There is an old story that many years ago the devil was having a yard sale. He was selling many different tools. A man wanted to buy a certain tool. The devil replied, “I will never sell that tool. It is my greatest tool- discouragement.” Discouragement is a loss of confidence or enthusiasm. It is a feeling of despair in the face of obstacles.
The Book of 2 Corinthians is very personal. The apostle Paul was under attack. The attack came from outside the church (persecution) and even worse from inside the church (false teachers). Paul did not become discouraged. He persevered. He did not quit. He rose above discouragement and kept moving forward.
In this difficult age we must not be discouraged! How can we rise above discouragement? The answers are found in 2 Corinthians chapter 4. Verse 1 says, “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” Paul was overwhelmed by the privilege of ministry. 2 Corinthians 4:1-18 gives three keys for overcoming discouragement.
The first key is to leave the results in God’s hands (verses 1 to 7). The ministry God has given you is impossible in your strength. Paul says, “And if our gospel is veiled (it is!), it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
People are blinded by Satan. The devil is the god of this age. People are lost and in the grip of the evil one. Even worse, we are simply clay pots. We are described as “jars of clay” (verse 7). God must supernaturally work. Verse 6 reads, “For God Who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Our task is to be faithful. The results are in God’s hands. We proclaim the truth. Only God Himself can change a person. The same divine power that brought light from darkness is required to change a person. Thankfully, the Lord Jesus has more than enough power to transform a person. Jesus spoke and there was light. As we speak the truth in a gracious way God works.
The second key is to die to self (verses 8-15). Paul said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our bodies” (verses 8-10).
In our day we might say, “I was blitzed, but not sacked. I was down but not knocked out. I was gasping but not dead.” A leader must die to self. A mother goes through tremendous pain at birth. She sacrifices the best years of her life caring for her children. Even when the children leave home her task is never finished. A father works day and night providing and teaching and loving his family.
True leadership is not being served. It is serving. Jesus was crucified on a Friday. The night before His death He washed His disciples feet. He protected His disciples with a word from the mob that came to arrest Him. He faithfully taught the truth during His trials. He was crucified on a Roman cross. He offered forgiveness to the soldiers. He provided for His mother through the apostle John. He gave salvation to the rebel crucified next to Him. Jesus was crushed by His Father for our sins. He drank the cup of the wrath of God to obtain our salvation. All of this happened in less than 18 hours! We must die to self.
The third key is to live for eternity (verses 16-18). Verses 16 and 17 say, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Often the Christian is compared to a farmer. The farmer plows, plants, waters, weeds and waits. The Bible says, “In due season we will reap if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).
Our focus is on eternity. God’s plan is not a three year plan or even a five year plan but an eternal plan! We live for eternity, therefore we persevere.
Moses led the people 40 years through the wilderness. Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac. Paul spent 3 years in the desert. Jesus is waiting even today for His enemies to become His footstool.
Discouragement is overcome by leaving the results in God’s hands, dying to self and living for eternity. C.T. Studd said, “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Let’s persevere together and keep serving God together!
Ethan Hansen is a pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake.