II Corinthians 1:1-16
3. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.
4. Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.
5. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation and salvation also aboundeth by Christ.
6. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7. And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
8. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble, which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.
9. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God Who raiseth the dead:
10. Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in Whom we trust that He will yet deliver us.
11. Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.
12. For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity, and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
13. For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end:
14. And also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.
15. And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit.
16. And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judea.
The ministry for the Lord is fraught with events and problems that tend toward discouragement. It is one of the main battles for any who seek to minister for the Lord. Paul describes in the epistle called "II Corinthians" what the ministry is really like. Since we are all called to do ministry for the Lord, we need to take a fresh look at the warnings, admonitions, and directives of Paul in this book.
The story is told about the devil having an auction of all his tools, and he sold all but one. It was a wedge shaped tool called "DISCOURAGEMENT". He gave the reason, "When all other tools fail, I never fail to wedge my way in with this one!"
Another story illustrates something else about discouragement. It is told that the devil and the demons had a conference in which it was decided that their most useful ploy was discouragement.
One demon decided to try out this tactic, and jumped on the shoulder of a Christian, and whispered "YOU'RE DISCOURAGED!" three times. The Christian walked away, sad, and apathetic to the message of the pastor, and just said..."I'm discouraged."
The demon was gleeful. He did it again and again to saint after saint and always had the same result.
Until finally, he came onto the shoulder of one saint, and said "YOU'RE DISCOURAGED!" the usual three times. The saint looked up toward the heavens and exclaimed, "No way, I have a God Who loves me, a Savior Who died for me, and the Holy Spirit Who is my advocate and helper. I'm not discouraged!" Time after time this demon tried to get this saint down, but every time the saint rejected the thought, and exclaimed his faith in the Lord.
Finally, the demon went dejected and downcast back to headquarters... where another demon said: "WHAT'S WRONG?" The demon replied: "I'M DISCOURAGED!"
Discouragement does beset many. It is one of the sins that "easily besets" us.
"...laying aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us... looking unto Jesus."
Discouragement is a loss of faith, and "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14:23). Therefore discouragement is sin! IT is one of the strongest, subtlest, and sneakiest of sins. One reason that it is so effective is that people do not often treat it as sin. If a saint found himself in a bar, sitting down about to order a whiskey or two, he would jump up and run from the place to avoid getting entrapped in that sin. But, saint after saint enters into discouragement, and not only does not reject it, but will proudly carry it around, and show everyone who will listen and look to see what great discouragement they have achieved!!!
Discouragement needs to be treated like other sins:
I John 1:9
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Discouragement is never from God, it is always from the devil, and self is the problem that keeps allowing it to take room and board in our minds.
Sensitive people are usually subject to this sin. Many a saint is sensitive by nature. It is so easy for a sensitive person to hug and nurse the discouragement. This person will not choose to rid themselves of the discouragement. The person will want others to pity them. The person will cry on God's shoulder. The discouraged person needs a rude awakening.
If anyone had the right to be discouraged, Paul did. Read in II Corinthians 11:23-27 all the reasons that he had to feel depressed.
labors more abundant...
stripes above measure... (five times he received 39 stripes)
prisons more frequent...
three times beaten with rods...
three times shipwrecked...
a day and a half stranded in the water of the sea...
often on tiring journeys...
often in dangerous seas and storms...
often threatened by robbers and thieves...
often threatened by his own countrymen...
often threatened by the heathen...
often threatened in cities, in the country, when on the seas...
often threatened amidst false saints....
weariness, pain, and dangers were frequent...
hunger, thirst and fastings were frequent...
cold and lack of warm clothing were frequent...
Yet, discouragement is not on the list given by Paul. God could not have continued to use him, had he allowed these things to discourage him.
D. L. Moody said:
"I have never known God to use a discouraged person."
How could Paul, or even you, witness, win souls, encourage another while discouraged???
There is a story of an old sour saint, who decided upon the event of an altar call in his place of worship to invite a young man to the altar. The young man looked up at the sour, discouraged, miserable looking saint, and replied: "No thanks, I have enough problems!"
There is another story of a two frogs who fell into a crock of cream. One frog croaked right away, and the other kept kicking and kicking until he finally kicked up a pad of butter to sit upon. In the church of today, we need more "churners," and less "croakers."
Paul says first that there are in the ministry many distressing problems. Contrary to some popular beliefs, the ministry is a vocation of distressing events:
1:8 "pressed out of measure"
"despaired of life"
1:9 "a sentence of death"
Through all these things Paul goes on to exclaim:
II Corinthians 4:1, 8-9
"Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not... troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."
Paul tells us there are reasons for our sufferings! For in II Corinthians 1, he tells us that suffering is:
So we may be able to comfort others who also have trials.
Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.
So suffering can allow God to bring us special times of consolation and blessing. The trials allow the miracles of power.
And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
So pride can be eliminated, and trust in God can be built and strengthened.
But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God Who raiseth the dead:
So the church can come into unity of prayer...
Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.
Without troubles, we would not have these benefits. So the ministry for the Lord is fraught with troubles. But discouragement will destroy these benefits to the problems. Discouragement is a fight against these.
We cannot help others while discouraged.
We cannot accept the comfort of God while discouraged.
We cannot learn trust in God while discouraged.
And we cannot seek real prayer, while we are preferring pity and bringing others into the faith-less discouragement with us.
Paul calls the troubles of the ministry "our light affliction" (II Corinthians 4:17). If his were "light" then ours must be helium balloons.
Paul gloried in his troubles:
II Corinthians 11:30
"...if I must needs glory, I will glory of these things which concern mine infirmities."
Paul also took pleasure in his troubles:
II Corinthians 12:9-11
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying."
To glory in your troubles does make one different from most of Christianity. Paul was proudly sitting on his "cake of butter" and had churned, not croaked. Paul could endure being jailed, and still not fall into discouragement. To avoid discouragement, Paul fought it with glorying, thanksgiving, praise, faith.
We need to put up a fight against discouragement. Every minister will come against discouraging circumstances, persecutions, wrong attitudes, trials, burdens, afflictions, etc, but we do not need to lay down and allow the devil to bury us!
Recognize the discouragement as sin. Refuse it! Reject it! Battle against it! The more radical you are against it, the better. Do not treat it as a small concern, it is a horrible sin.
The secret of strength in the ministry, despite every personal trial is to "look unto Jesus" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
F.B. Meyer said:
"With every look at self, take nine looks at Christ."
Caleb and Joshua saw the same land, the same walls, the same giants; and yet the other ten came back with an "evil" report. The ten came back discouraged, and wandered a wilderness for 38 more years. The Lord will not give the Promised land to the discouraged. If we want to enter into the revival of the last days, we need to get away from discouragement!
II Corinthians 4:16-18
"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
This shows us that our troubles:
1. do not destroy the inward man, but they build him (vs 16)
"though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."
2. are not long in time, compared with eternity (vs. 17)
"our light affliction is but for a moment"
3. bring us great reward and glory (vs 17)
"worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"
4. should not take our eyes off of eternal values (vs 18)
"while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Discouragement is a problem that the ministry cannot afford. It destroys ministries and ministers. We cannot tolerate it any longer. If you want to minister for the Lord, then reckon to do battle against discouragement!