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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - Defeating Discouragement

Charles Stanley - Defeating Discouragement

Charles Stanley - Defeating Discouragement
TOPICS: Discouragement

Do you find yourself struggling with disappointment and difficulty and hardship and trying to express what you're really feeling on the inside? And somehow you just feel that there's this cloud of discouragement that seems to hang over you no matter what you do. If I should ask you: Well, what do you think that discouragement's all about? Some of you could say, "Well, I think I know what it's about". But probably some of you would have to say, "I don't know. I just feel discouraged".

It's like a cloud that hovers over me. I can't identify what it is. I don't know why it's there. I don't know how to get rid of it. I just feel like I'm trapped. Somehow there's no sense of joy and peace and contentment in my life. I can pray and talk to God and somehow it doesn't go away. I don't know why I feel so discouraged. Or it may be that you're one of those persons who says, "I am discouraged and I know why. I've been greatly disappointed and somehow I can't get over that disappointment. I don't know how to deal with it. It keeps hanging over me. It keeps fogging my mind".

Well, I want to help you, because I want to talk about a passage of scripture that'll help us understand how to deal with discouragement. All of us are gonna be discouraged at moments in our life, at least. In fact, we're all gonna get disappointed many times in life. Because you see, disappointment is inevitable, it's inescapable, it's unavoidable. We're gonna disappoint some people, some people are gonna disappoint us. And oftentimes it's the very people we love the most or the people who love us the most. So you're not gonna ever reach a stage in life where you're not gonna experience disappointment. You're gonna feel it. Sometimes it's gonna be very hurtful and very painful. But what do you do with it?

If you don't know how to deal with disappointment, it can become the beginning of discouragement in your life. And once it does, oftentimes it'll take you down a road of hurt, pain, disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. And the kind of hurt and pain that those around you feel the consequences of your unresolved conflict in this disappointment that you face. So I want you to turn, if you will, to the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. And I want to give you a little background of what's happening, and we'll read just a couple of verses here and help you understand why this man who had all the reasons in the world to face disappointments and become discouraged by what he saw and what he heard, and yet there's not a single verse in this passage that indicates he was ever discouraged.

So the truth is you and I can suffer disappointments. We'll have moments of discouragement, but they should only be moments, because if you and I know how to deal with them, they'll only be moments. They won't take us down that long road of disappointment and finally want to give up and quit in life. So, beginning in this first chapter, here's what happens. Nehemiah has been the cup-bearer of a king in a foreign country. And so his friends come to inform him about what's happening, and here's what they say. They said to him in verse three of chapter one, "The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire".

This was his response when he heard it, so disappointed to hear what was happening, "When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven". Then he talks about the prayer that he prayed. Then, following this prayer of asking the Lord what he should do and how he should respond, he goes before the king to serve him. And the king said to him, "Why do you look so dull? Why are you so depressed? Why this frown on your face"? So then he says he prayed. And so, in the course of the conversation, he told the king why he was so down and why he had such a bad look on his face and why he appeared to be so depressed. He said, "Here's what's happened to my people back in Jerusalem". So the king said, "Well, what can I do for you"?

He made his request to the king to give him time to go to Jerusalem, asked him for all the supplies he would need and protection on the way. And the scripture says when he arrived, he surveyed the city, the broken down walls and the burnt gates. Then he met with the officials of the city. And here's what he said to them in this second chapter, in verse seventeen, "Then I said to them, 'You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate, its gates are burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.' I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me, and also about the king's words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, 'Let us arise and build.' So, they put their hands to the good work".

Now they had some enemies in this next verse, "Sanballat, the Horonite, and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked us and despised us and said, 'What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?' So I answered them and said to them, 'The God of heaven will give us success.'" And so what I want us to do is I want us to look at this passage of scripture in the light and in this title and that is "Defeating Discouragement".

How do you defeat discouragement? And as we've said before, and I want to say this several times, and I want you to remember this, particularly this particular thing that I want to say at this very moment, and that is that disappointments are inevitable. They're gonna happen. Unavoidable and inescapable, we're all going to be disappointed by people, circumstances, and things in life. I can either settle into that disappointment and become discouraged and down-in-the-mouth, or I can look at it square in the face, acknowledge that it's there, and do something about it in a way that protects us from becoming discouraged.

Now, let me just say this. I'm not saying to you that you'll always be able to face everything and never have any moments of discouragement. What I'm saying is this, they should be just that: moments of discouragement. If you know who you are as a child of God and you understand who God is and His love for you, His commitment to you, His willingness to help you in every single possible way, then you can understand what it means to suffer disappointments, but at the same time, not experience discouragement except momentarily as you face the disappointment and respond in the wise fashion. So let's look at this in the light of how do we defeat disappointments in our life because we're all going to face them in defeat, discouragement.

Well, let's understand, first of all, the difference between a disappointment and a discouragement. That is, disappointment is simply, listen, it's simply an emotional response to a failed expectation. That is, I get discouraged or I become disappointed when my expectation somebody doesn't measure up. What I expected to happen doesn't happen. What I anticipated to be mine is not mine. And so it is an emotional response to a failed expectation, desire, or hope or dream that we have. On the other hand, when we think in terms of discouragement, it's a lack of confidence, it's to become faint-hearted. And so we just oftentimes want to give up and quit.

And so you cannot avoid disappointments. You can avoid becoming discouraged and living in that state of discouragement like a fog or like a cloud that continually harasses you day after day. So let's think about some of the consequences. For example, the Jews there in Jerusalem, very discouraged, fighting among themselves, charging exorbitant rates for making loans to their own brothers. Full of fear, full of discouragement, want to give up and quit, saw no way out. So what happens when you become discouraged? Well, I want you to think about this.

First thing that happens is your mind gets divided. And a person who has a divided mind, a divided mind is that inner gnawing that goes on, on the inside, that grabs your attention no matter where you are, no matter who you're with, no matter what the situation, the circumstances. When you have a divided mind, you cannot focus and do your best. You cannot do your best with a divided mind. You have to be able to deal with it. You have to be able to deal with the disappointment lest you become discouraged. And when you are, you're gonna have a divided mind because back in the recesses of your mind and your heart you're thinking about what's wrong, thinking about the failure, thinking about the past, thinking about how you're treated, thinking about how people respond, thinking about what you'd like to have, thinking about what you don't have. And so your mind is divided. So when you come to focus on your job, it's difficult to do because you have a divided mind.

A second thing that happens is this: you look for somebody to blame. That's just as normal and natural as it can be. And so what happens? Oftentimes you blame God. God, if You're sovereign like the pastor says, if You're sovereign, You could have kept this from happening. God, this is Your fault. You allowed this disappointment in my life. You've been the one who's allowed me to become discouraged. Well, God may have allowed the disappointment, but He didn't intend for you to become discouraged to the point of wrecking and ruining your life or losing your joy in your relationship to Him. Sometimes we want to blame someone else. That's always the easy thing to do.

Well, if he, if she, if he'd a done this and she'd a done that. We want to blame someone else for our discouragement. They disappointed me. I put my faith in them. They were disloyal. She didn't love me, he didn't love me. They walked away. They failed me. Always blame someone else. You know the worst person to blame, and that's yourself. And I've heard this so many times. If I'd a. If I'd a done this and if I'd a done that. And if she'd a done this or he'd a done that. You live an "if-I'd-a" life. If you live an "if-I'd-a" life, you're gonna live a life of discouragement. You're gonna live a life that is depressed. You're gonna live a life that has no happiness and no joy and no peace and no contentment. And you're gonna be a continuing disappointment to yourself. We all make mistakes, but blaming ourselves, living in the past, blaming our circumstances, blaming God, blaming others. Listen, when you get discouraged, that's what you're prone to do.

A third thing that's evident, and that's this, and that we become very angry at our circumstances. We're angry because of our discontent and our discouragement in life, and we begin to be angry. We're angry toward ourselves, angry toward God, angry toward other people, and you know what happens? When you begin to be angry and you have unresolved anger in your life because of your circumstances, what you do is you drive people away from you. Sometimes, and oftentimes, our sense of self-esteem gets lower and lower and lower. You see, the longer you live discouraged, the less you think of yourself, the less you love yourself in a proper fashion.

The less confidence that you have in what you can do and what you can become and what you are, you begin to see yourself not from God's viewpoint. You see yourself as handicapped. You see yourself as less than. You see yourself as incompetent. You begin to see yourself as unliked, unwanted, incompetent, you don't belong, nobody cares. And so you get down on yourself in a very strong way. Oftentimes a person who lives in a state of discouragement continually, you begin to make very unwise decisions, very unwise decisions. Sometimes it's a decision in a relationship. Sometime it's a decision financially. Sometimes it's a decision that will absolutely send you running down the wrong pathway to lose everything.

You see, you can't live in a state of discouragement and make it in life. God did not intend for you to live that way. He intended for you to live with joy and confidence and peace in your life. But you say, "Oh, but look! I'm in this awesome valley of discouragement. I feel totally defeated in life". Well, let me ask you a question. What do you intend to do about the state of discouragement you're presently in? You say, "Well, what can I do"? I'm gonna tell you in a moment. But are you one of those persons who's decided, "Not gonna get any better. This is the way it is". And I think one of the most devastating stages a person can reach is this. They're in the trough of discouragement and they come to this conclusion: Well, this is the way life is. This is who I am. This is the way it'll always be. I just got left out. This is my luck.

Watch this. Believers don't talk "luck". That's not in our vocabulary. We don't go on luck. We go on blessing, not luck. We're talking about what God can do in our life, not what fate sends us. And so a person reaches that stage where they're persuaded this is the way life is. This is the way it's always going to be. And here's what happens. If you have settled for a settled-for life, you have reached a dangerous position on the road to discouragement, for the simple reason you've settled for a life of discouragement. You've settled for less than what God has in plan for you. You've settled for less than He's made possible for you. You've settled for less than He desires for you. You've settled for less than He's planned for your life. You cannot afford to settle for a settled-for life, and live with the "if-I'd-a's" and "if-I'd-a's" and "if-I'd-a's" all of your life. God has something far better.

But you see, all of these are the consequences, and there are many other consequences of living in discouragement. You don't have to do that. And Nehemiah could have given lots of reasons for being very discouraged and gone back to the king, lived as a cup-bearer, finally died in a foreign country. You know what? God used him because he refused, listen, he refused to be overwhelmed by what he saw and what he felt. He could have been disappointed and sulked in it. But he chose to be obedient to God. He chose to believe God for the best. And there are so many people who are living in discouragement, who just, the, listen, the problem is they cannot believe that God loves them. They cannot believe that God cares. And you may be one of those persons.

You say, "Why would He care about me"? He does. That's His nature to care about you. That's His nature to love you. He wants the best for you. Say, but look what I've done. Has nothing to do with what you've done, it has to do with the character of God. You're looking at the wrong thing. You're looking at yourself. You should be looking at God. What does He think? What does He feel? What does He say? What does He promise? What about His power? What about His love? What about His goodness? He says He's stored up goodness for those who reverence Him. So what you have to ask is this. Not can I get out of this, but will I? You want to step out of that discouragement? You want to step on a whole higher level of living? You want to regain the joy and the peace and the happiness that maybe you once had. Or maybe you've never had it but you surely do want it. You can if you will make a choice.

Remember, and I've said it again and again on purpose. Disappointments, we're all gonna have them. Inevitable, listen, inescapable, unavoidable, we're gonna get disappointed and we're gonna disappoint others. But discouragement is a choice. We don't have to be discouraged because the bottom's dropped out. We have a God who's beneath the bottom. You can't get so low that Almighty God can't pick you up, lift you up, and take you out and send you on a different way. Well, it's interesting when you look at Nehemiah, what happens. Here's what happened. He heard the news and he acknowledged this is very disappointing. You know what the first thing he did following that? The Bible says he grieved in his spirit and grieved in his heart. He went to the Father in prayer. He said he mourned for days.

Listen, he was deeply hurt over what happened, not to him but to his loved ones, his friends and family and heritage back in Jerusalem. He began to cry out to God, seeking God's direction. And so the Father who heard his cry arranged on a certain day for the king to recognize his countenance. And it is the Father who said through the king, "What's wrong with you, Nehemiah"? And it is the Father who gave him the courage to tell the king exactly what happened. It is also the Father who changed, listen, who changed this unbelieving king's heart to ask this Jewish man, "What can I do for you? What do you need? How long do you need to be gone"? Do you understand that? Do you see how God can take an impossible situation, no matter what you're facing in life? He knows, listen, He knows how to affect the people who can help you. He knows how to challenge someone to help you. He knows someone to bring to your side.

But are you looking for it? Are you anticipating it? Are you expecting it? Or have you decided just to live where you are? Don't live where you are if you're living in the rut of discouragement in your life. You don't have to live there. You must choose to do so. The king gave him everything he asked for. When he went to survey the situation, the circumstance, he found a group of men. They were discouraged. They were down. They'd been harassed. They were afraid. They saw what was going on among them. Here's what He did. He encouraged them. He said, "The Father God has favored me and we're gonna rebuild these walls, we're gonna rebuild these gates, and we're gonna become the city of God that we used to be". And they said, "Yes"!

What changed their mind? One strong voice of divine encouragement. This is why you and I must be encouragers. This is why you and I need encouragement. Everybody needs encouragement. I think about how many pastors, for example, they go to churches where they fired the pastor before them. Maybe a few people run the church, maybe a family or two. And no matter what this man does, he can't ever be perfect enough. He can't ever preach it right. He either preaches too long or too short. He didn't visit everybody in the hospital so he overlooked somebody. And so no pastor in the world can live up to all the expectations that oftentimes people have of them. And so what happens? He gets discouraged.

And the next thing you know, you know what he's doing? He's looking for another church, because he's tired of being criticized, tired of not being appreciated. Looks for another church. He tells his friend, his friend recommends him, somebody else calls him, and he steps out of the will of God. Because you see, sometimes it's in those difficult situations that God molds a man and makes the man and deepens the man and shapes the man that He wants him to be. And how does He do it? Heartache, pain, suffering, unappreciated, wronged in lots of ways, but he keeps standing and he keeps going because he knows whom he's serving. And I want to say to you if you're a pastor and you're very, very discouraged by the way people treat you. You don't feel like you're getting anywhere. You're preaching to the same crowd every Sunday. They don't seem to care. They don't really want to change. They just want you to pacify them, make 'em feel good.

Don't get too strong on sin, specially do not name any sin, especially if you know it's theirs. And so they just want to be pacified and assured. They want you to meet their needs and run every time they call. You just want to quit and give up and walk away. But my friend, don't do that. Don't quit, don't walk away. You look up and realize that your Heavenly Father knows exactly where you are. He knows exactly how they're treating you. He knows whether you're appreciated or not. But remember this, God appreciates you. He loves you. No matter what they do to you, He loves you, and He's gonna always love you and He's gonna always be there for you. Don't let discouragement get you out of the will of God.

You say, "All right, I'm one of those persons who's let disappointment discourage me. Here I am, what do I do"? When I've been disappointed a lot of times, when I've been hurt lots of times, when I felt what disloyalty's all about, I felt what walking away is all about, I felt what loneliness is all about, criticism and all the things and false accusations, I know something about some of that. There are a lot of people who know a whole lot more about hurt and disappointment than I do. But I do know enough to know that you do not have to live in discouragement. You do not have to, listen, you do not have to surrender to those emotions. So I want you to listen carefully. When you're disappointed and you find yourself heading in the direction of being discouraged, here's what you do. You confess aloud to your Heavenly Father:

Father, I know You're with me in this disappointment, in this discouragement. I know You're with me. Secondly, Father, I know that You're in control of my life. You know all about what's going on and You have power to change anything You choose. Father, I know that You're gonna turn this for good. You know my pain, my hurt, what I'm feeling. I know You're going to turn this for good. And I'm looking to see how You turn this for good.

Now, listen carefully. When you are disappointed by someone or something, whatever the situation may be, if you will begin immediately to cry out to the Father:

Father, I know You're with me in this. I'm deeply disappointed, deeply hurt. Father, You're in absolute control of my life and you can limit the intensity of my hurt or my pain if You choose to do so. Father, I know that You made a promise that You're working everything in our life for our good because You've said You've stored up goodness for us. You said You've established Your throne in the heavens, and Your sovereignty rules over all. I'm under Your control and Your authority. You said You'd cause all things to work together for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose, and I love You, Lord.

The question is do you believe that God is able, ready, and willing because He loves you? You make the choice to stay there or to stand up and move on.
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