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 “Look Up! (Don’t Be Discouraged)”

Deuteronomy 31:7-8

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.  The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

1 Chronicles 28:20-21

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you 

until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished. The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing person skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command.”

 “Look Up! (Don’t Be Discouraged)”

Does it ever look like the task is too big? Like what you want to accomplish will never get done?  Like the mountain is too high to climb? That the valley you’re in is too low to ever get out of again?

Thoughts like that lead to discouragement.  They beat us up and defeat us.  They lead us to believe that the thing we want to do is an insurmountable task and they lead us to tell ourselves it would be better to just leave it alone.  Discouragement.

See if you can guess these famous people who faced a lot of discouragement:  

 

  • There is hardly a child in America that wasn't influenced by the wise and comforting words from the pages of (this author).  (His) first book was rejected by 27 publishers before one was ever printed.  If he hadn't persisted, his prolific writing wouldn't have made it into our lives and he would not have become the Best Selling Children's Author in history.  Dr. Seuss
  • (He) wasn't able to speak until he was almost 4  years-old and not fluently until he was about 9.  Throughout elementary school his teachers thought he was lazy, distracted and would "never amount to much."  He was even expelled from school for his rebellious behavior and rejected from the Zurich Polytechnic School.  Today, his name is synonymous with "genius."  He developed the Theory of Relativity and his discovery won him the Nobel Prize.  He remains one of the world's greatest pioneers of physics. Albert Einstien
  • One of the world's most iconic and beautiful women was told early on by a modeling agency that she should consider being a secretary instead. She not only became a highly coveted model, but also had a successful acting and singing career. Marilyn Monroe
  • The man behind the happiest place on earth was fired by the editor of a newspaper because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."  He then started a number of businesses that failed and ended with bankruptcy.  That didn't stop him from bringing life to one of the most beloved animated characters, Mickey Mouse and becoming the recipient of 22 academy awards. Walt Disney

If  you’ve ever felt discouraged or are feeling it now, you are not alone.

And let’s not forget the men we read about in Deuteronomy and 1 Chronicles.  Pep talks were being given which means someone needed encouragement!  Joshua was taking on the leadership of the nation of Israel and there would be war against other nations, in fact they were poised to march into a land as a small tribe and overtake a kingdom surrounded by a big wall! And there would be the people to govern whom he had grown up with and knew they were stubborn.  Moses spoke words of encouragement that came from God into Joshuas life: Be strong. Be courageous. God goes before you.  God is with you. God will never leave you.  God will never forsake you.  Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged.

And then David pours out words of encouragement on Solomon who is charged with the task of finishing the temple of God.  That’s huge!!!  He says to his son all of the things Moses said to Joshua AND he says that God will be with him until the work of the temple is done - this is work that God wants done, so He will see it through.  AND! David tells him that the people around him will help.  Everyone with a skill will come and apply it to the work that is to be done. What a promise.  

Why all this good encouragement?  Because they were talking about doing the will of God and the speakers new that when you line up with the will of God and seek to fulfill what God desires, God goes with you to work his purpose out!  And that even thought the process may be slow and arduous, if we are doing what God wants done, it will get there!

Last week we focused on the choice we have to make between our personal work and God’s work - the work of building the kingdom. We read that once confronted with the fact that they were turning away from God’s will to pursue their own interests, the people of God repented and returned.  And God was gracious and filled them and their leaders with enthusiasm to do the work.  

Folks, I don’t know where you are in your personal life, we probably all are in need of checking to make sure the things we are taking on are the things of God rather than our own purposes.  So if you are experiencing personal discouragement, first of all check to make sure it’s the will of God you are pursuing in your life and then look to him for help and apply the Scripture we’ve heard this morning.

Let me tell you where we are as a congregation.  God is calling us to grow, to build, to make disciples, to teach our children, to reach our community.  We are seeking to be able to articulate a vision, to discern the best way to go about all of this so that we once again become a thriving church, a church of disciples that is making disciples. But we might be struggling with discouragement from what our eyes see when we look around at half empty pews, and we miss the people who are gone.  If we keep our eyes fixed on what was, we will be discouraged.  There is a better way.

The enemy of moving forward is discouragement.  That little voice in your head that says, “This is doomed” “You’ll never make it!” “All hope is lost.”  “Throw in the towel and go home.” In partnership with this attitude are the eyes that tend to see the glass perpetually half empty rather than half full.  So here’s the deal.  That kind of thinking will kill us.  (And this sermon is for me in particular!)

As I have tried to communicate lately, this endeavor of being the church is not about you and it’s not about me.  It’s about what God’s will for this church is - in this place and in this time - and we happen to be the current stewards of the ministry that is supposed to happen here.  So what are you bringing to this party?  What are you willing to put in of yourselves to make this run the way God wants to see it run?

God is great! God loves his church! He has a plan!  He’s going to guide us!  That’s all good news!  That’s great news!  BUT.  Discouragement will try to take over.  So how do we do battle against discouragement?  It’s a matter of setting our mind on hope and fixing our eyes on Jesus who is the head of the church.  Our head.  Our leader.  Our king.  

Paul writes to the church in Philippi, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Where should our head be?  As a few of your wise elders said at our meeting this week, “Let’s celebrate what we’ve got going on that is good in this church!”  Sunday School is off to a great start.  Lot’s of new faces were interested in XFA at open house.  Did you know that every week we have at least 50% attendance in worship?  You have elders who are committed to doing whatever it takes to help this church flourish and become what God is calling it to be.  Lift your heads up and lets live as those who have hope!  

I confess that discouragement has been my traveling companion for too many days in the past weeks.  I was reminded of this song and the truth it holds. If God is for us who can be against us? If God is mindful of us, we cannot be forgotten or left alone.  

Sing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”.  (If you are reading this, I invite you to look up this song on YouTube and pay attention to the words.  We followed this by singing "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus")