Summary: This sermon offers resources for coping with discouragement and help in overcoming despair.

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Have you ever seen someone lose heart? Maybe today you are struggling with issues and are on the verge of losing heart. Maybe you have already lost heart. I will share a few examples I have observed.

When I was a boy there was a man I idolized. His name was Jim Ryun. Jim Ryun was one of the greatest long distance runners in the world. His specialty was the mile. Wikipedia says Ryun was one of the greatest runners of all time, and the last American to hold the world record in the mile run. His career was highlighted by many world record times.

• In 1964 Ryun became the first high school runner to break four minutes for the mile, running 3:59.0 as a junior at Wichita High School East in Wichita, Kansas.

• He established the high school and U.S. open mile record 3:55.3 as a senior in 1965, a record that stood as the high school record for 36 years.

Why do I mention Jim Ryun? There was a time in his career when Ryun lost heart, began to lose races he should have won, and one day walked off of the track and quit running. Shortly after that episode in an interview with Howard Cosell, Ryun announced his retirement. He later accepted Jesus Christ, regained a passion for life, and started running again. However, in that one period of his life, he lost heart.

In 1986 my mother’s mother died. My grandmother and grandfather had been married almost sixty years. After her death my grandfather wilted away. He lived three more years but he actually died in 1986. He died from a broken heart. I remember going to visit my grandfather, whom we called papa, and encouraging him to try his best for us. He lost heart.

This is not just an athletic syndrome or senior adult syndrome. This is a challenge that many people face in life. Many teenagers lose heart. Sometimes they cope with this hopeless feeling by turning to drugs or alcohol. Sometimes they cope with this hopeless feeling by turning to suicide.

Years ago Father John Powell told the story about a young girl named Norma Jean Mortenson. She was a young girl who spent much of her childhood in foster homes. In one of those foster homes, when she was 8 years old, she was sexually abused and given some money and told to tell no one. When Norma Jean tried to tell her foster mother, her mother spanked her and told her not to say anything about it again because the man she accused of sexual abuse was a man who faithfully paid his rent. As time went on Norma Jean turned into a very pretty girl and people began to take notice. Boys would whistle at her and she liked it but she wished they’d also know she was a person too, not just a body. After a period of time Norma Jean went to Hollywood where she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. Publicity people told her they were going to turn her into an American sex symbol. It worked. She became an overnight success. But she longed to be recognized as a person. She longed to be loved. After she became famous, everyone began to hate Marilyn Monroe. She would show up on the set 2 hours late causing people to say she was a prima donna. What they didn’t know was she was in her dressing room vomiting because she was so nervous. She kept asking, “Will someone please notice I’m a person!” She went through 3 marriages pleading for someone to notice her as a person and not just an object. At the age of 35, on a Saturday night, Marilyn Monroe killed herself. Her maid found her the next morning on her bed with the telephone dangling off the receiver. Investigators later learned that she’d called another actor and told him she’d taken enough sleeping pills to kill herself. He told her he didn’t care. They were the last words she was to hear. One writer said she thought the dangling telephone was a symbol of Monroe’s life. She died because she never got thru to anyone who understood.

(Contributed to Sermon Central by Erik Estep) The bottom line with Marilyn Monroe was that she lost heart. She died of despair.

Whether you are an athlete, a senior adult, a movie star, or a teenager there will be times when you will want to give up. You will lose heart. God has a better way. God loves you. God has a plan for your life.

We are going to look at a man in the Bible who faced difficult circumstances. If anybody ever had a reason to give up, he did. However, he did not lose heart. Look at II Cor. 4:8-9. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Twice in this chapter Paul testifies that he did not lose heart (vs. 1 and vs. 16). I want to sit at this man’s feet. I want to learn from him. He’s got some secrets that we need to know. We can discover these secrets as we examine the context of II Cor. 4.

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