Discouraged With Freckles
Numbers 21:4 KJV And they journeyed from mount Hor by the 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 Amplified . . . and the people became impatient (depressed, much discouraged), because [of the trials] of the way.
Numbers 21:4 Septuagint . . . the people became dispirited in the march.
Numbers 21:4 Berkley . . . the people, however, became depressed in spirit as a result of the route.
I. INTRODUCTION -- FRECKLES
Catherine Marshall wrote a book about a school-teacher named Christy who did her best to bring a little education to the foot-hills of the Smokies. In her writings Catherine Marshall details some things that are greatly hilarious and some of the other tales that she writes of are very sad.
One tale she writes of is about Ruby Mae of Cutter Gap. Someone had told Ruby Mae that if she would put lemon juice on her face that it would remove the freckles. If you are looking for beauty secrets, Cutter Gap is probably not the place to be looking. If you want to know about coon dogs, corn mashings for corn whiskey, or if you want to learn about fightin’ then Cutter Gap might be the place to go. However, beauty secrets is probably not their forte’.
Ruby Mae’s problem was that she did not have any lemons. It would take a lot of lemons because Ruby Mae’s face was covered with freckles that matched her bright red hair. She thought that if she would get rid of the freckles then it would drastically change her life. So because Ruby Mae did not have lemons, she decided that oranges would work just as well.
When she got home, she cut the oranges in half and began to furiously rub her face. Finally, in utter disappointment she quit. She discovered that the freckles were there to stay.
When she finally gave in, she dejectedly said to her school-teacher and friend, “Miss Christy, they won’t come off!” Miss Christy replied, “You know Ruby Mae, I never really noticed your freckles. I was always too busy looking at your beautiful eyes.” Ruby Mae quickly looked back into the mirror and a huge smile stretched across her face (Adapted from Christy by Catherine Marshall & Insight for Living, unknown broadcast date).
-That is the problem with freckles, we can become so focused on the perceived problem that we lose sight of the beauty of the journey. To focus on freckles will be to get so discouraged with life that much of it is spent fretting over freckles.
II. SOME QUOTES ON DISCOURAGEMENT
-Have you ever been discouraged?
-Every person among us at one time or another has felt the distress of discouragement to tug at our hearts and dampen our spirits.
Thomas Edison -- Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
Dale Carnegie -- Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.
Guy Finley -- Discouragement is a negative emotion with more than one trick up its dark sleeve. It tricks you into mentally or emotionally dwelling in the very place you want to leave. Drop all such sorrow permanently by daring to see through this deception of the unconscious mind. You have a destination far beyond where you find yourself standing today.
Anonymous -- Dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things but the absence of vision.
Joseph Parker -- The discouraged man is in a condition to believe any enemy, any temptation, any suggestion that will even for a moment rid him of his intolerable pressure. Through the gate of discouragement the enemy wanders at will.
Discouragement can appear because of the path. Numbers 21:4 KJV And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.
Discouragement can come from your brothers who do not want the struggle. Numbers 32:9 KJV For when they went up unto the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into the land which the LORD had given them.
Discouragement can come from a place of hesitation (Kadesh-Barnea). Deuteronomy 1:21 KJV Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.
Discouragement can come from brothers who see the challenge bigger than their God. Deuteronomy 1:28 KJV Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.
III. THE SETTING OF NUMBERS 21
-The part of their journey has now become very taxing to all of Israel. Moses has lost Aaron, his brother, to death. Now, Moses’ work consists of encouraging those who are weary of tent life and tired of the inconveniences of constant travel.
-The fretting, groaning, and complaining have combined with the demands of the journey and the soul of the people was “much discouraged.”
-Now to compound all of the daily living routines, Israel wanted to take shortcut. It really wasn’t a shortcut as much as it was a straight course across Edom. Moses, in his negotiations with the Edomites, had promised that they would stay in the defined road. They would not wander through the vineyards or even take water from a well, pond, or lake.
-But they were forced to take a detour. It was a long, weary, monotonous, and heavy detour that pulled every notion of energy and stamina from their body’s and literally from their spirit.
-Once they began to move into the darkness of the detour, they begin to complain with such vehemence against God and Moses that a huge penalty resulted. Fiery serpents begin to rove among them and bite them. (That is a message for another day! The message: what we say when discouragement sinks into our spirits can have some terrible effects on life.)
-There are certain and sure discouragements that will come to us along the way.
-When one finds himself in the midst of this sort of thing there is a tendency to start making comparisons:
• With our circumstances versus another in a similar situation.
• With our path versus some other person’s path.
• With our lot in life versus some other person’s lot in life.
-With each comparison we sink lower and lower in the “slough of despond” as Bunyan called it. Discouragement can pull us deeper down than what we normally would desire to go.
-Discouragement is that “somewhere in the middle feeling.”
• It is not outright fear but it cannot be faith either.
• It is not depression but there is no triumph to provide balance.
• It is not cowardice but there is no strength to support.
-If a man is not careful, discouragement can have a tendency to deepen and to darken our days. When we are discouraged, if we are not vigilant, we can fail God miserably.
-Discouragement gains a foothold when we worry about the freckles.
A. Discouragement -- A Tool of the Devil (Unknown)
Once upon a time it was announced that the devil was going out of business and would sell all his equipment to those who were willing to pay the price.
On the big day of the sale, all his tools were attractively displayed. There were Envy, Jealousy, Hatred, Malice, Deceit, Sensuality, Pride, Idolatry, and other implements of evil display. Each of the tools was marked with its own price tag.
Over in the corner by itself was a harmless looking, wedge-shaped tool very much worn, but still it bore a higher price than any of the others. Someone asked the devil what it was, and he answered, "That is Discouragement." The next question came quickly, "And why is it priced so high even though it is plain to see that it is worn more than these others?"
Because replied the devil, "It is more useful to me than all these others. I can pry open and get into a man’s heart with that when I cannot get near him with any other tool. Once I get inside, I can use him in whatever way suits me best. It is worn well because I use it on everybody I can, and few people even know it belongs to me."
This tool was priced so high that no one could buy it, and to this day it has never been sold. It still belongs to the devil, and he still uses it on mankind.
B. Looking for U-Turns
-Discouragement brings with it the feeling of wanting to go back and start-over where you have left off. Your mind tells you, “If you will go back and undo the journey and go back to where you have started then all will right itself.”
-The problem with this thinking is that Israel had come too far along in the journey to go back to the garlic and leeks in Egypt. What they did not understand and even to us in this generation now is that the journey alters our identity?
-God is sovereign and had led Israel out of Egypt at precisely the right time. The same holds true in our lives also. He is sovereign and is very aware of where we are in the journey.
-The path you are walking with the Lord is designed to change you. Any goal that you are trying to reach will (at some point) have to face a wave of discouragement.
-The path to the Promised Land is often marked by a long, circuitous route. It always starts and ends with much excitement. . . It is the middle that is difficult.
-Suddenly at some point we are faced with the variables, the exceptions, the variations, and the shadows that seem to be constantly getting in the way.
-It is the understanding that A + B = X, but what we fail to understand in the journey is that C + D also may equal X.
-The difficulty is that you have the same answer but there is a very different equation.
-When we are on the track of the unfamiliar, we start pining for Egypt again. But. . .
• Egypt is the land of ignorance.
• It is the land of bondage.
• It is the land of inflicted pain.
• It is the place of darkness.
• It is the place burden.
• Egypt is the land of harsh taskmasters.
-If you will just persevere. . . . within six months, in a year, or in a year and a half, where will you be if you persevere and face down your fears and your doubts. When you look at it in that manner, we know that time will bring to us. . .
• The joys that come from completion.
• The feelings that come from accomplishment.
• The excitement of finishing the task.
• The power that comes from persevering.
-Time is absolutely necessary to understand the ways of God. The facts are proven that out of the bitter experiences of life that we can very well grow stronger in faith, more humble in God’s sight, more trusting of God in the difficulties, and more disciplined in our prayers.
• The cruelty that Joseph had to endure and the broken heart of Jacob proved to be the good things of life.
• The forty years of Israel’s trial in the wilderness proved to be the plan of God.
• The life of the Apostle Peter was better for the bitterness of his betrayal and the shame of his sin.
• Our lives will owe great gratitude to the moments of discouragement in later years of service.
C. Uphill Is Often The Right Way
-The vast majority of the time the uphill is the right way.
• It is very easy to coast downhill and give in to the challenges.
• It is very easy to drift about without much aim.
• It is very easy to give up because there isn’t much challenge to that.
-It is challenging to say, “I am going in the opposite direction of where I am going now!” It takes a change in the heart to be able to say this!
-In discouragement, there are a number of considerations:
Is laziness going to rule me? Am I always going to give in to be left alone? Will I always look for the easy way out? Am I willing to give up some things today so I can embrace some greater things tomorrow? Can I keep giving up and gain things without a cost?
Will I get up out of this valley and climb to the heights? Will I avail myself to hunger for the summits of life? Am I willing to be expended in the cause of the summit? Will I be comfortable muddling through the mundane of mediocrity? Will refuse to embrace the enemy called average?
-I am here to tell you that there are some necessary discouragements that we all must seek to overcome and empower ourselves against.
• Instead of the freckles. . . Look at the blessings!
• Instead of the freckles. . . Look at a relationship with God!
• Instead of the freckles. . . Look at the direction of your spiritual life, Heaven!
• Instead of the freckles. . . Look at the liberty in the Spirit!
-You may not be able to get rid of the freckles but consider the power of something positive that has a high place in your life.
• It is good for us sometimes to have to start in the same place that we started on yesterday morning.
• It is good for us to lose a day or two here and there.
• It is good for us to consider that we have wasted some of our resources in a
• It is good for us to be stretched by failure.
• It is good for us to be bruised by high expectations of a superior (whether it is a parent, teacher, or dare I say, pastor).
• It is good to have some losses and disappointments along the way.
-If it were not for the discouragements, arrogance and pride would literally rule us. When we find the limitations of discouragement pressing in on us it does not mean that we have been unfaithful, disloyal, unworthy, or any other adjective you want to add. Discouragement just means that you are human!
D. The Exaggerations of Discouragement
-I have found that often discouragement is very much exaggerated in my life. Often enough it is a matter of perception.
-The Proverbs detail a man who came under the sway of great exaggeration and it severely limited him. . . but the facts are that the exaggerations robbed him of his ability to accomplish anything.
Proverbs 26:13 KJV The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
-What happens with this man? He starts seeing lions everywhere he looks.
• I cannot plow. . . There is a lion in the fields.
• I cannot enjoy life. . . There is a lion in the streets.
• I cannot gather the harvest. . . There is a lion in the alley.
• I cannot pay the price. . . There is a lion in the streets.
-There are some who can only see the darkness and nothing more.
-Discouragement will try the very fiber of our souls and our minds. It is of necessity that during these times of “low-tide” that our spiritual vigilance must be at the greatest.
-The climate is what you must understand not the patterns of the weather. Your life will have to endure the biting winds of winter, the heaviness of snow, and the sharp cutting frosts. . . but given time, the chirping of baby birds will mark the spring. There will be new shoots of green on the barren trees. This will give in to the long lazy days of summer and then you will once again exult in the joy of the harvest.
-My walk with God will have the same trends:
• Of night followed by the day.
• Of winter followed by spring.
• Of loss followed by blessing.
• Of hard-times followed by the goodness of the Lord.
• Of sickness followed by health.
• Of pain followed by relief.
• Of weakness followed by strength.
-The climate is crucial to understand during the darkness of discouragement. Life is like a pendulum clock that swings in both directions.
• I have little control over the majority of my circumstances, only my response.
• I have no control over the weather, only my response to it.
• I have no control over how others may treat, only my response to it.
• In fact, I have little control over much of the circumstances on life. . . Only the response of my heart and of my attitude.
-What we may not realize is that character is developed by the unreasonable demands of circumstances and of discouragement.
IV. LOOK TO JESUS
-If there is any remedy that I can encourage you to look to, it is Jesus Christ. He was much discouraged because of the way.
• He marveled because of their unbelief.
• He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
• Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen doth her young under her wings, and ye would not!
-They went against Him with sticks and swords as if He were a thief. Despite that it was with joy that He endured the Cross, despising the shame.
-It is worth enduring the discouragement. . . It is worth enduring the freckles. . . to experience the Resurrection.
-It is worth enduring a whole winter to know that a summer will be coming on later. A little rain, a wind or two, an unexpected frost, a little bitterness in the cup—these are the things that come and go. . . .
-But we, being in Christ, seek a Kingdom which cannot be moved.
• If you have no progress, then you eliminate discouragement.
• If you have no purpose, then you will escape discouragement.
• If you have no revival, then you will be immune to discouragement.
• If you have no fire, you will have no vipers.
• If you have no prayer, you will face no lions’ dens.
-We must look to the examples that have preceded us in history.
V. “I WANT YOU TO WALK”
-Arthur Gordon (A Touch of Wonder) relates a story that graphically describes the impact that one life can have on another. The man Gordon spoke of had been stricken with polio at the age of three and his parents had abandoned him in the Depression era.
Taken in by a foster family from a New York City hospital, he went to stay with their family in Georgia at the age of six. The family had hoped that the warmer climate would have an effect on the young boy. What improved his condition was the attendance of an elderly woman who was called Maum Jean. She took this frail, lost, lonely little boy into her heart. For six years, she daily massaged his weak legs and administered to him her own hydrotherapy in a nearby creek and encouraged him spiritually with her stories, songs, and prayers.
“Night after night, Maum Jean continued in the massaging and praying. Then one morning, when I was twelve, she told me she had a surprise for me. She led me out into the yard and placed me with my back against an old oak tree; I can feel the rough bark of that old tree even to this day.”
“She took away my braces and my crutches. She moved back a dozen steps and told me that the Lord had spoken to her in a dream. He had said that the time had come for me to walk. ‘So now,’ said Maum Jean, ‘I want you to walk over here to me.’
“My instant reaction was fear. I knew I couldn’t walk without my braces and crutches because I had tried. I shrank back against the solid support of the tree. Maum Jean continued to urge me.”
“I burst into tears. I begged. I pleaded. Her voice rose suddenly, no longer gentle and coaxing but full of power and command. ‘You can walk, boy! The Lord has spoken! Now walk over here.’”
“She knelt down and held out her arms. And somehow, impelled by something stronger than fear, I took a faltering step, and another, and another, and another, until I reached Maum Jean and fell into her arms, both of us weeping.”
“It was two more years before I could walk normally, but I never used the crutches again. All of that happened a long time ago. I live in another town, now. But I still think of Maum Jean often, and the main thing she taught me: that nothing is a barrier when love is strong enough.”
• As long as I am alive, I am going to tell you that you can walk.
• As long as I can preach, I am going to tell you that God has a purpose for your life.
• As long as I can pray, I am going to hold to the faith that God is going to help us!
Philip Harrelson -- March 18, 2007