Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 39
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Dr. Barber details five areas that can be considered “roots of discouragement” and shows how to avoid falling victim to these traps.|
Roots of Discouragement
We come now to verse 13, a very powerful verse. It comes right before the prayer which Paul is going to pray. He starts his prayer in verse 1 of chapter 3. He says, “For this reason,” and then he is overwhelmed by his salvation. He puts a parenthetical clause between verses 1 and 14. We see the beautiful mystery that was revealed to Paul in those verses. Now in verse 13 he is right on the brink of starting that prayer. Look at what he says. He says, “Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.” This could be called the “Roots of Discouragement.”
So, as we came to this verse, I want to ask: How are we doing? How are we doing in our Christian walk? Are you discouraged? Have you grown weary? That is what I want us to look at because Paul gives us the leverage in this verse. The apostle Paul certainly has enough to be complaining about. If we look at the apostle Paul’s life from the world’s point of view, we could certainly justify the fact that he might complain, which he does not. You see, he has been harassed and falsely accused. He has spent now almost five years in prison for nothing. Two of those years were at Caesarea. Not one charge has ever held up against the apostle Paul. He is a man, however, that is on a mission. The prisons don’t hinder him.
Look back in Ephesians 3:1 at what he says. He says, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles.” He wanted to make sure they knew something.
He wasn’t a prisoner of the Jews. He wasn’t a prisoner of Rome. He was a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why didn’t the prisons hinder him? Because he was so overwhelmed by his redemption that nothing stood in his way. Have you picked up the thought he has been trying to convey to us in these first three chapters? He is dignifying our salvation. Folks, when you begin to realize whose you are and who you are, there is nothing that matters any more than just cooperating with the One who is allowing you to get in on what He is up to. In verses 1-12 of chapter 3, God has revealed this mystery to him. He is overwhelmed with that. Here is an old converted Jew writing to Gentiles. He says, “God just overwhelmed me by revealing this mystery to me. He explained it to me, and now He has assigned me to preach to the Gentile world.” He is a single-minded man. 1:1 says, “I am an apostle by the will of Christ Jesus.” “Everything I am,” Paul is telling these Gentiles at Ephesus, “is by the grace of God.”
As a matter of fact, in Philippians 1:12-13, while in the same imprisonment, he said to them, “I want you to know, brethren, that my imprisonment has worked out for the furtherance of the gospel, the progress of the gospel.” He says, “God has assigned me to preach the wonderful mysteries, the unfathomable riches of Christ. A prison doesn’t bother me. As a matter of fact, I want you to know all the brethren in Caesar’s household send you greetings.” He has got the word all the way to the top. Paul is on an assignment for God. He is sold out to what God wants him to do. He is a man who was not discouraged, so he warns the people of Ephesus, “Don’t lose heart.”
Now you say, “Do you mean that Christians who love Jesus can lose heart?” Oh yes, and we need to look at it. The word “lose heart” in verse 13 is the word ekkakeo. It means “to grow weary, to be discouraged, to be faint hearted.” It also carries another idea. It means “to turn cowardly and to give into the influences of evil that are around you.” It is almost as if Paul is saying, “Listen, I am in prison, yes, and my imprisonment is on your behalf. Now don’t you go and lose heart. I certainly haven’t lost heart. Look at the marvel of our salvation. Don’t you grow weary. Don’t become faint hearted. Don’t give in to the consequences and the temptations of evil that are all around you.”
Let’s look and see if we can get a perspective on the roots of discouragement. What are the things that cause people who love God to grow discouraged? Maybe you will find yourself there and will go on to confess it, come out of it and let the blood of Jesus cleanse you and walk out with your head held high knowing that you have been blessed beyond measure by being a child of God. There are five roots of discouragement. We are going to look at all the times that Paul uses this phrase, beginning here in our text.
Low View of Salvation
In chapter 3, the first root of discouragement would have to be a low view of salvation. You know, so often we talk about salvation and redemption. Christians who have been Christians for a while have lost the thrill. They have lost the excitement. When you have a low view of salvation it effects everything else that goes on in your life. Paul has been trying to dignify the salvation and show them that this salvation is absolutely the greatest blessing you could have on this earth. Now listen to what I am saying. This earth offers nothing compared to our salvation. That is what Paul is trying to get across. He could have easily given up, but folks, when he speaks in chapters 1 and 2 and 3:1-12, he speaks with such awe when he thinks about his salvation. He is overwhelmed and nothing has marred his focus. He single-mindedly is looking unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, when you have a low view of your salvation, you look at it as if it is something tagged on to your life. If you have not yet seen it as the very essence of everything you are, you will grow faint-hearted. You will grow weary. You will lose heart and give in to the evil that is around you.
What about you? How are you doing? How are you doing in your walk? How are you doing in your work? Young people, back in school right now, how are you doing right now? Do you have a low view of your salvation? Does the pressure of the world make you feel sort of stupid sometimes even to tell them that you are a Christian? Are you ever in a crowded room of students or a crowded room at work and not want anybody to know that you are a Christian, that you love the Lord Jesus Christ? Is that going on in your life? Are you on a plane traveling and sit down beside somebody and you don’t want to tell them that you are a Christian? You don’t want to take the laughter and the ridicule because you have such a low view of what salvation really is? Folks, it is no wonder we are discouraged if we haven’t realized yet that our salvation has been God’s plan before creation. He was our Redeemer before He was ever our Creator. As a matter of fact, He has so saved us and redeemed us that we are to teach the angelic realm what redemption is all about. The highest honor, the highest privilege is to be called a child of God. Folks, we have such a low view of it that we let the world intimidate us. We lose heart and get sucked right into the evil that is all around us.
Let me ask you a question. Have you forgotten that salvation makes you a brand new creation in Christ Jesus? Folks, we ought to hold our heads high, jump out of bed in the morning, thank God and praise Him that anything short of hell is grace in our life. Something has happened to us. We live in a day and an age when redemption and salvation are seen on such a low, low view. The greatest privilege is when we can say our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Unless you are living in the kingdom and are a part of His temple and a part of His body, you haven’t got a clue yet as to the dignity of your salvation. Friend, to be saved, born again, redeemed, is the greatest thing we could possibly say. Yet we let the world intimidate us to the point we lose heart and we give in as cowards to the evil that is around us.
Striving to Achieve a Ministry
The second root of discouragement I want you to see is found in II Corinthians 4. I think we need a checkup every now and again. I just want to take the time and the liberty to do that. I get discouraged. You get discouraged. Why do we do it? We shouldn’t. We should never. The Christian in his right mind has no excuse getting discouraged. II Corinthians 4:1 says, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart.” Now I want to make sure we hit this again. Striving to achieve a ministry will absolutely discourage you to no end. It will get you to the point that you will bail out on church and everything else God is doing. Paul is saying, “I have a ministry, and I received this ministry the same way I received mercy.” This is not the only place he says this.
Let’s look at what the ministry is. Look in II Corinthians 3:5-6. It says in verse 5, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Paul goes on to explain that in the context of that chapter.
But in chapter 4 he starts off and says, “We have received this, just like we received mercy. Therefore, we do not lose heart.” This ministry was not something Paul ever prayed for. It was not something Paul ever trained for. It was something God raised up in his life, in God’s own time.
So often people come into church ready to get to work. They bring their agenda and everything they can do for God. They think if they come in they will immediately be put into a position to help out. I appreciate that sincerity, but I want you to know, unless God has raised that ministry up in you, you are going to be totally ineffective to this body. There’s an idea around that makes you think, “I have got to go do something for God.” God is already at work, and God will get it done whether we do something for Him or not. We want to be involved in what He is already doing in His strength and His work. He initiates the ministry and He anoints the ministry.
So often when it doesn’t work the way you want it to work, you fall into that trap of discouragement. Immediately you give in to the evils around you. What are the evils? I can give you many. You get into the evil of a critical spirit. Is it fun to be around people with a critical spirit? They say things like, “If you did this, it would be a lot better.” Have you ever noticed that the people saying it are never part of seeing it done? You get a critical spirit.
There’s the evil of a bitter spirit. There are people who will not go to church. They are mad because they went to a church and the church wouldn’t let them do what they thought they were there to do. Therefore, they won’t even go to church anymore. They are discouraged, and they have given in to the evil that is around them.
I Corinthians 12:4-6 tells us three things about ministry. Number one, it says when we get saved the Spirit of God gives us gifts so that we might minister. In other words, we don’t go do something God has not first gifted us to do. Secondly, it tells us in the body of Christ that Jesus Himself gives the ministry. It tells us thirdly that God the Father gives the results. The whole Trinity is a part of the ministry. Until you are surrendered to God and the Holy Spirit of God is using your life, filled up in your life, you can forget ministry. It is what God does, not what man does.
Are you discouraged? I can tell you why. If you have not received the ministry God has for you, very obviously you are trying to achieve it for God. Discouragement has set in and immediately you have slipped into the evil that surrounds you.
Forgetting God’s Purpose in Serving
The third root of discouragement is forgetting God’s purpose in serving. If you will look in II Corinthians 4:16 Paul says the same words. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart.” Now, anytime there is a “therefore,” you look to see what it is there for. Back up and he will tell you. In the whole chapter he talks about the suffering that he has gone through for the sake of the gospel. He wants them to know something. “Don’t feel sorry for me. It was for your benefit. That is why I went through all of that.” That is what he is telling them. Verse 15 says, “For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” Paul had a beautiful perspective of why he was serving. He wasn’t in it for himself. As a matter of fact, he would be among many and not even charge them. He wouldn’t even let them pay him anything. He would go out and make tents just to keep any kind of questions from coming back at him. This was a man of integrity, a man who understood why he was doing what he was doing. He never griped. He said in Philippians, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself in.” He had a perspective of ministry that was for the sake of others.
He says in verse 16, flowing right out of that thought, “Therefore, we do not lose heart.” In other words, Paul is saying, “Folks, it is worth all the pain. It is worth all the suffering.” When you or I lose that perspective and start to complain and murmur, it is very obvious that we have grown discouraged, we have lost heart and we have slipped into the evil that is around us. We have forgotten why we are serving others. Everything that Paul did was for the benefit of others.
You may be having problems in church. You have drifted in and you don’t like the place. You don’t like the fact that the church tells you to find your gift and then nobody plugs you in. You haven’t figured it out yet. God has got to do that in His own good time. It is not what we can figure out in a meeting! It depends on your measure of surrender to Him. God will raise up your ministry when He is ready to raise it up. I guarantee you there are some discouraged folks in churches. They have lost heart because they have forgotten something along the way. It is not their ministry. It is not their ability. It is God. You have got to remember why you are in what you are in or I will tell you what is going to happen. You are going to give in to the evil around you and that evil around you is the most devastating thing to the body of Christ.
Lack Perseverance and Want to See Quick Results
The fourth root of discouragement is when we lack perseverance and we want to see quick results. Look in Galatians 6:9. When I do something, I want to see results. As I am preaching, I want to see somebody nodding their head or smiling or doing something besides sleeping. I just want to feel like I am communicating. When you lack perseverance you want to see quick results.
Now in Galatians 6:9, look at what he says. “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” Now what is the context there? He is talking about the law of sowing and reaping. He is also restoring a brother when he first starts off. Then he gets into the law of sowing and reaping. There are two things about sowing and reaping that we have got to understand. Number one, you always reap more than you sow. Remember that. One little seed brings a bunch of stuff. So when you choose to sow sin in your life, hang on. It is going to be worse than you ever thought it was going to be. Secondly, you reap later than you sow. No farmer puts a seed in the ground and comes back the next morning to see what is happening. If he does, he is going to be very disappointed. It doesn’t happen that way. You see, that is the principle. If you are not willing to persevere and trust and be faithful to what God is doing, it will lead you right into losing heart and being faint-hearted. You will slip right into the evil that surrounds that kind of thing. I am trusting the fact that when God chooses not to say anything, it doesn’t mean He is not doing anything. Just trust Him. When you lose that perseverance you want to reap as soon as you sow.
When the Mundane Loses its Excitement
Well, the roots of discouragement we have seen so far are a low view of salvation, a striving to achieve a ministry, forgetting our purpose in serving, and when we want quick results and are not willing to wait. The final root to me is the most overwhelming. It’s when the mundane loses its excitement. Look at II Thessalonians 3. I want to show you the context beginning in verse 6. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.”
Who is the “you?” There must be a group of people there not doing it right. There must be a group of people there doing it right. What is doing it right? It is working quietly, making their own way, eating their own bread, and saying nothing about it. Paul is talking about the mundane responsibilities of life. He tells those people who are living responsibly day by day, doing the things we all have to do and doing it quietly, not griping or begging, “Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose heart.” Now how in the world can you lose heart doing things the right way? I’ll tell you how. When the mundane becomes boring, all of a sudden we see something more exciting out here. You see, when you do the responsible things in life, they can become very boring. When they get that way, look out. You can lose heart if you don’t understand. We are required to do them. This is what Paul is trying to say.
The joy comes when we do them quietly and know that whatever we do, as Colossians says, we do as unto the Lord. That is the key. If you ever get your focus on the wrong thing, and get it off of Christ, you will lose heart and become discouraged.
How quickly we can lose heart. Folks, it starts with a high view of salvation. If you don’t own a car and a house you don’t need them anyway. They are all going to burn. You have got a mansion in heaven waiting on you, not made with human hands. No carpenter will have to come over and fix anything he messed up on. It is made by the Lord Jesus Himself. A high view of salvation automatically means that we have a high view of scripture. If you have a low view of salvation, the Word of God means nothing to you. You are not in it and that is why you have lost your hope and you have become discouraged.
One verse and I am through. Turn to Isaiah 40:28. Watch this. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Folks, look up! Look up!