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Guard Your Heart: Discouragement

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Heart Matters  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  55:55
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We overcome the cause of our discouragements by administering faith's cures.

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It was advertised that the Devil was putting up for sale all of his tools. On that date the tools were laid out. They had prices marked on them for public inspection, and there were a lot of treacherous instruments: hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, pride, lying, and so on. Laid apart from the rest of the Devil's tools was a tool, but it was worn more than any of the others and was priced very high. "What's the name of this tool?" asked one of the customers.
"That," the Devil replied, "is discouragement."
"Why have you priced it so high?"
"Because discouragement is more useful to me than all the others. I can pry open and get inside a man's heart with that when I cannot get near him with any other tools. It's badly worn because I use it on almost everyone, since so few people know it belongs to me."
Discouragement is still the Devil's tool. Not many people realize he's using it on us, and he's using it on some of us today. Life is full of discouraging circumstances. Even the most blessed people, the most successful, the most spiritually mature, face constant disappointment and discouragement. The aim of my sharing this with you today is that you would honestly face the problems served up to you in life without fooling yourself, without giving up, but rather by acknowledging the problems and discouragement, by acknowledging our need for help, by getting help from others, and by trusting and obeying God in the midst of problems.
Discouragement often comes on us like a summertime southern storm. It appears out of no where with no warning. It pours into our life with such violent force and engulfs us in a disorienting darkness.
It presses upon us its theology in order to supplant any that we possess. It doesn’t attack when we are weak but when we are stronger. Your Bible records numerous moments of discouragement with most of them following great moments of spiritual ecstasy. The children of Israel were discourage at the Red Sea which had been preceded by their miraculous escape from Egypt. They further were discouraged on numerous occasions following their Red Sea deliverance. Elijah wanted to die after witnessing God destroy 450 prophets of Baal because of one woman’s threat. David whose life is filled with great moments of deliverance writes often of his battle with discouragement.
Don’t confuse depression with discouragement. Depression is far more complicated than discouragement. However, discouragement; especially when prolonged and untreated, can be a gateway to depression.

What is the cause of discouragement?

Let’s first define discouragement.

Discouragement can be defined as “the loss of courage”.

What is courage? Where does courage originate? Is it something in our DNA or that we develop? Scripture teaches us that our courage springs out of our hope. Listen to Jesus words in
John 14:1 ESV
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
Simple! Right? This passage teaches us that our hearts will be tempted towards discouragement while simultaneously providing us its cure.
What will cause our hearts trouble? God. What will cure our troubled heart? God.
Let me first show you how God will cause us trouble. This trouble is not God’s fault but a theological expectation that falls short of Scriptural reality. Most people want a God that makes sense. One that is tame. One who conforms to their ideas. We don’t articulate this thinking in those words but our actions speak clearly our theology.
It is interesting to watch we Christians in moments when God acts or doesn’t act in accordance to our will. We get discourage. We begin to doubt; which is our sermon for next week. What do we do when God acts in nonconformity to our will? We resort to prayers of bartering or manipulation. Scripture gymnastics and twisting. “You healed my friend of cancer and I know you are no respecter of persons so heal me”.
Why is Jesus telling them not be troubled? They were troubled by his previous statements concerning his departure. He was leaving them physically but He assures in subsequent verses that another is coming to take His place inside them. However, I believe He is also preparing them for what is come. As Jesus continues this teaching into chapter 15 he reminds them of what is to come. It is like Jacob Marley warning Ebeneezer Scrooge of what he will encounter throughout Christmas Eve night.
Christ is building into them a theology that will fight discouragement with faith. Faith can be explainable but that shouldn’t equate in our minds as easy.
We are placing our faith in a what has been revealed and more so in what remains mysterious. We are following one who does what he pleases. One who cannot be tamed. One whose actions or permissions at times seem to be cruel and uncaring.
If we tuned our expectations of God by Scripture we would find much of our discouragement dissipating like the morning fog.
This tuning needs constant and repetitive just as with musical instrument.
Let me give you three effects of discouragement.

A discouraged saint is a disabled saint.

Exodus 6:9 ESV
Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

A discouraged saint is a disfigured saint.

Proverbs 17:22 ESV
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 15:13 ESV
A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.

A discouraged saint is a dysfunctional saint.

What is the cure for discouragement?

If discouragement is the loss of courage. Then encouragement is the cure.

I will define encouragement as the infusing of courage.

If we are to guard our hearts against discouragement we must store in our hearts a garrison of Scriptures and surround our lives with a group of saints.

We must store in our hearts a garrison of Scriptures.

Exodus 6:9 ESV
Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
Great acts of courage in Scripture most often spring from a heart who has set its hope in God. David stands before Goliath not because he was born courageous but his hope made him courageous.
1 Samuel 17:32–37 ESV
And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

A discouraged saint is a disfigured saint.

What’s tempting you to discouragement today? Are you having a hard time believing that God really will work for good what looks so bad to you ()?
Where does courage originate? Is it something in our DNA or that we develop? Scripture teaches us that our courage springs out of our hope. When we see great acts of courage it is always springing from a heart who has set its hope in God. David stands before Goliath not because he was born courageous but his hope made him courageous.
Proverbs 17:22 ESV
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Then it’s time to fight, not pout or shrink. Think of discouragement as your faith being choked. When you’re choking, it’s not the time to plop down in front of the TV with a plate of comfort food to medicate your melancholy. You need to dislodge the obstruction so you can breathe. You need to fight for life. You may need to get someone to give you the Heimlich.
Proverbs 15:13 ESV
A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
Go get encouragement — faith-fueled courage. Don’t let discouragement choke you. It’s dislodged by believing promises. God gave us the Bible so that
Romans 15:4 ESV
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
). It says amazing things like:
It says amazing things like:
Romans 8:35–37 ESV
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
, )
Don’t let your heart be ruled by what you see. Let it be ruled by what Jesus promises you.
John 16:33 ESV
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Isaiah 40:31 ESV
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 43:2 ESV
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
ISAIAH
Joshua 1:9 ESV
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Psalm 31:24 ESV
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!
Psalm 46:1–3 ESV
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
Psalm 119:50 ESV
This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
Psalm 119:71 ESV
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
Psalm 120:1 ESV
In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.

We must surround our lives with a group of saints.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

A discouraged saint is a dysfunctional saint.

WHAT IS BIBLICAL ENCOURAGEMENT?
God commanded that his people encourage each other because he knows we need it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus warned that “in this world you will have trouble,” which he then followed with a much needed encouragement: “But take heart; I have overcome the world” ().
We live in a broken world where everything calls us toward selfishness and despair. Sin steals joy, our bodies break down, our plans falter, our dreams die, our resolves weaken, our perspective dims. We are promised suffering (), persecution (), and trials of various kinds ().
When encouragement is absent from the life of a church people will feel unloved, unimportant, useless, and forgotten. God knows his people are in need of grace-filled reminders, so he calls us to encourage each other every day until his Son returns ().
WHAT IS ENCOURAGEMENT?
Biblical encouragement isn’t focused on complementing someone’s haircut or telling them how good their homemade salsa tastes. That kind of encouragement is important, but the encouragement the Scriptures refer to is explicitly Christian encouragement.
Encouragement is shared with the hopes that it will lift someone’s heart toward the Lord
Colossians 4:8 ESV
I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts,
). It points out evidences of grace in another’s life to help them see that God is using them. It points a person to God’s promises that assures them that all they face is under his control.
It points out evidences of grace in another’s life to help them see that God is using them. It points a person to God’s promises that assures them that all they face is under his control.
The New Testament reveals that encouragement was a regular part of the early church’s life together
Acts 13:15 ESV
After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.”
). They shared Scripture-saturated words with each other to spur one another on in faith (), hope (), unity (), joy (), strength (), fruitfulness (), faithfulness (), perseverance (), and the certainty of Christ’s return ().Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to each other.
Acts 16:40 ESV
So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
). They shared Scripture-saturated words with each other to spur one another on in faith (), hope (), unity (), joy (), strength (), fruitfulness (), faithfulness (), perseverance (), and the certainty of Christ’s return ().Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to each other.
Acts 18:27 ESV
And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,
Acts ). They shared Scripture-saturated words with each other to spur one another on in faith (), hope (), unity (), joy (), strength (), fruitfulness (), faithfulness (), perseverance (), and the certainty of Christ’s return ().Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to each other.
Acts 20:1–2 ESV
After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece.
Acts 27:36 ESV
Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.
). They shared Scripture-saturated words with each other to spur one another on in faith (), hope (), unity (), joy (), strength (), fruitfulness (), faithfulness (), perseverance (), and the certainty of Christ’s return ().Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to each other.
They shared Scripture-saturated words with each other to spur one another on in faith (), hope (), unity (), joy (), strength (), fruitfulness (), faithfulness (), perseverance (), and the certainty of Christ’s return ().
 
Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to each other.
They shared Scripture-saturated words with each other to spur one another on in faith (), hope (), unity (), joy (), strength (), fruitfulness (), faithfulness (), perseverance (), and the certainty of Christ’s return ().Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to each other.
HOW DO I GROW IN BEING AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHERS?
There isn’t only one “right way” to encourage each other, but here are a few ideas to help you get started.

Pray for God to make you an encourager.

Ask him to give you a heart that loves others and creativity to know how to show it. Ask him to help you die to self-centeredness and grow in a desire to build others up. Because God delights in helping his people obey his commands, we can trust that his Spirit will teach us how to bless others for his glory and their spiritual good.

Study Barnabas and ask God to make you like him.

Barnabas was nicknamed the “son of encouragement” by the early church (). He was the kind of guy you wanted to have around as you were serving the Lord. He wasn’t just a spiritual cheerleader, but he was a man of great conviction who wanted to see the church flourish and did all he could to make it happen. Ask God to give you and your church a heart like Barnabas.

Make encouragement a daily discipline.

For some of us encouragement comes naturally, for others, not so much. I have a reminder in my calendar each day to send someone an encouraging note, email, text, or phone call. I need this reminder to pause, pray, and then intentionally try to spur someone on in Christ.

Pray for God to show you who to encourage.

Ask God to bring someone to mind that you should reach out to. One way to do this is by praying through your church’s membership directory. Check out this article to learn more about that.

Use Scripture.

Nothing encourages us like promises from God’s Word. Make a list of Scriptures that God has used to bless you personally or an excerpt from something you read in your daily devotional. Mine the Psalms, , and the Gospels. Find and share riches of God’s grace with others.

Be specific in what you say. 

The note I received from my friend included two very specific ways he had seen evidences of grace in my life. When I read them, I was humbled and reminded of the fact that God does actually work in and though me. I needed that

Pray that God would create a culture of encouragement in your church. 

Ask God to make your church a community that loves each other in specific, tangible ways like encouragement. Ask God to use you to help fan that flame. Don’t get discouraged if people don’t return your encouragement () or if you don’t see fruit from it (). Creating a church culture that glorifies God takes a long time, lots of prayer, and abundant grace. I encourage you to keep at it.
1 Samuel 17:32–37 ESV
And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”
2 Samuel 17:32-37
300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans God Loves Us Just as Well When We Do Not See

The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest. The difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds that hinder the manifestation of the light thereof. So God loves us as well when he does not shine in the brightness of his countenance upon us as when he does.

300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans God Loves Us Just as Well When We Do Not See

The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest. The difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds that hinder the manifestation of the light thereof. So God loves us as well when he does not shine in the brightness of his countenance upon us as when he does.

300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans God Loves Us Just as Well When We Do Not See

The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest. The difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds that hinder the manifestation of the light thereof. So God loves us as well when he does not shine in the brightness of his countenance upon us as when he does.

300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans God Loves Us Just as Well When We Do Not See

The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest. The difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds that hinder the manifestation of the light thereof. So God loves us as well when he does not shine in the brightness of his countenance upon us as when he does.

Be wise. 

If you want to encourage someone of the opposite sex, use discernment in how best to do it. If I’m going to encourage a single sister in the congregation, I will tell my wife and copy her on the email. If I were encouraging a married sister, I would again tell my wife and copy her and the husband of the person I’m encouraging. You can also use that as an opportunity to encourage both the husband and wife.Get started. Who can you encourage right now? Who has blessed you recently that you can thank? What verse can you share with them? How might God use it?

In his memoirs, A Life in Our Times, John Kenneth Galbraith referred to an eloquent speech made by a West Virginia supporter of John F. Kennedy. At a time in the presidential campaign when it would have been easy to become disenchanted, if not discouraged, the politician-historian of the Mountain State reminded his audience of Napoleon’s battle at Waterloo. Surveying the battlefield, the tough little general said to his drummer, “The English are standing firm. The Old Guard is making no progress. We are defeated; sound the retreat.”

Hesitantly, the lad looked at Napoleon and protested, “Master, in all our campaigns in Europe, I have never learned to sound the retreat.”

Deeply touched by the comment, Napoleon said, “All right, drummer boy, sound the advance.”

The Persisters

In his memoirs, A Life in Our Times, John Kenneth Galbraith referred to an eloquent speech made by a West Virginia supporter of John F. Kennedy. At a time in the presidential campaign when it would have been easy to become disenchanted, if not discouraged, the politician-historian of the Mountain State reminded his audience of Napoleon’s battle at Waterloo. Surveying the battlefield, the tough little general said to his drummer, “The English are standing firm. The Old Guard is making no progress. We are defeated; sound the retreat.”
Hesitantly, the lad looked at Napoleon and protested, “Master, in all our campaigns in Europe, I have never learned to sound the retreat.”
Deeply touched by the comment, Napoleon said, “All right, drummer boy, sound the advance.”
Psalm 73:26 ESV
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 280). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
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