How to fight discouragement (Part 1)

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Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God. 2 Tim. 1:8

There were multiple reasons for Timothy to have become fearful in his office as a minister of the gospel. One was the shame which the surrounding culture would have heaped upon him for preaching a message so antithetical to the values of the times. Another was the apparent powerlessness of the messengers of the gospel in their confrontation with the authorities. Paul was in prison and was about to be executed. Timothy is reading, as it were, the last will and testament of his mentor. Finally, there were the multitudinous afflictions which befell Timothy - from persecution to the apostasy of friends to personal weakness. It was all overwhelming and Timothy apparently thought about giving up.

But the apostle Paul wasn't about to let that happen, and so he proceeds to encourage Timothy to keep on keeping on. Over the next few days, we want to look at the reasons Paul gives to his son in the faith to persevere in the face of difficulty and discouragement. There are good lessons here for us, as well, whether we are pastors or not.

First, Timothy was to stir up the gift of God that was already in him (ver. 6). In other words, he was to fan the spiritual gifts God had given him into a flame. In the ancient world (actually, up until about a century ago) it was important to always keep a fire going. If you let it go out, it could be very difficult to get it going again. Paul is saying to Timothy: "Don't neglect the gifts you have (cf. 1 Tim. 4:14), use your gifts of ministry, don't let them go idle, and don't let fear cause you to become paralyzed."

How does this counteract fear? It does so in the following way: as we obey, God meets us, through the Holy Spirit, with power, love, and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). He gives us power to strengthen us in the face of overwhelming tasks and impossible odds (cf. 2:1). He gives us love to motivate us to sacrifice for the souls of men and women, especially when they are difficult. And he gives us a sound mind, good judgment, to apply this power and love wisely.

The problem is that we want all this before we obey, but Paul's words imply that it is only as we obey in faith that the Lord will meet us with the help of his Spirit. Like Peter on the waves, we are to put our feet out onto the sea, trusting that the Lord will keep us afloat.

Now I know that Paul was talking here to Timothy who was a pastor. But if you are a Christian, and especially if you are discouraged, these words are for you too. God has equipped you for the task ahead, no matter how difficult it looks, no matter how impossible it seems. Stir up the gift of God that is in you and you will find the Lord meeting you with all the resources you need to keep you abounding in the work of the Lord.

By: Jeremiah Bass