Summary: While much surrounds us that is discouraging, our great God is busy encouraging his people in the work of the Lord.
The devil, according to legend, once advertised his tools for sale at public auction. When the prospective buyers assembled, there was one oddly shaped tool, which was labeled “Not for sale.” Asked to explain why this was, the devil answered, “I can spare my other tools, but I cannot spare this one. It is the most useful implement that I have. It is called Discouragement, and with it I can work my way into hearts otherwise inaccessible. When I get this tool into a man’s heart, the way is open to plant anything there I may desire.”
If there is one thing that is constant it is that we all are subject to discouragement. There is no shortage of discouragements to hinder the work of God. The Bible is full of men of God who at times became discouraged. And you and I get discouraged from time to time.
There are three things that I think contributed to Paul’s discouragement in the ministry.
Firstly, The Large Strain of the Work. Paul comes to the largest and most wicked city in Greece. Sitting high above the city of Corinth was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In those days those that were wicked in sexual immorality were called Corinthians. There was so much work to be done and the largeness of the work is discouraging.
Secondly, The Little Success of the Work. Now we can say that it is required of us to be faithful and the success is up to God and that is true, but we all like to see growth and success in the work of the Lord. And while Paul saw some success he has been basically ran out of every place he has been. While he has seen some come to the Lord he still sees the masses of people rejecting the truth and that is discouraging.
Then finally, The Lonely Service of the Work. He has to do a lot of the work alone or with just one or two at his side. You would think more would get involved and more would be excited and more would re-prioritize their lives but alas much of the time when you travel God’s path it is a lonely path and that is discouraging.
But I am grateful that while the devil is active in discouraging us, God is at work to encourage us. While the devil is trying to drag us down, God is working to lift us up. While the devil aims at getting us to quit, God is working to encourage us to keep up the good fight. And here we are given “Three Encouragements to Keep Going.”
I. The Partnership Of Friends- verses 1-5a
One of the greatest God given encouragements are friends. It is always tougher if you have to bear it alone. Remember Silas and Timothy are still in Macedonia. So God knew that Paul needed someone to help him shoulder the burdens of the work. So what does God do? God stirs up a little trouble in Rome. God puts it on the heart of the Roman Emperor Claudius to expel all Jews from Rome. Given eviction papers Aqulia and his wife Priscilla come to Corinth. It seems that Aquila and Priscilla had a tent making business that they set up in Corinth. Paul just so happened to be a tentmaker and so he began to work with Aquila and Priscilla in their business. This gave him the funds for his support so that he could go into the synagogue every Sabbath and reason with the Jews and Greeks for Jesus Christ. What a blessing Aquila and Priscilla were to Paul. They became his best and closest friends.
Then God sent Silas and Timothy from Macedonia to Corinth to reunite with Paul. So God has not only blessed Paul with two new friends but brought back to him two familiar friends. And their return must have greatly encouraged Paul for the scriptures say that Paul was pressed in his spirit to testify to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.
I think you ought to stand for what is right even if you have to stand-alone. But I want to add, it is a whole lot easier to stand for what is right against the pressure of opposition if there are those who will support, strengthen and stand with you. Thank God for friends who God puts in your path and in your life who will encourage you in the work of the Lord.
I thank God for those here at Lakeview who have not only been sheep but have been friends. I am grateful because you don’t know how many times I have been discouraged and a word here and there have encouraged me to keep going forward.