Hey Jude - Pt. 4 - Discouragement
It is a single that The Beatles released in August of 1968. The song is more than seven minutes long and spent nine weeks at number one in the United States. This song is frequently included on professional critics' lists of the best songs of all time. The chorus remains locked in our subconscious. This Jude is famous.
Over the last few weeks we have been rocking out another single. This one is the single, self-titled chapter book in the Bible that seems to fall almost unnoticed before the much sexier, mysterious, attention grabbing book of Revelation! This Jude can be read more quickly than the song can be sung. It is a short, concise poignant book, written by Jude the brother of James.
In this short book, Jude examines and exposes the 4 specific attacks that our enemy used against the church of Jude's day and is still using in our day: Deception, Distraction, Divisions, Discouragement.
So in Week 1 we dealt with deception. According to Jude the enemy will try to deceive us into license. Jude calls it "The Way of Cain." The enemy tries to get us to let license override any standard, any absolutes so that anything that feels good must be God. He tries to convince us to establish our own measure of what is right. We become like a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. The 2nd deception attaches to the first and it is tolerance and inclusion so that we begin to call evil good and good evil. We are challenged to accept everything in the name of tolerance and we become forbidden to apply any godly standard to our lives.
In Week 2 we talked about distractions. If the enemy can't deceive you he will try to distract you so that you begin to pay attention to things that don't matter. We become sidetracked. We become double minded. We allow things that shouldn't be our focus to cloud our focus so badly that we forget who we are and what our mission is supposed to be! I tried to remind you that are chosen. You are set apart. That is who we are. I tried to remind you what we are supposed to be about. Our mission is simply and exclusively to know Him and to make Him known!
Then last week we dealt with the 3rd attack. He dealt with division. If the enemy can't deceive you or distract you he will get you to get involved in divisions. He will get you to separate yourself from people that God intended you to be connected to. Because he knows those people were God ordained components in your journey to your destiny and if he can divide you he can conquer you. So complainers don't just talk they kill. What you choose to say determines whether you are cooperating with the devil or with God. Cliques may comfort you but they destroy us! How much time and energy is wasted on dividing things that don’t further the kingdom? I am glad we don't deal with divisions here at Passion! I am glad we are together. I am glad that black folk are comfortable setting next to some white folk and vice versa. We are in the unity of the Spirit. We are in this together. No divisions here in Jesus' name! We are just living here together like we will live together in heaven!
So let's wrap this up today. Jude reveals that if the enemy can't deceive you, distract you, or divide you then what he will do is send this last and perhaps most deadly of attacks. When we are spiritually prodded we will guard against deception, distraction and division. But with a fake, painted smile on our face week after week we will endure and accept discouragement. We never seem to understand or discern where this internal attack originates and so we find ourselves for no apparent reason . . . discouraged. From the outside it would appear that you should be encouraged but you are down in the dumps. Your spouse treats your with respect, your kids aren't shooting up or messing up, your job is stressful but fulfilling, you are surrounded by friends, your church is doing its level best to provide you with an encounter with God on a weekly basis and to equip you to deal with your daily life. However, with all of that going for you still you seem to been down in the dumps, ready to curl up in a fetal position, pull the covers over your head and turn off the lights. You can't seem to shake it off or rise above it. Discouraged but not sure why? Doom and despair even though the sun is shining. Grumpy and unapproachable. Sulking, stepping on your bottom lip, and overcome by dark clouds in your own mind! Jude recognized this might happen. He knew that when you wake up to the dire condition of the day the enemy would try to bring in discouragement. Listen:
This is exactly the same program of these latest infiltrators: dirty sex, rule and rulers thrown out, glory dragged in the mud. The Archangel Michael, who went to the mat with the Devil as they fought over the body of Moses, wouldn’t have dared level him with a blasphemous curse, but said simply, “No you don’t. God will take care of you!” But these people sneer at anything they can’t understand, and by doing whatever they feel like doing—living by animal instinct only—they participate in their own destruction. I’m fed up with them! They’ve gone down Cain’s road; they’ve been sucked into Balaam’s error by greed; they’re canceled out in Korah’s rebellion. These people are warts on your love feasts as you worship and eat together. They’re giving you a black eye—carousing shamelessly, grabbing anything that isn’t nailed down. They’re—Puffs of smoke pushed by gusts of wind; late autumn trees stripped clean of leaf and fruit, Doubly dead, pulled up by the roots; wild ocean waves leaving nothing on the beach but the foam of their shame; lost stars in outer space on their way to the black hole. Enoch, the seventh after Adam, prophesied of them: “Look! The Master comes with thousands of holy angels to bring judgment against them all, convicting each person of every defiling act of shameless sacrilege, of every dirty word they have spewed of their pious filth.” These are the “grumpers,” the bellyachers, grabbing for the biggest piece of the pie, talking big, saying anything they think will get them ahead. But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: “In the last days there will be people who don’t take these things seriously anymore. They’ll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts.” These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There’s nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!
That is not a pretty picture. The condition of our society is not only breath taking but it is absolutely heart taking. That is very definition of discouragement. Discouragement means to lose heart. To become disheartened, to lose courage, to take our heart (passion, enthusiasm) away. Discouragement leaves us going through the motions – singing, preaching, testifying, praying, but with no heart! The joy of our salvation a distant and fading memory.
Jude says with all of this going on around you and even in the church it would be easy to give up, throw your hands up and quit, throw in the towel and like the character in a comic strip have a individualized rain-filled cloud perpetually over your head.
I get it. I mean I understand that when you examine:
a. Culture and see that men are lovers of their own selves.....having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof – their religion has no power to change/transform their lives. Evil celebrated. Righteousness hated. Evil men and seducers get worse and worse and they seem to prosper.
b. Christians and see that some have departed from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. When you see a generation with no commitment to the church. Living isolated lives with no understanding or appreciation for the need for relationships. Not seeming to even know that their first step away from God is usually indicated by your first step away from God's people. Deceived and dominated by culture instead of Christ, living on the peripheral, settling for mediocrity/no excellence, self- centered, self-seeking, self-absorbed, sensual, fleshy, and don't want or need the Spirit.
Jude knew this would be a serious attack and tactic. Hey Jude what are we supposed to do? Let depression overtake us? Lose heart? No, he follows up this stormy forecast with a couple of statements that are intended to help us fight off discouragement. Listen to what he says:
But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—
Jude knew that if we don't change our focus we would fall prey to discouragement. You can't see all this without losing heart. So Jude says we have to refocus on three things:
1. See Jesus again.
Jude knew if we could get our eyes on Jesus that He can take the dis out of discouragement and replace it with courage so that you don't fall. I already told you in Week 2 that we must fix our eyes on Jesus. Get your eyes off the sinner in the street and the sinner in the pulpit and get your eyes on Jesus. I am a man. He is THE MAN. Focus on Him. Why is it important to focus on Jesus? Only He can . . .
Keep you on your feet. You have been on your back, you have been on your knees, you have been curled up in pain and Jude says if you can keep your eyes on Jesus He can keep you on your feet! You can’t fight your way back to your feet. However, He can pull you up! He can strengthen the weak! David encouraged himself not in a new outfit, car, or friend. He encouraged himself in The Lord.
Only He can give you back your joy . . . Jude says if you will refocus on Jesus He will present you to God with what? Great joy! King James says with exceeding joy. I don't want to steal the thunder from our next series which is called “Joyride” but can I tell you that you don't have to be discouraged. You don't have to be afraid. Yes, the outlook seems to be bleak if all you focus on is the stuff around you. Yes, the forecast seems to be storm-filled. But you have to know that if we would simply:
Look to the hills from whence comes our help! Our outlook would change. We can't be focused on the sin it should be focused on our Savior. When is the last time you looked past your neighbor, the worship leader, the pastor, the person 3 rows up that rubs you the wrong way to really see Jesus? Have you seen Jesus lately? Lift your head up redemption draweth nigh!
So we look on Jesus and then we . . .
2. See His Mercy!
How does focusing on God's mercy help us battle through discouragement? Mercy literally means I don't get what I deserve. I deserve destruction. I deserve pain. I deserve affliction. I deserve all that but I am not discouraged because I can trust His mercy. I don't get what I deserve so now I can lift my head. I can keep going. I can keep a smile on my face! When you are feeling discouraged just remember the mercy of God. If it is this bleak now just stop a second and think of what it would be like without His mercy. That should cause you to feel better about where you are now. I don't get discouraged because His mercies are new every morning!
3. See His coming!
If what we face today was all there was we should be discouraged. But we must remember that He is coming! Paul chimes in and says:
2 Corinthians 5:1 For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
Jude says we can take courage because He will present us without fault! We have a hope. We have travel plans. We have a rescuer for whom we are waiting! We have allowed the pendulum to swing too far. We used to only talk about His coming until we became escapist . . . I'll fly away became our anthem and we were so consumed with some day, one day that we forgot our mission here. But now we are so consumed with today, how to win friends and influence people, how to make a living, how to grow relationships that we have forgotten that life is nothing but vapor, here today and gone tomorrow and there is a greater day coming. We are supposed to live with expectation. It is difficult to be discouraged when your life is filled with expectation. You will remain discouraged if you focus on today as the end. However, if you refocus on THAT DAY what is happening today doesn't impact or affect me like it did. As bad as today may be there is a Day coming! I have hope!
Anyone discouraged today? Has life beat courage out of you? Is what you see around you stealing your heart? Come and focus on Jesus, His mercy and His coming!