Summary: Overcome discouragement when you redirect your energies, refocus your vision, and rally together.
A man stopped to watch a Little League baseball game and asked one of the youngsters, “What’s the score?”
“We're losing 18-0,” was the answer.
“Well,” said the man. “I must say you don't look discouraged.”
“Discouraged?” the boy said, puzzled. “Why should we be discouraged? We haven't come to bat yet.” (Stan Toler, God Has Never Failed Me, but He's Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times, Honor Books, 1995; www.PreachingToday.com)
I like that boy’s attitude. He refuses to be discouraged no matter how bad it gets.
So how can we adopt a similar attitude? How can we keep from getting discouraged in the work God has called us to do? For as we pray for revival and seek to restore God’s reputation in our land, we’re going to face set-backs that can discourage us; we’re going to be tempted to give up at times for various reasons. So How do we keep from growing weary and giving up before we reap the benefits of our labor for the Lord?
Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Nehemiah 4, Nehemiah 4, where we see how Nehemiah battled discouragement in his day. He was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem to restore God’s reputation in the area, and the people were getting discouraged.
Nehemiah 4:10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” (ESV)
They started off so enthusiastically. Now, they’re ready to quit. What happened? Well, they simply got tired. Their strength was failing. Literally, their strength was stumbling. It was tottering. It was staggering, getting ready to fall, and that’s what happens when we get tired. We get discouraged.
So, in your work for the Lord, don’t let fatigue get you down. Don’t let busyness overwhelm you so that you lose your strength.
Pastor and author John Ortberg writes: “Not long after moving to Chicago, I called a wise friend to ask for some spiritual direction. I described the pace of life in my current ministry. The church where I serve tends to move at a fast clip. I also told him about our rhythms of family life: we are in the van-driving, soccer-league, piano-lesson, school-orientation-night years. I told him about the present condition of my heart, as best I could discern it. What did I need to do,” Ortberg asked his friend, “to be spiritually healthy?”
Then Ortberg’s friend told him, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Another long pause.
“Okay, I've written that one down,” Ortberg told him, a little impatiently. “That's a good one. Now, what else is there?” Ortberg had many things to do, and this was a long-distance call, so he was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.
Another long pause.
“There is nothing else,” Ortberg’s friend said. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Then Ortberg writes, “I've concluded that my life and the well-being of the people I serve depends on following his prescription, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry destroys souls. (John Ortberg, “Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry,” LeadershipJournal.net, 7-4-02; www.PreachingToday.com)
You see, the greatest threat to our spiritual life is not the immoral entertainment industry with its pornography and violence. It is not the militant homosexual community out there. It is not even ISIS or Al Qaeda. No! The greatest threat to our spiritual life is our own busyness. We are going 90 miles an hour in 90 different directions, and then we wonder why we’re exhausted all the time.
My dear friends, we must eliminate the hurry from our lives; or else, we will grow weary and give up. Please, don’t let fatigue get you down.
More than that, don’t let the wrong focus get you down either. Don’t lose sight of the goal. Don’t lose your vision.
That’s what happened to the people in Nehemiah’s day. In verse 10 they were saying, “There is too much rubble.” According to verse 6, they were halfway done! But now all they can see is the garbage, not the gains; all they can see is the problem, not the progress.
Do you know? The hardest part of any task is midway through. Think about the last time you tackled a remodeling project or just your spring cleaning. At the half-way point, the place looked worse than when you started, didn’t it? Trash was everywhere, and it was very easy to think, “I will never get this done.”
Let me tell you: that’s often the way it is in our work for the Lord. We get part way through, and all we can see is the rubble. We get part way through, and we lose sight of the progress.