Summary: Discouragement is one of the devil's deadliest tools to use on the church.
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—THE SLOUGH OF DESPOND
-It very well could be that this sermon is going to be one of those that will bring strength to you to go at it another day, another week, or another month. Just as the angel told Elijah to arise and eat so that he would have strength for the journey, I encourage you to do the same thing.
In Pilgrim’s Progress, it isn’t too long after Christian has heard the words of Evangelist and begins his journey toward the Celestial City. Along the way he meets up with some unsavory characters and some challenging paths to walk over.
When he leaves his city, two travelers leave with him. One is named Obstinate and the other is Pliable. It isn’t too long before Obstinate with much indignation and criticism of Christian turns around and goes back to town. Christian and Pliable trudge on and suddenly in their path is a muddy swamp called the Slough of Despond. Both men fall in and begin a monumental struggle with the mud and it is not too long before both of them are covered in mud and filth from the Slough of Despond. Pliable manages to lunge out but not in the right direction but on the side that he came from and he informs Christian that he is going to turn around and go back because the way is too difficult.
Christian is left alone to battle and struggle with the deadly swamp called Despond. You might call it in our times, the Swamp of Discouragement. Any person who has been serving God at all will understand that they will have to deal with times of discouragement and difficulty. There are all sorts of situations in the saint of God’s life that will cause him to want to give up and quit!
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.
T. DeWitt Talmage—In the lottery of life, there are more prizes drawn than blanks, and to one misfortune, there are fifty advantages. Discouragement is the most unprofitable feeling a man can indulge in.
Fenelon—Discouragement is not a state of humiliation. Whether we stumble, or whether we fall, we must only think of rising again and going on in our course.
Anonymous—To doubt and give in to discouragement is a sure step to failure.
Viktor Frankl—The prisoner who had lost faith in the future—his future—was doomed. (Describing conditions while imprisoned in a Nazi death camp.)
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.