Summary: God encourages Paul when he was discouraged. Ministry is hard work, but God is in it with you. Your circumstances do not determine how you fare.
THE TOOL CALLED ‘DISCOURAGEMENT’
Once upon a time, the Devil decided to have a garage sale and sell all the tools of his trade. There were envy, jealousy, hatred, deceit, pride, idolatry and many others. Each of the tools was marked with its own price tag.
On the day of the big sale, all were arranged neatly and attractively displayed. Over in the corner, by itself, was a harmless looking wedge-shaped tool, very worn out, but it had a higher price tag than all the others.
Someone asked the Devil, “Why is this priced so high when it is worn more than the others?”
“Well,” said the Devil, “It is my favourite. I use it more than the others.”
“What is it?” the person asked. “It is discouragement.”
“It is well worn because I can use it practically on everyone.”
This tool was priced so high that no one bought it, and the Devil is using it still, to this day.
Everyone is touched from time to time by discouragement.
• No matter how ‘strong’ or spiritual you think you are, you have been, and you know you can be discouraged.
• The Bible tells us of many servants of God who were discouraged at some point in their life or ministry – like Moses, Joshua, Hezekiah, Elijah, Job, and Jeremiah.
If you have a bible that shows the words of the Lord in red, then you can see this very prominent portion in Acts 18.
• Luke recorded this down because it was significant. That night, the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision.
• God does not do that every other night, but only when truly necessary.
And this was what He said to Paul, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (18:9-10)
• It reveals the state of Paul’s mind or heart - He is afraid, and he wants to stop. He is tired of the Jews who are stubborn and refuse to listen.
• Verse 6 gave us a hint that he was angry and put off, because they not only opposed him but became abusive.
• He wants to give up on them. He is tired and depressed, and God steps in.
The Bible has its share of people who got discouraged.
• MOSES, when the people kept asking for meat to eat in the wilderness. Num 11:13-15 “13Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, `Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now - if I have found favour in your eyes - and do not let me face my own ruin."
• ELIJAH, after challenging 450 prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, finds himself running for his life (from Queen Jezebel) into the wilderness. 1 Kings 19:4 “…he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."
HALF THROUGH AND QUITTING
“A man was shovelling snow from his driveway when two boys carrying snow shovels approached him. “Can we shovel your snow mister?” one of them asked.
“Only two dollars!” Puzzled the man replied, “Can’t you see that I’m doing it myself.”
“Sure,” said one of the enterprising young men, “that’s why we asked. We get most of our business from people who are half through and feel like quitting.”
… Warren Wiersbe. Be Daring. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1989) p. 56.
Discouragement sets in when you are working and things did not turn out the way you expected, you are tired and you feel lonely.
Paul was in a similar state. Apart from a handful of believers, he has been facing rejections and oppositions at every turn.
1. Previously he was at Berea with Silas and Timothy. [Read 17:14-15]
2. Paul went to Athens alone, waiting for them. [Read 17:16-17] Athens was an idolatrous place. Traditions tell us they have more idols in this city than people living in it.
3. He was challenging the philosophers in the public square. For some reasons, his colleagues did not managed to join him in Athens. Paul left for Corinth.
4. Corinth was another equally difficult place, known for its immorality. People says, “Go be a Corinthian” as a swear word.