Robert Jeffress - Moving From Discouragement to Hope - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. We all feel sad and dejected from time to time, but for many people, discouragement becomes less of a passing feeling and more of a permanent state of mind. Today we're learning from a great leader named Nehemiah who shows us how to escape the emotional depths of despair. Nehemiah recognized the dejection among his people, and he led them to a better place. My message is titled, "Moving from Discouragement to Hope", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Secondly, the people were not only drained, they were disgruntled. Look again at verse 10. "Yet there is much rubbish". That is the life verse for every parent of a teenager. Look around, there is much rubbish. Whenever you're involved in something big and worthwhile, there's going to be a lot of garbage, literal and figurative around. There's going to be a lot of stuff around you that can cause discouragement. Third, notice the progression here. They were drained, they were disgruntled, they became dejected. Look at verse 10 again, "And we ourselves are unable to rebuild the wall". They said, "We're in over our heads. We just can't do it. We might as well hang it up". And that led to the final day, they were distressed. The people were distressed. They were so discouraged that they came to the point they said, "We can't handle one more problem. We've had it".
If we get one more piece of bad news, we're going to collapse. Have you ever felt that way in your life? Where you get to the point you said, "I can't take one more bad thing happening. It doesn't matter how big or small it is. I can't take one more thing". And usually that one more thing ends up happening. The enemy knows he's got you when you say I can handle one more thing. That's what happened to the Israelites. When they were at the end of themselves, look at verse 11. "Our enemies said, 'they will not know or see until we come among them, kill them, and put a stop to the work'". Now that's what the enemies were saying. But how did those building the wall know about it? Look, this is so key. Verse 12, "Then the Jews, our own people, who live near the enemies came and told us 10 times, 'they will come up against us from every place where you turn'".
Do you know people who love to deliver bad news? They love to come into your life and they'll say something they heard. And they'll say to you, they will amplify it 10 times. "You know I just think you need to know, every body is saying, everybody is saying". Now they may have heard it one time. It's probably from their mate. But all that suddenly becomes everybody is saying, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. When somebody says that to you, ask them, exactly who is saying that? Could you tell me? "Oh no, no, no, it's confidential". Okay, if you can't tell me their name, just tell me how many. You said everybody is saying, are you talking about you've heard that from a hundred people? "Oh, what! No, not a hundred people". Would you say 50 people have said that to you? "Oh no, no, no, not 50". Usually it's them and maybe their mate or best friend.
This is what the Israelites were doing. They were listening to people who bore bad news. This led to the people becoming discouraged. They were discouraged. They were drained. They were disgruntled, dejected, distressed. That led to discouragement. Now, how do you handle discouragement? Where somebody says, "Well, we just need to pray about it". Look, if your tire goes flat, you can pray all you want to, but eventually the tire has to be inflated. Same way with discouragement. Yes, we ought to pray, but discouraged people need to be encouraged. And I want to show you how Nehemiah illustrates how to be encouraged when you're facing discouragement. The path that leads from discouragement to hope. I want you to look at the five decisive actions that Nehemiah took when the people became discouraged.
First of all, find encouragement in your family. Find encouragement in your family. Look at verse 13, "I stationed men in the lowest part of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people and families with their swords, spears and bows". He put the people together as families to work on the wall. Your family ought to be a place where regardless of what's happening on the outside, you can find encouragement. It ought to be your safe place. Now I realized for many of you, that's not the case. You may come from a dysfunctional family. You may have had an absentee father. You don't find the encouragement you need in your family. Then you need a family of friends, or you need your church family, but there ought to be some place where you find encouragement, a group of people who love you unconditionally.
Secondly, remember, God is on your side. Whenever you feel discouraged, remember God is on your side. Nehemiah reminded the people of that in verse 14. He said, "When I saw their fear, I rose and I spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people and I said, 'do not be afraid of them, remember the Lord who is great and awesome'". Underline that, God is great and awesome. "And fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses". We need to be reminded of the greatness, the awesomeness of God. Because when we're reminded of the greatness of God, listen to this, our problems don't evaporate, but remembering the greatness of God puts our problems in proper perspective. It reminds us how small our problems really are compared to the greatness of God. Remember numbers 13, the spies, the 12 spies who went into Canaan to check things out and they came back with a report and 10 of them said, "We cannot overtake the land. There are giants in the land".
And there were giants in the land. But then they said, "There are giants in the land and we became as grasshoppers in our own eyes". Yeah, they had giants, that was accurate. But was what was inaccurate is they weren't grasshoppers. But without God, we're susceptible to being overwhelmed and discouraged with our problems. They forgot God and they became less than they really were. The same thing is true for you. You need to remind yourself of the greatness of God. And you say, "Well, how do I do that"? One way to do that is through the scripture.
I want to give you a couple of scripture verses to memorize to remember of the greatness of God and the fact that God is on your side. Romans 8:31-32, Paul said, "What shall we say them? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own son, but delivered him up for us all, will he not also freely give us everything else"? Or Psalm 34:8, "O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed are the people who take refuge in him". Or Psalm 8:1, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you've ordained, what is man that you're even mindful of him? Or the son of man that you take care of him"? Remind yourself through scripture of the greatness of God. Listen to good Christian praise music, wonderful music from our choir and orchestra, our day one band that reminds us of the greatness of God.
When you remember the greatness of God, it puts your problems into perspective. C, do the work God has given you. Now, this suggestion alone is worth the price of the sermon. Do the work that God has given you. Don't wait until the cloud of discouragement lifts before you start doing what God has called you to do. Where do I find that? Look at verses 15 and 16, "When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall". Underline this, "Each one to do his work". And then again in verse 16, "From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half have been held the spears". Now, do you know what most of us do? We wait until we feel right to do right? And we've got it reversed.
Jerome Bruner, a psychologist at Harvard university, said, "It is much easier to act yourself into a feeling than to feel yourself into an action". That's gold right there. It's a lot easier to act yourself into a feeling, then feel yourself into an action. In other words, if you wait until you feel right to do right, you will never do right. But if you'll do right, you start to feel right. By the way, Jerome Bruner didn't make that up. That came from the scriptures itself. Remember in Genesis 4:6, God was talking to Cain. Cain was all depressed and discouraged after he tried to bring that no account offering to God and God rejected it and accepted the offering of his brother. Remember what God said to Cain in Genesis four, six? "Why are you angry Cain? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do right, will not your countenance be lifted up"? In other words, Cain, if you will do right, you'll start to feel right. Do the work that God has already called you to do.
Number four, enlist other people to help you. Enlist the help of others. I came across a term this week that I was unfamiliar with. It's the term sologamy. Do you know about sologamy? Do you know what it is? It's the new trend of people choosing to marry themselves. Solo, sologamy, marrying yourself. Now, you think I'm making this up? Go read the New York times this week. There's a big article on the trend of people marry themselves. They actually send out invitations to a wedding ceremony. People give gifts. They have a reception for a person to marry himself. Now we're not going to explore that completely, but obviously it is a ridiculous idea. You need somebody else to marry. You can't marry yourself. You also need other people to help you through life. That's a principle you find in scripture.
Look at verses 19 and 20 of Nehemiah 4. By the way, did you hear somebody's phone going off just a moment ago? That amber alert that comes, you know that can be very annoying. Or your television, the tornado warning that comes and so forth. Back in Nehemiah's day, they didn't have the alerts like we've got. If an enemy came, Nehemiah had to devise a way to warn everybody of it. And that's exactly what he does in verses 19 and 20. "And I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, 'the work is great and extensive and we are separated on the wall from one another". Even though people were in families, they were still separated. "At whatever place you hear the sounds of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us. In other words, if we're under attack, we'll get a bugler to blow the bugle instead of sounding of the amber alert and you go to the place wherever you hear the bugler, we'll all come together instead of being alone when the enemy attack".
He established a place for the people to gather together where the bugler is. But also a principle that we all need to remember today, never try to fight your battles alone. Or even in a family, you need a bigger group to be a part of. You need a church family. You need a group of believers who will surround you. Isolated people are defeated people. Solomon said it this way. I like the new living translation, Ecclesiastes 4:12, "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three or even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken".
You know, one of the most dangerous things about this pandemic has been unlike other crises in American life. The civil war, World War II, terrorist attacks. Unlike those crises, we had to go through this alone. We were separated from one another and from our places of worship. And that's why I would just encourage those of you who are watching online right now. Get back to church as soon as you possibly can. The enemy loves to isolate us and ultimately attack and defeat us. We need one another. Isolated people are defeated people.
And finally, how do you move from discouragement to hope? Serve another person in need. Encourage another person who needs encouragement. Where do I get that? Look at verses 21 and 22, "So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. At that time, I also said to the people, 'let each man with a servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day". I read and read the commentaries this week about this passage, trying to figure out what was going on. Here's my best shot at it. Nehemiah said, "We need to speed up the construction project. So we're going to work double shifts and get this thing done before the enemy attacks".
So to do that, we need people after they finished their shift, we need them to go ahead and stay here. "Stay in the city, guard the other people who are working so we can speed up the project". Even though the people were drained and tired after a busy day of working, Nehemiah said, "Protect somebody else". And the principle here is, sometimes the best thing you can do when you're discouraged is to encourage somebody else. Now you probably feel like you're in no position to do that. I've heard people say, "Oh, I'm just so drained emotionally. I don't have anything to offer anybody". That's not true if you're a Christian. You do have something to offer somebody else.
I heard somebody say this week and I wrote this down. A candle doesn't lose anything when it lights another candle. That's a profound thought. There is nothing of a candle that's diminished when it lights another candle. And the same thing is true when we encourage another Christian. It doesn't cost us anything. I think about my friend, Jimmy draper, who was the associate pastor here years ago. I remember when he was preaching one time, I heard him as a teenager and he said something I'll never forget. He said, "Be nice to everybody because everybody's having a hard time". I've changed that a little bit to say, encourage anyone you meet because everybody needs encouragement. And you've got the ability to encourage other people.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my daughter, Julia, has written a very honest book called "Pray Big Things". And she details the discouragement she and Ryan felt after going through a season of infertility and three miscarriages. And in the book, she describes an episode in which she about four years ago, had lunch with her younger sister, Dorothy. And Dorothy said something that lifted Julia's spirits. Julia writes, "At that lunch Dorothy looked at me and said, 'Julia, I think something really big is about to happen'. Now this was a year before the triplets were born, before my dad became a presidential advisor, before Ryan and I were casting a reality TV show that gave us the ability to talk about Christ on a national platform. How did Dorothy know something big was about to happen? Dorothy is not some kind of modern day prophetess, but she understands the spiritual progression of events. Temptation, struggles, trials, and persecution usually come before a blessing".
If we figure out that sequence, we will not be swayed in our beliefs. While the trials will be hard, our victory is certain. There's some of you right now who feel like the mountain of discouragement is overshadowing everything else in your life. Remember struggles, trials, difficulties, many times are just the prelude to a new season of blessing that's about to come into your life. Remind yourself, encourage yourself with that truth and then find somebody else to encourage with that truth. Why? Because the path that leads from discouragement to hope is best travel together rather than alone.