Do your remember the “ABC Wide World of Sports” series of the seventies? If you don’t remember the opening you may want to see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2AZH4FeGsc
In the opening, a ski jumper named, Vinko Bogataj, became the symbol of “the agony of defeat”, as he crashed during the Ski-flying World Championships in Oberstdorf, West Germany. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_World_of_Sports_(US_television_show)
During our lifetime, most of us have experienced hardship and the discouragement, but we are not alone. Throughout the Word of God, we find the most Godly of the Lord’s servants faced discouragement and depression, as they faced various types of hardships and loss in their lives.
Lets take a few minutes to study how to handle the discouraging times in our lives…
Ps 42:1-11 (KJV)
…My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where [is] thy God?… Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, [who is] the health of my countenance, and my God.
Job, Moses, Jonah, and Peter faced loss and discouragement during the course of their service to the Lord.
Job lost his wealth, livelihood, children, wife and health which led him to say “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night [in which] it was said, There is a man child conceived…Why died I not from the womb? [why] did I [not] give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?… For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest” in Job chapter 3.
Moses addressed the Lord and said “Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?… I am not able to bear all this people alone, because [it is] too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.” After he faced the continual complaining of the people of Israel in Numbers chapter 11.
Jonah, in chapter 4, says “I pray thee, O LORD, [was] not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? … Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for [it is] better for me to die than to live.” Jonah said this after the Lord had blessed Jonah’s begrudging ministry to the arch-enemies of the Israelites, the Ninevites and their countrymen.
And finally, after denying the Lord, “Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:75.
In all of these examples, we see Godly men who were faced with agony, discouragement and depression in the face of great loss. Also, please notice that the basis of their discouragement varied. In Job’s case it was due to great loss of material blessings, family and health; for Moses, it was experiencing obstacles in His service to the Lord; for Jonah, it was seeing the wicked prosper; and finally, in Peter’s life, he experienced great depression after failing in his service to his Lord.
Four men, four differing experiences, but the same basic response to them all…. Discouragement, it is a common experience in the Lord’s service.
So how are God’s people to handle the discouraging times in life? Psalm 42:1-11 holds the key….
Principle #1 – During times of hardship, we should seek a closer relationship with the Lord, as our first priority. (Psa 73:28, James 4:8)
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
David found himself seeking after His Lord. He desired to have a closer relationship with the Lord, to come to a better understanding of His Word and live a life of greater submission to His will. Many times, the Lord allows trials into our life to bring us closer to Him. It is during these times of trials that we pray more, study more, and become more aware of His presence in our lives.
Principle # 2 – During times of hardship, we should seek out sincere Godly friends and acquaintances (Prov 17:17, John 15:13).
My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where [is] thy God?
When I remember these [things], I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
Godly friends will give us Scriptural counsel and stand with us during our testing. Especially seek out dedicated Christians who have faced the same type of trials that we are facing. Their counsel, which is based on experience, can be invaluable during times of hardship.
Our carnal friends will only give worldly advice or desert us in the midst of our discouragement. (Note: Beware of friends who claim to be Christians but are not dedicated to His service. Many of David’s friends that doubted the Lord were those he had worshipped within God’s house.)
Principle # 3 – During times of hardship, we should not concentrate on our disappointments, but think on things that honor the Lord. (Phils 4:6-9, Psa 63:6)
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and [why] art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him [for] the help of his countenance.
O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.
David now begins to question why he is experiencing this period of discouragement.
He forces himself to think about what is true about His Lord. (For example: He knows His Lord loves him; and the Lord has promised to accompany him throughout his life on earth.)
David recognizes that, even in this situation, there was much to be hopeful about. Because of this, no matter where David may find himself, he would always remember the Lord and give Him the honor and remembrance due Him.
Principle # 4 – During times of hardship, we should recognize the Lord is in control of all his life’s events. (Job 23:13, Psa 115:3, Isa 46:10-11)
Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
[Yet] the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song [shall be] with me, [and] my prayer unto the God of my life.
David realized that his Lord was in control of all the events that he was currently struggling with. That is why he said that the “waves and billows” he was facing was thine (God’s). David knew that God was able to not only bring these upon him, but also because of His sovereignty, He could remove these circumstances anytime that He chose.
Also, David realized that God’s control over all things meant that He could keep all the promises He has made to His people. This includes His promise to be with us, to show us His continuous loving kindnesses (His graces), and His comforting during life’s trials.
Principle # 5 – During times of hardship, we need to take our disappoinments and issues to the Lord. (Hebs 4:16, Psa 145:18, Psa 139:17-18)
I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
[As] with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where [is] thy God?
The Lord welcomes us to take our issues to Him. We are to empty ourselves in prayer knowing He hears and understands us. He is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. We are to feel free to come before Him exposing our deepest desires, questions, heartaches, complaints, feelings, disappointments, and failures, knowing He will understand and comfort us as He draws near to us.
Principle # 6 – During times of hardship, count our blessings and realize how good the Lord is to us. (Psa 40:5, Psa 139:17-18, 2 Cor 4:8-9)
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, [who is] the health of my countenance, and my God.
Once again, David questions why he is discouraged when he realizes all that the Lord has done for him. He said that the Lord was “the health of my countenance” and also that He was “my God”. David reminds himself that his God “puts a smile on his face” based upon all His blessings given to David. David also sees that the Lord is “His God”. In other words, He deserves David’s worship and submission to His will.
We all should practice the principles that David applied to his life during times of hardship. By actively following these principles, we can be a Godly witness to the grace, love and peace that only God can give.
And remember, where there is God there is always hope and peace… Psa 30:5, Jer 29:11
For those who have experienced God’s grace in their lives…
Ps 34:1-4 (KJV)
[A Psalm] of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise [shall] continually [be] in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear [thereof], and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
For those who have never come to a life changing belief in an Existing God…
Isa 55:6-7 (KJV)
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
To see this lesson taught on video please go to my Video Blog at http://www.youtube.com/settledinheaven
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May the Lord bless your study of His Word. Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”