How Should Christians face discouragement?

 

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Discouragement is a universal human phenomenon. Christians are not excepted from this unhappy aspect of human experience. Discouragement is a very real and present danger in the life of the believer. Many different events in our life can lead us to despair- Death of a close friend or relative, prolonged sickness, multiple failed endeavors, or not being able to find stable employment. Sometimes just being a faithful witness for Christ in this sin sick world can lead us to depression. Any number of things that life throws at us can lead us to despair and allow us to slip into a lifestyle plagued by discouragement. When we get discouraged, and it is not a matter of if it is a matter of when, how should we deal with it? How should we face this age old problem in a fashion that honors Jesus Christ and is becoming of our Christian proclamation. In the following paragraphs I have listed a few things to remember if you are facing discouragement.

1st Kings 19 tells us that right after Elijah witnessed God’s power and glory on Mount Carmel (no not Mt. Caramel) that he fled to the wilderness due to the persecution wrought by the wicked Queen of Israel named Jezebel. Rather than being energized by the incredible victory, Elijah ran to the desert and fell into a deep depression. In fact, 1st Kings 19:4 tells us that Elijah begged God for death. If you are discouraged remember that you are in good company. Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and even he succumbed to discouragement. The fact is, sometimes doing the right thing for God will make some people very unhappy and we will face persecution for our efforts. It is difficult to remain unaffected by such harsh rejection. Now, I am not saying that we should see our plight of discouragement as a badge of honor or develop a martyr complex but nor should you go to the opposite extreme and think that you are less of a Christian for sometimes getting discouraged.

I also find it interesting that Elijah found himself discouraged immediately after he witnessed God sending down a pillar of fire in an incredible show of his might. For Elijah, this must have been and unforgettable and emotion filled experience. It is a simple fact of human psychology that after extremely joy filled moments in our life we can often experience a letdown. So when this does happen remember that this is normal. When you feel discouraged after a great spiritual victory I would recommend that you take the time to remember what God just did for you in this very special time. Do not be like the fickle children of Israel who often rejected God right after he did something kind for them. Sometimes you will have to make a conscious effort to remember God’s goodness but it will be well worth it! It is also helpful to remember that God is going to continue to do great things with you. Philippians 1:6 says this “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV). If you have been gloriously saved by Jesus Christ (And I hope that you have) and Jesus has not returned yet (Which he hasn’t) then you can be confident that God will continue to give you spiritual victories.

In 1st Kings 19:5-8 we are shown, albeit indirectly, another beautiful truth about God. While in the wilderness and still in the throes of depression God does not forsake Elijah. Rather, he feeds and cares for him by way of Angels. As Christians, we can take comfort in the fact that God does not care for us only when we are faithful and bold, but even when we are broken. God’s love toward us is not conditioned upon our performance. Roman 5:8 echoes this thought in perfect harmony when it says “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV). If you are discouraged, reflect on this truth and be encouraged by the goodness and faithfulness of God.

 

In 1st Kings 19:14 Elijah is quoted as saying “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Pretty much everything Elijah says in this statement was indeed true at the time with the exception of one phrase “I alone am left”. Sometimes when we are discouraged we blow things way out of proportion. Things were certainly bad in Israel in Elijah’s day but he had clearly lost perspective. For one, he was not alone because God the Father is still on his throne, Jesus is still Lord, and the Spirit is still at work. God has indeed promised us that he will “never leave us, nor forsake us.” For these reasons we should never fear being truly alone. We should also rejoice in the fact that God will always have a remnant of people on earth who will follow him. Consider the words of 1st Kings 19:18 “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” God gently reminds Elijah that he is not the only person standing up for what is right and, by the way, modern Christian, neither are you. God in his grace has given us the Church-Not the building we worship in or hear the word of God preached but the people who make up the community of the redeemed. Dear Christian, when you are discouraged this is the time when you should lean on your fellow believers all the more. You should look to them for guidance, comfort, and care. All too many people when faced with struggles exit the church. This is the last thing you should do when you are discouraged. If you think that by leaving the church your problems will fade, then you are deceived. Cling to your fellow believers all the more. That is what God would have you do.

As you can see, the word of God has not left us without an answer as to what we should do when we are discouraged. In the previous paragraphs we have only considered one chapter of the Bible and It speaks directly to our present struggles. If I could leave you with one final encouragement I would simply say that if you are discouraged you should take even more time out of your day to search the scriptures for wisdom and encouragement. God has given us the Bible so that we might be taught, encouraged, and reproved. Sometimes the words of the scriptures challenge and sting but they are always instructive-And they will always draw us closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has promised us that all who follow him will indeed find rest.

 

 

 

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The Joy of Preaching

Beware of becoming a preacher. Preaching is addicting. No matter how much you preach you will never be satisfied. Preaching God’s word will energize you, particulary when you see people being saved! As I write this I am contemplating the joy of preaching at Calvary Baptist Church of Mcintyre, Georgia tomorrow and I could not be more excited and humbled to bring the message! If you are confident God is calling you to preach then start today! St Francis said “Preach Always, Use words when nessacary”. You can start fulfilling God’s call on your life right now. These days, technology gives you an instant audience. Think of how much nicer facebook would be with fresh insights into God’s word instead of the garbage that passes as thought provoking conversation on today’s blogoshpere. However, if you feel called to preach you must take this responsibility seriously. There is enough heresy in our world. Don’t become a part of the problem. Be a preacher who is part of the solution. While I am a young an inexperienced preacher, the following is a list of a few suggestions to anyone who is considering becoming a preacher. I have gleaned this knowledge from scripture as well as from Godly men in the ministry.

  1. Develop solid study habits- Many horrible and heretical sermons have been preached because young preachers have failed to study well. You may not be eloquent but you can be well studied. To be a good student does not mean you have to have a massive library or lots of commentaries. Many great resources are available online at sights like http://www.biblegateway.com. Also, listen to great and respected preachers of the faith. You will do well to listen to men like David Jeremiah, Billy Graham, Alistair Begg, and John Stott. You can also read fine sermons online by men like John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, and the Church Fathers. Finally, immerse yourself in the scriptures and learn from Jesus Christ, the greatest preacher to ever live. Remember the admonition of 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God”.
  2. Don’t see preaching as an opportunity to spout your opinions- I have heard several fine preachers express their opinion on a subject from the pulpit before. Sometimes their insight was valuable. Often, it was not. Remember that it is your job to preach the truth of the scriptures. Your opinions on a matter should be offered only occasionally and when appropriate. They should always be offered humbly. Do not become so arrogant to think that because you are a preacher you are infallible. You are not. There is only one infallible preacher. His name is Jesus.
  3. Preach whenever and wherever you have the opportunity- My Father In Law is a pastor of a thriving church. He has preached to saints and crackheads in ditches. Everyone needs to hear the Gospel. Jesus made this clear in the Great Comission given in Mathew chapter 28. Use discernment, but there is nothing wrong with preaching at nursing homes, prisons, country churches that can’t pay you a dime, homeless shelters and wherever you are asked. God has blessed me as a preacher in some of the most unlikely of places.
  4. Rely on the power of God- Read the book of Acts. The Holy Spirit was constantly and continually empowering Peter and Paul in their preaching. If they needed the power of God in their life, you do too!  The Holy Spirit will transform your preaching if you will let him.
  5. Seek to be ordained or liscensed by a respected church or denomination-There are many great preachers who are not ordained or liscensed by any church. You do not have to be liscensed or ordained to preach but it will only open doors for you.
  6. It is not about you- Be sure your preaching is always pointing people to the Gospel and glorifying God. If you do this God will honor your ministry and use you in ways you would have never imagined. Who would have thought that Peter, a man who denied the Lord publicly, would have become such a great preacher.? If God can use Peter he can use you so long as you realize you are not the focus. Christ must always be at the center of all you do. Let your motto always be Soli Deo Gloria!

Joy In The Journey by Michael Card

I was inspired to post a link to this song by a message I heard this morning by the Reverend Richard Collins at Bloomingdale Alliance Church. He spoke of living a faith and spirit filled life. He specifically mentioned this song in an illustration and it has been on my mind all day. This song has a lot to say to the weary Christian. Our ultimate joy lies in seeing Christ face to face but there is much to appreciate about the pilgrimage. Peace and Blessings, Julian Pace.

Jesus of Nazareth: Our Ever Merciful Savior

All of us, at some time or another, have been in the same position as the woman whom Jesus forgives in this account. Sure, none of us have been dragged before Jesus by a mob of religious legalists, but when the scripture says “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” it includes even the most moral and disciplined people the world has ever known.

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Me speaking at Armstrong State University on The Resurrection Of Jesus

Hi Everybody, here is a brief talk I gave at my Alma Mater a few months ago. This talk is a very personal one for me and it goes into what I believe is the very central truth of the Christian faith and the call God has placed on my life. I hope you are blessed by the message. If you have any further questions about the momentous event of the Resurrection or just want to talk I would love to hear from you. Blessings, Julian Pace.

Lazarus And The Rich Man

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Luke 16:19-31 (NASB)

19 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 And [a]besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

 

To understand the parable of “Lazarus and the Rich Man” as told in Luke 16:19-31 we need to ask a couple of important questions. For one, we need to ask who the parable was originally taught to and why was it given to them?  To find the answer of who was the original audience we need to look back at the first verse of chapter sixteen as well as verse fourteen. The first verse in the chapter tells us that Christ’s disciples were in the audience and the fourteenth verse tells us that the Pharisees were also present and “scoffing” at the teaching of Jesus. While the parable is certainly for all people, as it has been preserved in scripture, I think the primary audience of this parable are the Pharisees. I say this for this reason. In verse fourteen the Pharisees are not described by their status nor function. Nor are they described by their physical appearance (people in the Gospels rarely are). Rather, they are described as “Lovers of money”. It is not a coincidence that the parable the Lord is about to share has to do with a very rich man, which is what the Pharisees were or at least greatly desired to be, and a poor man, which they greatly desired not to be!

This parable is also chock full of references that any Jew would understand. Which leads us to the second question that we need to ask. What cultural details are contained in the parable? For one, it is certainly interesting that Jesus calls heaven “Abraham’s bosom” in verses twenty-two and twenty-three. Every Jew would have understood this because in their culture there was no question as to whether Abraham upon death was ushered into God’s presence and the text states emphatically that the poor man named Lazarus was ushered into the intimate embrace and presence of Father Abraham and God himself. The very meaning of Lazarus deserves discussion as well. William Barclay notes that “The name is the Latinized version of Eleazer which means God is my help[i] Barclay also notes that it is very interesting that Jesus names this character at all because in no other parable is any character given a personal name like this. I do not think it is a stretch to argue that this name has significance. By giving the poor man the name of Lazarus Jesus is making a point about his character. This man enjoyed God’s help and was totally reliant on it while the Rich Man was not even interested in the things of God. Finally, it should be noted that Jesus’ reference to Moses and the Prophets is none other than a direct reference to the Holy Scriptures contained in the Old Testament.

I think the point of this parable is twofold. The love of money and luxury will warp your sense of morality and make you insensitive to the needs of others. Lazarus dwelt at the door of the Rich Man but was never noticed by him. The text makes it abundantly clear that Lazarus was desperately and obviously in need of medical care and food and yet the Rich Man did nothing. By having the opportunity to help Lazarus and yet failing to do anything about it was a sin on the Rich Man’s part. Also, the point is that riches cannot save or even necessarily extend your life as it seems that Lazarus and this rich man died at about the same time. Laurence Porter makes these points particularly well in his commentary on Luke in the New International Bible Commentary.[ii] This parable must have stung the Pharisees right in the heart as the text makes it clear that these men were obsessed with material gain. Finally, Jesus closes the parable by saying that those who find themselves in hell due to their sin (which is all of us unless we are redeemed by God’s grace) are there justly because they have the scriptures.

Jesus’ teachings always beg for a decisive response. Jesus never taught something to simply be novel or clever. Rather, his words are packed with truth and we all have a responsibility to examine our lives in light of what the Lord says. To know how Jesus’ wants us to respond to this parable is not incredibly easy as the parable ends with little explanation and the text moves in another direction in chapter seventeen. To properly understand what our response to this parable should be I think it is helpful to look at other passages which showcase God’s attitude towards sinners. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that it is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Jesus does not take any delight in consigning anyone to hell but he will do it if our hearts are so hardened that we reject his help and grace. Essentially, this parable is a grave warning to those who trust in their own merits to gain eternal life and an encouragement to those who find their help in God.

 

 

[i] Barclay, William. “The Punishment of the Man Who Never Noticed.” InThe Gospel of Luke, 213. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press, 1956.

 

[ii] “Luke.” In New International Bible Commentary, edited by F.F. Bruce, by Laurence Porter, 1216. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan

 

 

Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace: The Prayer of St Francis

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Here is a prayer every Christian should know and reflect upon. May the Lord bless you as you read it and go about your daily work, Julian.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love;
Where there is injury your pardon, Lord;
And where there’s doubt true faith in you.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light;
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
In giving to all men that we receive;
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.