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On leaving office, in an address to members of his administration (August 9, 1974), President Nixon gave the following advice. “Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you. Those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” Pretty good advice for fighting discouragement, though I’m not sure he always followed it.
From time to time we all fight a battle with discouragement. Some of God’s most effective warriors faced discouragement. Elijah felt alone and hopeless. He fled to a cave in Mount Horeb where, in a moment of despair, he cried out: “I, even I only, am left: and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10). Jeremiah, another of God’s prophets, became so discouraged he resolved not to mention God, or speak in his name (Jeremiah 20:9). He discovered that an impossible task.
At the heart of discouragement is a failure to trust God. We tend to think that so much depends on us, when in fact; we simply need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. If anyone had reasons for bouts of discouragement it would be the apostle Paul. Yet, here is what he wrote from a Roman prison cell to the church at Philippi: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:10-13).
The devil will do everything in his power to discourage us, but he will not succeed unless we surrender to him. May that never happen! John Bunyan wrote: “Who would true valor see, let him come hither; one here will constant be, come wind, come weather. There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent his first avow’d intent to be a pilgrim” (John Bunyan).
Don’t let discouragement get the upper hand. God will keep His promises. Through Jesus Christ we shall overcome!
One often feels discouraged when he tries to do what is right, and no one else does. Elijah felt discouraged at the words of Jezebel, and fled for his life. When the LORD asked him what he was doing there, he replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for 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 (1 Kings 19:10).”
Because of his discouragement, Elijah would not be a prophet much longer; rather, Elisha would soon take his place. The LORD did tell him, however, that He had reserved seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed to Baal (1 Kings 19:18).
Later, the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, you people in whose heart is My law: do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but My righteousness will be forever, and My salvation from generation to generation (Isaiah 51:7-8).”
Christians are to practice righteousness as God is righteous (1 John 3:7). In so doing, we quickly learn that not everyone will act like we do. However, we should not be afraid of what men may do to us, for they can only destroy the body; rather, we must fear God who has power over both body and soul (Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 13:6; Psalm 27:1; 118:6). He has the power to destroy and to save! He will destroy those that do not obey Him, and those that hinder others from coming to Him. He will also extend His righteousness forever, and be willing to save anyone and everyone who is willing to come to Him.
Text: Psalm 11:4-7
I see inexplicable violence, blatant perversion, and rampant materialism, and I worry about the future.
Can you relate?
I know they’re not, but sometimes it looks like the bad guys are winning.
I was somewhat surprised recently when I started working my way through the Psalms. I soon realized that I’m certainly not the first one who’s had these thoughts.
They’re all over the Psalms.
Why are you letting them win, God?
What are we supposed to do?
Where are you? Why aren’t you doing something?
Here’s a sample:
In the LORD I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”? For look! The wicked bend their bow, They make ready their arrow on the string, That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? – Psalm 11:1-3
Did you notice the uncertainty, the frustration bordering on despair?
What can the righteous do?
Maybe you’ve felt like that before. You see signs of depravity in the world, then you look at the church and see too much of the world in us.
Why are you letting them win, God?
He’s not! Even though it may look that way sometimes.
Here’s the rest of the Psalm:
The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The LORD tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind Shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright. – Psalm 11:4-7
Where are you, God?
“I’m on my throne in my temple.”
What are you doing, Lord?
“I’m watching, I’m concerned, I’m acting.”
Are they going to win?
That’s a good reminder for us all.
The Lord’s throne is in heaven, David says. And our King is fully concerned about and engaged in everything that’s bothering us. He may not act today, or at least not in the way we think he should. But he’s busy, and he always does the right thing at the right time.
The bad guys won’t win this one!
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Text: Hebrews 11:6
Two Truths That Can Give You Hope
A. Even more disturbing than the signs of unbelief around us are the signs of shallow faith in many of us who do believe.
1. Too many are Christians in name only.
2. Too many of us are too far behind in our spiritual growth and development.
B. It is urgent that we take God more seriously.
1. We need to seek God more diligently – Hebrews 11:6
2. During this series of studies, we’re going to take an in-depth look at every key word in this text.
C. In this lesson, we want to focus on the idea of PLEASING God.
1. Frankly, this is an issue that we struggle with.
2. Discouragement is all too prevalent, especialy among those who seem to take God the most seriously.
3. Genuine hope sometimes seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
D. Can God be pleased? I want to present two truths that can give you real hope based on Hebrews 11:6
I. TRUTH ONE: YES, GOD CAN BE PLEASED
A. In regard to this truth, two dangerous extremes need to be avoided.
1. At one extreme is the self-righteous approach.
a. The “Pharisee” is out of touch with the reality of his own sinfulness.
b. Two texts which address the self-righteous attitude: Isaiah 64:6; Luke 17:10
2. But at the other extreme is the doubting approach.
a. This person is out of touch with the reality of God’s grace.
b. He may doubt that God can be pleased by anybody — or he may just doubt that he can do it.
3. When we fall into these errors, we swing back and forth between pride and discouragement.
B. But the Scriptures teach that God can be pleased.
1. The example of Enoch — Hebrews 11:5
2. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” – Numbers 6:24-26
3. “The Lord takes pleasure in His people; Hebrews will beautify the humble with salvation” – Psalm 149:4
4. “Well done, good and faithful servant” – Matthew 25:21
5. The possibility that we — yes, we! — can please God ought to warm our hearts with confidence.
II. TRUTH TWO: IT IS OUR FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD
A. What it means to please God by faith.
1. There are only two ways one can be “righteous” before God. In the Scriptures, these are called:
a. The righteousness of law.
b. The righteousness of faith.
2. Consider the contrast drawn in the Scriptures between these two ways of pleasing God.
a. The righteousness of law belongs to those who have never broken God’s law. To “live” by God’s law in this way, we would have to “keep” it completely – Leviticus 18:5; Galatians 3:10-12
1) But not having kept God’s law, this path is now closed to us.
2) If, as Christians, we try to use the law of God that we’re now under as a means of accomplishing our own salvation, we make the same mistake that Israel made long ago: we reject God’s way of making people righteous (the righteousness of faith) in order to pursue our own way of being righteous (the righteousness of law) – Romans 10:1-8 (especially vs. 3 and 5)
3) Even the sincerest effort to keep God’s law perfectly is a losing battle – Romans 7:19-24
4) There can be no hope for those who base their confidence on their keeping of God’s law!
b. The good news, however, is that God is willing to accept us on the basis of our faith rather than the perfection of our law-keeping – Romans 5:1-2; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 4:3-5
c. God could not do this, of course, if Christ had not died to atone for our sins – Romans 3:25-26
d. But Christ having died for the sins of mankind, a new kind of righteousness is made possible.
e. This righteousness of faith is the hope of the gospel of Christ – Philippians 3:8-11
3. Hebrews 11:5-6 is simply asking us to believe what the entire rest of the New Testament teaches: by faith we can please God!
B. Abraham is the great example of the righteousness of faith.
1. It was not the perfection of his obedience that God counted as Abraham’s righteousness.
2. Rather, Abraham “believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” – Genesis 15:6
3. This text is quoted no less than 4 times in the NT – Romans 4:3-5, Romans 4:20-22; Galatians 3:6-9; James 2:23
4. Abraham, then, stands as the spiritual forefather of all, from creation until now, who have sought to please God as he did: through faith – Galatians 3:6-9
C. The critical issue is trust — if we trust God as Abraham did, then we can please God – Hebrews 11:8-19
1. Trust is what was lost in the Garden of Eden, and trust is what we must return to!
2. Hence, obeying the gospel can be described as “trusting in Christ” – Ephesians 1:12-13
D. Thus, to our confidence is added the healthy balance of humility – Hebrews 4:16
A. It is extremely important to know that we can please God.
1. If not, we’re defeated before we start.
2. If not, we won’t seek God — we will run from Him.
B. Pleasing God ought to be our aim, our goal — our highest aspiration.
1. No higher goal. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” – 2 Corinthians 5:9
2. No more powerful goal. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” – 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
C. The most powerful reason to repent and obey God is eagerness to please a Father who can be pleased!
D. The gospel of Christ is a gospel of HOPE — it is the message that we can come home to a God who wants to receive us and be pleased with us!
E. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” – Matthew 11:28-30
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Text: Hebrews 12:3-11
A. Notice the key word in the text discouraged in Hebrews 12:3
1. It is the greek word ekluw
2. It means to faint, become discouraged, to give up
B. How easy that is in the fast paced lives we live today with everything crowding in on us
I. CONSIDER THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS (Hebrews 12:3-4)
A. Consider the sufferings of Christ.
1. Garden – Hebrews 5:7
B. Compare your suffering to his.
II. LOOK FOR LESSONS IN THE CORRECTION OF THE LORD (Hebrews 12:5-11)
A. Remember the principles of the Lord’s correction – Hebrews 12:5-6
1. Ephesians 6:4, 2 Timothy 3:16
2. His correction is not to be despised. (disregard)
3. His correction is not aimed at discouraging you. (reclaiming or strengthing)
4. His correction is proof of his love. (not neglect)
5. His correction is only given to God’s children. (let’s be thankful)
B. Recognize the correction of the Lord as confirmation of your relationship with Him – Hebrews 12:7
1. His correction is positive proof that you have a relationship with God.(if corrected)
2. All children are chastened at some time. (our parents)
C. Release your pride and submit to the Lord – Hebrews 12:8-10a
1. Human – respect
2. Divine – subjection
D. Receive the benefits of the Lord’s correction – Hebrews 12:10b-11
1. Partakers of His holiness
2. Peaceable fruit of righteousness
1. 1 Peter 5:10-11
2. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18