In my previous article I talked about the Bible’s call on every Christian to speak the word. That all sounds high and lofty, like something only super zealous, extremely disciplined people do. But how do we do this practically in every day life? Today I want to look at discouragement that can come from speaking about Scripture with friends and family or strangers, and how to overcome it. Or perhaps you are discouraged due to some great trial and tribulation. There is much more that can be said to apply directly to you (and I would like to write about that sometime), but these same ways of encouragement can be valuable for you too.
The Discouraged Heart
There are times when I feel that God’s Word just can’t help some people. They are just not interested. There are people I know who I have already tried to talk to about Christian things. I might be able to get a couple sentences out before I see the blank stares, the tension and awkwardness builds. They do not desire to hear more, they desire to change subjects. It’s a conversation that seems doomed from the beginning.
I find this to be very discouraging. Rejection has always been hard for me, and I think it’s hard for many people. I think it’s safe to say that there are few people that take rejection well. But this is the way that it feels to go through conversations like this.
The results is a discouraged heart that struggles to find the will and motivation to share anything spiritual. Where do I go from here? Where do I find encouragement and motivation? I would like to talk about several sources of encouragement that I have found.
Motivation in the Bible
The Bible is full of stories for encouragement. The encouragement comes in both positive and negative forms. Some scripture encourages us by exalting the glorious God that we serve and reminding us of the wonderful things He has done; while other Scripture provides warnings to those who walk in the way of sinners and unrighteousness. Both Scripture is vital to the Christian life and provides a balanced source of motivation that keeps us running the race with strength and endurance.
We are encouraged by the promises of God. God “has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Th 5:9-11). He is our Father who will “give what is good to those who ask Him” (Matt 7:11). He tells us, “fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom “(Luke 12:32). Even though there may seem to be little reward today, we encouraged to “rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matt 5:12). He will “give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10). Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
This is great encouragement when things are not happening as we expect. The promises of God are sure and true. The promises of God helps us to take our eyes off of the results of our circumstances and look towards a God who is in total control over every event. The promises of people and institutions in this world are prone to failure and disappointment. The promises of God are a sure deal and will happen just as God has promised.
We are encourage by the character of the God we serve. The Bible is rich with exaltation of God’s character. The Psalms are full of praise and adoration of God. “Splendid and majestic is His work; And His righteousness endures forever (Ps 111:3 NAS). “Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true” (Ps 119:142). “For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds” (Ps 108:4).
It is difficult to remain in a discouraged frame of mind when your mind is filled with wonderful thoughts about God. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Ps 100:4)
We are encouraged by what God has done. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) Our Savior Jesus Christ has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10). “We have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1). There is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).
We are encouraged by knowing the wrong direction. One of the ways God communicates the right direction, is by defining the wrong direction and providing warnings or admonitions not to go in that direction. We are warned about pride and encouraged towards humility: “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” (Prov 18:12). We are warned against having a bad attitude about God’s Word: “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded” (Prov 13:13). When we are feeling discouraged about the difficulty in doing the right thing we are admonished to: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (Matt 7:13). We are reminded that God can be kind and severe: “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” (Rom 11:22). In addition, there are many more scriptures that remind us of the judgements that fell on the stubborn hearts of the Israelites when they did not continue in the ways of God.
When we share God’s word with others, it is common for people make us feel like we are doing the wrong thing by declaring an absolute truth. Christians are made out to be narrow minded, walking with blind-faith, unintelligent, unsophisticated—do not listen to the admonitions of man, listen to the admonitions of God. He provides a compass for our path and helps us to walk more confidently in the right direction. There is a freedom from anxiety, guilt and discouragement when we know the right direction to go and when it is defined by the perfect all-knowing, sovereign ruler of the universe. God has lit the path of righteousness and provided a freedom to do what is right: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23).
We are encouraged by the sovereignty of God. There are many books on methods of evangelism and clever ways to illustrate the Gospel and these can all be helpful tools to provide us ways to communicate to others, but in the end, it is not our fancy words that will transform the heart of others, it is the sovereign work of God that will open their mind and bring light into their darkened hearts. The apostle Paul voiced this reality when he said, “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor 2:4). Do not fret about your ability to communicate effectively, because there is a sense in which this is exactly the way God wants it to happen. He wants to demonstrate the power of the Spirit in transforming the heart of man. When people refuse to listen and when people do not understand, be aware that there are some that God has purposed for this very thing; “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” (John 12:40).
I realize this is a hard teaching to accept, but the Scripture is clear that there are “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Rom 9:22). It would be dangerous to assume that everyone who doesn’t listen to your proclamation of the Gospel fits under this category. The apostle Paul was one such example of someone who had dealings with Christians on many occasions and it wasn’t until God had supernaturally intervened on the road to Damascus (Act 9:3), that the apostle’s mind was changed.
For those who believe that we have the power to choose Jesus Christ, for those who have a distaste for Calvinism, I would like to briefly say that Calvinism also believes that you have a choice; but Calvinism goes one step deeper and looks at what motivates your choice. We all make choices based on our desires and for the natural man, in a state of spiritual death, this “natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). It takes a supernatural act of God to change our mind, for the “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom 8:7). It is by the power of the Spirit that the mind is capable of understanding man’s sinfulness, God’s holiness, and the need of a Saviour. It is not surprising that a mind hostile to God rejects Christ as Saviour of all men; but the mind which has been illuminated with understanding by the Holy Spirit will understand the Gospel and not only willingly choose, but such a person would desire no other choice than faith in Christ.
So the sovereignty of God in speaking the Word and sharing the Gospel, is of great encouragement. We can confidently go out, even when our skills in evangelizing are poor, because it is not by our eloquent words that they will come to faith in Christ, but it is by the “demonstration of the Spirit” that they will be saved.
Motivation in the body
It is not good for a Christian to neglect meeting with other Christians. The scripture addresses this problem specifically and tells us why we should meet. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Heb 10:24-25). Meeting together is for the purpose of stirring each other up “to love and good works” and to “encourage one another”. A person who has retreated from the body of Christ is likely to suffer, and not in a good way.
If you are discouraged about anything, bring your discouragement to other Christians and let them do as the Scripture instructs; let them stir you up! And don’t come together with the attitude that you don’t want to be bothered about your problems, you don’t want them prying into your life. Lay it out there so that we can stir each other up for “love and good works”. Have a “transparency” and not a defensiveness. “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools” (Eccl 7:5); therefore, “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge” (Prov 22:17).
If you don’t know anyone with wise words, seek them out because they will be the ones to help not only add wisdom, but encouragement that is guided by wisdom. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov 11:14).
Christian households can be a special encouragement. Some of the most encouraging times at home are when we are talking about spiritual things with the children, or with each other. Especially encouraging are the family devotions when we spend time singing hymns, reading Bible stories, and praying together. If you have a Christian family and you are not gaining encouragement from your family, then start doing family devotions regularly and devote this time towards spiritual encouragement of each other.
Motivation from God.
This is closely tied with motivation from the Bible, but it’s worth mentioning that there is another dimension of Scripture reading where we are not simply reading words and believing them, but we are spending timing communing with God. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (Jas 4:8). One of the primary reasons for the proclamation of the Gospel and the faith in Christ is “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3) I would like to write more about this at a later time.
In the next article I’ll explore more ways to speak the Word of God with others in our lives. In closing I pray that we would all overcome the discouragement that comes in our daily lives and find the encouragement that brings fruitfulness and transformation to our lives and the lives of those around us—for the glory of God.