#TOUGH SKILLS FOR TOUGH TIMES
by _Evangelist_ *Reuben Ewert*
“If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” Proverbs 24:10
“Fainting” is any attitude that is contrary to a God-commanded attitude. We have been commanded to avoid being weary, anxious, fearful, cast down, and discouraged; but rather have been commanded to be renewed, encouraged, rejoicing, and filled with hope. How is it possible to turn despair into delight, discouraged into encourage, doom and gloom into hope and help?
The following skills are some of God’s instructions to “fainting people.” There is a great ministry that we can all get involved in –encouraging one another (Isaiah 41:67) and encouraging ourselves in the Lord.(I Samuel 30:6).
Learn/teach the following skills to prevent problems, solve problems, counsel others, and counsel our self.
1. *MEDITATE ON GOD’S CHARACTER* – Isaiah 50:10; Malachi 3:16
David frequently turned his thoughts and concerns in God’s direction not at the congregation, government, etc. Psalm 121:2 says, “My help cometh from the LORD.” When opposition set themselves against him round about, he cried in Psalm 3:6, “Lord.”
In Psalm 64:4 when people “shoot in secret at the perfect,” David cried, “Hear my voice, O God.” Our cry is often against those who oppose us or hinder us. Our cry should be to the One who will help us. In Psalm 3, David said that he cried, God heard and He slept. That certainly beats Valium. If we just knew more about the character of our God and that He hears, we would sleep. Nothing will encourage us like the Lord. He strengthens our heart (Psalm 27:4). People and circumstances may encourage us but not in the same way as God. The encouragement of friends and blessings and good results will not help when friends forsake or no results are favorable. Only “in the Lord” will you find strength of heart necessary to endure in famine and peril (Romans 8:35-39).
One sure way to become discouraged is to spend time reviewing our performance, other people’s responses, or the experiences of life. We focus on one negative experience and then wrap another around the first and so on until the cords of despair squeeze out the last drop of joy. We are to wait on the Lord not wait on people or situations to change.
The only source of joy is found in focusing on the character of our God. No other prescription by itself will work. Many places in scripture teach this. Here are a few:
Nehemiah 8: The joy of the LORD is your strength (when no one responds, etc.)
Isaiah 50:10: Keep walking in the dark when the lights go out by trusting in the name of the Lord.
Psalm 3: When many opposed David he looked to God his Shield, Glory and Uplifter.
Psalm 31:24: Hoping in the Lord (not visible results) will cause our heart to be strengthened. Our disposition reflects our view. If we meditate on circumstances and people, we will be up and down like the circumstances. If our mind is stayed on the character of God, we will be like He is – “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Psalm 42-43 is filled with emphasis on this cure. When you are disquieted, hope in God.
*2. REMEMBER THE WORKS OF GOD* – Deuteronomy 4:9The fathers were instructed to review with their children the wonderful works that God had done so that they would set their hope in God (Psalm 78:4-7). When the Hebrew Christians were discouraged and ready to quit, they were called to review God’s works. If one wishes to prevent or overcome discouragement, he could review the works of God in his ministry. Perhaps a diary could be kept where a record is kept for the times that God has demonstrated His character in His works (times that the Provider has provided, the Protector has protected, the Subduer has subued, the Forgiver has forgiven, etc.).
*3. REST IN GOD’S WORKING* – Romans 8:28We will be discouraged if we are not assured that God is working in our ministry. We begin to condemn ourselves or wonder if God has placed us on a shelf when we dot not “see” results (we count attendance, numbers at the altar, amount of offering, size or age of building). Encouragement from observing the visible is limited. We need to recognize that God is primarily working in the invisible (“in you” – Ephesians 3:20; Col 1:29), but we can be sure that God is working. When there is no visible evidence to give support, you can still say that God is working for He works in His people. This cure requires that we know God and just rest in his character believing that what He is, He is doing.
God in His sovereignty is working out His plan at His pace. This is seen in Esther when His name is not mentioned, in Joseph’s life when in prison, and during the days when Paul was on the stormy sea. God’s eyes are always upon us from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year (Deuteronomy 11:12). When opposed, when no one responds, when we faithfully witness and no one gets saved, God’s eye is upon us; He is working out His plan. Mark 6:45-52 tells us about Jesus praying and the disciples on the stormy sea. The disciples fought the storm for 8-10 hours. All during this time, God had His eyes upon them (“He saw,” vs. 48). God sees and knows about our trials. Instead of giving us cheer by taking away the storm, find cheer in Him in the storm (“Be of good cheer: it is I,” Mark 6, Acts 27).
*4. COUNT IT ALL JOY* – James 1:2Discouragement and joy are not attitudes forced upon us by nature, people, or circumstances. God’s Word commands us to rejoice evermore and fret not. If God commands an attitude, it must be possible. Some people may have a personality more prone to disappointment, but the possibilities are equally available to everyone since the source of joy is not in our circumstance, environment or heredity but in the Lord.
*5. LEARN TO WAIT* – Acts 27:21-44Expecting God to do something in our life based on our schedule can cause one to be discouraged when the results do not occur at that time. Various Biblical principles apply here.
“In due season.” God has his timing. In due season, we shall reap. God provides in due season (Psalm 145). Our job is to be faithful in planting, and He will produce the fruit in due season. We set ourselves up for discouragement when we set a date for God to heal us, give us a job, or set a date for His return.
“God is Sovereign.” God is not a vending machine (put in a quarter and He better deliver).
“Be Patient” (Hebrews 10:36). Only patience will cause us to stay around long enough to see the fruit of our labor.
“Wait” (Acts 27:21-44). The fruit of our life may take time to be realized. Paul received a message from God that they would all be rescued (vs. 22) but the storm continued two weeks (vss. 27-39). What could Paul do but “wait on God” and live as though they had already been saved (“Then were they all of good cheer” Acts 27:36). Wait or bind yourself to God and hang on (Psalm 27:14). Someone said that the “wait” in Isaiah 8:17 was action that we took for a long time. Isaiah 40:29-31 gives the answer to loss of inner strength–wait upon the Lord. Psalm 37:7 tells us to wait (even though it may be painful) in contrast to fretting.
*6. GET THE LONG VIEW* – Psalm 3In the middle of opposition and persecution, David said, “God’s blessing is upon thy people” (Psalm 3:8). David looked not on things as they appeared to be but as they would be. He looked at things from the long view. God is working out His plan and will accomplish His purpose (Romans 8:28). Paul told us to be steadfast based on a knowledge that our labor is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:58) though it may appear to be so in the short view. Paul said that God always leads us to triumph in Christ. Asaph had a short view when he saw the wicked prospering and the righteous cleansing their heart in vain (Psalm 73:1-16) and thought “what’s the use” until he got the long view (“saw their end” vs. 17). The last chapter has not yet been written.
We live in an age when the past is increasingly belittled. It is helpful to remind ourselves that we are a part of the working of God over thousands of years. We are building on the past so that our children can build on our ministry.
*7. BIBLE BASIS FOR LIVING*Pastors often seek programs that work and abandon programs that don’t work. This can often result in discouragement. “I’ve tried it all and it doesn’t work.” Our only encouragement can come by sticking with Biblical emphasis and Biblical practice whether they “work” or not. God is working if we are obedient. We may not “see” it visibly, the results may not be seen until eternity.
*8. FOCUS ON FAITHFUL MINISTRY*Results are of God, take time, and are often invisible. Focusing on that which only God or others can do (conviction, repentance, etc.) can lead to frustration. We become discouraged because we measure our success or failure by the way that God or others respond to our ministry. We can be encouraged only as we focus on our faithfulness to minister (witness, preach, etc.) and let God be God (bring conviction) and others their free will (to repent and respond).
The amount of results or influence with men is not a measure of success. Paul did not have enough influence with men to keep him out of prison but had enough influence with God to have prison bars torn apart. John did right. and he lost his head.
*9. MINISTER TO GIVE HELP*One can easily be discouraged when all his effort is rewarded with little appreciation (don’t get any respect). I often hear “the people just don’t appreciation what I am doing.” On the other hand, there is a measure of encouragement that comes from faithfully giving solutions, hope, and help even if the offer is not taken visibly. Motivation for continued service should come from “burning in the bones” (Jeremiah) not external recognition or reward.
*10. AFFLICTION CAN BE GOOD*Some become discouraged when they experience adversity. “Why would people fight me when I am doing right?” “I must be taking the wrong course.” Often just the opposite is true; no adversity until you take the right course. The adversity should be the results of doing God’s work God’s way. We bring some of our adversity upon ourselves through lack of understanding, impatience, or selfishness.
*11. DETERMINE GOD’S WILL AND PRIORITIES* – Romans 12:2So many demands and requests are placed upon pastors. Some feel guilty if they are not involved in every political, spiritual, doctrinal, and life issue. There is a tendency to focus on all that is left undone and feel as though nothing has been accomplished. This may result in frustration and may even paralyze one so that nothing is done
*12. PRACTICE STEWARDSHIP SKILLS*Inability to meet present family and future family needs has been discouraging and distracting to some pastors. Especially when:a. Children must be placed in public schoolsb. Medical bills cannot be paidc. Wives/mothers must work and not raise their childrend. No funds available from Social Security or investment for later yearsIn these cases we must be diligent in stewardship, trust, wisdom, and accessing supernatural resources by faith.
*13. SOLVE TODAY’S PROBLEMS TODAY* – Ephesians 4:26A pastor may begin to review his past performance attempting to see where he could have ministered differently. If he is not careful, he can get stuck in the practice of introspection resulting in self-pity regarding the past. Learn not to get stuck in the past.a. Repentance and restitution if necessaryb. Change what you canc. Move on to actions that impact the future. You can’t focus on the past and say that I should have.d. Keep current
*14. DEVELOP RIGHT FRIENDS* – Psalm 101When a pastor takes an approach differing from that which other pastors take or approve, there is often a troubled and defensive attitude which can lead to discouragement. Finding our confidence and approval from God through His Word and prayer will lift the load even when we have to stand alone – “nobody is doing it.”
We need friends that help restore our sapped inner strength. Barnabas was an encourager; also see Deuteronomy 3:28. Often when pastors meet with each other, they will load each other with more doom and gloom, which discourages.God uses others to comfort us (II Corinthians 1:4). Are we submitting to others for comfort – in ALL our relationships?
*15. BE A GOOD FINDER*Jealousy is exhausting and will cause discouragement and fainting. Envy results in rottenness of bones (Proverbs 13:30). Learn to “rejoice with them that rejoice” and “weep with them that weep.”
*16. RECOGNIZE UNIQUENESS*Few actions cause discouragement more than comparing ourselves to others. Comparing one to another leads to unnecessary discouragement. God has a unique plan for each individual. God may display His power at a special time or place in a unique way.
God may not necessarily work the same way today as He did in the past since He may be working in us to accomplish a different purpose.
During the last thirty years, I have been with over 1,500 pastors. Each man and ministry has a different personality, and yet God is working and blessing many of them.
*17. DEFEND THE FAITH IN HUMILITY*Believing that one is the only person that is standing for right is a heavy burden to bear and can become discouraging. This person can easily be flattered and puffed up by attractive or prestigious people. We should learn to see that others also stand for the truth (see the 7000 who have not bowed their knee.)
*18. SEEK THE COMFORT OF SCRIPTURE*It is possible to become so involved in our problems that we don’t take time to turn to the comfort of Scripture.Psalm 119:28 – “My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.”Psalm 119:50 “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.”Psalm 119:52: “I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.”
#TOUGH SKILLS FOR TOUGH TIMES