IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH IN THE MIDST OF DISCOURAMENT AND DANGER.
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.”
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Discouragement is a loss of perspective that can change when we remember that the battle is the Lord’s.
It is a sense of unhappiness arising from a loss of confidence in one’s own abilities, in the reliability of God or in the power of the gospel. Discouragement can occur in the Christian life, especially when there is resistance to the gospel or in instances of personal failure.
Discouragement eats a hole in our hearts. It makes us want to quit, saying things we shouldn’t say, shaking our fists at God. That’s how Jeremiah felt. God called him to speak a harsh message to a rebellious people. He obeyed. Yet on one occasion Jeremiah so angered an assistant to the high priest and chief security officer for the temple, Pashhur, that the man arrested Jeremiah, beat him, and threw him in jail, locking him in stocks so that his body was contorted, writhing in pain. Here was a man in deep distress. He endured physical, emotional, spiritual, and professional anguish. He walked into deep despair, all for doing God’s will.
Jeremiah later realized that he wasn’t alone. “But the LORD is with me like a violent warrior” (Jer. 20:11). He was not on the losing side. He was going to win because the Lord was with him like a mighty warrior. God would deal effectively, in his own way and time, with his enemies.
Often in our discouragement we look inward – to our problems, our frustrations, and our situation – when we need to look upward to a God who has not abandoned us. He is with us. He accompanies us. He is a present-tense God.
H.B. London in his book, The Heart of a Great Pastor, writes: “In those times when we stumble for our footing in the awful swellings of the Jordan, and the Evil One whispers in our ear, ‘Why did you ever decide to be a preacher anyway?’ the right answer can only be, ‘Cause I was called, you fool!'”
It has been said that the most repeated phrase in Scripture is, “Do not be afraid.” Some variation of it is mentioned over 350 times. God said it to Gideon when calling him to lead Israel (Judg 6:23). God said it to Jeremiah when calling him to be a prophet to the nations (Jer 1:8). Christ said it to the women at his resurrection (Matt 28:10).
“But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. 10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” 11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” 12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
Israel were exposed to attacks because the Walls of Jerusalem had been broken down; however, Nehemiah’s goal went beyond rebuilding walls. His goal was to restore a sense of wholeness to his people, to do away with the disgrace that had come to them and to honor the God of Israel. Nehemiah had a great vision. He had a sound plan, but he encountered opposition. In his story is a clear example of what we will encounter when we try to build for God, whether we try to live lives that are pleasing to God, or whether we seek to build the walls of Christian community. As we grow into the kind of people that God wants us to be we can expect obstacles.
Nehemiah was the man that God raised up to accomplish an important task – to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This rebuilding work took place after the Jews had been released from their Babylonian captivity in 539 BC. Despite all their efforts however, they faced plenty of opposition from their hostile neighbours and they only managed to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem in the first 20 years.
After about 80 years the walls of the city were still in ruins. When Nehemiah heard about this sad state of affairs he became so burdened with it that he resolved to obtain permission from the Persian king to let him return to his homeland to rebuild the walls.
When he returned he gathered all the Jewish leaders together and he convinced them all to begin rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. With one accord they said, ‘Let us arise and build!’
We observe that the device their enemies used in vv.2-3 against the Jews was destructive criticism (4:2,3). Essentially they were saying that Jews were totally incapable of building the wall of Jerusalem. How unkind they were to say such hurtful things about the Jews who were working so hard at that time, putting their blood, sweat and tears into building the stone wall every day under the blazing sun.
Let us learn from Nehemiah’s response as given in vv.4-5 ‘Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.’ These words were spoken to God, and not to those who had spoken against the Jews.
Envision confronting the status quo with the mighty arm of the Lord surrounding you.
Knowledge of God’s presence can help us accomplish significant things despite our discouragement. It provides courage, valor, guts, strength, tenacity, and perseverance.
Living in the glow of God’s presence will enable you to fight on despite discouragement.
God weaves a tapestry of our lives. We don’t always see the finished product. Sometimes to get to the end we have our share of difficulties. When we realize God has a plan, we have two options: we can fight it, or we can embrace it.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In his memoirs, A Life in Our Times, John Kenneth Galbraith referred to an eloquent speech made by a West Virginia supporter of John F. Kennedy. At a time in the presidential campaign when it would have been easy to become disenchanted, if not discouraged, the politician-historian of the Mountain State reminded his audience of Napoleon’s battle at Waterloo. Surveying the battlefield, the tough little general said to his drummer, “The English are standing firm. The Old Guard is making no progress. We are defeated; sound the retreat.”
Hesitantly, the lad looked at Napoleon and protested, “Master, in all our campaigns in Europe, I have never learned to sound the retreat.”
Deeply touched by the comment, Napoleon said, “All right, drummer boy, sound the advance.”
“See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Let me close with a legend that reveals the source of discouragement. Supposedly, the devil put his tools up for sale, marking each for public inspection with its appropriate sale price. Included were hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, lying, and pride. Laid apart from these was a rather harmless looking but well-worn tool – discouragement – marked at an extremely high price. Why the costly price? The devil answered: “Because it is more useful to me than the others. I can pry open a person’s heart with that when I cannot get near her with the other tools. Once inside, I can make her do whatever I choose. It is badly worn because I use it on almost everyone, since few people know it belongs to me.”
(‘Our God shall fight for us.’). That is the best thought you can use to encourage yourself or anyone to press on, that is the best way to be encouraged – Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Meditate on His love for you, and on all that He has done for you. Think of the great victory that He has won for you and all the marvellous blessings that He has purchased for you. There is really nothing that can encourage you better than the thought of our Lord Jesus Christ!
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