Almost exactly four years ago I posted a short little confession on being a “hypocrite.” You can read it if you really want, but in essence I was simply referring to those times when as a pastor I stand in front of our church and proclaim the truth of God’s Word, while at the same time knowing that I don’t always match up to the very standard I’m presenting.
In particular, I think at the time I was talking about anxiety, my ongoing struggle with it, even though we teach and preach the truth of God’s Word to renounce it, avoid it, etc. It’s not that I present myself as someone who has it all together, because I don’t. I know I don’t. Others know I don’t. And yet I’m still called to proclaim the truth of God’s Word, to present the standard, even though I fall short myself. It’s a real struggle sometimes.
And here I am again. Last night we looked at Paul’s admonition to “not lose heart” in 2 Corinthians 4 and I presented several means of encouragement from that text; reasons to not lose heart. And yet, this morning I find myself struggling with the very thing I preached against last night: discouragement.
Maybe it’s coincidence. Maybe it’s some psychological suggestion that in thinking about it, it comes true. Maybe it’s an attack from the enemy. Maybe it’s just Monday. Maybe God just has a sense of humor. I don’t know.
I just know that I get so tired and weary of the multitude of issues in the church. When Paul tops of his list of suffering in 2 Corinthians 11 with his ongoing concern for the church, I can identify, as can most pastors. Families that are falling apart, individuals struggling with sin, situations that need to be addressed that no one wants to address, constant undertones of bickering and discontent from that one or two individuals, plus the regular stress of wanting to see growth, wanting to see ministry happen, wanting to see people come to Christ, etc. It’s just a bit discouraging at times.
Now, lest you think we have the world’s worst church or something, I’m just mentioning things that are in every church, that we all struggle with. All in all God has blessed us with a wonderful church family, with some amazing friends and people who are a genuine encouragement to me and my family. Which just makes this whole issue even bigger: if we do have so many blessings, why do I let myself get so discouraged?
And the answer is probably as simple as this: discouragement is a favorite tool of the enemy. As I said last night, he can often get us here when he can’t get at us in any other way. So why don’t I listen to myself?
In that post several years ago I stated that maybe this was just some kind of cathartic confession, and I guess it is. But more than that, I also want to try and offer a bit of encouragement to someone else. I know I’m not the only one here. I know others deal with this, and even today might be fighting that discouragement.
So let me just offer Paul’s encouragement to you: Don’t lose heart. God is at work here, doing bigger things than we can possibly imagine. Keep your eye on the treasure and not the vessel. Move forward in faith, trusting in His power and knowing that He is faithful. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for all those out there who may be facing a little discouragement this morning.
So there, I said it all again. And maybe if I keep saying it, I’ll start to believe it. In fact, maybe I’ll just go and play the recording of last night’s message and “preach to myself!” In the end, let’s just remember with Bunyan’s Pilgrim as he languished in Doubting Castle under the Giant Despair: “What a fool am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty. I have a Key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any Lock in Doubting Castle.” God is so good!!!