Tag Archives: Discouragement

Comforted to Comfort

Peninsula Community Church

June 5, 2016

Comforted to Comfort 

As I was preparing this message I was drawn to the doors that are represented through the Bible. In fact studying this I came across four doors that I believe are critical to our growth and our understanding of the love of God for us. These four doors also represent the ministry we have to those around us. I trust that you find them as interesting and powerful as I do.

The four doors that I am speaking of are represented by the door of hope, the door of faith, the door of opportunity, and the door of invitation. Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at these doors and how they apply to our life. Before we do that, let me make a couple of brief observations about doors as a whole. First of all, doors are designed for privacy. For the most part doors keep some things in and other things out. In so doing doors provide an opportunity for protection and safety. Doors often define who we are and our status. In our home we all have those doors that no one outside the family will go through. And finally, doors represent a future for us because we never venture into our future unless we go through the doors presented to us.

With that said lets us look at the first door which is the door of hope. In Hosea 2:15 we find these words. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. On a first read of this passage this may not seem like much but we must understand that the term or word for Achor means trouble or sorrow. So what is Hosea communicating? He is saying that the Valley of Achor or the valley of trouble and sorrow will become a door of hope. In other words, our sorrows and the trouble we experience can be the very thing that God uses to bring hope and life to us and subsequently to others.

Perhaps the best way to understand this is to go back to the original story that Hosea is basing his comments on. After the Children of Israel had crossed over into the Promise Land they had to confront the city of Jericho. Before they battled Jericho they had been given specific instructions on how to do battle with the first city they encountered. This came by way of prayer and by seeking God’s will as to what they were to do. As we know, they obeyed God’s commands and the walls of Jericho came down just as God had promised. They were obedient and God was faithful to protect and to do battle on their behalf.

Now lets fast forward to a few weeks later where we find Israel facing yet another city (Joshua 7). They now had to encounter the city of Ai which was another stronghold they needed to defeat. But as we read the story we find there are a couple of issues. First, during the battle with Jericho we find them seeking God and seeking His will about the battle. But at Ai there is no record of them praying or seeking God before they went into battle. It appears they were relying on their past exploits to get them to where they wanted to be. Instead of seeking God they just moved a head into battle. They were in fact prideful and lived like they did not need God. And as a result they lost big time. They were routed out of the city and many of their soldiers were killed.

Secondly, we find that not only did they not pray and listen for God’s will but one of their members were defiant and disobedient to God’s plan. God had commanded that during the battle of Jericho they were not to take any spoils of war. They were to depend on God for His provision and His protection. But they disobeyed. One member of their community disobeyed God big time. The man was Achan and he took from Jericho a fine garment and some of the gold and silver. This may not seem like much today but it was a matter of specific disobedience to God’s command. And God could not allow disobedience to reign in them.

Rather than trust God they began to trust their own ingenuity and their own abilities. The result of Achan’s disobedience and him taking of the spoils of war was that he and his family were stoned to death. This was a difficult time for Israel. Because of the sorrow and difficulty faced by Israel they named the place where Achan was stoned the Valley of Achor. As we noted before the name Achor means sorrow, disappointment, and trouble. Achor was an appropriate name because of the sorrow, the disappointment, and the trouble they were experiencing. They lost the battle at Ai, they lost loved ones, and now one of their own had to be killed because of disobedience. They were in sorrow! They were in trouble! The Bible defines this emotional moments as their hearts being melted and becoming as water (Joshua 7:5). What a illustration? They were destroyed emotionally. It was from this place of pain and hurt that Hosea proclaimed though they are experiencing deep pain and hurt God would transform the valley of Achor into a door of hope. The very trial they experienced would be used to deliver them.

But how does this apply to us? First of all my guess is we have all had a Valley of Achor experience. We have all faced disappointment and discouragement. We have been filled with sorrow because of the events of our life. We have experienced lost hope. We have all experienced our hearts feeling like they have melted and we have beed weakened by the pressures of life. But there is a promise of hope and life. God has promised that He will make our Valley of Achor a door of hope.

Perhaps you are going through a deep valley at this moment in your life. As a Christian, you might question God’s concern for you while you are walking through your personal valley of sorrow. Adoniram Judson, a great missionary to Burma, was in prison because of his faith. In prison he was taunted by his Burmese captors. They continued to ask him again and again, “How does your future look to you now?” Their desire was to further his discouragement and to use his sorrow against him. That is exactly what the enemy does to us. The enemy attempts to take our sorrow and use it against us. But in Judson’s case he had a strong faith in God and the Word of God. His response was this.“My future is as bright as the promise of God.” Judson depended on God and He trusted God to keep His promises. That is what he focused his future on.

While we might take a journey through the valley of sorrow we do not have to fear nor do we have to take up residence in the Valley of Achor. Why is that? It is because God is with us. He, Jesus came to give us life and to heal our brokenness. He came to give us a door of hope. Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah 61:1-4. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—  to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. To fully understand this passage we must know that in Isaiah’s day everyone knew when you were in sorrow and in trouble. How? you would put on sack cloth or burlap. You would smear ashes around your face and you would mope around town as if you were on your death bed.

I do not know about you but I am blessed by these words. My brokenness, my sorrow can be healed by God. No matter what I go through God can heal the brokenness and the sorrow I experience. Instead of ashes, we are given a beautiful headdress. We have been given the oil of gladness instead of mourning. Instead of a faint spirit we have given a garment of praise. The result is that we are called oaks of righteousness. This means we are strong and we can endure the trials of life. Here’s the deal through Christ we overcome.

But there is another aspect that bears our discussion in terms of the door of hope. It is that our sorrow and the difficulties we face are never wasted. What we think is our worse moment, God turns it around for our good. Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

What is the plan of God? It is to encourage us and to deliver us so we can be a blessing to others. Carter Conlon the pastor of Times Square Church in Manhattan stated that “One of the reasons we will have tribulation in this world is because it is often the only way people around us will ever know that God is real. You and I will have to walk through the same fire, the same flood, the same difficult days as everybody else. However, the difference is that we have an inner source of strength that will carry us through and give us a song of praise.” What he is saying here is that in our tribulation we become real before those we encounter. By being real and allowing God to be real through us we have an opportunity to speak into others lives.

Let me let you in on a secret. One of the greatest tools for evangelism you will ever have is your testimony. We have all experienced God’s grace and His work in our life. You may not be a theologian but you have a testimony. You may not know the Roman Road but you know what God has done in you. You may not know the Scripture, but you know the promises that God has fulfilled in you. People want to know that we are real and that we serve a real God. We help them see that by sharing the sorrow we have experienced. We do so by letting God shine through us so that others see God and know His grace to us. You see you suffer so that others will see that you are real and that God is real as well.

This is not some mixed up plan from a diabolical God but it is a tool that He uses to bring life and to open doors of faith, opportunity and invitation to others. It glorifies God. Notice in the passage in Isaiah that read earlier. The Bible says that He gives us the oil of gladness, the beautiful headdress, and the garment of praise so that He will be praised and honored. That is our goal. That is our purpose to honor God and to let Him be honored through us.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Its A Wonderful Life – Part 2

Peninsula Community Church

Its A Wonderful Life – Part 2

December 13, 2015

Isaiah 9:2-7 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Last week we began a series entitled Its A Wonderful Life and we focused on what if Christ had not been born. Today I would like to look at another aspect of this discussion. The key theme that runs through the movie is that George Bailey had reached a point in his life where he believed that the world would be better off without him. For that reason we find George standing on the bridge just outside of time where he he is considering taking the plunge because he wants to end his life. But before he can do so we find Clarence, an angel, jump in the stare first so that George would rescue him.  You see George was his guardian angel and was assigned the task of helping overcome his problems. He gives George the opportunity to visualize what life would be like if he had never lived.

What led him to his decision to take his life in the first place? You see he faced disappointment, discouragement; and he felt he was on a path of failure or at least he thought he was. Let me ask you a question? What kinds of things disappoint you? My guess is what disappoints you may not disappoint someone else. Disappointment is often triggered by unmet needs and desires. There is no doubt that disappointment can be painful, regardless of the magnitude or size of the issue leading to the disappointment. Disappointments cause us to fear and doubt and as a result we can lose hope. The writer of Proverbs reminds us that Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12). You know how it is when disappointment comes we find ourselves sick to our stomachs and life seems to spiral out of control and suddenly we wander around life with doubts and regrets. We begin to live in the “what ifs,” “should haves,” and the “could haves.”

Disappointment can be defined as being not settled. Webster defines disappointment as, failing to meet the expectation of or hope of something. It is being frustrated with an event in your life. To be disappointed is to be defeated in expectation. So, when we say that something is disappointing we are saying that that particular issue failed to meet our expectations.

Discouragement means to cause one to lose confidence or enthusiasm. The literal meaning of the word discourage is to “express reversal.” You know how it works. An event or an action happens to you and it causes a reversal of how we feel. Instead of confidence and safety we feel unsettled and life feels as if it is out of control. We begin to look at life in a totally different way and we begin to look at others differently as well. And way too often we begin to look inwardly and begin to cast doubt on our worth at some level.

Last week we read from Paul’s writings to the Romans where he stated that we know that all things work together for the good of those who are called by God. That is a very real statement and it is a reality but our faith is tested when good does not happen. We question God’s love for us. We feel like a failure and we feel that we have lost hope. Does anyone know what I mean?

If you will let me relate a personal experience with you. It began at Christmas 2004. I was on staff at a Baptist church in Virginia. During a one year period we faced not one but multiple levels of disappointment that resulted in discouragement, fear, and at times anger. The first news was that the senior pastor of our church was resigning and would be leaving the church by the end of the year. We received the news the Thursday before he made the announcement to the church. You see in the Baptist church when a pastor leaves and a new one comes in, most likely the whole staff can be changed. We were devastated because we thought we had a better relationship with the pastor and we were concerned because we thought we might have to find a job within a month at Christmas time.

One week later we received a phone call from our son to let us know that he had been living with his girlfriend, she was pregnant and he could not marry her because he had to get a divorce first. We knew none of this until a 45 minute conversation on the phone. In March they hired the new senior pastor who was the youth pastor. He was 17 years my younger. I had been overlooked and to top it off they asked me to mentor him and help him be a better pastor. I agreed outwardly but inwardly I was devastated, disappointed, and so discouraged. It was only three months later that we found ourselves in the hospital where Michelle stayed for over a week and had every test under the sun ran on her. It was here that the original diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis was made. We felt a darkness overwhelm us and we we so discouraged. Once again outwardly we put on a good front but inwardly we were crushed and devastated. Michelle and I know disappointment and discouragement.

As we dig into our text this morning we find that the Israelites were also in a state of darkness and discouragement because they had faced great disappointment. The nation had walked in sin which led them into captivity. They were being brutally assaulted by their captors. The future hope of being great nation was lost. Their discouragement and disappointment was being revealed as darkness. Their emotions and their life was now darkened. But Isaiah gave them hope and that is the hope we have today.

When we consider disappointment and discouragement we must consider a couple of factors. First of all disappointment happens. It occurs when our expectations are not met or we receive news that is not expected. Disappointment is a reality of our lives. It can be minor or major disappointments or it can be a series of disappointments that negatively impact us. These disappointments lead us to discouragement and fear. Disappointment comes as well when we work hard at something and the results are not what we expected.

Disappointment can be self inflicted because we have false expectations and an over confidence in the action of others and our own ability. If you are alive today, you have faced disappointment. Our children, our parents, our friends, our employers, our co-workers, and our bodies can disappoint us. They fail to live up to our expectations or they do dumb things that cause us to react negatively to their actions. The circumstances of life can also cause us to reach this level of disappointment.

One of the reasons that disappointment effects so much is that we fail to understanding that life is  not always fair. Life will deal us lemons. We also live with the misconception that people will treat us the way we want to be treated and do things the right way. It doesn’t matter whether you are born with a silver spoon, plastic spoon, or no spoon at all. It’s not the circumstances by which you come into this world, but what you make of them once you arrive that really matter.

In connection with this we must know that all of us are impacted by disappointment. It happens to the best of us. It rains on the just and the unjust. Here is the truth, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Matthew 5:43-48 “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Secondly, we must understand that our disappointments and discouragements can lead us into darkness. Disappointment can blind us to the realities of life. Disappointments can cause our hearts to be closed off and our minds to be shut off from truth. Disappointment can cause us to focus so much on the problem that we miss the bigger picture. One of the problems with disappointment and discouragement is that we become myopic in our vision for life because disappointment overwhelms us. In essence, our emotions and dreams can be darkened and the light of hope can be extinguished.

In all of this we must remember that Christ has come. As we see in our text today, Christ came to shine his light into our hearts. The Israelites were led into captivity. The Assyrians were rising in power and many of their leaders had died. They were living in a turbulent time and they were filled with disappointment and failures. They did not have an easy life. They were in turmoil and they were disappointed with their circumstances and they were discouraged by the events of their life. But they had a promise. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. A child has been born and the world’s problems are on His shoulders. Know this, He is not surprised by the things that you are experiencing today.

For us today that promise has been fulfilled. He has come. He is here. Therefore we need to turn to the one who is the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, and the prince of peace. He has it all under control. He is at work and when we turn to Him a light is shone into the darkness. We receive hope. We receive life. It reminds me of a familiar hymn written so many years ago, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

How are you doing today? Has your heart been darkened by disappointment or discouragement? You can rise again from the darkness of ruined lives. If you hang in there the light of God’s love will shine brightly again, so that while the circumstance of your life may not change, your heart can. Your outlook on life can. You purpose in life can be reestablished. And as George Bailey realized life is worth living and your life has value because you are a child of God and the light of hope has been shined into your life.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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