Sunday, July 22, 2012

Facing Discouragement

When all you know is discouragement
Seven ways to overcome discouragement

Sermon statement
The way to deal with discouragement is to take the word courage out and uses it. We overcome discouragement when we realise that (1) nothing happens according to our plans; (2) we need to be realistic in our expectations; (3) avoid dwelling on discouragements alone; (4) controlling our emotions; (5) not to give up; (6) that a closed door may leads to many open doors; and that our God is bigger than all our problems.

Discouragement occurs when you did not get what you want. You may be hoping for a A++ grade in your exams and all you get is a A+ and you get discouraged. Your friend, who always has been getting Cs, getting a A+ is a great encouragement. What are some of the areas we experience discouragement?
  • Studies
  • Grades
  • Physical appearances
  • Spiritual life
  • Relationship
  • Friendship
  • Parents

Life of David
As a young man, David was a shepherd who was anointed king by the prophet Samuel. Saul was king then and it took many years before David could be king. David served as a musician to King Saul for many years. Even after he killed Goliath, David was not appreciated by King Saul. In his later life King Saul became increasing paranoid and even tried to kill David with a spear. David had to flee for his life and live a life of banditry.

Do you want to be king?
Later, as king, David had to rule over a nation of people who are self-centred and rebellious. Like today, evil men seem to be in control. King David faced threat to his life and his throne. It must be very discouraging to be king.

Text: Psalm 11:1-7

     Psalm 11

For the director of music. Of David.

  1 In the LORD I take refuge.
    How then can you say to me:
    "Flee like a bird to your mountain.

                 2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
                 they set their arrows against the strings
                 to shoot from the shadows
                at the upright in heart.

 3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
                                 what can the righteous do?"

                                                                                        PS 11:4 The LORD is in his holy temple;
    the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
  He observes the sons of men;
    his eyes examine them.

                                5 The LORD examines the righteous,
                                but the wicked and those who love violence
                                his soul hates.

                 6 On the wicked he will rain
                fiery coals and burning sulfur;
                 a scorching wind will be their lot.

  7 For the LORD is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    upright men will see his face.

David expresses confidence in God even though wickedness appeared to be so very strong. David was facing a national crisis that threatened to overturn the stability of the nation of Israel. All around him, the moral foundations of the people were crumbling. This upheaval was caused by evil men who sought to do him harm. Adding to this ordeal, the people who were loyal to David panicked, counseling him to flee Jerusalem. But David remained calm and resolute, keeping his eyes on the Lord. In this hour of crisis, David determined to trust in God in spite of his circumstances. His faith, unshakable and unwavering, kept him steadfast in uncertain times.’

The psalm can be divided into two parts: the voice of discouragement (vv. 1–3) and David’s voice of courage (vv. 4–7). The first is the voice which David heard. The second is the voice with which he answered.

The voice of discouragement
The psalm begins with a note of surprise. David was trusting in the Lord in the midst of his trial (v. 1). Although his faith was well known to his friends, this did not keep them from grimly advising him to ‘Flee as a bird’ (v. 2).
To them it was all very clear. The wicked were ready to shoot ‘secretly’ (v. 2)—from the cover of darkness—at the godly.
David’s friends evidently considered his adversaries to be so numerous, so strong and so crafty that there was little hope of success against them. It appeared as if these enemies would cause the very foundations of society to be destroyed.
We often hear the same gloomy assessment that was given to David.

Wickedness is so strong and flourishing! The foundations are crumbling! All is hopeless! The righteous can do nothing to stem the tide!

3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
                                 what can the righteous do?"

David’s Response
David’s friends quite clearly expected one answer and one answer alone when they asked: ‘What can the righteous do?’ (v. 3). That answer was: nothing!
But David would have none of it! The very same logic offered to him on this occasion would have kept him from facing Goliath! David refused to yield to it then, and he here refuses it again. He does so for the very same reason, namely, his faith in God. The God who was greater than Goliath was also greater than the wicked who were seeking to destroy the foundations!
So David sets himself to remind his friends of certain key truths about God.
  • He is sovereign over all (v. 4a).
  • He is well aware of the wicked and what they are doing (v. 4b).
  • He is not ambivalent about evil but has the utmost hatred for it and in due time will bring judgment on the wicked (vv. 5–6).
  • He loves righteousness and smiles upon those who practice it (v. 7).

I believe that David has much to teach us about how to overcome discouragement even though we are not kings or queens. He can teach us how to take the courage out of discouragement.

Seven ways to overcome discouragement

1.      Nothing happens according to our plans (Prov. 21:31)
2.      Be realistic in our expectations (Prov. 24:3-4)
3.      Avoid dwelling on discouragements alone (Eccl. 4:9-12).
4.      Control your emotions (Prov. 25:28)
5.      Don’t give up (Gal. 6:9)
6.      A closed door may leads to many open doors (Gen. 50:20)
7.      Your God is bigger than your problems (Psalm 11)

1.      Nothing happens according to our plans (Prov. 21:31)
  PR 21:31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but victory rests with the LORD.

King David is a warrior-king and knows full well the power of the cavalry against the foot soldiers. The horse in these times will be equivalent of an Abrams tank today. Yet, the author of the proverb warns against being overconfident with our own planning. Basically ‘shit happens.’ Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.

Bruce Wayne in the first two Batman movies by Christopher Nolan has good intentions. He wants to fight crime in Gotham by becoming a legend of fear to the criminals. Unfortunately things did not go according to plans. In Batman Begins, the movie ended with his house burnt down. In The Dark Knight, Batman ended up being accursed as a murderer.

So we should expect things to go wrong in our lives, no matter how smart, rich or powerful we are. Things are going to go wrong. We are going to be discouraged. Discouragements are part and parcel of life. Expect discouragements and you will not be disappointed.

2.      Be realistic in our expectations (Prov. 24:3-4)
  PR 24:3 By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
  PR 24:4 through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

Can we change reality to the way we want things to be? Inception is a 2010 British-American science fiction film with the elements of action heist, and thriller. Former architecture student Dominick "Dom" Cobb and business partner Arthur perform corporate espionage by dreaming and using an experimental military-developed machine to infiltrate the subconscious of their targets and extract information, their latest target being powerful Japanese businessman Saito. The movie suggests that we can change ourselves by implanting suggestions in our self conscious through our dreams. We all have a need to change ourselves. But we need to have a realistic expectation as to who or whom we change ourselves into.

Beauty and youth are two of the most lucrative commodity on earth today. Everyone wants to have the beauty and youthfulness of the models and movie stars. Is that a realistic expectation? We need wisdom to set realistic goals. Otherwise we will be setting ourselves up for a fall and discouragement.

3.      Avoid dwelling on discouragement alone (Eccl. 4:9-12)
  ECC 4:9 Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their work:
  ECC 4:10 If one falls down,
    his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
    and has no one to help him up!
ECC 4:11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
ECC 4:12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Marvel's The Avengers is a 2012 American superhero film produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. In facing the onslaught of the army of Loki and Thanatos, the heroes and heroines found that that they need one another. Only in teamwork can their combined efforts defeat their enemies.

The presence of friends who will walk with us during our discouragement cannot be underestimated. The Preacher recognizes that and calls us to have friends.

4.      Control your emotions (Prov. 25:28)
  PR 25:28 Like a city whose walls are broken down
    is a man who lacks self-control.

The Incredible Hulk is a 2008 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character the Hulk. It is directed by Louis Leterrier and stars Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner. It is the second film to be released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the fifth chronologically. This film establishes a new backstory where Banner becomes the Hulk as an unwitting pawn in a military scheme to reinvigorate the supersoldier program through gamma radiation. On the run, he attempts to cure himself of the Hulk before he is captured by General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt), but his worst fears are realized when power-hungry soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) becomes a similar but more bestial creature. Liv Tyler also stars as Betty Ross, Banner's love interest and General Ross' daughter. The hulk is pure rage.

If we look closely at our discouragement, we will find that feelings play a major role in expressing our not getting what we want. While there is a place for feelings (pain, sadness), there is also a place when we move beyond the feelings and look for possible solutions. Bruce Banner finds himself only when he learns to control his feelings and to integrate them.

5.      Don’t give up (Gal. 6:9)
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

The apostle Paul reminds us not to give up because if we persist, we will succeed. If our goals are realistic, then the chances of our success are good provided we do not give up. Po from Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2 is an arrogance panda. One of his redeeming characteristics is that he never gives up.

6.      A closed door may leads to many open doors (Gen. 50:20)
20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

These words, spoken by Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt illustrate this principle perfectly. If a closed door appears, instead of standing in front of it in self pity or trying to break it down, look around instead. There may be many open doors around.

7.      Your God is bigger than your problems (Psalm 11)
This principle brings us back to the text of this sermon which is based on Psalm 11. David is effectively saying that God is greater than all his problems and ours.


How do we deal with discouragement? Discouragement is part of life. We can choose to remain discouraged or we can pull the courage out of discouragement and uses it to continue with our lives.

I suggest these seven ways to deal with discouragement

1.      Nothing happens according to our plans (Prov. 21:31)
2.      Be realistic (Prov. 24:3-4)
3.      Avoid dwelling on discouragements alone (Eccl. 4:9-12).
4.      Control your emotions (Prov. 25:28)
5.      Don’t give up (Gal. 6:9)
6.      A closed door may leads to many open doors (Gen. 50:20)
7.      Your God is bigger than your problems (Psalm 11)

What says you?

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