Well, some years ago, I read of a poll that was taken in the United States, where people were asked a question. If you were speaking to your minister at church, what would you like to most ask him? Well, there are a number of replies, and the second most common question people would like to ask their minister friend was – “What can I do when I am so discouraged, and I feel like giving up?”
Well, it made me wonder if perhaps you’ve felt like that you’ve felt discouraged. I think most of us have feelings of discouragement in life. One way or another, things go wrong at the most inconvenient time when there are family or work issues or pressures or sickness. And of course, there can be bad news that can strike at any time. But I have a feeling there are lots of people who feel defeated, inadequate and also discouraged. And sometimes what we need to do is a change of focus – not easy, and in fact that can be hard work.
But in the Bible, we meet up with a man called Elijah. He was a prophet. He was a great man of God. But here was Elijah, who knew all about discouragement.
And he was God’s mouthpiece back in those days, pronouncing judgement on the people of the time. And he’s known as the prophet of doom for many, many people. But a moment of truth came in his ministry for God when he met 450 prophets of Baal for a dual on Mount Carmel. It was going to be a terrible situation. And if you want to know more, you can read 1 Kings in the Old Testament. But there was a great victory for him, and after he had to actually run for his life, he had to escape Jezebel.
He went into the wilderness and we’re told he sat down under a tree. He was just exhausted and he’d spoken to God his Lord, and said, “Look, I’ve had enough. Take my life.” He prayed. He just couldn’t keep going.
So he was a great man who thought his life was over. He was so depressed he didn’t feel like he wanted to keep going. Probably he was physically exhausted. He needed something to eat – a good meal. And the Lord provided that for him.
But he hid in a cave, and there he tried to sort out his dilemma. And, uh, God told him to go to a mountain because he was going to pass by. And when he did, there was a mighty windstorm. Then there was an earthquake that hit. And then there was fire, and Elijah didn’t see or hear God. But then there was a gentle whisper, and God spoke to him at the entrance of the cave.
And do you know that Elijah found the reality of God’s still small voice in that quiet moment, and he received a new understanding of himself and of faith.
So isn’t it true that we often have to slow down to hear God speaking to us?
We’re too busy to be quiet before the one – the God who knows us better than anyone else. It was George Fox who was a well-known Quaker who many years ago used to tell people to carry some quiet around inside yourself. Now I like that comment being quiet, waiting for God to speak. It’s not a waste of time. It can be really a good time when we can be quiet before God and we can discover so much about ourselves and about him.
Have a read sometime of Psalm 42. That’s in the Old Testament as well. The writer of Psalm 42 he also felt very discouraged. He said, “All your waves and billows have gone over me. The floods of sorrow pour upon me like a thundering cataract. Oh God, my rock I cry, why have you forsaken me?” And then he answers himself.
“Oh, my soul,” he said. “Don’t be discouraged and don’t be upset. Expect God to act, for I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise him for all that he will do, for he is my help. He is my God.”
So if you feel a bit like that, a bit despondent. Realise that the Lord offers you strength. The dictionary tells me a despondent person is one who’s lost confidence. Who’s lost courage or hope?
Well, the Bible has much to say about giving hope to those so we can wait on the Lord and receive his strength.
Well, Lord Jesus, we know that, you sustain us and that you lovingly care for us because your amazing grace and the extravagant love of our Father God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit are at work for our good and for your glory and joy. We thank you that there is an answer to discouragement, and we offer this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.