Handling Discouragement

Sun, Sep 24, 2017
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:27 mins 45 secs

Message text

Nehemiah 4 : 10-23

An old man with a bundle of stick on his back sank down by the roadside and with a groan said he wished that he were dead. To his surprise and terror Death at once made his appearance and asked him what he would have. The old man said quickly, "My bundle on my back and my feet once more on the road. In his discouragement what he asked for was not really what he desired. That is true of many of our wishes in the hour of discouragement.

There is a legend that Satan decided to get rid of a number of his tools, so he arranged an auction ... There were envy, deceit, malice, sensuality, enmity, thoughtlessness and many other tools which Satan had used successfully (priced very low). One piece, marked very high, was labeled Discouragement.
"Why do you want so much for this tool?" asked one bidder.
"This tool," replied the old tempter, "has always been my most useful one. You can see it has had more wear than the rest. It is used as a wedge to get into a man's mind when all other means fail. Practically every human being has had this tool used on him, although very few know that I'm the one wielding it." . . . As it worked out, none could afford the price Satan demanded for Discouragement ... so he is still using it.
ILL. An interesting thing happened in Darlington, Maryland, a few years ago. Edith saw 5 of her children gathered in a circle in the middle of the yard. Something had their eager attention & she couldn't see what it was.
So, very quietly, she came up behind them & peeked over their shoulders, only to discover that in the center of their circle were 5 little skunks. Suddenly horrified at what could happen, Edith cried at the top of her voice, "Children, run!" Instantly, each child grabbed a skunk & ran, leaving Edith stunned & frustrated.
I don't know if you have ever felt like that but Nehemiah surely must have. God had said, "Nehemiah, go to Jerusalem & rebuild the wall around the city." It sounded so easy, & Nehemiah must have thought, "That's a piece of cake! I can do that & be back here again as cupbearer to the King in no time at all."
So Nehemiah went to Jerusalem & started out on his task with great enthusiasm. But immediately, he & his workers met opposition, criticism, complaints, & mockery. The result was discouragement. And Nehemiah had to learn how to deal with that discouragement. What he learned is recorded in Nehemiah 4:10- 23.
To begin with, listen as I read vs’s 10-12. “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘the strength of the laborers is giving out, & there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall. Also our enemies said, 'Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them & will kill them & put an end to the work.’ Then the Jews who lived near them came & told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’”
PROP. Now with that beginning, let’s look more closely at the entire passage & discover, first of all, the source of discouragement; secondly, the causes of discouragement; & finally, how to deal with discouragement when it comes our way.
Vs. 10 says, “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘the strength of the laborers is giving out, & there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” Right here is the beginning of all the complaints & discouragement that come Nehemiah's way.
Do you realize who Judah was? On his death bed, Jacob called his sons together & in Genesis 40:10 he said, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until He comes to whom it belongs...”
What Jacob was saying to Judah was this, "You will be the leader. You are the chosen tribe to lead God's people until the Messiah comes."
So if anybody ought to be leading out in the building of the wall around Jerusalem it ought to be the people of Judah. They are the leaders. But no, from the people of Judah, Nehemiah received only complaints & discouragement.
APPL. I wonder, how often have we found that those who ought to be helpful & supportive are not? And that those who should be encouraging us are actually the source of our discouragement? Watch out for sources of discouragement!
Secondly, notice that in these verses we are given 4 causes of discouragement, & it is interesting how God gives them to us in a very special order.
A. First of all, we’re told that they lost their strength. Listen again to vs. 10: “The strength of the laborers is giving out...” They started out with tremendous enthusiasm, but now their strength is beginning to fail. Why?
Go back to vs. 6 & you’ll find the answer. It says, “We rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height...” Notice the word "half." They were half way through. They had come half way, but they still had half of it to do.
ILL. An automobile half paid for has to be one of the most depressing things in the world. The newness is worn off. It has scratches & dents, & it needs repairs, but you still have as many payments left as you have already paid.
ILL. A mountain half climbed can be very depressing. You have expended tremendous energy getting this far, but you still have as far to go as you have already come.
That is exactly the situation that Nehemiah & the children of Israel faced. The wall was half finished, but they still had as much to do as they had already done, & their strength was gone. They were exhausted & discouraged!
B. Secondly, they had lost their vision. Vs. 10 goes on to tell us that the people of Judah began saying, "There is so much rubble...."
Do you get the picture? When they started out to build the wall there was a lot of rubble lying around. So they all pitched in & cleaned it up stacking the usable bricks & stones together & hauling off the rest.
But as they mixed the mortar & started laying the wall more rubbish began to collect. Piles of unused mortar & broken stones were lying everywhere.
And as they began to lose their strength, they also began to lose their vision. The result is that they begin to focus their attention on the piles of rubbish & not the work to be done.
ILL. I suppose that's a lot like being a mother with 2 children in diapers at the same time. Here's a dirty diaper, there's a dirty diaper everywhere there are mountains of dirty diapers.
When those children were born the mother had a vision of them growing up to be strong & successful & intelligent & beautiful but right now, all she can see are dirty diapers!
APPL. That is what was happening to Judah. They once had a vision of a completed wall, but now all they see are piles of rubbish, & rubbish is very depressing.
C. Thirdly, they lost their confidence & began to despair. “There is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
When they first started out they were supremely confident. They were convinced that Nehemiah was the greatest contractor in the world, & that they would rebuild the wall in record time. But, now, half way through, they had lost their confidence.
APPL. Have you ever been that way? You get up in the morning convinced that you are going to seal a deal & that it is going to be a successful day. But you don't seal the deal, & you feel beat down & unsuccessful.
After that happens about 3 or 4 times you lose your confidence. You begin to think, "I really can't do the job the way I thought I could." And confidence is gone.
D. Fourthly, they lost their sense of security. Vs. 11 says, "Also our enemies said,
'Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them & will kill them & put an end to the work.”
Those are strong words. They had enemies who were threatening them threatening even to kill them to stop the work & they lost their sense of security.
Listen again to vs. 12, “Then the Jews who lived near them came & told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’” They lost their sense of security because their security was in the wrong thing in the first place.
1. How about us? Today we hear a lot about job security. As long as things are going well as long as we’re climbing the ladder of success as long as we’re getting raises as long as the boss likes us we feel secure.
But the company changes hands & new management comes in. Pressure builds, & you feel that your job is threatened & the sense of security leaves.
2. Or maybe you put security in friends. You spend time with good friends & you feel comfortable & secure. Then your friends move away. You find it hard to make new friends & security leaves.
3. Worse yet, you move. You place your security in a home in familiar sights & sounds & people. But one day your husband says, "We’re being transferred." So you have to leave your home, your friends, your church, & your schools. And your sense of security is threatened.
In our highly mobile society today one of the greatest challenges facing the church is reaching out to people who have had to leave familiar environments, move to a new location, & who need to develop a new sense of closeness, of family, & of security.
SUM. So, let's look at the people of Judah again. They lost their strength. They lost their vision. They lost their confidence, & they lost their sense of security. And the result was discouragement. Now, what can be done about discouragement?
Nehemiah realized that he had to do something. You never ignore discouragement anymore than you can ignore a flat tire. Flat tires don't fix them-selves. When a tire goes flat you can try to drive on & hope that it will suddenly get air in it again but no, the tire will stay flat until the object causing the leak is removed & the hole repaired.
It is the same way with discouragement. It just doesn't leave by itself. You must do something about it. So what did Nehemiah do? The scripture tells us 4 things Nehemiah did.
A. First, he saw that there needed to be unity among the people. Listen to vs. 13: "Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears & bows."
What did Nehemiah do? He brought the people together in family groups so that they would be working together as families & placed them in strategic spots all along the wall that they were building.
What had they been doing? They had been scattered as individuals all along the wall - each one doing his own job where he was. But there had been no sense of interdependence, working together as a unit, working in harmony & close association with one another. But now they were working together as families, helping & protecting each other.
B. Secondly, Nehemiah realized that he needed to redirect their attention to the Lord. So vs. 14 says, ”After I looked things over, I stood up & said to the nobles, the officials & the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great & awesome, & fight for your brothers, your sons & your daughters, your wives & your homes.”
You see, their problem was that they were focused in on rubbish. That was all they could see. They failed to see that the wall was already half done. They were half way home & the Lord had brought them there. So Nehemiah said, "Remember the Lord. Remember who He is, how great & powerful He is."
APPL. Folks, every once in a while we need to do the same thing – to get our eyes off the rubbish that surrounds us & look to God. Remember who He is & how great He is. He created the world & hung the stars & sun & moon in space. He gave us the breath of life, & He promised to watch over & care for us all the days of our life.
Remember that the Lord has said, "Don't be anxious about tomorrow.” “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, & yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” [Matt 7:26]
Remember also that “ all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” [Romans 8:28].
He is talking about us, for "God so loved the world that He gave His one & only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" [John 3:16].
"Remember the Lord," said Nehemiah. "Get your eyes off the rubbish, & remember what He has done & what He is doing."
C. Thirdly, Nehemiah said, "We need to rally together." Listen to vs’s 19 & 20: "Then I said to the nobles, the officials & the rest of the people, 'The work is extensive & spread out, & we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!'"
We, too, need a rallying place where we can come with our worries & cares to be strengthened again. We need to get together & encourage one another. That is the task of the church. "Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet," Nehemiah said, “join us there”, & God will fight the battle for us."
D. Finally, Nehemiah said, "We must help each other." Vs’s 21 & 22 say, "So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. At that time I also said to the people, 'Have every man & his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night & workmen by day.’"
You see, Nehemiah realized that the task was so great that it needed everybody working together, helping each other. And that is still true today!
APPL. Folks, if we have caught the spirit of Christ, we will be less concerned about ourselves & more concerned with helping others, & thus be serving our Lord.
Retirement shouldn't be a time of isolation. Some of the unhappiest people I know are those who have retired & isolated themselves from the rest of the world.
But some of the happiest people I know are those who have deliberately chosen to be involved in serving the Lord, & in helping others. You see, when we concentrate on our own needs & desires discouragement often comes.
CONCL. Jesus is our example, & this evening He speaks to us, telling us that He wants to serve us by being our Savior by giving His blood as a sacrifice for our sins so that we might be saved & live with Him for all eternity.

Contributing Sermon
by Melvin Newland


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