Steven Furtick - How To Fight Discouragement
This is an excerpt from: Focus Your Faith
Did you notice how he said in verse 9, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged"? I love that sermon I did a few weeks ago where I had Graham come up here and put his forearm on my neck. I was saying how at a wrestling match I heard a woman screaming, "Stand up"! and how hard it is to do these things we read about in the Scripture. I have not had so much feedback on a sermon in years as I got just going around, people saying, "I loved when Graham was on top of you for seven minutes just grinding you into the ground. That was awesome. That was your best sermon ever". I'm like, "Do you remember the Scripture"? "No, but that was really cool how Graham was… Because I feel like that in my life. I never could really name it, but when you acted it out, I was like, 'Yes! Exactly!' You're like, 'Don't be afraid.' It's like, 'Dude, you talk to people about God for a living. If you went to work where I went to work, you would understand my fear.'"
So, I think we found a point of connection there that is kind of crazy sometimes in your life. So, when God says, "Don't be afraid," and then he says to Joshua, "Don't be discouraged…" I'm really thankful he said that to Joshua who had to lead millions of people into a brand-new land to fight a great big enemy. You might be able to tell me I don't have a right to say it, and you might be right, but how many of you have this level of stress in your life? You are leading millions of people into a land you have no real map for, and you're fighting enemies that are twice your size and experience. So then, this applies to you. "Do not be afraid".
I was talking to a friend the other day who studies sociology. He said the thing that has been different the last few years in the people he has worked with, whether they're millionaire CEOs or people he's working with within the prison system, is that fear comes first when something changes in your life, and then comes discouragement. He's telling me this on the phone. Remember how you came over the other day and I was like, "I have this phone call"? Y'all were talking, and I was like, "I have to go. I have a phone call". So, I get on the phone with this guy. We had an appointment. He said, "I've been noticing as we help people that we need to deal with the discouragement. Fear is, 'Oh no! It's changing. I don't know what to do. I'd better adapt.' But after you've spent a season trying to adapt and it doesn't work, fear turns into discouragement". I said, "Say that again". He said, "Fear turns into discouragement".
Fear comes first, and then, when you've tried to stabilize through a turn or a transition or some change, whether it's big-picture change or little-picture change in your life or just trying to make a change in your life from the inside… At first you're afraid, but then, after the fear has run its course, and you've done all you know to do to make this work, and it didn't, then the fear turns to discouragement. I interrupted him. I said, "That's Joshua 1:9". He said, "It's what now"? He's a Christian, but I preach the Bible, and he's more fluent in the human mind. I said, "That's Joshua 1:9. That's what I'm going to be preaching in a few weeks to my church". They're in the same verse. Y'all aren't going to believe this. Anytime the Bible says what we're just now finding out, it makes me think God is pretty smart. It makes me think God knows stuff. It makes me think I can trust him.
How many know you can trust him in the transition? Verse 9: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged". "When you go into this land, you're going to be afraid, but when you get in…" God knows what's ahead in this story. He knows that after they all get circumcised, they're going to be hobbling over, trying to walk around the walls of Jericho, trying to fight the battle of Jericho after that surgery. You didn't know they did that after surgery. See, there's more to the story. Come back. I'll teach you all the cool stuff in the Bible that they didn't put in your Sunday school. They always taught you to blow the trumpet around the wall of Jericho. They didn't tell you you'd just been circumcised before you started walking.
There's so much more to the story. This is not a boring story. Yours isn't either, which means it's going to have twists and turns, which means God is bringing you into a place. But the plot… Okay, I've learned this. He said, "You're going to be afraid, and then you're going to fight some battles you're going to win". The first one was Jericho. The second one was called Ai. They did it wrong, and they got beat. Now I'm thinking that what God knew when he was talking to Joshua was, "The first one you're going to be afraid, but it's going to work. The second one you're going to go in a little overconfident. It's not going to work, and you're going to be on your face. So don't be afraid; don't be discouraged". "Y'all, have a good week. Don't be discouraged". And we just all go out and don't be discouraged. Just don't be. "Don't be discouraged". "Does that mean I should never feel like I'm taken for granted"?
No, you're going to feel like you're taken for granted sometimes. Hey, Moses led the people 40 years, and all they did was holler at him when they got thirsty. Then when Joshua took over, they were like, "Hey, just like we obeyed Moses, we're going to obey you". I'd be like, "No thanks. You need to show some gratitude". You're going to be taken for granted. Every mom, say, "Amen". This is my early Mother's Day message. Are you ready? The sign that you're good is they take you for granted. How many of you all thanked the person who turned on the lights in the church today? Nope. They just do it, so you don't ever say, "Thank you". They're that good. Sometimes you're taken for granted because you're that good at it. Sometimes we take God for granted because he's that good.
If God made you do 50 push-ups before every breath he gave you, you'd start thanking him for the breaths to see if you could get down to 40. You'd start bargaining with God, but he's that good. He's that good at his job. So, he doesn't want us to take his presence for granted, and he enunciates it clearly so there can be no mistake about who's doing the work. "I, the Lord your God, will be with you wherever you go". Truthfully, that's why you're here: because he was with you. That's why you survived everything you survived: because he was with you. It really is the only reason we made it through: because he was with us. Let's give God praise that he's with us. When he says, "Do not be afraid," then, he must not be talking about a feeling. Why would he tell me to do something I can't help? It would be like putting me out in the rain and telling me, "Don't get wet". "Where's my umbrella"? "I'm not giving you one. Don't get wet". "Well, I've got to go inside". "Don't go inside, but don't get wet".
So, "Go into the Promised Land. Fight the enemies. Don't be afraid. Don't be discouraged". "Keep showing up doing the thing you know you're supposed to do but feel like it's not going anywhere, and you just keep watching your bank balance go down instead of up, going the wrong way instead of the right way, but keep showing up, and don't be discouraged". "Keep on loving people who are unlikable, but don't be discouraged". Let me do this for myself. "Keep on preaching, and keep on preaching and preaching and preaching and preaching and preaching, and know that some of the people you preach to are never going to listen to it, but don't be discouraged. Some will, some won't. Don't be discouraged. Keep sowing words of encouragement. Don't be discouraged. Keep on trying to do the eating right thing. Step on the scale. Don't be discouraged. Keep doing it".
So, I realized God is not talking about a feeling here at all; he's talking about a focus. That was the breakthrough for me. As I thought about what to teach you about when you feel discouraged, I realized God is not commanding Joshua or Jimmy, saying, "Don't feel discouraged". He said, "Don't be discouraged". That means there must be a big difference to God between what I feel and who I am. "I'm depressed right now. I have joy inside. I just have to learn how to bring the joy from the inside out forward into my life. This condition is not my identity". Ooh, I'm glad about that, because I feel some funny feelings sometimes. I feel some freaky stuff sometimes. I feel sometimes some stuff that makes me so frustrated and discouraged, and God says, "That's fine you feel it, but don't be it. That's fine that you feel it, but you don't have to behave like it".
You don't have to believe everything fear tells you. You don't have to believe everything you think. Just because you think it doesn't mean you have to believe it. You can check that out. You know how they have airport security, and certain stuff doesn't get through? Certain stuff you can say to your mind, "Nuh-uh. That's not coming through today. Not today. Come again tomorrow. Maybe there will be a different TSA agent at the gate. I don't know. Maybe you can get it through tomorrow, but not today, because I'm in a season that God is doing something, and it's special in my life. I can feel it. It's coming from my spirit". I don't have everything in the spirit worked out yet in my situation, but I'm not limited by my situation. Even the very language I use has to be very peculiar in this season, because what I say in this season is going to determine what I step into.