Overcoming Spiritual Discouragement
Overcoming spiritual discouragement.
Text: Proverbs 18:14 “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?”
In this message we want to try to explain the difference between soulish discouragement, and spiritual discouragement. They are similar and overlap, but spiritual discouragement is much more difficult and dangerous for the believer. The good news is that there is a handy cure for both, and we will get to that shortly.
There is a difference between your soul and your spirit.
There is a difference between your spirit and the Holy Spirit.
Dichotomy, trichotomy, fourchotomy, all I know is that there is only one of me!
If my flesh suffers I suffer.
First, lets see that the flesh and soul can suffer while at the same time the spirit is soaring:
1 Thessalonians 1:6. “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:” Notice Paul speaks of Affliction and at the same time Joy in the Holy Ghost.
I always thought affliction in this passage referred to physical suffering, which it may, but it may just as well refer to mental pressures:
thlip’-sis: is translated and used in the bible for: tribulation 21 times, affliction 17, trouble 3, anguish 1, persecution 1, burdened 1, to be afflicted 1; for a total useage of 45 times.
The definition is: 1) a pressing, pressing together, pressure
2) metaph. oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits
In spite of all that, the Thessalonian Christians had joy in the Holy Ghost.
I wonder how they balanced those two different emotions?
We will call this kind of discouragement, soulish discouragement, the soulish (emotional) side of you is downcast, but the spiritual side of you is still upbeat. Another clear example of this is found in the book of Psalms where David records a conversation he had with himself: Ps 43:5 “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance, and my God.” In this example David’s spirit is speaking to his soul and saying, “Come on, hang in there! God will again bring a smile to our face.”
Another example from the life of David can be found in 1 Samuel chapter 30, where after many things had gone wrong, we find this gem of spiritual insight: 1 Samuel 30:6 “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.” You will notice David was greatly distressed and yet he encouraged himself. I believe the spiritual part of David picked up the soulish part of David that had been overwhelmed by discouragement.
Secondly, this morning I want you to notice that your spirit and soul are different, and that your spirit can lift you up when your soul is down, but if your spirit gets down than your troubles are greatly magnified.
Proverbs 18:14 “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?”
The good news is that Jesus said that He would send the comforter to help us, and I think He specifically had in mind those times that we would be personally overwhelmed or discouraged. (John 14:16). We need to thank God the Holy Spirit is different from our spirit, for your spirit can be wounded, and Proverbs 18:14 makes clear that when that happens you are in trouble unless you have another resource available. Psalm 61:1,2 tells us of that source when it says: “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Notice David is praying that when his heart is overwhelmed he wanted to be led to a rock that was higher than he. That is exactly what the indwelling Holy Spirit is, the rock that is higher than I! So then when we are personally overwhelmed we can draw strength by calling out to God and asking Him to heal the brokenhearted. (Luke 4:20)
In this message we are talking about overcoming discouragement. Discouragement means that your courage has been taken away. Either by circumstance, trial, trouble, whatever, when you look inside yourself you see little courage left for the trial you are called upon to face. It is like going to your checking account and seeing the balance in red, you know you are in trouble. Psalm 61:1,2 points us in the right direction by simply reminding us that we are not limited as God’s children to our own resources, we have the help of heaven nearby.
Thirdly lets see our spirit can be troubled by our soul, which in turn can trouble our flesh.
Pr 15:13 A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Pr 17:22 A merry heart doeth good [like] a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Like a broken arm, your spirit can be wounded for a season, and it can wind up affecting you physically. Sorrow of the heart breaks the spirit, and a broken spirit drieth the bones. Discouragement is bad for you physically.
Third we will see that God has a cure for sorrow of heart.
I will give you rest, is His personal promise to those who are burdened and heavy ladened in Matthew 11:28. The only condition is that we come unto Him. What does that mean, we come unto Him? I think it means that not only do we pray to Him about the cause of a wounded spirit (death of a loved one, divorce, missed opportunity etc.) but that we also commit to Him specifically the result of the wound, that is, we also pray about our damaged feelings. As a pastor I have often encouraged people to take their hands and place them over their physical heart and to pray that God would heal their broken heart. I believe that Luke 4:18-20 says that Jesus was specifically anointed to bring that kind of healing. Some people get so preoccupied with the cause of a broken heart or discouragement they forget to pray about the impact it is having on their emotions. I remind you again of Proverbs 18:14, which says, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” The text implies that the healed heart is needed before the situation can be properly dealt with, and not the other way around. A healed heart can encourage you in the Lord as David did, it can with the Lord’s help come up with creative solutions, or livable workarounds, and it can cut your load in half, in that instead of a problem and a broken heart, you get back to the place where you have the problem and a healed heart/spirit to deal with it.
Another source of help is the word of God. Proverbs 12:25, “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” The Bible is full of soul and spirit healing words. Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Jesus knows and has the perfect answer for your need. Isaiah 50:4 (NIV) The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. Jesus can lead you to portions of the scripture that will have the answer, advice, direction, or encouragement you need. Ask Him! (Psalms is a great place to go looking for encouragement)
Finally observe this one last prayer of David’s, uttered in a time of great distress, Ps 35:3 “Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” The last part of the text is the one I want to emphasize in closing, “Say to my soul, I am thy salvation.” David knew God was on his side, but he didn’t hesitate in asking Him to reaffirm it to him. It’s OK to be brutally simple with God, and say, “God I need some personal assurance at this time in my life, that You are on my side.”
Specific prayer about your emotional needs, seeking solace in the scriptures, and requesting personal assurance will deliver 3 knockout punches to help you overcome spiritual discouragement.
Pastoral prayer: “Father in the name of Jesus I ask you to pour fresh strength into the hearts of those who are struggling with spiritual discouragement. Give them something fresh from Your word, and may the Holy Spirit personally minister to them reminding them in a fresh way that whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world. In the name of Jesus, I pray this, amen.