Tag Archives: encouragement

Joy In The Midst Of Grief

This past Sunday afternoon, I received a call that no minister wants to receive.  A dear sister in Christ had just passed away after suffering from a grievous illness for many months, and her family was grieving at the house.  Would I please come and be with them?  Two months ago, I sat every day at the hospital with another family from the church who was watching their husband, father, and brother lose his battle with cancer, and I went to their house on another Sunday when I received the call that he had left this life.  Sitting with folks who have lost their mate, their closest companion, the parent who brought them into this world and nurtured and loved them all their lives, the grandparent who had spoiled them as children and had given them advice, privileges, and goodies that they would never get from Mom and Dad, and holding their hands while they mourn and listening to them grieve and weep…it’s hard.  It’s at these times that I feel the most helpless and inadequate.

I’m sure you know what I mean.  Many of you have been there, and will be again.  I’ve found that it’s best to simply be there, to provide that hand to hold, that shoulder to cry on, that listening ear.  Job’s friends sat with him during his darkest hour for an entire week, and none of them said a word during that entire time (Job 2:11-13).  In fact, it turned out that the most comfort they gave to Job was when they were silent; once they started talking, they just added to his pain and sorrow!  (Job 4-37)  What a great lesson for us!

Yet, in the midst of all this sorrow, pain, loss and feelings of helplessness, I cannot help but feel joy and happiness for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have left this life.  The apostle John wrote, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this:  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’  ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Rev. 14:13)  Those who die in the Lord are at peace now.  They are receiving comfort alongside Lazarus, Abraham, and the thief in Paradise (Luke 16:23-25; 23:39-43).  When Christ comes again, they will receive a new, imperishable body (1 Cor. 15:50-55) and rise again to meet him in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18).  When we all stand before God’s judgment seat, Death and Hades will have given them up (Rev. 20:11-13).  They will hear from the lips of their Savior and Lord, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34), and they will be ushered into eternal life (Matt. 25:46).

In this life, they suffered…but their suffering was preparing them for eternal glory in heaven (1 Cor. 4:16-5:5), a place they will be with an innumerable host of their fellow saints, a place where there is no more pain, sorrow, hunger, thirst, or weeping, a place where they will be with God and the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-17; 21:1-4).  They will be in this wonderful place for all eternity not because they earned it or deserved it (Eph. 2:8-9).  No, they were sinners just like all of us (Rom. 3:23).  Heaven will be theirs because of God’s grace and mercy (Tit. 2:11-14; 3:3-7) which prompted him to send his Son to die for us (Rom. 5:6-11; 1 John 2:1-2).  Heaven will be theirs because they chose to obey God (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21-23).  Heaven will be theirs because of their faith in Jesus (John 3:16), a faith which prompted them to obey him (James 2:14-26).  Heaven will be theirs because Jesus told them to repent of their sins, and they believed and obeyed him (Luke 13:3; 2 Cor. 7:9-10).  Heaven will be theirs because Jesus told them to wash their sins away by being baptized into him, and they believed and obeyed him (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:11-13; Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Heaven will be theirs because when they were penitently baptized, the Lord added them to his body, the church of which he is the Savior (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-5; 5:23).  Heaven will be theirs because they walked in the light of God by confessing their sins and striving to put Christ first in all things through their obedience of his commands (1 John 1:7-9; Matt. 6:33; 28:18-20).

And Heaven can be ours as well.  God offers us the same salvation he offered them.  He gives us the same plan, the same grace, the same mercy, the same sacrifice, the same commandments.  When we pass on, our loved ones can also find joy in the midst of their grief (1 Thess. 4:13-18), because we were in the Lord when we left this life (Rev. 14:13).

Are we in the Lord?  God’s Word tells us how to be in him.  Are we doing what he has told us to do?  Are we prepared for eternity?

 

 

Discouragement: Satan’s Greatest Weapon

Discouragement: It’s what keeps you sitting down instead of moving forward

I read a story once that says Satan once held a sale and offered all the tools of his trade to anyone who would pay the price.  They were spread out on the table and each one was labeled – hatred, malice, envy, gossip, lust – all the weapons that everyone knows so well.  However, off to one side lay a harmless looking instrument labeled DISCOURAGEMENT.  It was old and worn looking but was priced far above the rest.  When Satan was asked why this was, he replied, “Because I can use this one so much more easily than the others.  No one knows that it belongs to me, so with it I can open doors that are bolted tightly against the others.  Once I get inside, I can use any tool that suits me best.”

A few hours earlier when he was on a spiritual high, Peter thought he’d do anything for Jesus. But later when he was at his lowest point due to discouragement and fear, he wouldn’t do anything for Jesus.

I wonder what heroic and inspiring accounts were never written because Satan effectively used his tool of discouragement?  The Bible records many sad stories of people who lost heart and gave up.  When Moses sent the spies into the Promised Land, all but Caleb and Joshua came back with discouraging news.  The fearful saw the size and strength of their opponents rather than remembering the signs and strength of their God (Num. 13-14).  Elijah did great things for God which resulted in the conversion of thousands of Israelites (1 Kings 18:1-40; 19:18); yet, he had become so discouraged when Jezebel threatened his life that he deceived himself into thinking that he was the only servant of God left (1 Kings 19:1-18).  After Peter promised that he’d never leave Jesus’ side, he ran with the rest when the Lord was arrested, and a few minutes later become so afraid that he denied even knowing Christ (Matt. 26:31-75).  He did so because he was discouraged after seeing the apparent lost cause his Lord’s ways had become upon his arrest.

We become discouraged when we make the same mistake that these guys made and start paying more attention to the obstacles than the opportunities.  We become discouraged when we start believing Satan, “the father of lies” (John 8:44), instead of the Father “who cannot lie” (Tit. 1:2).  And what has the God who cannot lie promised us?  He has promised us that our work is not meaningless, so be steadfast and immovable (1 Cor. 15:58).  He has promised us that our trials and hardships make us stronger if we allow them (James 1:2-4; Rom. 5:3-5).  He has promised us that the hardships we endure seem painful right now, but they cause us to become more righteous later if we allow ourselves to be trained by them (Heb. 12:1-11).  Do we believe his promises?  Do we?  Our actions always prove how strong our faith really is (James 2:14-26).

Do you think Peter would have pictured himself doing this just fifty days ago when he was so discouraged and afraid that he wouldn’t even admit to anyone that he knew Jesus?

God can do great things with a heart that is his and a mind that believes it.  Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who refused to be discouraged, went on to do great things for God and his people for years afterward.  Elijah recovered from his discouragement and went on serving God, and as a result God brought him directly into heaven rather than allowing him to die.  Fifty days after a discouraged Peter denied Christ, he converted thousands of people through courageous, strong preaching.  All of these men faced what they thought were impossible situations.  They had seen no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope whatsoever…but it turns out that they were wrong.  Why?  Because they forgot that God was with them (Phil. 4:13).  Once they remembered that, look at the heights to which they climbed!

What heights can you reach with the help of God?  What can God do with you?  Does he have your heart and mind?  Or is the devil having his way with you?

“Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  Don’t allow Satan to discourage you, friends.  “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (Heb. 12:12-13).