Life is often discouraging. The daily news and our own experience tell us that life can be discouraging. Loved ones die in war, of illness, and of tragic accident. What appeared to have been a happy marriage ends in divorce. Children who once brought joy bring heartache in their rebellion.
Yes, life is often full of bad news. Even though we naively expect a fairy tale ending where “everyone lives happily ever after,” to our dismay life in this world doesn’t always turn out that way. Even in those moments where you think you’re winning and getting ahead, there’s a set back. You know how it is when you’ve just been able to set a few bucks aside and “bang” the car breaks down or a major appliance goes on the blink.
How can we face discouragement while living in this fallen world? First of all, we must know that there is a sovereign God who is at work in all of human history. As we read of God’s involvement in history in the Bible we find that history is not myth. History is the work of a living God who acts with purpose and plan that includes our sufferings and our joys. Encouragement depends on a knowing that there is a God who has been at work in human history orchestrating his purposes to this very point in my life today. Through all of these events God is calling us to Himself. Suppose for a moment there is no purpose or plan for life on earth – there is no Sovereign Creator – only time and chance; there is no providence – only accident and coincidence; there is no goal – only random possibilities followed by death and annihilation. If this is the case, then this moment in which I now live has no meaning. That is discouragement. Faith and reason affirm that there is a sovereign God at work in human history.
Secondly, we must know that there is a personal God who makes and fulfills his promises. A key question in life is, “Can I depend upon God to be faithful to His promises?” The gospel resoundingly answers “YES!” Every Old Testament promise concerning the first coming of Jesus Christ has been fulfilled. We can sure that that every promise of God offered to us in Jesus Christ will be ours. As 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 reminds us: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. In the darkest moments of life God remains faithful to His promises.
Thirdly, we must know that there is a powerful God who brings about the resurrection. What a sad and tragic day it was for Jesus’ disciples to see justice overturned in the sentencing of Jesus Christ. There they watched the intense suffering of Christ as he shamefully hung naked before his mockers stripped of humanity and dignity.
The cross cruelly symbolizes unjust suffering and epitomizes the agony of discouragement. Yet the cross is a reality in the plan of God for both Jesus and his followers who take up their cross and follow him. For those who are suffering, who need encouragement the “theology of the cross” offers good news, not solutions. The good news is that Jesus suffered for us to bring God’s blessing and all of our suffering cannot destroy God’s choice to bless us in Jesus Christ. The good news is that the resurrection follows the cross. As we suffer with discouragement we need to hear the good news” –God is faithful. He will raise you from the dead just as he raised His Son Jesus from the dead. It is important to know that there is a “getting up day.”
Fourthly, we must know that there is a God who has provided the gospel of forgiveness and justification. Acts 13:38-39 remind us: Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.
The blessing of encouragement comes through the gospel of free grace offered through faith in Jesus Christ. The task of the Old Testament law was to demonstrate to sinners their need of a redeemer. The work of the Old Testament prophets was to identify the redeemer/Messiah. Jesus is that Redeemer/Messiah who forgives sins and declares sinners righteous before a holy God.
As we face discouragement in this world we must never lose sight of the ‘good news’ that reminds us that just as Christ is risen from the dead, through faith in Him, we will rise also. Let every word of discouragement be overwhelmed by the good news that “God raised Christ from the dead.”