Charles Stanley - Overcoming Discouragement
Are you discouraged? Do you know why? What's going on in your life that would cause you to be depressed, lost hope, don't see anything in your future whatsoever? What's going on inside of you? What causes you to be distressed? What causes you to be discouraged? Well, if you watch the news every night, more than likely that would discourage you for sure. But it just might be that you're looking at your mortgage payment and thinking, "There's no way". You don't have a job. You're hurting. You're family's hurting. You could lose it all.
So, you have lots of reasons to feel discouraged. And so, what you have to ask is this, you have to ask yourself: how long is this going on? And you may even ask the question, "Where is God? He said He would help me, but at this point, I don't see anything going on". And so, maybe you feel like you've been caught in this grip of discouragement. It's a cloud that covers you, like you're walking in the fog and you don't see any help anywhere along the way. Well, one of the most powerful servants of God in the Scripture was David. And he went through difficult times just like that, times of great sorrow and heartache and discouragement. But he had an answer: he discovered how to deal with discouragement.
And what I want to talk about in this message is overcoming discouragement. And I want to read two or three verses here in the Psalms that express how David was feeling. He was asking himself, "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him". Then he says again in the next chapter, "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me"? So here is a man that has given us so many wonderful, wonderful events in his own life through the work of the Holy Spirit. And we see him brave, courageous, bold; and yet, he had the same issue that many people have today, and that is he went through those times of discouragement.
Well, the passage of Scripture I want to give you is a good example of one of those times of discouragement in his life. Let me give you a little background. King Saul had been chasing him for years trying to kill him. Finally, he and his six hundred men went over to the Philistines and said, "You know we want to be on your side. And so, they would fight for the Philistines. And the king, Achish, they became good friends. In fact, he couldn't have said anything any finer about David than he said about him. And here's what he said. He says, "As the Lord lives, you've been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army are pleasing in my sight, for I have not found evil in you from the day of your coming in to me to this day. Nevertheless, you are not pleasing in the sight of the lords".
Now, the lords were the commanders of the Philistine army. And what was happening is they were lined up getting ready to go to war. And so, the king told him, he said, "You can't go". So, he wanted to know why he couldn't go. Well, here's what happened: the leaders asked him, confronted the king and said, "Is this not David, of whom they said and sang in the dances, saying, 'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands'"? We don't want him. We don't want him on our side because we may have reason to believe that in the midst of the battle, when we're fighting Israel, that he would again turn against us. And they knew what a warrior he was.
So, he sends David back home to Ziklag, which is a town that they gave him as a result of coming over on their side. And so, something happens here that put him in great despair. So, beginning in this thirtieth chapter of first Samuel. First Samuel chapter thirty tells us what happened. "Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day," now he's left the army, he's getting ready to fight and going home because he got sent home. "That the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire, And they took captive the women and all that were there, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way. When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep".
Let me ask you a question, have you ever cried about anything where you just couldn't cry anymore? Amen? You cried till you just couldn't cry anymore. That's where they were. "Now, David's two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. Moreover, David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him," that's his own crowd. "For the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and daughters," that is, their sons and daughters who'd been taken away. "But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God".
Now, the word "strengthen" there is the same Hebrew word for encouraged. So, what the Bible is saying is that he encouraged himself. Now, what I want us to see in this passage is: what in the world does it mean by encouraging yourself when you are so discouraged? Well, let's be sure we understand the difference between a disappointment and a discouragement. A disappointment is an emotional response to some failed expectation, some hope, or some desire. But now, disappointment is unavoidable. We're going to be disappointed with people, situations, and circumstances. But discouragement is something else. Discouragement is that feeling of despair, that feeling of despondency.
And so, discouragement is a choice we make. I do not have to remain discouraged. I may get discouraged, but I don't have to remain discouraged. And so, a disappointment's unavoidable. Things will hit us and disappoint us, and can bring on discouragement. But if I choose to remain discouraged, it's because of a choice you and I make. Now, let me ask you a question: are you discouraged? If you'll walk around and listen to people and just listen to them talk, you'll find out that there are more people who are discouraged than there are encouraged in the day in which you and I live. Because once you start talking, they start telling you what's wrong.
Now, there are a lot of things wrong, there's no doubt about it. And when you watch the news, it can be very discouraging if you let that determine how you feel. Corruption and all the financial problems and all the things that are going on around us, that's why you and I have to watch the news, on the one hand, and always remember who's in charge. If you don't remember who's in charge, you go down in discouragement. And so, we have to remember that. Well, when I look at this passage of Scripture and see what David faced and how he faced it and think аbout: what are the consequences of a person living in discouragement?
Well, first of all, the first thing it does, it divides your attention, it divides your mind. A person who is very discouraged over here, no matter what else you're doing, you can't throw your whole heart into it. You can't give your whole mind to it because there's something over here that's nagging you all the time. And it's a discouragement. And I think many people can't do their best job on whatever their occupation may be because they're so discouraged by what's going on in their home, or what's going on in their finances, or what's going on in some other relationship, things that just distraught. You cannot give it your best.
Now, one of those consequences is a loss of confidence. When you start losing confidence, it affects everything about your life. It affects your job, it affects your relationships, it affects your relationships with husbands and wives, with your children and everybody else because a loss of confidence is devastating. And if you don't deal with it, then what happens? Then everything else in your life begins to suffer. And as we said, you begin to look for somebody to blame, and then you get angry if things don't work out right.
So you develop a negative spirit. In the Living Bible translation, here's what the Bible says, "Gentle," listen to this, "gentle words give life and health, but griping causes discouragement". So, if you ask yourself the question, if you go around talking, "You know what, I don't know why she did that, I don't know why he did that, you know, I just don't". You just go ahead and you just talk yourself into a mess. You talk yourself into being more and more discouraged because, listen, first of all, you know you're right. You know you're right.
So, what happens? You just start spilling out all these things that are wrong. And since you're right, everything you must be saying must be true. And if all that stuff is true, then you got a reason to be discouraged. So just get depressed and stay there because that's where you feel the best. And there are people who love being depressed because they have an excuse for not doing what they ought to be doing as far as a wife or a husband or a mother or a father. They just enjoy being depressed because it's an escape. It is an escape that is endless. They're not happy. They have no joy, no peace, no real contentment in their life.
And then, of course, one of the consequences is making unwise decisions. When you're discouraged and you get a little frantic about things, you're going to make unwise decisions. Usually, they are very costly decisions. It's not wise to make a decision when you're too tired. It's not wise to make a decision when you're angry. And it's certainly not wise to make a decision when you're just very, very discouraged about things and down in the dumps. In other words, because you're not thinking properly. Do you have to stay that way? No, you're not, and I am coming to this now. But what I want you to see is this: there are consequences to discouragement that are destructive, that are costly, not only in money, but in relationships.
And also, costly in your spiritual life. Because here's what happens: you remain discouraged and don't deal with it. What happens is: "First of all, God isn't answering my prayer. God doesn't care. I know what the Bible says He is, He's not with me. And I know the Bible says He is, but He's not because I don't see Him doing anything". And what happens? Little by little, Satan just interjects these doubts. "Well, if God cares, He'd change this. Well, if God loved me, He wouldn't let this happen. Well, if God this and if God that and if God the other".
And so, doubts begin to grow; and finally, here's what happens: the natural thing is you begin to drift away from the Lord in your relationship to Him. Then that just makes it all worse. And the next thing you know, if you get to drifting far enough, you're into sin, and now you are really discouraged. Because you know where you used to be, you know where you are, you think, "How did I get here"? By degrees. "How do I get out"? By making wise decisions.
Now, the consequences aren't worth it. So, the question is: what's the cure for all that? Well, let me just say two or three things here, and the first one is this: now, listen carefully, all of this is on the screen but, listen, it's your viewpoint. That is, if I want to get out of my discouragement, it doesn't make any difference how it started, where it started, with whom it started, and what caused it. But if I want to get out, I've got to think right. What is my viewpoint? First of all, I've got to Look within myself and say, "What am I discouraged about? What caused me to get this way? How long is it taking me to get into this position, this condition"?
So first of all, I got to look within myself. Most folks look out and want to blame somebody. First thing is to look within. The second thing I'm to do is to look up. Now, God is all powerful. I know that He has the power to get me out of this. The Bible says He loves me and I know the truth is that He does love me. I know the truth is that He's with me. I know the truth is He has the power to rescue me from this. I know that's what He says. So, I'm going to look up.
Now, listen carefully, if you don't look up, you are in trouble. The third thing I'm going to do is I'm going to look back because if I look back, listen, no matter who you are, if you're a believer, you look back, look how many times God's brought you through this mess, that mess, this situation, that circumstance. He got you over this, through them, all the other things in the past. So, you've got all this history. Listen, you have history of God's deliverance of your life. So, you want to look back. Well, people say, "Well, I've been looking back a long time". No, no, no. Look, you look back at what He's done for you and then you look ahead. If God can do that, He can do this. I'm looking ahead. And there are a lot of people who live in the rearview mirror. They're always living that way.
Well, let me tell you about the past. Don't tell me too much about the past, tell me about what God's doing now in your life and tell me what you want Him to do in the future. Listen, if He can bring you through that, He can get you out of this and He can take you where He wants you to go. Remember, He has a will, a purpose, and a plan for your life. And that will and purpose and plan for your life is good. It is always good. So, the first thing I have to do is get my viewpoint right. I have to decide I'm going to look within and find out where did this start and how it all began. That's number one.
Now, the second thing I'd say about that is this, and that is the right response. What's the right response? Well, if you turn to Mark six, verse thirty of Mark chapter six, "The apostles gathered together with Jesus, and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them," watch this now, "'Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.' For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat". You know what? He knew that you get too fatigued. And there's a responsibility and you're accountable. And you just keep going and keep going and keep going and keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing; till finally, physically, it begins to work on you.
So first of all, sometimes you need to stop and rest and say, "All right, I need to take a good look at myself from God's viewpoint and find out what's going on here". So, I take a rest. Secondly, I look at my life and think, "What needs to be reorganized in my life"? You say, "Well, reorganization is not my problem". It could be. Now, watch this, you have to ask yourself the question, first of all, what am I doing that I shouldn't be doing? What am I not doing that I ought to be doing? So, you have to sort of reorganize your life. And you see, as life around us moves rapidly, we have to move in cadence with it.
And a third thing is, watch this, and this is the most important. We have to resolve in our mind and heart to trust the Living God. We have to resolve to trust Him. It doesn't make any difference what you're going through. I have to resolve to trust Him. And one of the things that Jesus dealt with His disciples about, above everything else, was trusting Him. And He would say, you know, "Oh ye of little faith. Why didn't you believe Me"? In other words, He had to deal with that. And we have to resolve in our heart: I'm going to trust Him. Now, what is it I'm going to trust? I'm going to Trust Him to be the God He says He is, that He controls everything. That, "He has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all". I'm going to trust Him that He is the God of this universe.
The second thing I'm going to trust Him for is that He's a good God. He says He's good. He is good. I can look at good in my life. I can look at times in my life when I thought what He thought was good, I thought was bad. But then I finally opened my eyes and realized that what He thought was good, I discovered it was good. He's a good God. You say, "Well, how does good God and punishment come together"? Well, He's so good He doesn't break His Word. And so, He's a good God. Not only that, not only does He control and is He good, but He is with me in every single circumstance.
Now, it's interesting to me when I see people who are discouraged and I say, "Well, what about that verse that says, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you?'" "Oh, I know God's with me," and what's the next three letter word? B-U-T. Listen, but. Listen, He says He will always be with His children. Where is He? He is living on the inside of you through the Holy Spirit who came to indwell you and seal you as a child of God. The moment you were saved, you became His. He says, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you". Where is He? On the inside giving direction and guidance and strength and encouragement and help and everything possible to help us become the persons He wants us to be. That's who He is.
So, if I resolve in my heart that my God is in control, my God loves me, my God has all power and my God is with me, it doesn't make any difference what I face in life, I will never face it alone. You've got somebody who's on your team, on your side, to help you, strengthen you, uphold you. And, listen, to give you a whole new perspective on life if you'll just listen and believe Him, if you'll just listen and believe Him. And yet, there are people who take their lives every day because they get to some place in life they can't handle it. Well, thank God He didn't say we had to handle it. He said He'd handle it. And all I have to do is listen to Him and to resolve in my heart I'm going to be obedient to Him no matter what. And then I have to resist, I have to resist the discouragement. Listen, because disappointments can come and they're unavoidable, you can get covered with discouragement in a moment. But you don't have to accept it.
Remember, disappointments are unavoidable, discouragement is a choice. I refuse to be discouraged on what basis? On the basis that God loves me, He's a good God, He's all powerful, He's with me, He's going to see me through it and He promises to never leave me. I'm in this mess, but I'm in here with God. And if I'm in here with God, He's going to get me out. God doesn't hang around in my mess. And what happens? All of a sudden, things begin to change because you have a change of attitude. Now you're ready to go to work. Now you're ready to do whatever God wants you to do. You say, "Well, I don't have a job". Trust Him. You say, "Well, there are millions of people who don't have a job".
What you have to ask is this, you have to ask, "God, in this period of time in which I can't do because I don't have access to doing what I used to do, what do You want to do inside of me? What do You want to do with me? God, do I have so much pride I'm not willing to take a less job"? There are people who won't go to work because it's too belittling to them. My mother taught me a great lesson. She worked on the first shift and I worked on the second shift in the textile mill. So, I would clean up for my mom during the day while I was there, didn't have anything else to do. I'd clean up for her and make sure she got home and everything was right. She taught me to the clean the bathroom, to clean the commode, and remind me that whatever God ever called me to do at that point early in life, I must never get too big to do the dirty jobs. And when you get so prideful, you can't do the dirty jobs, then you may be in your mess because God may be trying to teach you something. Could be.
Now, I feel for people who don't have a job and who want work and who are looking for it. And I would encourage anybody, whoever you are, remember this, your discouragement at this point is a choice. You, listen, if you will just follow the simple instructions that we've tried to give you, God will get you through this and He'll get you moving in the right direction because He's God. Now, if you're not a believer, you can't ignore God and then say, "Oh, Lord, I need a job and I need this and I need that". It's not the way it works. And I would say to anybody, the most important thing in your life when you're going through discouragement is to get in this book every single day.
And I can remember the most difficult, trying times in my life, the things that would have discouraged anybody. And a couple of them lasted a pretty good while. What kept me going week after week after week after year after year after year was this: and that is every Sunday I had to preach. Now, I wanted to preach, but I had to study all week long. And so, what happens, no matter how difficult and painful and how much I may have wept and felt rejected and all the rest, I was in the Word every single day getting ready for Sunday.
And people would ask me, "Well, how do you do so-and-so? I didn't understand till I've got through it all and thought, "Lord, it's because every day I was reading Your Word. Every day I was feasting on what You said and what You thought. I was getting Your thoughts and Your ideas in my mind". Sometimes I may have been doing it and weeping at the same time, but God was doing something in my life through His Word. And I would say to you, if you have a closed Bible at your house, you better open it up. You need to open it up and find out, God, listen, I heard what He said. "What do You want to say to me? I don't even know where to start reading".
You just open God's Word and start in the Gospels or in the epistles one or in the Psalms or in the Proverbs and just say, "God, I want You to speak to my heart. I'm tired of this, sick and tired of being discouraged. I want to live my life like You want me to live it. This is the only way I know to start. I'm getting in the Word, God, now speak to my heart". Will He speak to you? Yes. Why? Because He loves you and because He wants the best for you. But I can tell you, if you don't get in the Word of God, you're going to have a hard time getting out of your discouragement. And my prayer is that you get in this book, get out of discouragement and get happy and joyous and contented and fruitful and profitable once again in your life is my prayer.
Now, where does that start? It starts with acknowledging your need of God. It begins with your acknowledgement of your sinfulness if you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior. Asking Him to forgive you of your sins. Telling Him that you need Him desperately. You are asking Him to clean up your life. You're surrendering your life to Him. And the moment you're willing to tell Him that according to His eternal Word, He says He will forgive your sin, write your name in the Lamb's Book of Life, He will indwell you by the Holy Spirit and forever and ever you're one of His children. And He's going to walk with you every step of the way from that moment until He calls you home to heaven. You can't beat that. That's life at its best. And that's His offer to you and my prayer that you'll make that decision while you still have time.
Father, how grateful we are for Your awesome love for us, far more than we can describe it. I pray that every dissatisfied, discouraged, discontent person who listens to this message, whenever and however, that You will jolt them into this better life that You have through Your Son Jesus Christ. And we ask this in His name, amen.