I was asked this past week if I was discouraged. The honest answer to this question is: yes. It is a weird time to be a pastor. I have been in ministry in churches since around 1995 and I have never experienced the things that we are going through now. The struggle to balance decisions, to lead well, to keep people safe, to feed people the Word. It is tough. We have been completely online, back in the building at 25% and now at 50%. It is tough. Have I said that already?
I also realize I am not the only one. I have many pastor friends that probably feel some level of discouragement. Friends who own businesses, friends that have felt the effects of injustices and sickness and the list goes on and on. Can we just agree that there is plenty of discouragement to go around?
The question is, what do we do with that discouragement?
First of all. KNOW THAT YOU AREN’T ALONE. As we have already said, there are plenty of people, even those in the church, who are feeling it now. If we look in Scripture, we will also see that some of our favorite “characters” got discouraged. Moses. Abraham. David. Nehemiah. Elijah. Jeremiah. Peter. Paul. So maybe we are not in too bad of company. Discouragement is inevitable in this world.
The problem with discouragement that I want to address is that it is a lie for the believer. Now, as I am typing that, I don’t want you to think you are less of a believer for being discouraged but I want to give you some promising truths about it.
It is normal to get discouraged. We are emotional people. It is not necessarily “unholy” to feel that emotion – to despair. The psalms are filled with times when David dealt with discouragement, despair and even depression.
The problem is that Satan uses despair and Satan is the master deceiver. He gives us a little bit of truth. He gives us enough truth to get us discouraged.
Let me show you in scripture how this works.
The King of Aram was waging war against Israel (God’s people) and basically every time he would make a strategic move Elisha would warn the King of Israel and the crisis would be averted. This enraged the king of Aram and so he found out where Elisha and his servant were. They were in Dothan and he decided to send his massive army to kill Elisha.
Now this is the where the discouragement comes in. Let’s read it.
2 Kings 6:15 When the servant of the man of God got up early and went out, he discovered an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. So he asked Elisha, “Oh, my master, what are we to do?”
Can you feel the panic? A whole army surrounding 2 people! The situation is hopeless. Discouragement set in in the mind of Elisha’s servant.
But he is about to find out that DISCOURAGEMENT ONLY TELLS HALF OF THE TRUTH. Listen to the words of Elisha.
2 Kings 6:16 Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.”
Elisha knew the WHOLE TRUTH! He knew that he was not outnumbered but that the Arameans were the ones outnumbered. So he said a prayer for his servant to look past the half truth of the enemy and see the whole promise of God.
2 Kings 6:17 Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the Lord opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
I don’t have enough time but you can read the “rest of the story” here.
So if you are discouraged, I pray today that your eyes will be opened and you will see! GOD IS NOT DONE! The discouragement you might feel in the moment is only half of the truth.
“Well, Kevin, that is an Old Testament story.” Ok. I hear you. Let me point you to the New Testament for a minute.
2 Corinthians 4. Paul is talking about his ministry. In verse 8 Paul says,
“We are pressured in every way.” That is half the truth. He then says, “BUT NOT CRUSHED.” That is the whole truth.
“We are perplexed.” That is half the truth. “BUT NOT IN DESPAIR.” That is the whole truth.
“We are persecuted.” That is half the truth. “BUT NOT ABANDONED.” That is the whole truth.
“We are struck down.” That is half the truth. “BUT NOT DESTROYED.” That is the whole truth.
You think Paul ever got discouraged? Probably. He was human after all. BUT
We know that Paul was FOCUSED on JESUS! He tells us that over and over again in his letters. In Jesus is where the hope is for our lives as believers. Discouragement is half the truth but JESUS IS THE WHOLE TRUTH!
Jesus himself told his disciples…
John 16:33 “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
Paul would finish this portion of writing to the Corinthians with the following words…
2 Corinthians 4:18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Paul is doubling down on his previous statements. All of the struggle that causes discouragement…it is only half the truth! What we can’t see is the WHOLE TRUTH AND IT IS ETERNAL! The whole truth sustains us!
The troubles of this world are what we can see. In this world we have trouble. In this world we have fear. In this world we have discouragement. In this world we have Covid-19. In this world we have half-empty churches. In this world we have to wear masks. In this world there is injustice. THESE THINGS ARE ONLY HALF THE TRUTH! Jesus has overcome this world. So what does that mean?
Jesus has already overcome Covid-19. Jesus is bigger than half empty churches. Jesus is bigger than mask wearing debates. Jesus is bigger than injustice. JESUS IS THE WHOLE TRUTH. Ask God – like Elisha – to open up your eyes so that you can see the whole truth. Ask Him to show you what is ACTUALLY there when it feels like you are surrounded. I know I am. And you and I are going to see Jesus!
Jesus has overcome the world. Jesus defeats discouragement.