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Dr. Michael L. Ford
Counselor & Theologian
Much of my daily activities center on the work of being a Christian counselor. Often people come to me complaining of depression. I have discovered that very often a person’s complaint of depression is nothing more than a symptom of their real problem. They are discouraged.
This past week, a Christian Brother came to me asking how I managed to keep from being discouraged in the challenges I face in the ministry. I shared with him my testimony of how the Lord called me at the age of eleven, and then over the following weeks He showed me my primary mission in the ministry would be to the church. God let me know early on how for the most part people would not respond to, even reject, what I had to say. That is some heavy, scary knowledge to lay on one so young, but I see now that I needed for things to happen just that way for the years of preparation to take place as they did.
I reminded my friend and brother how it is always good to keep the ultimate victory in mind and remember that we are called to be faithful to what the Lord gives us and not measure our own success according to human terms. It is not easy, particularly in my other work as a Minister of Education, to be able to know what people need to do to have a successful ministry, and show them, only to see them continue as they have before. Only knowledge that my faithfulness, not my view of success, is the issue between God and me has kept me willing to continue striving. While everything I had to say to my visitor was true, we parted company with me feeling I had failed my friend in the conversation of the moment. I had not given him any real hard and fast principles for combating and overcoming discouragement.
Later, another individual contacted me about discouragement he was experiencing in his life because some specific areas of prayer seemed to go unanswered. It was then that it dawned on me that for years I had been ministering to people concerning the discouragement and consequential depression they were experiencing on a case by case basis, but I had never systematically began to consider what the Bible has to teach on the issue. I realized that I had a great need to put what I already knew and what God’s Word could further show me about discouragement into some kind of order in my mind. Once this happened the Holy Spirit began to work the process of teaching me about this issue. I soon learned I had much to learn on the subject.
studied on this, my father talked with me about his own areas of
discouragement. You would think that a man of 82, with so many wonderful
accomplishments and achievements behind him would not be still
experiencing ongoing forms of pressure that can result in
discouragement. He is in
the hospital with a broken hip and a body that is steadily giving up its
hold on this life. He has a certain peace with God, concerning the fact
his calling and election is sure. But all, which he wanted to see happen
in his life that goes unrealized, is still a discouragement to even the
struggle of living from day to day. It was, through conversation with
him I realized how what I was seeing in the Word of God applies to
people’s lives, whether we are talking about Christian work or our
other relationships. The principles and categories under which
discouragement might be found are constant.
The key Scripture to
our study is Isaiah 42:1-9 – This is a Messianic Prophecy describing
the Lord Jesus Christ. The significant verse is the fourth, which
foretells to us that He shall not be discouraged. I recommend that you
read this entire text and keep it in mind as we study the subject of
the quality of the Lord
Jesus Christ’s life was that He faced greater challenges than any
mortal man would ever face and did not give place to them.
2 Thessalonians 3:13 tells us that we should not grow weary in
well doing. In short, we should not be discouraged. Now what do you do if someone comes to you and tells you that they are discouraged, just plain worn out with the struggle of life? If you tell them the Bible says that they are not supposed to be that way, you are likely to be helping them to be even more discouraged and even more depressed than they were when they came to you. But if you teach them the categories under which their discouragement may fall and then give them some Biblical principles about dealing with it, then you may do them a great service.
Bible does tell us how to keep from being discouraged and overwhelmed
with depression. It is called “being conformed to the image of
Christ.” In short, the more we are like Christ in our spiritual being,
the less we will suffer from discouragement and depression in our lives.
This is the spiritual quest of the believer, to be more and more like
Today we will explore the categories of discouragement I have found presented in the Bible. I think it may well be that every type of discouragement Christians routinely suffer fall under these five categories. The five categories of discouragement are:
The Hardness of the Way
The Difficulty of the Task
The Prosperity of the Wicked
The Delay in the Fulfillment of Desires
Envy of the Brethren
starting with Cain and Abel)
I am further suggesting to you as we begin to discuss this topic that we cannot fall into discouragement without violating at least two of the Ten Commandments every time we do so. The reason is the Ten Commandments fall into three categories of requirements for every man and woman.
tell us of man’s duty to God
tell us of man’s duty to his fellow man
tell us of man’s duty to himself
Anytime we become discouraged in our lives we falter in our service to God. Then we fail both God and ourselves. Quite often we fail others as well. The result is we violate the Ten Commandments and become not only discouraged but depressed as well.
Hardness of the Way
they journeyed from mount Hor by way of the Red Sea, to compass the land
of Edom, and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the
way. Numbers 21:4
For the children of Israel, it was a literal journey and the hardships they
had to encounter was the discouragement. But this is not what makes the way hard for some people. Many people find their way hard because of physical infirmity. Others find the way of their lives hard for many other reasons. Sometimes the hardness of the way is mental or emotional. But whatever makes up a genuine “hardness of way” inflicts both hardship and some suffering. In some instances this falls under the Biblical category known as tribulation.
Someone once said to me, “I don’t know why a child of God has to suffer so much.” Well, suffering came into the world because man became a fallen creature. But in the midst of our reaping the harvest of man’s fall God has remembered mercy and used suffering and hardship for a divine purpose in the believer.
Suffering and hardship along the way can accomplish three purposes in a believer’s life:
God sometimes allows both suffering and hardship to come so they can
make us stronger. We used to have a saying, common in the kind of military unit I was
in, that “whatever does not kill me only serves to make me
stronger.” This is not really true for a soldier because suffering and
hardship can serve to break the body, a thing a soldier after the flesh
needs. But should the body need to be broken in a believer, it can serve
to make the child of God stronger in the Lord. What a believer needs
most is to be strong spiritually.
God allows suffering and hardship so we can glorify Him in adversity.
When we continue to be faithful and praise and serve God in spite of
what is going on people want to know a God like
that. Back in the seventies, I had a friend by the
name of Grace. After several bouts with cancer her bones became like old
pieces of wood infested by termites. Merely turning her in bed had
caused bones to break. On a preaching trip, I stopped by her hospital
room as I traveled from the church I had preached at that morning to the
one I would preach at that night. Hoping to encourage her in her
adversity, I soon found out she was going to be the one who enriched my
life. She told me a story about how people she did not know had been
dropping by her room unannounced. Her husband went out to find what was
going on. He discovered people were coming to see her because previous
visitors kept telling others they knew they should go see this woman
dying of cancer who was so happy.
God often allows suffering and hardship as a consequence of our sins.
The believer does not suffer the pangs of hell for his failure to obey.
He suffers the consequences of sin while in this world. There is a
biblical principle involved in the believer reaping in this world what
has been sown to the flesh. For
the time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God: and if
it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the
gospel of God?
The lost person goes to hell for his or her unbelief. Christians often harvest the fruit of their disobedience in this life more so than do lost people because it gives them a wake up call to repent and be conformed to the image of Christ. Then they can have a close fellowship with the Lord.
4. Finally, God allows suffering and hardship so that we may participate fully in the warfare of the saints. When we get on God’s side of the matter, the Devil and his minions, who hates human beings as a matter of course, develops a special enmity for us. If he is not able to launch out and out persecution, he has to content himself with seeking to make the believers life as uncomfortable as possible.
Too much cannot be said concerning the need for a life of prayer
and Bible study at this point. The journey along life’s path needs to
have both a road map, and a provision of the resources needed for the
journey and the dangers that will be encountered along the way. Sgt. Eli
Fournier, a dear friend and member of the church I pastored in Germany,
used to refer to the Bible as God’s Field Manuel.
Attention to the instructions that the Lord has provided through
His Holy Word can forestall the feelings of being adrift without a
paddle and all alone on the sea of life that people so often complain
about when they are struggling with the anxiety and depression that
However, the Bible alone, without the life of prayer, is like carrying
along a full supply of provisions without the means of opening any of
Christian’s life of prayer fulfills so many needs in his life. Not
only does it open up the manual of life to his understanding, but it
also provides a much-needed line of communication between him and the
Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer is a line of communication designed by God to
work both ways. Not only do we get to talk to Him, but He will also,
when approached with the attitude of humility and worship, talk to us.
Actually, He does more than merely talk to the believer. He communes
with the believer who will set himself to diligently seek after Him.
For the time being one last point needs to be made in relation to
the Scripture. The believer should always take the Word of God to mean
exactly what it says. The only exception to this is when the Word
itself says that it is not to be taken literally but rather as a parable
or an allegory. In this case, the Word always provides an explanation of
its meaning. One thing we can always count on is that the Word never
allows a place for confusion. Men have to get into confusion stumbling
about in the vanity of their own minds.
Difficulty of the Task
Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there
is much rubbish, so that we are not able to build the wall. Nehemiah
One of the things discouraging people is the problem of all that needs to be done, and they find themselves all alone in getting it done. A country and western singer once expressed that kind of discourage-
ment when he sang about being in a hospital bed with four hundred hogs going unfed nobody else cared about but him. Every church leader knows what it is to be discouraged about needing to get things done like finding faithful Sunday School Teachers, Vacation Bible School Workers, or someone to mow the grass or take out the trash. They find plenty of people who agree it needs to get done, as long as someone else is the one who volunteers to do it. Then you have those people who say they will do it if you cannot get someone else. That kind of attitude toward the undertaking of service to God is unworthy and people who opt for such an attitude will never give the job the attention it needs. No wonder people get discouraged.
There are three reasons we encounter discouragement around the hardness of the task.
The strength of people has been decayed because they have not paid
attention to the things important in their lives
and they have spent their energy on things that are unimportant. The
Bible teaches that we are first to be seeking after the Kingdom of
Heaven and His (the Lord’s righteousness) It is His (the Lord Jesus
Christ’s) responsibility to deal with and give the increase. It is our
responsibility to be faithful.
Examples of people expending their energy fruitlessly abound.
It does not take some sort of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, where a person repeatedly goes back over and over again doing some strange think like checking to make sure a door is locked, for someone to be expending energy in futility. A person in the ministry can find their
energy eroded by attending so many training courses telling them how to do things that they never have time to get any of those things they have trained for done. Another way multitudes of believers find their strength decaying is that they are going about life bereft of knowledge of God’s will and prayerless. Husbands find their strength decayed within the marriage because they do not concentrate on the business of keeping a wife or being a parent. Wives find their strength decayed because they expend their energy doing what seems right in their own eyes instead of following the godly leadership of their husbands. Children find their strength being taken away from a very early age because they fail to obey God’s Word in honoring their parents. The list of how people decline both physically, spiritually, and emotionally, discouraging not only themselves but also people around them, is virtually inexhaustible. But the category of the problem and the solution to it is still simple and straightforward.
is much rubbish in people’s lives and it has to be picked up and moved
out of the way so they can serve God.
lives are full of rubbish. There is a disorder of the mind that compels
some people to accumulate things. The result is they literally turn
their houses into warehouses where they store the things they have
acquired but never use. This is a situation that first of all has
nothing to do with a particular family’s qualities of housekeeping or
how they use their home. It is a situation that demonstrates physically
what happens in people’s lives on other levels as well.
foolishly clutter up their lives with things that are unimportant. And
those things are not just material. For instance not a few people allow
some social club or organization to interfere with their activity in and
through the church. Sometimes they become so focused on a child or
animal that they ignore or neglect a spouse. People develop strongholds
of sin in their lives that cause them to neglect the Word and prayer,
and then they spend time and money foolishly in the pursuits of their
folly. Once again the ingenuity demonstrated by human beings in getting
rubbish in the way of their service to God is amazing. It is not
surprising that they become discouraged, disillusioned, and depressed.
The amazing thing about people is often that they are able to function
at all with the massive amounts of rubbish they have accumulated in
3. We spend too much time worrying and being
depressed about how far we are from the ultimate goal instead of
faithfully going about doing the things that we need to do to get us
there. Some people get
mindset of discouragement because they have organized
their lives around a principle of “if you cannot reach your goal
immediately, do nothing.” Some people are so hung up on the idea of
refusing to participate unless they are presented with a certain outcome
that they cannot pursue the development of new relationships, endeavors,
and so forth. As a result their lives become more and more bland and
uninteresting. In order to have great achievements, people must dare to
who do not dare and do are the ones who are quickest to resist anything
new in church work. They may despair over the decline of their
fellowship but they steadfastly resist doing anything that may turn the
who are overwhelmed by the enormity of the task cannot be thrilled by
the greatness of the undertaking that may be achieved. Because they
cannot or will not get excited by the goal, they have a problem being
committed. A person without commitment is a person who is ultimately an
unstable person. People who get a goal in view and have a commitment to
it are not overwhelmed by obstacles, they are challenged by them.
you think you cannot do something you cannot. If you think you can do
something, you may.
The person who dwells in doubt is often the type I refer to as a
“nattering nabob of negativism.” They often seek to enlist support
because misery loves company. The worst thing about this condition is
that the doubt that lies within also fails to believe in the Lord for
what He is able to do, and will do, for those who are walking in his
Prosperity of the Wicked
as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
We used to sing a great old song about this that went “farther along we’ll no more about it; farther along we’ll understand why. “
Why should some people live always in comfort and plenty when they are wicked and foolish. Well, we don’t have to wait farther along without knowing at least part of the answer. And I will put the answer in the form of a question.
One of the questions we
should ask ourselves is why we should be envious of the wicked (which is
a sin in itself) when all they have got is what comes to them in this
life? They are more to be pitied than to be envied when we see what the
few who do prosper traded the riches in glory for.
There are three points of outcomes ignored by those who fall into the trap of envying the wicked and two points of consequence, one of which we have already touched on concerning being offended by their prosperity:
1. The wicked are trapped in unwilling bondage. Ephesians 2:1-3
2. The prosperity of the wicked is destructive. It does not build, but rather destroys. 1Kings 21
3. The prosperity of the wicked is illusory. Matthew 6: 19 thru 21
4. Both envy and anger aimed at the wicked erects sin in the believer.
5. Bad attitude toward the wicked effects the servitude of the believer.
Romans 8:1-8; Romans 12: 1-3
1. The wicked are trapped in unwilling bondage; …in time past ye
walked according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the Power of the Air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Ephesians 2:2
You will notice that this biblical statement concerning the slavery of the wicked contains a reminder that this condition of being trapped into bondage was once our condition as well. All who are among the redeemed of God was once trapped in slavery to this person who bears the title, Prince of the Power of the Air, who we know better as Satan or Lucifer. Dr. Barry Keaton talked about the downward spiral in his book, Country Counseling. He said a lost person, enslaved by the devil, will go down his own particular path of sinful decline as far as his particular form of lust will take him unless he is redeemed (saved) by the Lord Jesus Christ, and brought under His Lordship.
Unlike the believer, who enters into willing service to the Lordship of Christ, the unbeliever has no choice in his servitude. In the world most people who are in slavery, today as always, are there against their will. Some people have in times past, and do today, go into servitude willingly. It has always been so that for a person to go into servitude willingly they must first have been a freeman. Since, every person is born into this world under the bondage of sin, an act of manumission must take place in their life. Only then are they free to choose whom they may serve.
Slavery to sin is no less bondage whether that slavery is bondage to drugs, prostitution, pornography, lying, or gathering wealth. Slavery is slavery when it rules in the life of the individual, and lost people are powerless to do anything about it without coming to Christ Jesus. Discouraged people who have spent a lifetime making money are as readily found among the rich as those who have spent a lifetime getting drunk are found among the barflies. The record of suicide is proof of this. Discouragement waits too for those who envy them.
2. The prosperity of the wicked is destructive. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs…1Kings 21:2
Though there are many examples of the principle of wicked destruction that I might appeal to, I think this is my favorite because it is so obvious, yet so ignored. Here Ahab, who personifies the world, thinks of what he has planned as a positive thing that will serve his own convenience. But for Naboth what would be destroyed and lost is readily apparent.
Naboth would first of all lose the land that was his portion of the division when the children of Israel came into their inheritance. This would be in direct contradiction to God’s command that the land would be kept for succeeding generations. Secondly, he would lose the vineyard that had been the labor of his hands and his fathers before him. No doubt this vineyard was the source of some if not all of his annual income as well. Not only would it be lost to him, but its product would be lost to all he supplied as well, for Ahab had the vineyard marked for destruction.
Finally, a vineyard is more resilient than a garden of herbs. All it takes for a garden of herbs to fail is that it be neglected for a year. A vineyard can recover from a number of years of neglect fairly speedily. Here might be made an allegorical contrast between that which God has made, and the works of men’s hands, which are but for a season. Ahab’s herb garden would not last longer than his interest in it, but a man’s position in the vine endures even though he might neglect it for a time. So the inheritance of the wicked is seldom preserved beyond the generation(s) that were part of the struggle toward success.
3. The prosperity of the wicked is illusory. Lay not up for yourselves
treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Have you ever considered that the envy of the wicked is as much a treasure of the heart as wealth a physical treasure?
The wealth of this world may vanish as the morning mist, but the
treasure of the heart impacts on eternity. This is true whether we are speaking of the good treasure or the evil treasure of the heart.
By now, dear reader, you should understand that this category concerning the prosperity of the wicked is twofold. A person may want the evil person to get their just deserves, while at the same time desiring the tantalizing trappings of the life they live. The desire for possessions that by their very nature are evil, such as Hugh Hefner’s playboy lifestyle is a thing to be repented of. Also, the desire to have the thing another possesses, such as Ted Turner’s vast western land holdings is covetousness. The simple longing for more of this world, seeing the prosperity of the wicked, may be just as wicked in the sight of God. Couple that with genuine animosity toward people who have prospered through evil and the person caught in such a folly of the mind starts to look very twisted indeed.
The appeal of this world should dim when we consider the transient nature of this world and the things in it. Hugh Hefner is now in his seventies. The bevy of beauties who first graced the covers of his magazine have grown old. Over time, their fleshly attributes have diminished in appeal and ability, while the penalties of such a lifestyle has had its own consequences. Mr. Hefner’s pornographic counterpart, Larry Flynt found himself relegated to a wheelchair; now for many years unable to enjoy that which he worshipped. And what lasting value has those things in the light of eternity?
When the stockmarket crashed in the thirties, a few bodies crashed to the sidewalks below high rise offices. Since then many endeavors have come to radical ends. One businessman took his life after having made and lost three fortunes during his career. His more famous son, who began to hate God with the death of his sister, built such a fortune that he was able to give billions to the evil United Nations. Yet, his successful enterprises were taken over by another who had greater wealth and was able to secure the controlling interest to his companies. During the time this takeover was in the works, even though his wealth was not in danger. The haggard expression that appeared on his face made me wonder if he might not follow his dad’s example of how to get out of a hard dead end spot.
How quickly the things of this world can vanish away. Its very ephemeral nature is mute testimony to its value. Yet it destroys the just and the unjust causing many to be discouraged.
4. Both envy and anger aimed at the wicked erects sin in the believer.
Be ye angry and sin not: let not
the son go down upon your wrath.
One of the overlooked things about life is that it is not sinful to be angry any more than it is necessarily unhealthy to be stressed. Certain stresses, like physical activity, are necessary to life and health and other kinds, like fear, destroy the heart and damages the soul. 
The same principle is true with anger. Anger aimed at sin, especially sin we find in our own lives is bene-ficial. But, anger aimed at a person, no matter how vile they might act is most destructive to the one who is angry. It has been told that a note was found in the margin of a Puritan’s Bible at this passage of Scripture observing that the only way he might be angry and sin not was only to be angry at the sin and never the sinner.
The Bible asks how we can say we love God whom we have not seen and hate our brother whom we have seen? As envy is the seedbed of covetousness, anger directed toward man, who was made in the image of God and has trace of that image in him no matter what he does, is the seedbed of sins like murder. With such sinful attitudes reigning in our hearts we cannot help but feel small and mean and vile. Such feelings leave us depressed, while the attitudes discourage us from reaching out to our fellow man.
5. Bad attitude toward the wicked effects the servitude of the believer.
beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present
your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your
be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of
your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and
perfect will of God.
For I say through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think., but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Romans 8:1-8; Romans 12: 1-3
The above passage of Scripture has quite a bit to say on the subject of how our outlook affects our output. For instance, we can uncover at least three performance principles in this passage:
(1) We must yield ourselves volitionally to God’s will. It is not something that will occur automatically over a period of time. In order to do this the individual must have an attitude that their submission is nothing more than what should be reasonably/rationally expected. It just makes sense.
(2) The tendency of the mind and carnal heart is toward the things of the world. Even in the redeemed person there is a pressure toward conformance with the worldly standard of enmity and covetousness. A person has to both choose and work at nonconformance to the world and the disciplining of the mind into a consistent pursuit of the mind of God.
(3) No man should ever think he has arrived spiritually, anymore than any man should think that he has some special entitlement in this world. He should not seek to either be or have in competition with another, but rather he should seek to realize all that God would accomplish in him.
The Romans passage quoted above emphasizes the positive aspect of service. Underlying it is the negative aspect. Failure to seek to accomplish God’s rightful, reasonable expectation will have its own negative and harmful result. Without going into great detail over each point, it is sufficient to note that the fruit of the refusal to pursue that which is reasonable and rational results in the manifestation of the
carnal. Everything the passage encourages a man to do because of the mercy God has had on us left undone yields its own bitter fruit.
Garbage in, garbage out; the fruit of stinkin’ thinkin’ is the attitudes that are worldly, and the consequences that fall on those whose feet are anchored in the world. First there is an attitude formed in the depths of ones being that they are somehow second rate and not really worthwhile. It is the repercussion of their own attitude toward the wicked, whether it be anger, envy, or covetousness. Hostility toward the one bounces back upon the originator. This is a spiritual issue and principle that is consistent.
For a person to feel the repercussion of their attitude means they will experience depression as a minimum.. This depression will continue and deepen as long as they remain in a state of rebellion refusing to acknowledge their sin. . Depression alone affects performance, bur then there is discouragement following.
Sin hinders a person’s ability to serve God. The bad attitude itself is a sin. The affect of sin hinders a person’s ability to serve God. These are the internal issues within the believer that affect a person’s service quite apart from the message their attitude is sending out to the world. It should not be any wonder that a person continuing in such a situation becomes discouraged, or even that they succeed in discouraging others.
One last observation must be made in this area before this part of our study of discouragement is quitted. That is, when a person repents and sets about making things right, getting their house in order, the fruits and pressure of their previously held attitude does not immediately go away. The flesh struggles against the change, and it has been strengthened over the time the person has cultivated their attitude. And, people remember the former man. Repentance and reform means that the person must constantly remember that they are not to grow weary in well doing.
the Fulfillment of Desires
deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree
We want and need patience and we want it right now. The truth is that the value of what we want often lies in the amount of work, energy, and time we put into it. It is even true in how we value the salvation of people. Quite often we value people who are newly come into the faith by the amount of time we spent praying and otherwise working in getting them to the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. The principle of valuing that, which comes at a dearer price, operates throughout. If young ladies understood that the value young men put on them is in direct proportion to how hard they have to work to woo and win them, they would not succumb quite so easily.
People have problems accepting the gift of salvation because it is free. People will often not obey the counsel of the minister/counselor when it is given to them freely, even after they have sought it out. I have found out through hard experience that Christians will not listen to and follow the leadership of the professional who gives himself to them without charge. People, in a fleshly mode, assign value consistent with what it costs them. An example of that is the attitude exhibited by David when Araunah offered to make David a present of all that was needed for a burnt offering unto the Lord. (2Samuel 24:24)
God understands our need for things we value to have a cost. He also sees that even though we might appreciate that which is bought with a price for a time, we still have a tendency over time to become careless and take for granted those things we have been blessed with. Because familiarity does breed at least the kind of contempt we call taking things for granted, it would be necessary for some blessings from God to be delayed. Then we have two other issues as well that we must face. One is the matter of the ongoing warfare that is taking place in the spiritual realm, and the other is the matter of God’s timing.
It has been said, with a good deal of truth behind it, that God has but
three answers to prayer: Yes; No; Wait. All three of these answers work
in the realm of God’s will, and not man’s. And, though they do not
make us comfortable, His plan for response serves our greatest good.
That is, when we are willing to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.
The person walking in flesh can even become discouraged when God answers
prayer right away.
Hope delayed however has always caused many to become discouraged and
fall by the wayside.
of the reasons for people becoming discouraged when the fulfillment of
the desire of the heart is delayed is that they are not confident in
their relationship with God.
By this I mean for one thing that they do not easily accept the fact of
God’s loving care and provision for them. They focus on what they were
before they got saved and/or their failures and shortcomings after
salvation to the point it is difficult for them to have confidence when
the fulfillment of desire is working on God’s timetable and not their
own. When a person is trapped in such a mindset it is virtually
impossible for all the other blessings of God to reassure them. A
volitional conscious change of attitude is the only thing that will
bring repetitive bouts of discouragement to an end.
Another problem related to discouragement when hope is delayed is that the individual has missed out on the vision of the future reality. This often occurs in churches and in families. You see, vision begins with leadership, and it is the responsibility of leadership to share the vision with those who are part of that vision. The leader has a responsibility to share, promote, and explain the vision of the future. The follower has a responsibility to understand, follow, work toward, and dream of the thing that will one day, in the fullness of time come to pass. When either part of this process fails, discouragement and sin lieth at the door. Many future fulfillment’s of desire never come to pass because man fails to refuse to become discouraged and quits.
deferred does make for a kind of sickness of the heart that is sometimes
translated into actual physical nausea. The relief for this lies in not
becoming discouraged but staying focused on the goal. People become
discouraged when hope is deferred because they neglect the first works.
Then they begin to shut down and cease to work
toward the thing they have desired.
There are three categories of first works that must not be neglected in order for a person to keep from being discouraged and falling by the wayside:
1. The life of prayer- This is essential in order for the believer to be in communication with the originator of the vision, and the author of all legitimate hearts desires in us. We should be praying daily about all things related to the concerns of our lives as well as listening and watching for His guiding hand in response.
2. Devotional Bible Reading- This is different from Bible study. Devotional reading encourages the heart because it focuses on specific Scripture we want to use to increase our devotion to God the Father through His dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Sanctification of the Self- When we are saved, we are sanctified, set aside unto God. But sanctification is a growing process. We are positionally sanctified when saved, which means we are declared to be His, having a place in that heavenly Temple. But we are to grow in our separation from the world and our devotion and purity towards God over time.
It should not have been hard to see that the above categories are progressive. But they are also interdependent, that is, the continuation in each depends on the performance of the others. When a person lets down or falters in one, the specter of discouragement begins to rise up. The spirit of discouragement encourages the believer to not only neglect the other categories given above, but also to lose their grip on the hopes of those yet unfulfilled desires. Faithfulness to the above not only has its own reward but makes possible the dawning of that day when the realization of a delayed desire reinvigorates the believer and makes him satisfied with a significant part of his life.
Envy of the
Look to yourselves that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 2John 8
I have pointed out that you cannot fall into any of the kinds of discouragement without breaking the Ten Commandments, and you will usually break two or more. We need to explore some of the kinds of discouragement that can be encountered under the subject of the Envy of the Brethren:
The Sacrifice Outside of God’s Plan - Genesis 4: 3-8
The Conflict of Competition - Genesis 13
The Envy of Position - Setting Aside the Lord’s Anointed -
In order to understand the message of discouragement related to the Envy of the Brethren you need to understand that there are many ways God can cause us to prosper and experience an increase:
(1) We can increase spiritually;
(2) We can increase physically (in ability and influence);
(3) We can increase financially (in the ability to buy and sell and get resources to use for more increase.)
In most cases, when a person experiences increase that is genuine, he has been benefited by God, the true Lord of the Harvest. With the increase comes an obligation, for whatever is delivered into our hand is ours but for a season. For it is appointed to all men once to die and stand before God in judgement.
Rush Limbaugh, the radio personality, has a favorite saying about himself; “talent on loan from God.” This egotistical statement is actually the verbalizing of a literal truth. The God who supervised his formation in the womb, and blessed him as he practiced and honed his skills in communication gives whatever abilities he has to him. His responsibility is the same we all have, which is that we use what is placed into our hands for the honor and glory of God.
In doing this we should recognize the uniqueness of three things:
(1) The uniqueness of our blessings from God.
(2) The uniqueness of our calling from God.
(3) The uniqueness of others calling and our responsibility.
The envy of other brethren, particularly in areas of blessing, calling, and ability is not only sinful, but it also treats the blessings, calling, and talents you have received from God as things to be despised. It overlooks the fact what God has done for you and how He intends to use you are both special and something to glory in no matter what value is assigned to it by a lost and fallen world system.
People who are discouraged have often asked me about the reasonableness of their giving up? When they talk like this, they are at least contemplating backing out of everything. I tell them that this is neither a practical or viable option. Then I go on to explain that God has a plan for every individual. Whenever an individual refuses to respond to their calling in Christ Jesus there really is no back up plan. On a few occasions people have argued this point with me, saying that if they do not perform a certain job, someone else will step forward and take it. While that may be true, it does not account for God’s foreknowledge or perfect will. Neither do we know the outcomes planned for the impact of our faithfulness on others. Outcomes may be radically different simply based on the influence of the person who does the task. What other factors God has ciphered into the human equation we cannot begin to know. It behooves us to be faithful and to concentrate upon God’s will for our life, not on some others.
There is an old saying; “Time and tide waits for no man.” This saying has a great deal of truth in it. Time is the one commodity that we are steadily running out of from the moment we are born. The tide is the movement of waters that help shipping to enter and exit harbors more readily. In some places, the rising tide is important for certain vessels to pass without running aground. Once the window of opportunity is lost, vessels and men can find themselves stuck in port or unable to reach the safe harbor. Think about it!
In every place where we struggle with the conflict of life, our dynamic encounters with the problems have three categories of conflict. These are the world, the flesh, and the devil. In every area where discouragement can occur these three areas of potential conflict exist. This is no less true when it takes place within the framework of the area the Lord saw fit to issue a new commandment of love:
A new commandment I give unto you,
That ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one
another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have
love one to another.
As all three of these things; the world, the flesh, and the devil seek to intrude and invade the church on every hand, it should not be surprising that they are present in the ongoing temptation of the believer to falter. Among the other effects that falling into the Envy of the Brethren has in a life, the believer finds that they do not only violate first The Ten Commandments, but also the commandments of the New Testament.
Having laid the groundwork for our consideration of discouragement that falls in this area let us now go forward to explore the three specific areas I have identified.
Sacrifice Outside of God’s Plan
unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. But Cain was very
wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art
thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well shall
thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.
Cain had a problem in that he wanted to give unto God what he wanted to give, and not what was justly demanded by the righteous God. Had he wanted to do right he could have traded with his brother for a proper sacrifice and brought it. Instead he got mad and had envy toward his brother because he was doing the right thing.
People can become envious of a broken hearted and contrite spirited man because God is using him and blessing him instead of getting into the right sacrificial mode with God themselves. They want God to respect their sacrifice of themselves in service, but they have never gotten into the right relationship with God where they can truly discover what God wants them to do. It is very easy to be jealous of the service of others as an alternative to facing the changes a person needs to make in themselves in order to be more perfectly conformed to the image of Christ.
Church work is my first example of this sort of envy of the brethren. One of the things very noticeable about human beings is that they often desire to do the things that give them prominence and despise or refuse to do the things that do not bring much recognition. The people who serve faithfully in the shadows are the golden vessels that make the church strong.
People enjoy the limelight. But the things that fill in the background are often the more labor intensive and are absolutely essential to those functions that are applauded. The problem is that the very people so essential to the ministry
of the church are often neglected. It is the responsibility of the wise pastor to act as the instrument of the Holy Spirit in taking an interest in and encouraging these faithful people in their work.
But some people come to despise their calling in the Lord and to desire a more prominent status. Then they have fallen into the sin of being envious of the brethren who have a more prominent role. It is not wrong for a person to wish to increase their service or availability to God. What can be wrong is the motive behind the desire; the attitude toward those in prominence; the decision to follow ones own dictates rather than the leadership of the Spirit of God. Should this person succeed in attaining prominence, their work is often characterized by a succession of failures or hindrances placed in the way of others until they become discouraged and quit completely.
The other type of person susceptible to this are of envy aimed toward the brethren is the novice. In his ignorance and first glimmers of spiritual truth, he is likely to have delusions of grandeur and desire to run where God has not called. A second consequence of initial spiritual insight is that he begins to perceive that his mentors are but flesh and blood and that they no longer fit his delusion of what a spiritual giant must be. The mark of his immaturity is an attitude of superiority aimed at men who have walked some roads and been some places with the Lord. The thought then enters his head that he needs to be in the position these men are in or in a position greater than they. It is not hard to see the principle of the devil at work when he sought to exalt himself above God. The foolish novice is simply living this out on a more human scale.
It should be readily apparent when considering both my examples how continuing in these modes for some little time can lead the person so trapped into first frustration, and finally discouragement. Quite often they finally wind up out of church and consigned to marking time. Pride precludes repentance and the critical spirit prevails.
It is not only in the area of church work that this condition exists. Other examples of people making the sacrifice outside of God’s plan lies in a multitude of areas such as child rearing. An individual is determined to have the perfect family, envying the familial relationships enjoyed by others. In this case, the adult sacrifices themselves and/or the marital resources to the point of the ridiculous. They elevate their concerns for the child above their relationship with their mate. They are determined to be the superior parent and control the child through their sacrifice of themselves.
Needless to say the usual result is the creation of a child that is willful and self centered. In their pursuit of perfection (and control) they ultimately lose not only what they sought but their relationship within the marriage. The actor in such a drama often winds up frustrated in their marriage while their partner is the discouraged one. In the end, they conclude their relationship either in divorce or their lives together in anger and bitterness. Sadly, an important element of this comedic tragedy is that the person has often operated within some delusional framework of belief that their sacrifice was honoring God.
It would be possible to add other examples of how this concept of the sacrifice outside of God’s plan might work, but I leave it to the intelligence of the reader to come to the correct conclusions based on the information given.
Conflict of Competition
there was strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen
of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizite dwelled then in
This kind of envy that leads to discouragement can be performed as a group. It is the envy one brother can have for another brother or churches have for one another over their success or prosperity. And it is the competition that can result from falling into the competitive mode. The Bible says the Canaanite and the Perizite dwelled in the land. Now when they saw the actions of these two believing men’s followers do you suppose they were interested in the God that they followed?
The Conflict of Competition is an attitude that says I must prove the superiority of my church over your church; my plan over your plan; my ideas over your ideas and so forth. The issue of the Envy of the Brethren lies in the need deal with the nagging doubt about the self coupled with the desire to garner more and better than the one they have chosen to be in competition with.
An example of this type of situation I can bring back from my own experience as a pastor in Germany. Faith Baptist Church, as part of its ministry to children was seeking to promote Bible memorization and Bible drill as part of teaching children how to find things in the Scripture. As the pastor I was very pleased with the progress I was seeing in children our leaders only got to work with two and sometimes three times per week.
In a phone conversation with the pastor of an English speaking church about thirty-five miles away, I mentioned how pleased I was with the way the new program was progressing. He immediately wanted me to bring my kids over to his church to have a sword drill competition with his group.
This struck me that it would be a very unfair competition because he was running a Christian school that was now into a couple of years of existence. His children would very likely walk all over my children, so great was their advantage. I could just see children who were now very pleased with their progress becoming discouraged after being trounced in such a competition. Of course the advantage to him would be that by having the competition at his church on a Sunday night he hoped to look good in front of his people and promote his
agenda. My wife remarked that if we were to compete with him and beat his group, he would never forgive me.
There is a Biblical principle that we should rejoice when the brethren abound and never be envious of their successes. After all, should not the motive of our striving be that the Lord Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father be glorified in us? While there is a place for healthy competition, care should be taken that it is never one-sided. We should also be concerned that the motives behind such an undertaking would be that all who compete should be encouraged to grow. Competition for the sake of proving our superiority over what another is doing has a baseness to it that should be obvious from the start.
Envy of Position- Setting Aside the Lord’s Anointed
they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two
hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation,
men of renown.
they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and
said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation
are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them wherefore then
lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?
Numbers 16: 2&3
The problem in Israel was that Korah, Dathan, and Abiram wanted to be in charge instead of being willing to follow the man the Lord had chosen to lead them. They thought they had a better vision and a better way. The result was they caused the destruction not only of themselves but also of their families as well as fourteen thousand seven hundred others before the matter got straight.
There is a principle of church leadership that while any number of leaders may be operative within a local church structure, if the house is not to be divided , they must all be subordinate to a single leader whose role is to guide the flock. This is the power of the title pastor, and the calling of the undershepherd. As I write this on the day following reading an item declaring the termination of people after a short term in ministerial positions is on the decline. If the information contained in the article was correct, it is but a temporary situation for we live in an age of rebellion, where the envy of position abounds, unlike any other. Getting caught in this error can
result in the destruction, not only of the person captured in the sin, but also in the people around him. Usually such envy does not end in people’s physical deaths. It most often causes spiritual death, either before or after those caught up in the consequences of such sin become thoroughly discouraged.
While it is true that a great reform is needed among churches with congregational rule, other areas where the principle of seeking the overthrow of The Lord’s anointed also exist. I could point to the constant tension caused by the various people interested in overthrowing those in high places because of either the envy of their position, or the embracing of contrary political opinions. I have seen this operative in businesses and in the military, when people sought to undermine the leader and bring him into disrepute so they could get a leg up. And I have found it to be especially prevalent in homes where other family members set about to undermine the God-ordained leadership of the home.
Once again we can look at this issue and see the spirit of
rebellion and anarchy at work, yes even in the church. One of the things
about the operation of these principles related to discouragement coming
out from the Envy of the Brethren is that often its greatest victims are
those on the sidelines who are caught up in the middle of the situation.
Brethren, these things ought not so to be.
 It is interesting to see that people would often rather quit their area of service than put in the work necessary to be able to do it very well.
 In the Bible tribulation is the normal “warp and woof” of living in a world groaning under the burden of sin. Tribulation with a capital ‘T’ is a time of God’s wrath, within which is the period known as the time of Jacob’s trouble.
 A military tern for a manual or book that instructs the soldier in how to perform certain functions related to his occupation.
 B_I_B_L_E - Basic Information Benefiting Living Everyday
 D. Stuart Brisco used to make this statement. “Life is basically pretty simple. Don’t complicate it.”
 This is not to be confused with ‘name it claim it, positive thinking,’ or prosperity theology ideas. all that is being said is that an individual can be defeated by their mindset before they even start out, and conversely a good attitude has its own benefits.
 Dr. R.G. Lee, who is well known for his sermon “Payday Someday” and less well known for a book titled “Payday Everyday” is also responsible for the quote: “The devil always pays in counterfeit coin.”
 Dr. Barry Keaton, founder and president, Comfort Care Ministries, Coppermine Road, Buchanan, Ga. 30113.
 Much of the clip art in this booklet was purchased from Arttoday.com.
 I believe I first read this account in HA Ironside’s book on Ephesians titled “In the Heavenlies,” published by Loizeaux Bros.
 For instance a number of converts from active witchcraft practice have reported instances where they or someone they knew tried to cast a spell/send a demon out to afflict a person who was a genuine Christian, walking in the Spirit. The result was that the demonic being involved, being repulsed by the Holy Spirit, returned to the sender bent on vengeance for what it just suffered in the unpleasant encounter.
 Quite apart from middle-eastern social custom, David felt that for him to be right with God the gift must cost something. David limited the Jebusite’s role in the matter by refusing his property as a gift as well.
 God is pleased to give those He loves the desires of their heart. But the only guaranteed affirmative response is to the request made within the divine will. Occasionally God allows (does not give) us to have what we should not get so we can learn from it.
 There is a false blessing, which comes from Satan as part of his agenda to search out and destroy souls. This benefit is usually tied to ungodly activities Christians should not be involved with.
 The recent loss of hearing by Mr. Limbaugh, and his gargantuan struggle to recover it, demonstrates how quickly what we have might be lost.
 At one time I thought this was the first recorded counseling session.. But there is an earlier, when God asked Adam where he was in Genesis chapter 3.
 I am not saying that what a person might then be doing when they become envious of a brother is outside of God’s plan for them. I am saying their discernment of God’s will is hindered by their sin.
 People who are not cared for are left vulnerable to discouragement under the category of the Hardness of the Way.