“Nobody said it was easy, No one ever said it would be this hard.” Coldplay The Scientist What do you think was going through the mind of that climber when this picture was taken? Our focus today is on honestly dealing with discouragement and doubts that we experience as we serve the Lord. Do you think the climber dealt with any of those feelings as he ascended the mountain? How did he overcome those feelings to reach the top? 2 We must maintain a proper focus on God during times of discouragement and weariness as we serve the Lord.
The prophet Jeremiah experienced major discouragement and setbacks in his ministry. Sometimes we may wonder how Jeremiah got away with saying what he said to God without being struck by lightning! But at the end of this lesson, we are going to see how Jeremiah remembered “Who” was in control of his life and circumstances. 3
1 Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer and chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. 2 So Pashhur had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put him in the stocks at the Upper Benjamin Gate in the Lord's temple. 3 The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, "The Lord does not call you Pashhur, but Magor-missabib, 4 for this is what the Lord says, 'I am about to make you a terror to both yourself and those you love. They will fall by the sword of their enemies before your very eyes. I will hand Judah over to the king of Babylon, and he will deport them to Babylon and put them to the sword. 4
In chapter 19, Jeremiah stood in the courtyard of the temple and proclaimed God’s judgment upon Judah. Here Pashhur, a priest and chief official of the temple, responded by having Jeremiah beaten and put in stocks. ? Why do you think Pashhur did that? ? What do you think Jeremiah expected? ? How do you think Jeremiah felt? 5 Is this situation unusual for God’s servants?
John 15:18-20: "If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. John 16:33: I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world." 1 Peter 3:14-15: But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. 1 John 3:13: Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. Revelation 2:10: Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. 6 The Word promises trouble and persecution for the faithful.
“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘help me.’” Dr. Billy Graham 7 What is your reaction to a spiritual giant like Dr. Graham confessing he has moments of “deep discouragement”? What do you notice about his two ways of responding when he faces discouragement? What is your reaction to a spiritual giant like Dr. Graham confessing he has moments of “deep discouragement”? What do you notice about his two ways of responding when he faces discouragement?
The Coldplay quote from the first slide is only half true. Nobody said it would be easy, but the Bible is clear that it will be hard. We should expect discouragement. But what may surprise you is how God responds when we confess our frustrations. 8
7 You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived. You seized me and prevailed. I am a laughingstock all the time; everyone ridicules me. 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out—I proclaim: Violence and destruction! because the word of the Lord has become for me constant disgrace and derision. 9 If I say: I won't mention Him or speak any longer in His name, His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail. 10 For I have heard the gossip of the multitudes, "Terror is on every side! Report him; let's report him!" Everyone I trusted watches for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived so that we might prevail against him and take our vengeance on him." 9
Does it surprise you that Jeremiah was not smitten by God on the spot? What prevents us from confessing our frustrations to God? Why do we hold back as though we can keep them secret from God? 10 Are there frustrations in your life right now that you need to be honest before God in confessing?
Did God really deceive Jeremiah? Was Jeremiah exaggerating, at least a little? Did everyone ridicule him? Was he a laughingstock all the time? How do frustration and discouragement alter our perception of reality? 11
To the outside observer, Jeremiah’s public ministry might be considered a failure. But Jeremiah’s ministry was far from a failure for one simple reason: God was in control. And when Jeremiah remembered that, he was able to see his circumstances from God’s perspective. 12
11 But the Lord is with me like a violent warrior. Therefore, my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. Since they have not succeeded, they will be utterly shamed, an everlasting humiliation that will never be forgotten. 12 Lord of Hosts, testing the righteous and seeing the heart and mind, let me see Your vengeance on them, for I have presented my case to You. 13 Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord, for He rescues the life of the needy from the hand of evil people. 13
Sharks & Remoras What can Christians learn from Remoras? Remoras attach themselves to sharks and other large fish. They’re content to go wherever their host fish wants to go. They feed on whatever the host fish feeds on. And because they attach them- selves to bigger fish, they don’t have many natural enemies. Other predators know that if they’re going to go after a Remora, they have to deal with the shark. 14
Much of the content in this session has been taken from: LifeWay Christian Resources, “Living Beyond Yourself,” Life Truths Leader Guide, Volume 6, Number 4, Summer 2012, pp Those who serve God faithfully can expect opposition from God’s enemies. Feeling frustrated or discouraged while serving the Lord is not uncommon. At such times, we should be honest with God about those feelings. We must maintain a proper focus on God during the times of discouragement and weariness as we serve the Lord.