Monday, June 20, 2011

June 21, 2011

This morning I want to begin an investigation into the causes and the cures of discouragement that are mentioned or implied here in Psalm 77.  I don't think you have to read this Psalm very far to conclude this guy is discouraged and maybe even depressed. Discouragement certainly can lead to depression if it is  not effectively dealt with.

Beginning with this post I will share six things that can lead to discouragement and six things that lead you out of it. To help you grasp these concepts I have put them into short and rhythmic statements.

Here is the first one and it is based on verses 1-7 - “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again?"  Psalm 77:1-7


Emotions are a very important part of our relationship with God. It feels good to feel good about God. It feel good to feel that God feels good about you! It feels good to connect with God on a spiritual and emotional level.

Emotions are God-given and God ordained. He wired you emotionally so you are able to develop relationships with Him and with other people. Since He wants you to love Him He had to make you able to do that and emotions are how that happens.

But, for all that is good about emotions, they tend to be fragile and fickle easily affected by circumstances or surroundings. So, if you allow your emotions to lead your commitment to Christ, you will be subject to changes when your circumstances suddenly change. It follows then if you are led by emotions you will be more susceptible to discouragement.

That could well be what happened in this Psalm.

To avoid discouragement or to help you get beyond being discouraged, base your relationship to Christ on facts not on feelings - or, devotion over emotion. I am not saying that feelings are not important or powerful, I am just saying they are not a reliable foundation for faith.

In fact, you will find that when you build your faith upon your devotion to God and stand on the facts of God's Word, you will experience better emotions because feelings always follow faith! Make your decision to follow Christ regardless of how you feel and then be true to that decision no matter what your emotional state. That is what I mean by devotion over emotion.

Believe in this concept and live by it and I am sure you will be less prone to discouragement.


June 20, 2011

"I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint."  Psalm 77:1-3

This week begins the fourth week of my "Summer in the Psalms" series of messages. I will be camping out in Psalm 77 all week. This Psalm is timely and insightful because it shows how to battle discouragement.

Christians are not immune from discouragement and may, in fact, be prone to discouragement for several reasons:

1) We tend to care more than other people
2) We tend to care more about other people
3) We have intimate knowledge of a God Who has the power to "fix things" but sometimes doesn't
4) We are under constant attack from the Enemy who continually attempts to discourage  us
5) Faith is a journey that doesn't have clear mile markers and progress can be hard to measure
6) There is a constant dynamic tension between the work of grace God has accomplished in our lives and the awareness of how much more growth needs to happen - this "holy dissatisfaction" is necessary but hard to manage.
7) We are called to accomplish a task that is never completed and often overwhelming
8) We hold ourselves and our leaders to a high standard and therefore, are often disappointed

I could go on, but I think you get the picture!

Psalm 77 is a Psalm of Aseph. Who was Aspeh?

Aseph was one of the three musicians who worked for and with King David. He and his cohorts were responsible for developing inspiring worship to maintain the spiritual climate of God's nation and His people.

Sort of a big job, eh?

If Christians are prone to discouragement (and they are) how much more so for the "point people" who serve on the front lines of ministry?

Discouragement not properly handled will lead to despression. Over the seens I have seen many good and effective ministry people knocked out of the game by perpetual discouragement that morphed into depression.

Before I depress you with these thoughts, let me get to the good news! Aseph discovered how to work through discouragement before it became depression.

Read and meditate on Psalm 77 and see if you can find out how he did it. See what the Spirit says to you.

That is what I will be sharing throughout this week in my preparation for Sunday's message. But here's a hint - devotion has to trump emotion.

Be encouraged today!