Years ago, when I was a youth pastor, I had leadership of a “post-high” ministry haphazardly tacked onto my job description. We had around six young adults that met regularly in my basement for a time of conversation, food, and Bible study. They ate the food provided, ate food out of my kitchen that WAS NOT provided, and even broke my couch. That summer we even did a post-high trip, renting a houseboat and traveling up the Mississippi. It was a fun trip everyone enjoyed, but I was not really sure anything deeply spiritual happened. To make matter worse, when we returned the boat we had broken the prop and had to pay $600 for it. After a year of ministry I really felt all we had accomplished was breaking a couch and a boat! Talk about discouragement!
If you serve God for any amount of time you are going to encounter discouragement. You work hard on a lesson, only to hear complaints. You get up the courage to share the gospel, only to get rejected. You spend your few free hours painting, only to be told that “so and so” does a better job. Serving God can certainly be an incredibly discouraging undertaking.
There is a great illustration of this in Nehemiah chapter four. Nehemiah has traveled over 1,000 miles to help rebuild Jerusalem, only to encounter all sorts of discouragement. Enemy armies want to attack the workers, the workers complain of being overworked, and the local citizens complain about the whole thing ten times in a row. For most of us all that discouragement would have been enough to toss in the towel, but not so for Nehemiah. Instead, he takes these four steps to defeat discouragement.
- He prays: as soon as he faces difficulty Nehemiah turns to God in prayer. In the face of difficulty do we do the same, or do we instead begin complaining or even giving up?
- He thinks it through: Nehemiah asks the question: why are we building this wall? The answer? For God’s glory and for the safety of His people. When you are discouraged serving God take a moment to remember why you are doing what you are doing.
- He takes action: In the face of danger Nehemiah forms security details to protect the city. He just doesn’t think and complain, as we are prone to do, but he takes the action that is necessary.
- He has faith: After praying, thinking, and acting Nehemiah trusts God with the result. Do we trust God with the results of our labor? Back to that post-high ministry. I prayed, I thought, and I acted, but I didn’t trust God, and that led me to be discouraged. Yet, just two weeks ago, I got an unsolicited email from a participant telling me that being involved in that ministry had changed his life. He talked about how much he grew each week, and even how important the House Boat trip was. Where I had been discouraged God was act work doing something big. May we all keep serving through the discouraging times, trusting God with the results.