Doug Batchelor - The Cause and Cure for Discouragement
I was hoping some of you were discouraged because that's what I'm talking about today. If you're all doing fine, it's sort of waste. But message today is dealing with the subject of discouragement. More specifically, the cause or causes and cure for discouragement. The devil is a wily foe and he knows that he can neutralize our joy and our effectiveness as Christians by discouraging us.
One of the most important things in a battle is morale. You know, there are whole departments in military that are dedicated to encouraging the morale of their soldiers, and in a war their job is to discourage the morale of the enemy. And the devil knows that he's got the battle pretty much won if he can discourage us, if he can get us downhearted. And so we have to be on our guard against that. Now, there are a number of ways that he attacks, and God has given solutions for those attacks. There's cures for those problems in His Word.
First thing I'd like you to know, it's normal for a believer to experience discouragement. Discouraging things happen. And you look in the Bible, you've got people like Paul, David, Elijah, Jonah, Joshua, the apostles that all grappled with and struggled with discouragement, become downcast or disheartened. Now, while we're talking about discouragement, the first thing I think I should mention is don't discourage anybody. Unfortunately, sometimes we discourage each other. Have you read there in Numbers chapter 13, the children of Israel on the borders of the promised land, and ten of the spies come back and say, "Oh, we're never going to make it. The giants are too big, and the walls are too high, and there's so many enemies, and they will never make it." They discouraged the whole nation. So not only did they not make it, those ten spies, the people who listened to them didn't make it.
You got to be very careful. You know, Jesus said if we say something to discourage even one of these little ones, it'll be better for us that we had not been born or that a millstone might be hung about our neck and we're cast into the sea. That's pretty serious. He addresses it two different ways in different Gospels, but Jesus is pretty clear. Be very careful not to do or say anything to discourage, especially young ones. It can mean children. It could mean new believers. And there's already devils doing enough that, we don't need to be joining him in his work of discouraging. We want to be encouragers, amen?
Now, there's basically five areas I'm going to talk about today. It's not that this is a comprehensive, exhaustive list of all the ways a person might grapple with discouragement, but it's broken down in really five categories. One would be sometimes we become discouraged because we feel like we failed. Some of us have people around us that tell us we're failures and it can make you discouraged. And Joshua was a brave soul, but he even got discouraged.
You know, after they won the victory against Jericho in chapter 6 of Joshua, you go to chapter 7, they had a little town they needed to fight called Ai. It's not only a little town, it's only got two letters, Ai. That's not artificial intelligence, it's a town. And so they went to battle against Ai, and it was such a little town and they had so been so successful against Jericho, they said, "We don't even need to mobilize a whole army. Just take part of the army. We can trounce Ai, little town." The Bible tells us, "So about three thousand men went up from there, but the Israelites fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai struck down thirty-six men, and they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and they struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water."
Translation: they got discouraged. Here, we're being led into the promised land. If we can't beat Ai, we're in big trouble. Maybe those ten spies were right. We've taken on too much. "And Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the Ark of the Lord 'til evening, he and the elders in Israel; and they put dust on their heads." They were discouraged.
You know, it's a fact that once you get to the point where you are discouraged, you are weakened even against a lighter load. Years ago when they would pull logs around, they didn't have logging trucks, they used to pull the logs with horses. And they would put the logs on these large, wheeled wagons and they logged by driving the horses. And this team of horses was all hooked up and the logger got a little ambitious, and he put a pretty big load of logs on the back for these horses to pull. And he cracked the whip, and the horses tried to pull, and you know, once you get a load like that moving, then it's a little easier, but breaking it where you just get moving. He cracked the whip and they strained. And he cracked the whip a third time and they put every fiber of their muscle into pulling that load and then they just stopped. They couldn't budge it. So he thought, "Well, I guess I overloaded them." So he got up there with a pry bar, and he rolled off a couple of logs, and he cracked the whip. They couldn't move it. He rolled off some more logs. He cracked the whip. They couldn't move it. He took half the load off. They couldn't move it. He finally realized they weren't even trying. They had got to the point where they were discouraged. They didn't know it was a lighter load and they just stopped trying.
And sometimes it not only happens to animals, it happens to people, where if you feel like, "I've tried, I've tried, and I've failed," you can get to the point where you just say, "I don't try anymore." Some people have gone for years in their life resigned to failure because they tried before and they failed. They don't want to face defeat again and they give up. Some people fail in relationships or they get hurt and they don't ever want to try to love someone again because it hurts too much. They think it hurts too much to love so they can't bear the pain, and they don't risk so they live their lives cloistered in this protective shell. They became discouraged with failure.
So what's the cure? Well, look at the story of Joshua. Joshua chapter 7, verse 10 gives the answer. "The Lord said to Joshua, 'Get up! Why are you on your face?'" God is so practical. Now, you know what the problem was. Why did they lose this battle? There was sin in the camp with Achan. That's why they lost against Ai. God said, "Look, if you want to win your battles, you've got to deal with the issue. You have sin in the camp." Why do we sometimes get defeated? Sin. So do you want me to tell you to be encouraged while you have sin? A lot of pastors are telling people that.
Now, don't be discouraged if you've fallen because you can overcome, but if you're wanting to hear a message that says, "Be encouraged in your sin," that's an evil message. That's a message prepares you to be lost. Let me tell you what God said to Joshua, "Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but they turned their back before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed thing among you."
He says, You've got something among you and you're failing because there's sin in the camp. "If you want my power, if you want my peace, if you want my purpose, deal with it. Address it. Repent. Pray over it. Cry over it. Whatever you need to do, but you need to address it and you can have the victory." And they did address it and then they beat Ai in the next battle.
Now, the disciples know what it was like to fail. Luke chapter 5, verse 4, "When Jesus stopped preaching, He said to Simon, 'Take your boat, launch out in the deep, let down your net for a catch.' But Simon said, 'Master, we've toiled all night and caught nothing.' And Jesus kept looking at him. And Peter said, 'Nevertheless at your Word we'll let down the net again.'" And what happened? The net was full to bursting. Sometimes we fail, we're afraid to try, and Jesus said, "No, you try it with me in the boat. Watch what happens," and you have tremendous success. Even though they had a whole night of failure, we've got to turn back and do it God's way and then you can meet with success.
Well, there's more I could say about that, but let's move on to the next cause. Cause of discouragement sometimes is fatigue. It's the physical side of things. Now, most of what we're talking about today when I talk about discouragement is from here up. Now I'm talking about discouragement from here down. Talking about from the neck up is usually something psychological that discourages you, but sometimes your discouragement is from the neck down, meaning this is purely physical. And we'll look at a case study in that.
Exodus chapter 1, verse 13, "So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. And all their service in which they made them serve was with rigor." It was work and the devil was working them to death. They were exhausted. God later tells Moses, "I've heard the cry." They were continually crying unto the Lord because they were so discouraged. They were so beaten up. They are so worn out by the enemy, but a lot of it was simply physical. Nehemiah 4:10, he's trying to build the walls and then Judah, the leaders came to Nehemiah. They said, "The strength of the laborers is failing, there is so much rubbish we're not able to build the wall." They become fatigued. They were overworked. They were spread out. In 1 Kings 19:4, after a long day on Mount Carmel, the feeding the prophets of Baal and fasting and praying until the rain came.
Elijah had a very big day, a victorious day, but it kind of played a toll on him. It took a toll on him physically. And then he gets a message from Jezebel, "The gods will do so to me and more also if you're not as dead as those prophets by sundown." And instead of turning to the Lord, Elijah was so tired, and he was all hungry, and he was so weak, he just panicked. He got up and he ran, ran out in the wilderness. And listen to this, "He himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and he came and he sat down under a broom tree." He's out in the middle of the desert and he gets under this shrub. "And he prayed he might die."
Wait a second, this is a guy who just prayed and fire came down. Now he wants to pray that he dies. How could the greatest prophet want to finally get so discouraged he wants to die? If he only knew God was going to take him to heaven in a fiery chariot, he wouldn't have been so discouraged. Did you catch that? God had big plans for Elijah. He's praying. He thinks the life is at the end. I'm going to die. And he's going to go to heaven like no other man.
Does God want to take us up? So what is the answer? You look in the book of Nehemiah chapter 4, verse 9. I talked about Nehemiah's problem. It says, "Nevertheless we made our prayer to God." So one thing is pray. When you're tired, what did Jesus do in the wilderness? He prayed. "We made our prayer to God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night." Because of the threats of the enemy, they did something practical. They put a guard against where the enemy was getting in. When the devil comes in to bring discouragement, try and find what are the avenues he's using to get at you with discouragement? Guard those gates where he's sneaking in.
But if you're tired, physically worn out, you got to take time to sharpen yourself. Ecclesiastes 10:10, Solomon said, "If the ax is dull and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success." Plan carefully. Sharpen the ax. You've heard the expression, "You cannot keep your bow strung all the time or it will lose its zing." That's my paraphrase on that. You can also look at where Jesus said, Mark 6:31, He told the disciples, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." Get out in the woods or the wilderness and let's get some rest. "For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat." Jesus was so exhausted after a day of ministry, He slept through a storm. So you've got to just carve out time. Sometimes if you're a workaholic like I am, you think it's not spiritual if you rest. And so you've got to just say, you know, it is a spiritual thing to do to sometimes do nothing.
All right, now to frustration. Failed expectations, dashed hopes is a cause of much discouragement. People have high ideals, have plans for their life. Some people live in regret. They're constantly discouraged because of regrets from the past. They can't shake it off and so they're frustrated. Maybe it's unfinished tasks that pile up or you feel overwhelmed. It can produce discouragement. The book of Jonah, you know, Jonah went through a lot. God told Jonah to go on this journey. He didn't really want to do it. He said, "I don't want to go preach and tell the Ninevites they're going to die in 40 days." And finally, because Jonah didn't do what God said, he went through a storm, got swallowed by a whale, got burped back out again. He finally does what God says.
For 40 days, he marches up and down the streets, tells Nineveh, "You're going to be destroyed," and then God says, "You know, I think I'm going to change my mind." And Jonah's going, "I went through all of that for nothing?" And he's all discouraged, "They're going to all think I'm a liar. I've walked up and down the streets making this prophecy and you're not going to make my prophecy come true?" Jonah got so discouraged. "It happened, when the sun arose, prepared, that God prepared a vehement east wind, a hot wind came; the sun beat on Jonah's head, so he grew faint. And he wished that death for himself, he said, 'It's better for me to die than to live.'"
You know, even Paul at one point said, "We despaired of life." And so even some of these great people got discouraged. So what's the cure when you face frustration? Once again, it's the promise of God. Notice what happened. 2 Peter 1:4, "By which God has given to us exceeding great and precious promises, that through these we may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
And so if you have met with great disappointment, keep in mind that when you're a Christian, you're not only born once. You're born again. And I might suggest to you that if you're a Christian, you're born again many times.
Now, follow me. See if this makes sense. Paul says, "I die daily." If you die daily but you're not born again every day, then you're more dead than alive. Is that right? So it's true you need to die to self every day, but I think you sort of need to go through a new birth every day. And that means you may be frustrated from the past mistakes and you might have regrets over your bad decisions, but you have to forgive yourself because God says he'll forgive you, and then you move on. Or you can be living in the past all the time. Some of you have been and it just keeps you down. If you're a new person, you don't have to live all the time in the regrets of the person who's dead and buried, right? You're born again. You move on.
All right, the other thing that sometimes causes discouragement: family, friends, relationships, might be a spouse. You see a lot of examples of this in the Bible. Matter of fact, in the Scriptures you find that so much of the discouragement that came on God's people was what we would call friendly fire. Michael makes fun of David when he's dancing before the Lord. It's coming from within the house. Joseph's brothers sell him because of jealousy. Saul hunts David for years to kill him, his own king. The disciples are arguing among themselves which of them is the greatest. Right within the family sometimes it can be the source of great discouragement. David was discouraged because his sons often were not faithful. Even Samuel the prophet had sons that were taking bribes. Jesus was betrayed by one of his own.
You might've had a friendship or a friend betrayed you, and those sometimes hurt the most keenly and they can plunge you into discouragement. Maybe you just don't have any friends and that's why you're discouraged. Bible tells us there's a solution for that too. Let's talk about the cures. 2 Corinthians 4:1, "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart."
Remember to have faith in God's purpose. We talked about having faith in God's promises. Have faith in God's purpose. Sometimes you go through the deepest valleys and you don't realize that God is taking you to a mountaintop. You've just got to get through the valley. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; we are persecuted, but not forsaken; we are struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus might be manifest in our body." And the Bible says, "He would not be discouraged," Jesus. 2 Corinthians 4:16, all this is from 2 Corinthians 4.
Notice he says, "Do not lose heart in spite of all that we're going through." Go to 2 Corinthians 4:16, "Therefore we do not lose heart." He says it again, "Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." Amen? "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen." How did David get out of his dilemma? He's said, "Wait a second, God told me He's got big plans for me to be king. I'm not going to be despairing right now. I don't know how God's going to work this out, but I'm going to get up off my face." "For the things that are seen are temporary."
So often we're discouraged by temporary circumstances. You need to look beyond the circumstances and remember they are temporary. You can get through almost anything if you know it's temporary. "But the things that are not seen are eternal."
Heard about a man walking around one afternoon, beautiful day. And he walked by a park and there was a bunch of kids playing baseball. And he got a little closer and learned it was some Little League game. And he got up by the dugout and he saw one boy was grinning from ear to ear. He said, "How's it going?" And the boy said, "It's 18 to nothing, we're losing." He said, "Wow, you're pretty far behind but you don't look discouraged." He said, "No, we haven't been to bat yet." He thought, "Yeah, it looks bad now, but we're going to get up to bat." So we've got to keep a positive outlook, look beyond the problem.
Number five cause I have for discouragement is fear. And you'd be surprised, fear is behind more discouragement than you might think. We're afraid of criticism. We're worried about what people think of us. We're worried about living up to expectations. We don't know how we're ever going to meet people's expectations. We're afraid we're going to lose our jobs. We're afraid we're going to lose our relationships. We're Afraid of everything else.
So fear can cover a lot of discouragement. Even in the book of Job, he confesses, Job 3:25, "For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me." In John 20:19, after the crucifixion and even after the resurrection, the disciples didn't believe that Jesus rose. It says, "The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, the doors shut, the disciples were assembled, for fear." While they're all assembled for fear, suddenly they notice Jesus in the room. And he said, "Peace be to you." How often they're in the boat, they're terrified of the storm, and Jesus gets up, he says, "Peace." How many times they were afraid and Jesus said, "Be at peace."
You know, I like Psalm 23, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me." You know, this is something that is really, this is why it's a classic psalm. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death." You are going to have shadows in life. You are going to go through valleys. Some of those valleys are going to be pretty terrifying and you may be rubbing elbows with death, your own or the loss of someone you love.
That can discourage you, but the word that is the operative word here, a couple of them. One is you don't park in the valley. You don't settle in the valley. You don't make your home in the valley. You go through the valley. Don't stay in the valley. Some people are always discouraged because they've pitched their tent in the valley. You're supposed to be moving through it. Why? Because He is with you, amen? He said, "For you are with me." Deuteronomy 31:8, "And the Lord said, 'He is the one who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed.'" Psalm 27:1, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
If you've got God on your side, exactly who is it that you're afraid of? Isn't God bigger than everyone? So if the devil is constantly trying to discourage us, greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Hebrews 13, verse 5, "For He has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.'" 2 Chronicles 32:6-7, "When Hezekiah saw they were surrounded by the enemy, he sent military captains over the people." People were afraid of the Assyrians, which was a great army. He sent military captains over the people. He gathered them together. Assyrians had been beating on the gates, saying, "No way can you beat our army." And it's true, they were way, way bigger. "Surrender to us, worship our gods." Hezekiah said, "Not going to do it." So he did everything he could do. He gave them encouragement. He said, "Be strong and be courageous; do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude," massive army, "that is with him; for there are more with us than with him."
He spread his problem before the Lord. He prayed. He went to the temple. He said, "God, we're under attack." God said, "Don't worry. You will not have to fire an arrow. You won't have to fight in this battle. Stand still." And the Bible says during the night, the angel of the Lord went through the Assyrian camp and smote 185,000 soldiers. Trust that the Lord says, "I'm with you. You don't have to be afraid."
God has a thousand answers to your problem when you can't think of one. You don't need to be discouraged. The only time you need to be a little discouraged is if you think you can live in sin and be happy. Well, that would be discouraging. You've got to believe that Jesus is bigger than the devil and bigger than your sins, and He can give you victory.