Friends

This past Sunday we started a new series called “Encouragement.”  Have you ever noticed how people’s faces light up when you praise them?  Have you ever pondered what a few words of encouragement cost you? Nada!  Encouragers have an inner self-confidence.  They are not emotionally needy and insecure, waiting for others to notice them.  They have been given the gift of humility, happy to make somebody else look good.  They can genuinely enjoy someone else’s good fortune without cursing their own lot in life.  When you spot an encourager, you will probably find a crowd. Encouragers have a lot of friends.

Life is a team sport, and all of us need occasional pats on the back from our teammates.  As Christians, we are called upon to spread the Good News of Christ, and we are also called to spread a message of encouragement and hope to the world.

Whether you realize it or not, many people that you come in contact with every day are in desperate need of a smile or an encouraging word.  The world can be a difficult place, and countless friends and family members may be troubled by the challenges of everyday life. Since you don’t always know who needs our help, the best strategy is to try to encourage EVERYONE who crosses your path.  So today, be a world-class source of encouragement to everyone you meet. Never has the need been greater.

Our message this week is called “Prevent Discouragement.”  One of the best examples in scripture is the book of Nehemiah.  This book is like a history of the Israelites return from Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah, a great man of prayer, led the Israelites into a respect and passion for God’s Word. He led led them towards the faith and obedience God had asked for them for so long. How?   With his great love for God and his desire to see God honored in all things.

Nehemiah  was a Hebrew in Persia when the word came to him that the walls in Jerusalem were destroyed and needed to be reconstructed.  He grew worried realizing there was no protection around the city. He prayed for God to use him to save the city. He could become discouraged, but he went to God for the answer to the problem.  God answered his prayer by touching the heart of the Persian king, Artaxerxes, who gave Nehemiah not only a blessing, but supplies as well, to help build a wall around the city for protection. To sweeten things even more, the king gave Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem to help with this project.

This un-forgettable story about trusting God goes beyond what we can imagine.  Here was a man who lived on his knees. Whenever he needed guidance, strength, provision, encouragement, or protection, his first response was prayer.  With his humble dependence, God was able to use him greatly to achieve His purpose.

This principle is still true for believers today!  God can use us in the most awesome fashion if we seek Him and makes ourselves available.  He has a calling for each of us and does not want us wasting the opportunities He provides.

Although God is able to take the plans of the enemy and use them for our good, we must also see these as the spiritual attacks that they are.  Therefore, we must keep our mind and heart in gear, ready to stand against our adversary and receive the promises of God. Remember that God is our ultimate ENCOURAGER.

I want to share a  few thoughts that have helped me in times of struggle and discouragement.  God has given us focus in the battle and weapons to fight with.

•No matter the reason for the discouragement, think about the Lord.  Hebrews 12:1–3 NIV says, "Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls."

If we only look horizontally for encouragement we will be disappointed over and over again. When we let what people say or think, and the expectations people have of us, to influence us, that is when we get discouraged.  When we look to men (horizontal) rather than to God (vertical), we easily become weary.

These verses say, “Look unto Jesus” and “consider Him.”  It is in bringing our lives before the Lord that we find encouragement.  All our troubles and all our reasons for discouragement fade away when we look up and see Him.

When we do this, we realize that the difficulties we face are just another way for us to identify with His sufferings (see Philippians 3:10).  He is able to turn them around into a means through which we become more Christlike. Discouragement simply becomes a way for His treasure to shine out through the broken clay vessels that we are (see 2 Corinthians 4:7).  In our weakness, He is made strong. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

Come before the Lord in prayer.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You do not find because you do not seek. The door does not open because you don’t knock (see Matthew 7:7–8).  Please pray! God really answers prayer. Please believe me. He does! It is a great encouragement to see God work in answer to prayer.

When we pray, our attitude is transformed.  It is through prayer that the Lord changes our hearts and His peace is able to enter in, lifting us above the circumstances we may be facing.

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Come Sunday, Prevent Discouragement!