BY PASTOR GLENN PEASE
You might be encouraged to know that it is not only normal, but it is even Godlike, and Christlike, to get discouraged once in awhile. God got so discouraged with the wickedness of man that Gen. 6:6 says, "The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain." How great must be the pain great enough to fill the heart of God. Jesus experienced this same pain filled heart over the blindness and rebellion of the leaders of Israel, and He wept over Jerusalem.
Discouragement is one of the costs God was willing to risk to make a free willed creature like man. The result has been that God has had to endure a great deal of discouragement. His own chosen people have failed Him so often that you could reduce the Old Testament in half almost if you removed all of the lamentation and judgment God had to inflict on them for their disobedience. It is discouraging to be an all wise God trying to get your will done through unwise and foolish men. It is discouraging to be an all powerful God trying to get your will accomplished through weak and unfaithful men.
You might think it is a snap to be God, but that is not the picture the Bible gives us. The Bible reveals, over and over again, how difficult and costly it is to be the Creator and Redeemer of men. In our superficial understanding of the sovereignty of God, we think He has it made, and everything just goes His way, and He never has a problem. The fact is, no father has ever endured a more rebellious family than God has. Time and time again God gave leaders to guide His people in the ways of righteousness, but we read in Judges 2:19, "And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them: They cease not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way."
Jeremiah is one long discouraging lament as God cries out to His people through the prophet--"You have broken my covenant. You have not inclined your ear nor harkened unto me. Do not do this abominable thing which I hate. Why have you provoked me to anger?" We could literally spend hours reading the words of God's discouragement with His children, but let me close this negative aspect of reality with Ps. 81:13, "Oh that my people had harkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!" Life and history would be different, God says, if His people would live in obedience. There would be peace, love, joy, and righteousness, instead of judgment, with all of its attending sorrows. If you think God is happy with history, you have not read much history.
The point is, it is discouraging to God when life is so full of suffering and sorrow because of man's rebellion. He hates it that the world is filled with strife, injustice, and wickedness of all kinds. He got so discouraged about it in the day of Noah that He decided to wipe the slate clean and start over again.
What encouraged God to start over again? Why not just call the whole experiment with a free-willed being like man a bad deal, and scrap it completely? God did not do that, and the question is why? Believe it or not, it was one righteous man who saved the whole experiment. If Noah had not found favor in God's eyes, human history, as we know it, may have ended with the flood. One righteous man who walked with God, and pleased God, gave God the encouragement He needed in the midst of all His discouragement to let human history continue. We only know the rest of the story because God was encouraged by one man.
Noah was the savior of the physical world, and of all mankind. Here was a man whose life was an inspiration to God, and kept God going in His plan to redeem man, when all others were a hindrance to that plan. Noah has been an encouragement to millions as well. D.L. Moody was once so discouraged because He was going through a dry spell. There was no fruit for his labors. He sighed in a sad prayer, "There just isn't any pleasure in working for you when there is no fruit." A Sunday school teacher came into his office when he was in this down mood, and told him of his joy in studying the life of Noah. He said to Moody, "If you imagine your labors are fruitless, you might just study Noah's life for awhile."
Moody began to read the life of Noah, and he was amazed. Here was a man who preached righteousness for a hundred years and never won a single convert to join him in the ark. His immediate family consisting of his wife, three sons, and their wives, were invited by God to join him, but Noah did not win one neighbor, friend, or other relative. You talk about futile preaching, and the irrelevance of godly living in a godless society.
If the only way to please God was to get converts, and to persuade men of the truth, then Noah was the biggest flop that ever lived. But the fact is, Noah was one of the most pleasing men to God, who has ever lived. He gave God hope that man was worth saving. He kept the dream alive of a people of God in a fallen world. He failed to win one convert, and he failed to touch a single life in a saving way, and yet, he was the most successful men of his age, and one of the heroes of both God and man for all time.
Moody was so encouraged by this man Noah that he was renewed in his own commitment to serve the Lord, for he knew he would be far more fruitful than Noah ever was. Noah is one of the great heroes of the Bible because he was faithful and persistent in doing the will of God, even though there was no positive result. We do not know if he ever got discouraged. It seems only natural that he would, but he never gave up, and he never ceased to preach God's word, and practice God's will.
Noah was not a perfect man. After the flood he got drunk with wine, and created a crisis in his family. It was a time when there was no lack of water in the world, and yet he foolishly got drunk on wine. The best of men can, and do, do the stupidest things, and this is discouraging. But the fact is, an imperfect fallen man can still be the greatest encouragement to God and man. Noah was just such an encouragement. How can a man who never changed anything in his world be an encouragement? How could a man who never altered the fate of a single individual in his world be an example and encouragement to us?
Lowell Lundstrom, the evangelist, gives us the answer out of his own experience. He says the feeling of futility is what causes men to be discouraged. They ask, am I really accomplishing anything? And their answer is often discouraging. Lundstrom writes, "I get this feeling every time I watch the evening news or read a daily newspaper. There are so many great needs in the world, and my efforts seem so small and futile. I heard a commercial the other day that really helped me in this regard. The narrator said, "You can't save the whole world, but you can save a little piece of it!" That's all any of us can do. Save a small piece of the world each day."
That was all Noah did. He obeyed God, and took the animals and his family inside, and he saved a small piece of the world. But in so doing, he saved the whole world. He saved history, and the whole plan of salvation for mankind. He failed in just about everything he did, but he succeeded in just one thing. In his loyal and persistent obedience to God, regardless of the fruit, he pleased God, and more than made up for all of his failure.
We don't have to succeed in everything. We just have to succeed in something. We just have to save some small part of the world that God has put into our sphere of influence, and that will make us successful in his book, which is the only book of success that really matters.
Every successful person in God's book only saved a part of the world; a small piece of the whole. Moses never succeeded in getting the Israelites to be committed to God alone as their God, but he did get a remnant of them to be faithful. Joshua never did succeed in getting Israel to take all of the promised land, but he did succeed in leading them to take part of it. No leader of Israel every succeeded completely, but they did succeed in some measure, and that is all God asks of anyone. Even Jesus did not succeed in winning all, but He won some, and with that remnant He began a new people who have gone into all the world, not winning all anywhere, but everywhere they have gone winning some.
The best any child of God can do is to save some small piece of the world, and not get discouraged because they cannot save it all. Noah is our example. You do your best, and to God you leave the rest. If you please Him, you don't have to worry about the results, for you have already achieved the highest success, which is pleasing Him. Sometimes even just a word of encouragement can make a big difference in another persons life.
I've seen coals once warmly glowing
Turned to ashes in the night:
Glowing coals that with one blowing
Would have leaped to living light.
I've seen human hearts once glowing
Turn to ashes in the night:
Hearts one word with cheer o'erflowing
Would have swept to living light.
Can one word really do that?
Irving Stone, author of more than a dozen best sellers, came from a poor home, but his mother longed for him to go to college and escape the life of toil all her family were forced into. It seemed impossible, but she made him save, and finally the day came, and he went to the campus of the University of California. He felt frightened and lonely, for he knew no one and felt so inadequate. Then he saw a man on horseback riding toward him, and with a warm gentle smile the man took off his hat and said in a warm tone, "Good evening sir." He put his hat back on and moved on down the road. Stone writes, "I stood there, literally transfixed. No one before had ever called me sir. It was not only that I had, by this one word, been transformed from a child into an adult, but also I had been promoted somehow from the lower middle class into a top echelon of gentlemen and scholars." He later learned the man was Benjamin Wheeler the president emeritus of the University. He says it was the most inspiring moment of his life, and it enabled him to go on to get his education.
Samuel Storms writes, "Every Christian is called upon to encourage others. And contrary to what you may be thinking, you are not an exception. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is addressing the entire Christian community when he says, "Encourage one another daily.........." One of the main reasons for coming to church is to give and receive encouragement. Heb. 10:25 says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Paul writes in I Thess. 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, ....." It doesn't take that much to be an encourager. Someone said no matter how poorly a team plays the cheerleaders never turn on them and shout give up you bums. They keep on yelling, "Fight team, fight!" They can be counted on to cheer the team on, win or lose. Every Christian should be a cheerleader; not a jeerleader who always tells people about their weaknesses and faults, which they already know about all too well. People need cheering, and that is something we can all do. Prov. 10:21 says, "The lips of the righteous nourish many." By words of encouragement we please others, but more important, we please God.
Heb. 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." The ultimate success, therefore, is being a person of faith in a fallen world where it is easy to get discouraged. None of us have ever had as much to get discouraged about as Noah did, but the fact is, every Bible hero had to overcome discouragement by faith. Show me the man or woman who never had to fight discouragement, and I'll show you a fictional character.
Abraham and Sarah were discouraged, for they were getting so old, and still had no child. Joseph was so discouraged with his brothers who sold him into slavery, and with those who let him be unjustly imprisoned. Moses was so discouraged with trying to lead a rebel people in obedience to God. The prophets were all discouraged by God's people rejecting His word. Jesus was discouraged by His rejection from God's people, and by the bickering and lack of understanding among His disciples, and by their betrayal and forsaking of Him. The apostles were discouraged by the opposition of Israel to the church, and by the immaturity of the church leaders.
The point is, if you study any of God's people you discover quite quickly that one of the inevitable obstacles they have to cope with and overcome is discouragement. It is an element of life that is inescapable. Some face harder cases than others, as the end of Heb. 11 makes clear in its list of heroes of the faith. Some were persecuted, imprisoned, stoned, and even worse, it says some were sawed in two and put to death by the sword. Some people of faith have to endure the ultimate in discouraging circumstances as they, like their Lord, are despised and rejected of men, and are violently killed by the forces of evil.
But they are all in God's success book because in spite of all their discouraging experiences, like Noah, they were people of faith. They never received all that God had promised, but they never ceased to look for it, labor for it, and trust in God. When we sing, faith is the victory that overcomes the world, we are saying, faith is the key to pressing on, and doing the will of God no matter how many discouraging things happen, or how many things are discouraging because they don't happen.
Noah is a hero because most men and women would have given up long ago if they faced his circumstances. In fact, most of us have given up many times with far less discouragement. We have tried some things in witnessing, and because they did not work, we gave up. This is not always bad, for if something is a poor strategy, then we should give it up. It can be helpful to get discouraged if it stops you from doing what is impractical, or even foolish. But to get discouraged and stop doing anything to reach some small piece of the world is sin. It is an act of deliberate disobedience to our Lord's command to reach out to the whole world to reach some.
Paul was discouraged often by circumstance beyond his control. He wanted to get back to the church of the Thessalonians, which he founded, but he was frustrated, and he wrote to them in I Thess. 2:17-18, "..Out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, did, again and again--but Satan stopped us." It was discouraging, as one attempt after another was foiled by Satan, and he just could not get back to them. But did Paul say in his discouragement, I will just forget about that church and move on? No! He prayed for them, and he wrote two epistles to them, and those two letters have been a blessing to millions of Christians through the ages. Paul had to give up on his desire to see them, but he never gave up in his care for them, and in his communication with them. The result is, he was used of God to be a greater blessing to God's people than he ever could have been had he gotten back to that church.
When Paul was being taken to Rome as a prisoner, some Christians got together and traveled to meet him, and we read in Acts 28:15, "At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged." Paul was a strong man, but we see here that it is not only the weak, but the strong also who need encouragement. No one was stronger than Christ, but when He went into the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked the three disciples to watch with Him. He needed the encouragement of human companionship and sympathy. The old commercial says, "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee." The Bible commercial could be, "Nobody doesn't like encouragement." The strongest of Christians need it, as we see was the case with Paul.
Paul had to accept the reality that Satan can hinder some of our plans, and discourage us on some level. But he persisted in spite of that discouragement, and the result was a greater blessing. That is why we must never, never give up in doing the will of God, no matter how frustrating it is. Discouragement is real, and we have to live with it, but faith goes ahead in spite of it, and does what pleases God anyway, and God often blesses the alternative even more than He would have the original plan.
When trouble comes as trouble must
In God a man must place his trust,
With all the wealth that he may own
He cannot meet the test alone!
And only he may stand serene
Who has a faith on which to lean.
This was Noah's claim to fame, and so it was for all in this great faith chapter. All it says of many is that they suffered for their faith, but remained loyal. These are the successful people of God's history, for these are the people who are encouraging to God.
Most of us have never thought about it, but it is a valid and vital question: Are you encouraging to God? Nobody wants to see His will done more than God, and it has to be as discouraging today as it was in the Old Testament, when it does not happen. God is encouraged when His children obey him, and like Noah, do His will even if there is little or no fruit for their labor. It is hard to encourage God sometimes, but it is the only way to the successful life that really counts.