What can we do about being discouraged? Galatians 6:9 says, And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Yet so many times, it is difficult to do that. We cannot prevent getting tired, but we can train our minds so that we can continue to run the race God has called us to with contentment.

I would like us to consider this chart for our study today. It shows two sets of opposites, a path down to despair and a path up to contentment.

DISILLUSIONMENT

CONVICTION

DISCOURAGEMENT

CONFIDENCE

DISTRACTION

CONCENTRATION

DESPAIR

CONTENTMENT

The path down is familiar to us if we look at it. Disillusionment comes when we say things like Isaiah did in Isaiah 49:4: …I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain… The Lord answered him in verses 5-7 that He had set out a plan of salvation for His people and it would also lighten the Gentiles. God set a vision for Isaiah, so that he could see that his life was a part of something much bigger—VISION! The opposite of disillusionment is holding onto a vision of what GOD’S PLAN is for us, for the church, for the whole earth. Our vision gets nearsighted many times, because we are only looking at ourselves and what we may or may not be accomplishing. The answer is to be like David who said, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad: moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: (Acts 2:25-26).

We have the hope of Christ’s return as our greater vision. I believe that God also gives us specific vision for our own lives, so that we can hold to that when the going gets tough. That “not being moved” is conviction. It is conviction that what God said, whether it was in the written Word, or in specific prophecy to you, WILL come to pass. The trick is to get our sights up and become farsighted instead of only looking at the present. Conviction is being persuaded that something you believe in is absolute. It is not difficult to be convinced that Jesus is our Savior. We would be hard-pressed to be talked out of that. Then let us hold to the vision of the hope and not be disillusioned that our life is in vain.

The second step down is discouragement. Without a purpose, working and serving others is very discouraging. Often there is little acknowledgement of anything that we do. Dis—couragement means “not courageous.” The Christian walk is not for the “cowardly lion” type of people. The cares and riches of the world will quickly choke those out as in the parable of the sower. There are many verses in the Psalms where David confesses that he is looking at the wicked and wondering why it always seems that they prosper and he is surrounded by enemies. God explains that the end of the wicked is certain and it is NOT GOOD. We know that, but sometimes it is still difficult to keep going and not to succumb to a cloud of depression.

The antidote is confidence, or certainty, that God’s promises are “yea and amen” and HE is faithful. In order to have this kind of confidence, we have to keep the promises of God in our minds. In Philippians 4, Paul explains how “in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” This passage has all the keys that we are discussing. This one about confidence is in verse 8: Now therefore, my brothers, those [things] which are true, and those [things] which are sober, and those [things] which are upright, and those [things] which are pure, and those [things] which are lovely, and those [things] which are praiseworthy, and those works of glory and of good report, think these [things]. I know from painful experience over and over that when I think about how I hate that it is raining, how we don’t have enough money, how there is so much work to do, I get discouraged. But when I take the time to read the Word and see how many times God promises that He will provide all my need, I am refreshed and filled with a new confidence. I need to think about the “mini-victories” that happen each and every day because of God’s blessings, like when I find something for half-price that was needed, or an unexpected check comes in the mail, or someone reports being healed. Those “good reports” reinforce the confidence that God “will never leave us or forsake us.” I can hold to the certainty of the promises of God’s Word.

The third step down is distraction, which leads to despair. Discouragement causes us to become distracted from our relationship with God. We can see this is cases of depression, where the person wants to avoid any decisions, perhaps just go to sleep for a while. Not dealing with the problems head on with concentration and focus will then lead to despair. Distraction means to be diverted away from something. If the Adversary can lead us away from our relationship to our heavenly Father and our Lord, then he has won 90% of the battle. Isaiah 40:31 says, But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Waiting on the Lord is to continue with Him, to abide in His presence, and to FOCUS on Him. The antidote to distraction is concentration. But concentration on what? On God as our Father, on the Lord as our “Life-giver,” our “Advocate.”

Philippians 4:13 is a well-known verse that has brought comfort to many. However, the KJV translation of it is misleading when it says, “I can do all things.” The truth of the matter is that many times we cannot do all things and fall very far short of what we know is even available. What then? I think that the Aramaic translation is much clearer here and helps to define the focus on Christ as our sufficiency, not ourselves. The translation is: I find strength for everything in Christ who strengthens me. We will FIND the strength in every situation in CHRIST. Only in him! This is the same idea as the verse from Isaiah about waiting on the Lord. It is in relationship with Christ, he helping us, giving us revelation, talking with him, praying, praising, all this and much more, that we find strength. We do not walk alone and stay on the narrow path. Without being able to hold our Father’s hand, we will surely fall into the ditch on either side.

Despair is a harsh word that implies coming to the end of your rope. But contentment is a wonderful goal that when realized brings true joy. One of the definitions of contentment in the dictionary is “to be held in.” Paul explained to the Philippians in 4:11-12 what it took to keep this contentment: Now I do not say [this] because I am in need, for I have learned that what I have will be sufficient for me. I know [how] to be humble. I know also [how] to abound in every [situation], and I am disciplined in all things, whether in fullness or in famine, in abundance or in need. He said that he was “disciplined.” This is a very interesting word in Aramaic. One of the things I love about studying an Eastern language is that it paints pictures for me. Very often there is an action root for a word because all words belong in word families. That action root gives me a picture in order to understand something. In this case, the word darash has a root picture meaning “to beat a path,” in other words, to practice. My sons Mark and Stephen were invoived in sports in high school and their favorite one was volleyball. In their workout and practices, they “beat a path” over and over with the correct way to jump, hit, and set up the ball. When it comes to the game, this path is so ingrained in his mind that it is an automatic response. It is the same thing in our Christian walk. If we “beat a path” starting with conviction, confidence and concentration, it WILL bring contentment. It become a “training in contentment.” Contentment is not something that comes automatically. It requires perseverance and discipline. We can find the strength in everything as Christ strengthens us. We can hold to the hope and think on all the positives. We can grow in our relationship with our Father and win against the Adversary’s plan! We can run the race and not be weary, walk and not faint. That is so encouraging to me and I hope to you, also.

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