“Working vacation” and “original copy” are oxymorons: the words cancel each other out. “Discouraged Christian” should be an oxymoron, but it isn’t. Why?
Nine ‘Ds’ of Discouragement
We human beings are very often dejected, disappointed, depressed, dispirited, disillusioned, downcast, disenchanted, disheartened, and in the dark! No wonder the encouragement theme is so pervasive throughout the thousands of years of biblical history.
But why should Christians need encouragement? Here we are, children of a loving Father-God. We know He is Love, He is Light, He is Just and all-Knowing, all-Powerful, all-Wise, and Present everywhere. The more these truths about God soak into our minds, the more we set ourselves to live right, love others, speak kindly, make biblically sound decisions, and fill our minds with pure, uplifting thoughts.
And what is the result?
We, His children, the ones He says He loves, suffer the same sudden disasters that fall on those who live selfishly without any thought of God. We also experience deep disappointments, car accidents, killer cancers, botched surgeries, and financial failures.
In fact, the more Christians live in obedience to God and His Word, the greater the attacks of Satan. Witness, for instance, the growing antagonism the Alberta government is focusing on Christian parents right now.
Encouragement in the Bible
Before Joshua started his invasion of Canaan, God told him, “Be strong and courageous.” These words were passed on seven times to Joshua, to Moses, to the leaders, and to God’s people. David repeated the theme in the Psalms, saying, “Be of good courage.” Jesus, after telling his followers they would have lots of trouble in this world, encouraged them by saying, “But cheer up, I have overcome the world.” The apostle Paul constantly urges his readers to encourage each other.
Eight Ways to Encourage Ourselves and Others
1) It may be too soon to judge if something that happened is good or bad. We may only be halfway into God’s story of our lives.
2) When we receive comfort and encouragement in hard times, we are better able to sympathize with others and to comfort and encourage them. 1 Corinthians 1:3-4
3) Like a grower who uses a pruning knife on his vines to produce more and better fruit, so God uses persecution to purify His Church, sorting out the lukewarm, easy-believism church goers from those who are willing to pay a high price for following Christ closely. John 15:2
4) Just as Jesus suffered so mankind could be saved, so we need to suffer to bring His salvation to others. Colossians 1:24 (TLB)
5) God wants each of us to live bringing glory to Him. Some will do this by being highly successful in business or in ministry, others by quietly suffering under multiple stresses. Philippians 4:11
6) God has given every person on earth the ability to make choices. Every choice, good or bad, has consequences which affect other people, even Christians, but God works out all things for our good. Romans 8:28
7) Even if the story ends badly in this life, God is no one’s debtor. He is just and will reward suffering for Him in this life with glory in the next. 1 Peter 5:10
8) A well-known poem tells us God answers our prayers, although not always in the way we expect:
I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for patience and God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.
I asked for courage and God gave me dangers to go through.
I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help.
Encourage Ourselves in the Lord, Not in the Circumstances
We can’t help but get discouraged at times, but we don’t have to stay discouraged. We can be like David after raiders had kidnapped his own family and the families of his followers, and his own friends wanted to kill him. David “encouraged himself in the Lord” and with God’s help, went on to win a great victory. (1 Sam. 30:6)