I have been discouraged in
both ministry and life in general at times. I believe devotion can bring
discouragement to the life of a believer. One only has to look at the life of
someone like Elijah to see that even the most devoted can suffer from
discouragement in service to God.
Elijah had a word from God that it would not rain for three
years (1 Kings 17:1) and it did not rain until Elijah again received a word
from the Lord.
Now it happened after many days that the word of the LORD
came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I
will send rain on the face of the earth.”
1 Kings 18:1 (NKJV)
God then instructed Elijah to call together the 450 prophets
of Baal and the dueling sacrifices began. (1 Kings 18:20- 38 ) This is a
wonderful story and the writing brings forth powerful mental pictures as
Elijah, the devoted servant of God Most High challenges these prophets to do
whatever it takes to get a response from their god. The beginning of the end of
the challenge starts with Elijah’s prayer revealing his job as God’s
At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice,
Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and
Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your
servant and I have done all these things at Your word.
1 Kings 18:36 (NKJV)
The challenge ends as God reveals Himself to these people
and not only consumes the sacrifice, but the water in the trench! He slays the
false prophets, and tells King Ahab to watch for the coming rain. (vs. 41-46)
And, it rains!
You would think Elijah would be on top of the world! But he
is quickly derailed by Ahab’s Jezebel who threatens his life. Elijah “was
afraid and ran for his life” and wound up under a broom tree completely
discouraged and asking to die!
(1 Kings 19:1-4)
God did not respond harshly
to him, He nourished him and gave him rest even while asking him what he was
doing out there laying under the broom tree sulking (1 Kings 19:9-14).
Devotion to God can and often does bring the magnificent
highs and lows the Elijah experienced. I can distinctly remember having some of
those mountaintop types of experiences as I counseled someone through a
particularly difficult case, or brought a couple who had been on the brink of
divorce back to reconciliation. There is just nothing like the “spiritual high”
that comes from service to the King.
On the other hand, I have suffered the agony of defeat (as
sportscaster Jim McCay used to say) as one trial and trouble after another
crashed upon me and I longed for escape of any kind.
What is the key or secret to living devoted while
discouraged? How can you and I not wind up under the broom
tree or on some kind of medication for depression or anxiety when faced with
terrible discouragement in the midst of serving God?
I believe it begins with the
thought life. Focusing on all that is wrong is not helpful, is it? Ask yourself
what you are thinking about that is adding to your discouragement and determine
if it is true and real (Phil 4:8) or just something that you are conjuring up
in your mind.
Then move to your actions,
what are you
doing that may be adding
to the problem? Are you sitting around and staring at the wall, or are you
attempting to do something productive? To just sit and mope or meditate on your
misery is not helpful at all.
Check your desires next.
What do you want to see happen or change? Is what you want something that will
honor God or yourself? Do you desire something out of a selfish heart that is
focused only on relieving your suffering and misery?
As you move through each of
these areas of your heart, hold up your conclusions to the light of the Word.
Does each thought, belief, and desire fold into the Word of God or stand apart
from it? Can you honestly say you are honoring God in each area?
You see, devotion to the
Lord is bound to bring times of discouragement! We are fighting against the
flow and pushing against the tide of sinful humanity. Our priorities and
perspectives are so vastly different from those of the world that they are
bound to collide at times. Our flesh cries out at times for what appears to be
the easy life of the unbeliever, who is not held to our biblical standards. It
seems at times our trials never seem to end but roll in like
waves on the sea.
We must learn to accept
these things as a result of our being united with Christ! Jesus said, “In
the world you have tribulation”
(John 16:33) and it is as true today as it was when He said it to
The apostle Paul wrote to
the Philippians while imprisoned and nearing the end of his life. He wrote the
letter that mentions joy over 16 times and attitude and things of the mind 10
times while chained to a wall in a hole. His letter is a wonderful reminder to
us that in spite of our circumstances and discouragement we can still be
devoted to the cause of Christ!
I want to encourage you to spend
some time in Philippians - especially if you are discouraged. I pray and trust
that a few trips through that letter will lift your countenance.