of scripture. The God who is our encourager. What? "The depths of the riches both of His wisdom and knowledge". And how unsearchable, in other words, you can't plumb the depths of it. "Unsearchable are His judgements. Unfathomable His ways". What does that say to me? I can't think about anything that God doesn't know all about. The depths of His wisdom and knowledge, that is, He knows what is best for us at every turn in our life. Whatever the decision, whatever the question, whatever the circumstance, He has the wisdom to know, to tell us exactly the right thing. He's likewise a God of faithfulness. And this is a wonderful verse in Second Timothy. If you look there for just a moment.
Now, I'm moving right along, but you can write them down. Second Timothy two thirteen. Here's what he says, "If we are faithless," that is, if we're faithless, that is, we're not faithful. We lose it. We don't choose to live up to what we know is right, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself". You say, "Well, what do you mean 'deny Himself'"? What did He promise us? If we confess our sins, He's what? "Faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". That's the kind of God He is. He is a very encouraging God. Then I think about one of the most wonderful characteristics, and the closest verse, you go back to Malachi, last book in the Old Testament. And if you'll notice in this third chapter and the sixth verse, He says, "For I, the Lord, do not change". He doesn't change.
Now, think about this. You know what that means? That means that the God of Abraham is the same God we have today. Look how faithful He was to Abraham. The God of Joseph. The God of Jacob. The God of David. In other words, all through the Scriptures, He hasn't changed any. The only thing He's done is given us more insight and blessed us in more ways than we could ever begin to count. That's the kind of God you and I have. Now, if I don't know Him personally, and if I just know, and people have two or three different attitudes about God. Well, God is a spirit somewhere up there. And they can't figure out what it is, but they believe there is some kind of a god. Or there's something out there that they can't describe. No, God is a warm, intimate, personal being. And He has allowed us to see Him through Jesus.
What encourages me is not thinking about this God I can't quite describe physically because that's not who He is. But I can relate to Him spiritually because He walked among us as a man. He was tempted and tried. And all the situations and circumstances that He felt, that He walked through, now He's given us a beautiful example. You and I should never live in discouragement. It doesn't fit who we are or what we call ourselves: followers of Jesus Christ. And when I think about that kind of God, how could I stay in a state of discouragement? Well, okay now, let's talk about how does God encourage us. That's who He is. How does He encourage us? The first way I would say is He encourages us with His Word.
Listen, whatever I'm facing, if it's a decision, I'm going to the Word. If it's a relationship, I'm going to the Word. If it's something I'm hurting about, I'm going to the Word. The Word, the Word, the Word. And somebody says, "I'm trying to make a decision. I don't know what to do". I can tell you exactly what to do. You turn to a passage of scripture that most of us know in Proverbs three five and six. What does it say? "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will direct your path". That's a promise from a God that we said while ago yes, He's faithful. He'll keep His promise.
So, if I go through these situations and circumstances, let's say, for example, that I'm fearful. Then I turn to Joshua chapter one, that ninth verse that you know by heart, "Be strong and of a good courage; fear not, Neither be thou dismayed: For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". How can you be discouraged when you've got God walking by your side? So, here's what it boils down to. Either I believe what He says or I don't. If you don't believe the Word of God, then you have a thousand reasons to be discouraged. Because if you don't believe in Him, one of these days you're going to be eternally separated from Him, and there'll be no hope. God has given us His Word. And He's given us His Word to be an encouragement to us. I don't have to be anxious.
"Don't be anxious," Paul said, "about anything. But in everything with prayer and thanksgiving and supplication, let your requests be made known to God". And what will He do? Then He will answer that petition and encourage your heart. We have an awesome, encouraging God. And one of the ways He encourages us is through His Word. A second way He encourages us is through prayer. For example, somebody says, "Well, I don't know that I know how to pray". You want me to tell you how to pray? You want me to help you know how to pray? Let me ask you: Do you want a long prayer or a short prayer? Here's a short prayer: watch this. This prayer is just as meaningful and reaches God just as long as a prayer that may take pages to write it down. And here's the prayer: Jesus, help me! Jesus, help me! What a powerful prayer. Jesus, help me!
Now, who is this? This is omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, grace, in other words, that's the God we're talking about. How can you be discouraged if you know Him? If you don't know Him, it's just all sort of hazy, foggy. If you know Him and you have this awesome God on your side, how can you be discouraged? And I think about the awesome ways that God, sometimes, in prayer will bring us back to the Word to remind us that He is that kind of God. Then, for example, one of the ways God encourages us, with friendships. How many friends, true, genuine friends can you count on one hand? True, genuine, faithful, loyal friends.
Now, there are some people who are your friend to a point. There are some people who are your friend in certain situations. There are some people who are your friends if you can profit them in some way by being their...none of that's friendship. Listen, one of the jewels of life is a godly friend who is a faithful, loyal, devoted friend. That is a jewel in your life. Sometimes we get disappointed. People we thought were our friends, or maybe we've done a lot for to help them in some way, and next thing you know, their whole attitude and ambition all along was something totally different. But listen, one of the blessings of God, one of the true means of encouraging us is to give us friends. So I would ask you: Who are your real friends? It may be somebody says, "Well, I've got some buddies I drink with". They're not your friends.
Well, I've got some friends I do this with and that with. Your friends? Now, what I want to...where are the people when you're hurting? Where are the people when you're in real need? Where are the people who can pray with you? Where are the people who really, genuinely are concerned about your spirituality and want to help you in your relationship to God? Where are they? How many friends could you call today, now, right where you are in your circumstance and say, "I just need you to come over to my house or my apartment, whatever. I just need somebody to pray with". And they wouldn't say, "Ah, well uh, um, yuh-yuh, well, you know I um, mm-mm-mm," and that's the end of that. That's not a friend.
Let me tell you something, nothing more powerful than somebody who knows how to talk to God in your behalf for your good with no selfish end in mind. Now, one of the ways that God encourages us, I think, is through music. Think about some of these old hymns that are awesome, the words in them, just awesome. "When through fiery trials my pathway shall lie, Thy grace all sufficient shall be my supply". And on and on it goes. There are songs that God gave us to do what? To encourage us, encourage us in different ways. So, if you get up feeling bad, start singing. Somebody says, "I can't sing". Don't say that. Listen, anybody who can talk can sing. It may not be very good, but that's not the issue. You're not singing for approval. You're singing to glorify God and to praise Him. And so, however you sing is fine.
Then of course, there are the daily blessings that God sends into our life, one of the ways in which He encourages us. For example, you woke up this morning. That was a blessing, amen? Things are good. They're bad on the one hand, but it depends on how you look at it. If I'm looking at it through God's eyes, I'm blessed. Every day that I'm alive and I'm healthy and strong. This is the kind of God you and I have. And when I think about all of that, I go back to what I said to you before. To me personally, the most important thing that encourages me above everything else in the world is just being aware of His presence. Just write that word down, presence. That you live in His presence, sleep in His presence, walk in His presence, speak in His presence, you work in His presence. Or, presence, that's the most awesome, encouraging factor in life. You are in the presence of this God we described in the very beginning. That's who He is. And you can live in His presence, knowing that He has the best worked out for you, no matter what.
Now, remember this: discouragement is a choice I make. Encouragement is a choice I make. And the God whom you and I serve is a God of encouragement, never discouragement, encouragement. Sin brings discouragement. Disobedience brings discouragement. Salvation, obedience, walking in the will of God brings encouragement. You can walk through anything if you have Christ in your life. So, let me ask you a question. If I could see your face, would I see discouragement or encouragement? Would I see peace and joy and happiness and contentment, or would I see questions, doubts, fears, anxiety? It's a choice. If you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, who is the Son of God, who came to earth in order to help us understand who He's really like. If you're willing to ask Him to forgive you of your sins.
Father, forgive me of my sins based on the fact that Your Son, Jesus, went to the cross, shed His blood for my sin. He paid my sin-debt in full. On the basis of that, I'm asking You to forgive me of my sins. And I'm surrendering my life to You. I want You to guide my life from this point on.
My friend, He'll change your life in the most awesome ways. He'll drag you out of the pits and put you on the pinnacle if you're willing to trust Him to do what He promised. And here's what He said. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord," that's Jesus, "will be saved". For God so loved you that He gave His only Begotten Son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him and believes to the point of surrender, yieldedness, would never perish, but have everlasting life. What an awesome God you and I have. Now, that being true, what will you do about it? Will you listen to this and just move on in life? Or will you listen carefully, believe it because it is the absolute eternal truth and watch God do some amazing things in your life? And what you'll find is He'll be encouraging you every day.
Father, how grateful we are for Your love for us. We could never describe it adequately. We know that. Thank You for Your precious Word that makes it all come alive. I pray for every discouraged person who is listening. I pray for every discouraged person who is watching, that beginning today, it'll be a new day, a new day of encouragement, confidence, and assurance, recognition, a brand-new life because they've begin to understand who You really are, our great God of encouragement. In Jesus's name, amen.