daily Broadcast

How to Slay the Dragon of Discouragement

From the series Rebuilding Your Broken World

Discouragement - how do you respond to those feelings of hopelessness and depression? If you need a spiritual shot in the arm, or a reviving dose of perspective, this message is for you. God wants to help you hang tough in tough times.

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Message Transcript

I came across an apocryphal story, so I know this is not true.  But I came across it and it really makes the point.  This is a story told where I don’t know exactly what the situation was, but Satan decided he would have a garage sale.  In typical like C.S. Lewis fashion, all the demons from all over were able to come to the garage sale and make their bids on some of his greatest tools about how to deceive, destroy, hurt, kill, maim, mess up Christians and dishonor God.

So there was table after table filled with all the tools of Satan.  There was envy over here.  Pride was over here.  Jealousy was over here and sexual temptation over here.  Greed was over here.

Over on one side table, there was just a very small box, and inside the box was a very, very worn tool.  No sizzle, nothing compared to the other tools.  As the demons begin to roam around the garage sale and figure out which tool they wanted to use to move up the ladder in Hell’s kitchen, and be superstars for Satan, they noticed that pride and envy and sexual temptation, the price tags were actually pretty reasonably priced.

But then they went over to this one little box, they opened it, and it was so worn.  The price was just off the charts.  The demons got together, and being a good group that lies to one another often and loves to negotiate, they said to Satan, “This doesn’t make any sense.  These things that we see really bring people down aren’t very expensive.  This tool over here, it’s exceedingly worn and way too expensive.  What is that tool?”

Satan says, “That’s discouragement.  The reason it’s so well worn is because it’s the one I use more than all the others combined.  When I use all those other tools, some of those Christians are fairly sharp.  They figure out I’m behind it.  But when I use discouragement, often they have no idea that it’s me behind it.  I get them to give up on their marriages.  I get them to give up on God.  I get them to give up on ministry.  I get them to give up on commitments they’ve made.  I get them discouraged and they end up right where we want them, but they never know that I was the one behind it all.”

We’re going to talk about how to slay the dragon of discouragement.  I would say to you that defining discouragement is easy.  You can look in your notes.  Webster’s, “To be deprived of courage, hope or confidence.  To be disheartened.  To advise or persuade someone to refrain.  ‘Don’t go there.  Don’t do that.’ To prevent or try to prevent by disapproving or raising objections.”

We all know what it’s like when you have that feeling of, “I’m out of gas.  I can’t go any more.  I quit.  I can’t stand it.  I can’t take this one more minute.”  You’re just overwhelmed, discouraged, and ready to quit.  I sat in the back room as Lenny was playing the first couple songs, and was praying and saying, “Lord, it’s not the cognitive part of this that people need to get near as much as they really need to hear and get how this works on your heart.”

I thought to myself, “Father, would you reveal to me maybe the top five or six times that I’ve been so discouraged – I mean so emotionally discouraged at the point where the thoughts were going through my mind, ‘just quit.  Just quit’?”  I made a quick list.  First was in the first two years of my marriage.  It was so frustrating and it was so hard.  I loved her so much.  I just thought, “This is never going to work.”

I remember having the thought, “Just quit.”  I remember in the third year of my very first pastor.  Everything I dreamed it meant to be a pastor it was not.  I just thought, “Man, this is nuts.”  I remember sitting quietly in my car thinking, “You know what?  Just quit.  Just quit.”

The third was I had one of my sons go through a season of rebellion.  I mean, we tried everything under the sun.  I just remember getting so frustrated and trying everything, and trying to be the dad I’m supposed to be and understanding, and then firm, and then hard, and then loving and then just, “You know what?  Just forget it.  I’m just sick of the whole thing.”  Just came that close to just saying, “You know what?  Just let him do whatever he wants.  I don’t care.  I just can’t take the hassle anymore.”

The fourth was at Santa Cruz Bible Church.  We were into about the fourth year of the ministry there, and I didn’t even know what a capital campaign was.  We started a capital campaign to raise money for buildings.  Hundreds of people started showing up.  We added services.  I got so overextended.  There were buildings going up, and hundreds of people coming, and pressure everywhere.  I remember in an elder’s meeting crying.

One elder came in and said, “How are you doing?”  I just started crying.  They thought, “Maybe he’s not doing so well.”  Things are going great, and I just felt like I want to quit.

The last time was about a year into my job at Walk Through the Bible.  My wife was going through a hard time.  She had two jaw surgeries and neither of them worked on this tooth.  It was infected, and we were missing friends.  The economy was in the tubes.  Everything that could go wrong went wrong.  I remember in my basement praying and talking to God.

I got done talking, and I just remember crying.  Just thinking, “I’ve done all I can.  I can’t work any more 80 hour weeks.  I can’t pray any harder.”  And it was just like, I felt like quitting.  Now what I want to tell you before we get started is that I made a commitment to my wife.  I made a commitment to that church.  I made a commitment to my son.  I made a commitment to the elders at Santa Cruz.  And I made a commitment at Walk Through the Bible.

The only reason all five times I didn’t quit was simply an act of the will because I told them I am committed.  Now if we had another five hours, what I’d love to tell you about is I’m glad I didn’t quit.  ‘Cause I got an awesome wife, four grown kids, three grandkids, three on the way.  And it’s better, deeper and richer.  One of my kids said, “We’re competitive.  The Ingram boys are competitive.”  One of them gets pregnant and they’re all ready to roll.

If I would have quit being a pastor, I wouldn’t be here today in the First Church.  That son that I was ready to give up on just produced an album and writes songs like Lenny does in Nashville for Christian artists and is impacting people all around the world.  The Santa Cruz Bible Church, that capital campaign, it finally went and there’s a whole series of buildings and they’re all paid for.  And thousands of people are ministered unto.  The radio ministry grew out of that.

None of that would have happened.  And Walk Through the Bible, there were times where I wondered if we’d ever make it.  Now I come back from Nigeria or Indonesia and places like this summer in the Middle East.  90 countries and thousands of people were trained, and touching 8 million people last year.  You just say to yourself, “I came that close.  I came that close.”

This isn’t hyperbole.  This is not, “I had a little bit of a bad day and I was a little discouraged.”  This was how you feel when you wanted to say, “I’m done with this marriage.  I’m done with the ministry.  I’m done with that kid.  I’m done with this.  I just can’t take it.  I quit.”

Wwhat I want you to know is when you are there, Satan is whispering in your ear.  God has a plan for you to beat discouragement, and we’re going to talk about what it is.  We’re going to walk through it.  Every time you feel that way, you can open your Bible to James 1 and you can read what we’re going to go through.  God will use it if you’re open to slay the dragon of discouragement.

Are you ready to learn that?  Open your Bible to James 1 and let’s dig in together.  Let’s look at God’s plan for overcoming discouragement.  It starts with number one, His will in adversity.  You’ve got to remember His will in adversity is joyful endurance.  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.”  Why?  “Knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The second thing we learned is God’s promise in this process.  When you don’t know what to do, He will give you supernatural wisdom.  “But any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith without any doubting.  For the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man expect that he’ll receive anything from the Lord being a double minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

God has a prescription for perseverance.  The answer is Divine perspective.  On any given day, the greatest, most committed, most Godly believers on the face of the planet can start to lose perspective.  And very Godly, good people make grave, terrible decisions that ruin their life, the testimony of God, families, churches, businesses because when you get discouraged, you can do really stupid, ungodly things.

Godly, good people do very stupid and ungodly things when they get discouraged.  I will tell you at the root of discouragement is a loss of perspective.  You are seeing life through a set of glasses that are not real.  And that’s where Satan wants you to be.  We’re going to find in verses 9 through about 12 the answer to getting perspective.  Notice the contrast again – that word “but” in verse 9.

“But let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position and let the rich man glory in his humiliation,” or literally his low position.  “Because like flowering grass, he will pass away.  For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass.  And its flower falls of, and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed.  So to the rich man in the midst of his pursuit,” as he is pursuing – like the testimony you heard.  As you’re making it happen – as you’re making the money, as you’re watching the kids grow up, as in the midst of your pursuit, he says, “He will fade away.”

Summary statement, verse 12.  “Blessed,” the same word that Jesus used in the beatitudes, macadegas.  Blessed, happy, inward quality of joy beyond any outward circumstance.  “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial.”  Why?  “For once, he has been approved he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

Now I just want to make a confession here.  When you read those verses, 9, 10, 11 and 12, and I tell you the answer to discouragement is perspective and you read those verses casually, I’m just going to go out on the limb and say a lot of you are thinking, “I hope he has something really good to say about those verses because grass and flowers fading and humble people have a high position and rich people have a low position.  I’m sure there’s some profound truth that’s going to give me perspective, but I just don’t get it right now.”

What I would say is I remember studying and pondering and praying over this passage.  And saying, “Lord, I know it all fits together.  There’s a conjunction here, but I’ve asked for wisdom.  I need the wisdom to know practically what to do.  Now I see it’s about perspective, because you’re talking about the transitory nature of life.  I see at the end you say, ‘Blessed is this man.’”

Tests don’t last forever.  When you’re approved, the word is what they would use for metal to see the quality of metal.  They would test metal to see if it’s genuine.  When the day comes when you’re approved, when you make it through the test, then there’s this promise of reward.  There’s the crown, literally consisting of life, a quality of life that God gives for all of those who love him.  What I want you to know is hidden in that, he’s going to give you how to get perspective on a regular basis.

Now in your notes, you’re going to notice I’ve laid something out.  I hope this will be helpful for you, is you need to get God’s perspective in three areas.  Sometimes I know people like to fill things in as we go.  I’m going to just stretch you a little bit because I want you to get the big picture.  You need to get God’s perspective first in your circumstances.  You can fill that word in.  We’re going to learn the key to getting God’s perspective in your circumstances is to look through circumstances through the eyes of faith.

Second, we’re going to learn to get God’s perspective on our future.  The key to getting God’s perspective on our future is by looking at our future through the lens of “hope” is our keyword.  Third, you’re going to see that you need to get God’s perspective on your motivation.  The key is by looking at our motives through the eyes of love.

Now what I want to do is I want to walk right through this passage word by word and explain it.  I think when we get done, what you’ll do is you’ll go back and you’ll say, “Oh.  Perspective is all about how I look at my circumstances.  Perspective is all about how when I think about the future, how I weigh it and what matters.  Perspective is all about looking down inside when I’m super discouraged and ask myself a hard question.  Why do I do what I do?

You say to yourself, “Where did you get that?”  Right out of the Bible.  Verse 9.  “But let the brother of humble circumstances,” circle the word “humble” in your notes.  And write above it, “Socioeconomic.”  This is not a humble Christian.  This is person who doesn’t have a lot of money.  Let him glory in his high position.

The word for glory here means boast, to rejoice, to take pride in his high position.  Now this sounds kind of weird to us, doesn’t it?  He says, “Let the brother, now you gotta make it through and persevere.  I’m going to give you wisdom.  But, as you’re seeking this wisdom, those of you that were prone to discouragement because you’re thinking ‘I don’t have two nickels to rub against one another.  I don’t have enough money to even make it long term in life.  God, when are you going to come through for me?  I’ve got all these needs.’”

He says, “Here’s the perspective you need to have.  If you don’t have very much, you need to glory or boast in your high position.”  You’re thinking, “What high position?”  Not your high position the way the word looks at your position.  The high position you have with God spiritually.  Those people that have very little materially are forced into a very high position spiritually.  The position is trusting God.

I’ve been all over the world in the last three or four years.  I can take you to countries everywhere where they’re praying for rice for that afternoon, or for a meal tomorrow, or for shelter.  I’ll tell you.  They have an unbelievable faith.  You know why?  They don’t have a 401K.  They don’t have a government program.  They don’t have any social services.

They trust God.  When there’s no other option to trusting God, it’s easy to trust God, right?  You’ve all been there.  You’re in the ICU.  Someone you love is dying.  It’s a car wreck or appendicitis has ruptured, or something’s happening.  How hard is it to trust God?  It’s real easy isn’t it?  You get on your knees out in that little waiting room, and you join hands and you call everyone you know and you say, “Oh, God please.  I beg you,” and I mean you lay yourself out because you can’t solve the problem.

The poor of this world are rich in faith because they don’t have any plan B.  They can’t depend on themselves.  I’ve got lots of amazing stories.  Have you ever noticed when those missionaries come back, how they have these amazing stories?  Have you ever wondered, “Does God only do like big, supernatural things like overseas?”  Answer is no.  So why does he do it?

It’s because they’re desperate, and if he doesn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done.  Early in our time in seminary, I believed that my wife should be home.  I had three kids as I went through seminary.  I just had a conviction that my wife should be home and raise our kids.  But I also had a conviction that I should be in school full time.  That meant I needed to work enough full time somewhere, go to school full time so my wife could stay home with the kids.

I just did the math and there wasn’t any way to do it.  So I found a straight commission job.  I took a test and got a license where I could sell some stuff.  If I could make three sales a month I could make about $1,000.00 to $1,200.00 that would pay the bills just barely.  Lived in these little government subsidized housing units, $225.00 was rent and utilities included.

So I could live on about $1,000.00 a month.  Well every now and then I would make my three sales.  But maybe a man would have high blood pressure and so he wouldn’t pass the test, and so I wouldn’t get my commission.  So about 15 percent of the time, I would find myself with, “I have rent.  I have bills.  I need food.  I don’t have any money.  God, I believe I’m in the center of your will.  You led me very clearly to go to school full time.  It’s a conviction.  I want my wife to love and raise my kids.  I’ve done all that I can do.  It’s not my problem his blood pressure is high, so I don’t get $300.00 from that.  I now have $700.00, but I got $1000.00 worth of bills.”

When I say poor I mean we were poor.  I mean we went like 15, 18, 20 days at times where we never had chips, coke, juice, meat, anything.  We gave $5.00 or $6.00 in the co-op with 12 other couples.  You put your $6.00 in and you got two big bags of fruits and vegetables.  Theresa would make meals out of fruits and vegetables.  Then she used whole wheat flour and she would make our own bread.

Me and my sons who remember this well, we had whole wheat bread and peanut butter and honey sandwiches every day for about four years, with water in our thermoses.  We would dig out little quarters in the backseat.  Now here’s what I want to tell you.  On one certain time, that was the situation.  And we took the George Mueller approach if you’re familiar with him.

Don’t let anyone know what your needs are.  No one knew our financial needs, our food needs, or anything.  Theresa takes the kids to school – six or eight or nine minute drive, comes back – nine minute drive.  There are five bags of groceries on our front step.  It’s chicken and roast and hamburger, and a thing of whole wheat flour and two jars of honey.  No one knows we do this.  Five bags of groceries.

It’s my testimony that angels are real.  Now is that dramatic, supernatural?  Of course it is.  Why?  Oh, because we had all this faith?  What was our plan B?  When you’re poor, you have lots of faith.
You have to look at life through the lens of hope.  The hope is in the temporal world; whatever you’re facing is not going to last forever.

The other myth that we tend to believe is that, “Okay, you know what God?  I’m going to do it your way.  I’m going to be the model wife.  I’m going to be the model husband.  God, I’m going to be that Christian I always wanted to be.  I’m going to get up.  I’m going to read my Bible.  I’m going to pray.  I’m going to give off the top.  I’ll even go on a short term mission trip.  I am your man.  I am your woman.  God, I went to the Billy Graham Center and now I am ready to live the life like never before.”

You do it for a week, and nothing really changes but you think, “Well God probably has other things going on.”  So you do it for a month and things are going pretty good.  You do it for three months.  Then you kinda look over your shoulder and you think, “All of my problems haven’t gone away.  Everybody’s attitude hasn’t changed.  Now, I’ve heard a few comments about my life and the difference it’s making, but –”

See, the myth is if we really get on track with God, He will rearrange all of our circumstances and all of our problems in ways that really align with how we think it ought to happen.  He’ll just snap His fingers.  So you begin to submit when you don’t want to submit or lead when you’re supposed to lead or give when you don’t feel like it or hang tough and begin to deal with issues.

There isn’t some amazing quick fix that happens.  So you know what happens?  Then we get discouraged, don’t we?  “Oh, I tried.  I tried being the real Christian wife.  I tried to be the kind of parent you want.  I tried to get up and read the Bible.  I tried, and it doesn’t work so I quit.”

Notice this passage says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.  For once he’s been approved, he will receive.”  Notice they don’t last forever.  Once he’s been approved, tense of the verb looking backwards.  Then notice the next one is he will receive the crown of life.  There is a reward.  It is future.  It’s literally the crown which consists of life, the quality life.  The abundant life now and the absolute certain promise of Heaven later.

See, you will never overcome discouragement unless you begin to look at life through the lens of eternity instead of just the lens of time.  If now is all there is, according to the Apostle Paul, we’re to be the most pitied.  ‘Cause I got news for you.  There are some trials you’re going to go through.  You’re going to graduate, but part of the graduation and the fulfillment and the reward of that graduation is going to be when you’re ushered into Heaven.

There will be rewards that are real.  We get this idea that Heaven is like clouds and people sipping iced tea and probably doing a lot of singing.  Some of you don’t like to sing.  It sounds like a very boring place.  Heaven is real.  Heaven is like an ocean full of anything good you’ve ever tasted here in some small quantity like a thimble.

If there is work here, there’s better work there.  If there are relationships here, there are awesome relationships there.  If there’s fulfillment and culture and song and life and responsibility and things here, just mega mega mega multiply it.  Heaven is a real, tangible, clear place that’s better and deeper and richer and more profound than anything on earth.

I highly recommend you read a book called Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  I think he does a really good job of taking that ethereal side of it and saying, “Here are some real specific things.”  Now he may tackle some things.  You may say, “I don’t know if I agree with that or not.”  I don’t know if I do either.  In fact, he writes about stuff I’ve never even thought about.

But when I got done reading his book, I yearned for Heaven.  The average American Christian, if you said, “You can go to Heaven and be with Jesus right now or I’ll tell you what, we’ll bump up that 401K.  We can increase your marriage by 15 percent and we can do this, this and this,” the average Christian.  “Heaven is later.”  I got a friend that just lost his dad, 97 years old.  You talk to some people.  I mean, like, how long is anyone going to live?

We think going to Heaven is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person.  Jesus – the hope that He gave His Disciples to make it through the trials He promised they would go through was what?  Heaven.  “I have gone to prepare a place for you.  I have a plan for you.  I have a place for you.  I have a promise for you.  You are precious to me.  And I want you to know for some of you, this world wasn’t even fit of you.”

Hebrews 11.  “We’re sawed in two.  Some were eaten by lions.  Some were taken out and guess what?  They didn’t receive yet the great reward that I had for them.  This world wasn’t worthy of them.”  There are some people that God takes home early because he just wants to be with them sooner.  Enoch, right?  Did you ever think that at some times, God knows suffering that is going to come?  There’s an interesting passage in Isaiah where maybe he takes some people home a little bit early so they don’t have to go through all the mess a lot of other people do.  That’s His mercy – those precious in the sight of God literally are his saints?

See, if you’re going to battle discouragement, you gotta start looking at circumstances.  Whether you have a little and are forced to trust Him, or whether you have a lot and have to learn to trust Him through the lens of faith.  If you’re going to battle discouragement, you gotta start looking at these issues about the myths.  These myths that you know what, if you do everything right, everything is going to turn out great.  Or the other myth, “This will never stop.  This bad situation will stay bad forever and ever.”

You’ve got to look at that through the lens of hope.  The hope you have is that it will end.  There comes a day when the test you’re approved, and there is a reward in the future, both now in this life – the life that really consists of life.  I cannot tell you how many funerals I’ve done.  But I have never – and whether it’s of an old man, a young man, a young woman, a baby, I’ve just never been at a funeral where people were standing around just before they lowered.  And go, “You know what?  Just before he goes, could we get a couple comments here?  Could this guy dress or what?  Did you see the watch he had?  I think he had one of the five finest sports cars in our neighborhood.  And you know what a lot of you don’t know?  Have you ever seen his portfolio?  I’ve just never heard those.

You know what I’ve heard?  “He’s the greatest dad I ever had.  He was there for me.  He was my best friend.  This guy had all that responsibility, but Saturday mornings he was out helping clean up at the church.”  When they put you in the grave, what will matter is not how you looked, who you impressed or what you owned.  So your hope can’t be in stuff that rots.  Your hopes gotta be in relationships.  In the things of eternity, and the things that last forever and ever.

When you get discouraged, often we get discouraged thinking these temporal things are never going to change.  Blessed, happy, unmitigated joy are those who when you’ve been tested, you persevere under trial, you pass the test and future, there is a crown consisting of quality of life now and Heaven that’s reserved for you.  You look through the lens of hope.

Third, overcoming discouragement is you get God’s perspective on your motivation.  You might be saying, “Where do you get that?”  Well, the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who – circle the word “love Him.”  Those who love Him.  A lot of my motivation and persevering is pretty pragmatic.  I know that if I persevere, I’ve got enough track record that you know what?  Things will turn out better if I don’t quit.

It’s true in relationships.  It’s true in work.  It’s true in my relationship with the Lord.  But I won’t lie to you, there’s times where I have gotten discouraged.  I felt like, “God, I am doing what you what me to do.  I’m trying as hard as I can.  As far as I know, there’s no sin in my life.  I’m getting up and meeting with you.  Theresa doesn’t have the best husband in the world but she’s got the best one I can be right now.  I’m not a superstar father, but I am busting it to stay connected with my kids.  I have a plan for each one of them and I’m praying for them, and I’m calling them on the phone even as adults.

God, I’m not the greatest pastor in the world and greatest teacher in the world.  But I’ll tell you what.  I’m stepping up to the plate.  I’m prepared.  I’m doing the best I can.”  When you say, “As far as I know, this is where I’m at.”  Then things are not going well.  Is that happening to you?  I mean they’re just not going well at all.  It’s different for all of us.  But it’s just the little kind of things and you just feel like, “God, I’m trying as hard as I can.  I’m being as obedient as I can.  And you know what?  This just stinks.”

I mean it’s one of those real honest thoughts and you don’t have them all the time.  But I mean this isn’t about, “I need to fix something.  I’m doing all I think I can and I look at how life is kind of playing out.  I just want to go on record to say you have one son in the kingdom that’s a very unhappy camper right now.”  Have you ever felt that way?

Well I had one of those days.  I was very, very discouraged.  I knew I needed perspective.  I’m not saying that this will help you, but on this day it did.  I had a sermon to write.  I’ve made this commitment and so far in my life, I’ve kept it is that I’ll never get up and preach to any group if I’m not right with God.  That means praise God I preach ‘cause you gotta get right at least every seven days.

So it’s Thursday.  My sermon is not done.  I don’t have anything to write.  I felt like I’m doing all I’m supposed to do.  I’m not a happy camper.  I don’t know what to do.  So I only play golf for two reasons.  One is there’s a couple friends that it’s just a great social time.  I love how green it is and the blue sky and the fluffy clouds.  I like to walk and talk with a friend.

The only other is sometimes, I get so discouraged.  I’ve only played golf by myself like maybe three times.  That’s how discouraged I was.  Because I just want to walk by myself.  I pray on each hole and just get out of the office.  So it was one of those days.  I go out to this little small golf course in Northern California.  I’m all by myself, I’m going to talk with God because I’ve spent hours and hours and I’ve got a blank sheet of paper.  I’ve got a sermon due.  I’ve got to get right with God.  I’ve tried everything, and nothing is working, so let’s try golf.

So I get out, pay my little green fee and I’m only going to play nine holes.  I get out there, and there’s a guy named Art and his buddy.  Art, I learn, is 91 years old.  His youthful friend is 86.  I walk out, and they say, “Hey, young man, why don’t you kind of go on ahead?  You just go right ahead ‘cause we’ll hold you up.”  I said, “Guys, just to be honest with you, I didn’t come to play golf anyway.  You just can’t go too slow.  You mind if I play with you?”

“Oh, no, that’s fine.  But I’ll just tell you, we only play once a week.”  “Really?”  “Yeah, for two and a half hours.  Only nine holes.  We’re best friends.  This day, this time we play every week.”  I said, “Okay, great.”  He says, “We hit it about 120 yards on good days but we’re right down the center.  And we like to walk.”  I said, “It’s fine with me.”

So we play, and hole two, three, four, five, I start asking questions.  I don’t know about you, but I always learn a lot from really old people.  They know a lot more than we do.  So as we get talking, I learn that Art has a two and a half hour block and that’s the only free time he has every week.  I learn that he celebrated recently his 63rd year of marriage.

I learned that Art’s wife is an invalid, and the reason he was a little late and apologizing on hole number two to his buddy was, “Well, you know what?  I cooked supper last night and then I gave her her bath.  Then I carried her from the chair to the bed.  She made a little mess, so I had to clean it all up.  Then this morning, I fed her her breakfast and before I came, she made another little mess.  So I had to clean her up, and I’m sorry I’m a little bit late.”

I heard this man.  But when he’s talking about his wife, I mean I’m thinking I’m 91 and I’m carrying this woman from making a little mess, that was a nice way to say it.  I’m listening to a guy for six holes.  I’m thinking, “He’s in jail.  I mean he’s got 166 and a half hours in jail and two and a half hours to play golf with a friend.”  But he’s like kinda lighthearted.

When he talks about his wife, if you’ve done marriage counseling, when young couples come in and they don’t know very much, and they’re really like really, really in love and they still don’t know very much.  They have this kind of gleam in their eye.  You’re trying to prepare them for reality.  This guy had that gleam.  I’m thinking 63 years, he’s got the gleam.  I’ve gotta ask this guy some questions.

So by hole eight I figure I got one hole to talk with him.  I said to him, “Art, can I ask you a question?”  ‘Cause by now I’ve made two observations.  This guy, as best I can tell, is not a believer in Jesus.  Second is he’s deeply in love with his wife.  I want to know why.  I said, “Art?”  ‘Cause hole number nine, I’m gonna share the Gospel.  So hole number eight, I want to figure out about his wife.

And on hole number eight, I said, “Art, you seem like you’re still really in love with your wife.  How do you get up and give all of your week except two and a half hours?”  He looked at me like older people do.  To him I’m a young man.  They look at you like, “Young man, wet behind the ears, you are just so ignorant” kind of look.  Like, “Why don’t you wake up and smell the roses?”

He looked at me like, and he said, “I love her.  She’s been the joy of my life.  She’s raised our kids.  We spent the best, most precious years on this planet together.  It is a small thing and an amazing privilege to get in our final years to carry her from room to room and to bathe her and to feed her.  In some way try and pay back and tell her how much I love her in light of all that she’s done for me all these years.”

He kind of looked at me like, “Motivation?  Where are you coming from?  There’s no motivation.  It’s a privilege.”  I shared the Gospel with Art, and we had a good conversation.  I remember being really discouraged.  I remember thinking, “Why am I discouraged?”  I realized ‘cause I was looking at life through the lens of, “God, how are you coming through for me right now?  God, how are you making my life fulfilled right now?  God, in light of all that I’m doing and the sacrifices, and how hard I’m working, some things that matter to me aren’t going very successful right now.”

I want to tell you, if you want to beat discouragement, you start looking at circumstances through the lens of faith.  You look at the future through the lens of hope.  Then you look at the motivation through the lens of love.  I begin to think of passages, like Jesus talking to Peter.  “Peter, do you love me?”  Not, “Peter, will you build a ministry?”  “Peter, do you love me?  Peter, do you love me?  Well, then feed my sheep.  Tend my lands.  He that has my commands and keeps them, obedience is the one that loves me.  I will love him and my Father and I will manifest our presence to him.”

So I begin to ask the question, “Why do I do what I do?”  When you are going through difficult, painful trials that are suffering, it is one of the most profound opportunities to express your love for Jesus.  When I am in the third world and especially recently in China, I had an opportunity with a pastor whose wife was beat up by the police.  He was telling me about it.  I wish I could share the entire story.

But it was a very similar situation to Art, but I was thinking just in my mind, “If someone beat up Theresa, would I have this ‘Christian attitude’ good for evil?”  Before I could ask him about how in the world you deal with it when you are out preaching and she’s in charge of the house church.  They come get her, take her down to the police station, and beat her black and blue.  Do you know what his response was?

He turned to me. “Isn’t it an incredible privilege that we could get to suffer for Christ in such a way and be able to express our love by suffering in a small measure in the way that he suffered for us?”  From my western, success oriented, protect my turf, protect my wife, temporal life is all that really matters, I remember just thinking, “You know something?  If someone beat up my wife, I can tell you for sure the first thing that would come to my mind would not be the privilege for suffering for Jesus.”

Yet when I open this book and I find the early Disciples, what do they come back after they are beaten before the Sanhedrin and say, “What an incredible privilege to suffer.”  You know why people feel that way is when you love someone.

It’s hard to be discouraged if you realize maybe everything won’t work out your way.  But maybe this is an opportunity by your behavior – by not giving up, by not giving in, by not whining, by not complaining that you could go through it in a way and say to Jesus, “I just want you to know this one is for you.  I love you.”

I’ve put a little test that I’d like to close with.  And this may be helpful for you, because I think it pulls it all together.  You can slay the dragon of discouragement by one, reevaluating your circumstances.  And here’s the test.  Is my faith in things that are perishable or things that are permanent?  You think and ponder that, you’ll get perspective.

Reevaluate your focus.  Here’s the test.  Is my hope determined by the size of my problems or the certainty of God’s promises now and forever?  And third, you reevaluate your motivation.  The test is, is the primary motivation of my heart to love Christ or simply get relief and please myself?

And when I ask those three questions and I get honest before God, guess what?  I can slay the dragon of discouragement, and so can you.