Praise Defeats Despair

Despair comes when you have continually been disappointed in a certain situation or relationship.  It is the complete loss of hope.  I have been in despair several times in my own life, and I know many others who have as well.

Although the Bible never promises that we will escape having feelings of despair, God does give us a way to overcome it.  Paul, one of the Apostles, felt despair many times during his ministry.  I believe there were times when his past haunted him, and he suffered major persecution.  However, Paul managed to come out of his despair.  We will discuss how he was able to do that.

Troubled on Every Side, Yet Not Distressed

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When the Jewish leaders were not oppressing Paul, one of the churches would be upset with him.  The church in Corinth had issues with him because of gossip that came from other influences.  When you read the books of Corinthians, you will notice that Paul addresses these issues.

Paul knew where hope was.  He knew hope was not even in his ministry.  His hope was in Christ.  Without Christ, his ministry would not be successful.  Without Christ, Paul could not go beyond his past.  Without Christ, Paul would not be preaching the gospel.

Perplexed But Not in Despair

Despair came to Paul on many occasions.  Paul spent time in prison for the sake of the gospel.  He had been beaten and stoned. In one instance, he was left being considered dead.  Despair came, but Paul fought it.  He did not give in to it.  (Read 2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Just because he did not give in to despair does not mean that Paul did not feel despair.  In 2 Corinthians 1:1-9, Paul speaks of despairing of life.  Then, in chapter 4 he says he is perplexed but not in despair.  This leads me to believe that despair came, but Paul pressed past it.  How did he do that?  In Christ alone.

We Do Not Have to Despair

When you read Paul’s epistles, you will notice that he gives praise to the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 1, he praises God for being the God of all comfort.  In Ephesians 1, he praises God for spiritual blessings.  In Philippians 4, he speaks of rejoicing. There are other instances of praise in the other epistles.  He did not praise because his troubles were over.  He praised God through those troubles.

You and I can do the same.  When waves of despair seem to wash over us threatening to knock us down and leave us with the inability to get back up, we do not have to give in. We are not without hope.  We have Jesus Christ.  He is hope!  He is our hope.

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No matter how dark your situation is, there is light.  Jesus is the light of the world.  There is no darkness in Him at all.  You can praise Him now because He will get you through your darkest hour.  Do not despair!  You are not without hope.  I am not without hope either.

 

If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you can have one right now.  Romans 10:9-10 says that if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart, you believe to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made into salvation.  Romans 10:13 tell us that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Overcoming Burnout

Most people suffer from burnout at one time or another.  The most dedicated worker, the “best” Christian, the awesome parent, the most loving spouse, and so many others have times of feeling a lack of motivation. Burnout comes from being in the same situation or bad relationship over a long period of time.

Feeling burnt out about your job, church activities, and other situations does not make you an unloving person.  It is perfectly natural to feel this way about various situations, particularly if you’ve had no rest or reprieve.

No Rest

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If you are not sleeping well, or if you never take a break, you are setting yourself for burnout, perhaps sheer exhaustion.  Too many people run their bodies on empty for long periods of time.  As a result, they eventually come crashing down.

You were not meant to do it all.  If you are suffering burnout due to a lack of rest, take a break!  You might have to say “no” to some activities or people.  You might even have to say “no” to activities that you would really like to do.

During your time of rest, seek God.  Ask Him what activities would be best for you to do.  Ask Him what you might need to let go.  He will give you wisdom.  According to James 1:5, all you have to do is ask.  Proverbs 3:6 tells us that if we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our paths.

Stress

Being in a stressful situation for a long period of time causes burnout.  Perhaps, it is a circumstance at work, a family crisis, or a spousal relationship gone wrong.  Whatever the case may be, stress affects your body leading to fatigue and illness.

Besides finding a way to resolve your stressful situation, you also have to find a way to deal with the stress itself.  Learning to renew your mind with God’s word and seek peace from Him will help you cope with stress.  As a result, negative circumstances will not cause you to stress out nearly as much in the future.

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I am not at all suggesting that you might not need a change in your circumstances.  If you seek God, He will provide that change when the time is right.  If He is leading you to take action, then do so at His direction.

If you are in a stressful situation that can not be resolved in a timely manner, begin renewing your mind with scriptures and singing praise songs. I can tell you from personal experience that your heaviness will lift when you begin praising the Lord.  Mind renewal and praise must be repeated often, so, don’t expect your negative feeling to dissipate just because your renewed your mind once or spent time in praise and worship once.

Signs of Burnout

The following are signs that you might be suffering from burnout:

  • Lack of motivation.
  • Inability to cope.
  • Physical exhaustion.
  • Mental exhaustion.
  • Apathy.
  • Lack of creativity.
  • Overall feeling of negativity.

Everyone has days in which they might display the above signs.  There is no need to be alarmed unless these signs linger for a long period of time.  If they do, take action quickly.  Get some rest, or find someone to talk to such as friend or counselor.

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Matthew 11:28-30 promises us that Jesus Christ will give us rest spiritually when we bring our burnout to Him.  He will renew and refresh us.  If you are suffering from burnout, go to Him in prayer.  He will guide you to deliverance.

 

If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you can have one right now.  Romans 10:9-10 says that if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart, you believe to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made into salvation.  Romans 10:13 tell us that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

 

Busyness Versus Fruitfulness

It is amazing to me the extremes to which we as human beings tend to swing.  Many people are workaholics while others are lazy.  Others eat too much while some do not eat enough.  Some people need to learn how to have fun while others think life should only be fun.  Extremes are everywhere, and, unfortunately, the church is not immune to them.  One of the extremes I will be discussing is busyness.

Is Busy Better?

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There is a fine line between busyness and fruitfulness.  When the Bible tells God’s people that fruits of repentance or the fruit of the Spirit should be evident in the lives of Christians, many people misunderstand the meaning of fruitfulness in the spiritual sense.  Immediately, some begin looking for a job in the kingdom of God because they want to be busy for God.  The intent is noble in  most cases, and God does not want His people to be lazy and idle  However, there is a line that we can not afford to ignore.

Just because someone is busy does not mean this person is fruitful in the sense of bringing glory to God.  When a work is being done in obedience to God rather than just trying to appear godly, the results will bring glory to God.  In other words, we don’t get the credit.  When something such as a ministry is being done for the glory of God, people’s lives are changed.  People are set free, delivered, healed, and most importantly, people who did not know Jesus Christ come to know Him.

Being busy, even if it is a Christian endeavor, does not necessarily mean we are being fruitful, or bringing glory to God.  One way to tell the difference is to step back and examine your own level of joy.  If you are running back and forth, never catching your breath, and never spending time with your family and loved ones, chances are, you are busy rather than fruitful.

What is fruitfulness?

Before I answer the above question, I want to say that God never called us to live our lives so fast-paced that we forget to enjoy the people and things He has given us.  He did not call us to run like chickens with their heads cut off (an old saying where I am from).  He did call us to be about the Father’s business, and friends, when we are about His business, there is grace to do the work.  Joy accompanies grace in your work.

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That is not to say that everyone should leave their jobs and work in the church.  I am simply stating that we need to know what we are called to and operate within that calling God gave us.  The Lord did not call us to do everything.  We only need to do those things which God called us to, or, we will not do anything well.  It doesn’t matter if you can do one thousand things at once.  The question is, how well do you do them?  God called us to quality rather than quantity.

John 15 gives a clear picture of fruitfulness.  The one who is fruitful abides in the vine.  The vine is Christ.  We must be plugged into Him through a true, personal and intimate relationship.  This is the only way we will know what we are called to.  If we try to work for the Lord without truly knowing Him and enjoying time with Him, then we are simply doing dead works.

Take Time to Evaluate

In order to know if you are busy or fruitful, you might need to take time to step back from the hustle and bustle, and look at what you are doing.  Then, ask yourself why you are doing these things.  Prayerfully, consider if there are certain activities or tasks that you can let go, or, even delegate to someone else who would be willing to help.

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It could be that you are neither busy nor fruitful.  If you are idle, God is calling you to step out and do something.  Ask Him what that might be.  If you are constantly on the go and seldom have time to look up, you might need to let some things go.  Ask God what that might be.

God called us to live to please Him and do some things well, but we must face the fact that we can not do a million things at once and do them well.  Take time to be fruitful, not just busy.

Prayer with Praise

I had the privilege of going with my dad last weekend to a church in which he ministers on a regular basis.  On the rare occasions that I do go with him, I always find the people very warm and welcoming.  The presence of the Lord is always experienced, and we usually find humor in some situation to enjoy.

As my dad preached, he began discussing the frequency in which God’s people often forget to praise God during prayer.  “You need to offer something sweet,” my father said referring to praise.  Instead of simply asking God to do this or do that, we need to praise Him for who He is and thank Him for the past prayers that He has answered.

Praise in Battle

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Most of us are familiar with the story of King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20.  The people of Judah were facing some deadly enemies.  Immediately, the people sought the Lord, which is always the first step that should be taken in any crisis.  People began to hear from the Lord, and the consensus was that God would deliver them as He had before.

King Jehoshaphat appointed singers to go in the front line of the battle, singing, “Praise the Lord for His mercy endures forever.”  Their enemies became confused and began slaughtering each other rather than the people of Judah.  After all was said and done in the battle, the people of Judah took spoils from their enemies.

The Results of Our Praise

When you and I offer praises to God, even when it is the last thing we wish to do, we will find that our situations are not as big as they seem.  We will find that our spiritual enemies flee because they become confused.  We will find that we are taking spiritual spoils from our enemies

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According to Isaiah 43:19, the Lord does new things.  He makes a way where there seems to be none.  The entire chapter of Isaiah 43 is filled with reasons to praise God.  Throughout the chapter, God promises to bring His people victory over their enemies.  Most of all, He declares His love for us.  He vows that He has blotted out our sins and transgressions.  He is holy and cannot allow sin in His presence, yet, He redeems us from our sin through Jesus Christ and calls us righteous in his sight

 

What Will You Offer?

Although it is perfectly fine to offer your petitions and requests before God in prayer, it is vital to remember to offer something sweet.  Do not simply use prayer as a “give me, give me” session.  God is so much more than our personal genie.  Use your prayer time to give honor and praise to God.  Use scripture when you are not sure of what to say.  The Psalms and many passages in Isaiah offer many words of praise and worship.

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Jesus gave us an example of how to pray in what we know as the Lord’s prayer.  The model prayer begins with praise then goes into various petitions then ends with an acknowledgement of who God is.  Certainly, we do not want to become legalistic in our prayers, but we do want to take time to offer praise to our God.  He is worthy!

A Call to Prayer

The subject of prayer is one that has been widely explored in Christian circles, yet no one could ever say too much on the subject.  Prayer is how we speak to the Lord.  There are varying types of prayers such as prayers of praise, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.  It can be the highlight of our day, or, sadly, it can become a mundane, repetitious act that we perform out of obligation.  It is sad to say that, with many people, it often becomes the latter rather than the former.

The Purpose of Prayer

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Certainly, no one could say specifically why God has ordained prayer in the manner that He has.  Yes, He wants a relationship with us, and, of course, prayer draws us closer to Him through Jesus Christ.  However, there is a mystery to prayer.  In Daniel 10:12, we are told that Daniel’s prayer was heard the first time he made his petition, but some type of war in the heavenly places delayed his answer.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah desperately desired children.  She poured out her heart to God, and her request was granted.  It would also be interesting to note that the priest thought she was drunk.

In the New Testament, Jesus had some things to say on the subject.  He gave His disciples instruction as to prayer.  A pattern was given, yet, He warned them to avoid vain repetition.  Jesus was not saying we could not repeat prayer requests because He told the parable of the unjust judge and the widow.  The widow persisted in her request for the judge to relieve her of her adversary.  The judge finally granted her request because of her persistence.

Prayer Is Spiritual Warfare

Persistent and strategic prayers are a part of our spiritual warfare.  After Paul explained each part of the armor of God, he concluded his discourse by making a reference to prayer.  Although we do not totally understand it, prayer moves the heart of God.  Prayer changes circumstances.  Prayer makes the impossible possible.

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Of course, we can not take any credit.  The glory belongs to the Lord.  He established this way of communication for which I am completely thankful.  Although God is sovereign, He gives us choice.  We must choose to participate in our relationship with Him.

Back to Prayer

When God’s people pray, mountains are moved.  Nations are spared of judgment.  People are saved, delivered, and healed.  There was a time when people prayed for long periods of time, not caring who heard them.  While I am not saying that you have to pray for a certain amount of time, I do believe we need to sacrifice time to pray for our nation, our world, our leaders, and each other.  Sometimes, it means spending less time on another activity.  Whatever the cost, we must be willing to spend time in prayer.  Jesus did, and He is our example.

 

If you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you can have it today.  Romans 10:9-10 (MEV) states the following:  “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth is made unto salvation.”

Overcoming Racism in the Body of Christ

Racism is a sensitive issue at this time in United States history.  Many people of varying races often use what is called “the race card” to manipulate a desired outcome.  Although this happens frequently, the fact is that racism is still an issue in the United States today after all the movements and education on the subject.

My Personal Experience

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During my lifetime, I have developed friendships with people of various races and cultures.  I praise God for these relationships.  They teach me great lessons and make positive contributions to my life.

Recently, I visited Washington, D.C. to attend a conference for educators.  Of course, a friend and I took the time to tour as much as possible.  Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area has people of many races and cultures.  Personally, I think this is wonderful. How can we reach people with the gospel of  Jesus Christ if we never see them?  (Incidentally, this has nothing to do with the subject of illegal immigration. That is a topic for another discussion.)  What troubled me is the amount of distrust and even hatred I could feel being directed my way from some of these people.  I began to become defensive in my own mind which made me feel even more uncomfortable.

I praise God for His faithfulness in sending conviction my way when my mindset is in the wrong place.  The Holy Spirit spoke to me and asked me when I would be the one to walk in love.  I was stunned and deeply convicted.  Of course, the Holy Spirit is always right.  Someone has to take the high road.  Someone has to show love.  What I did next is completely against my natural personality.  I began smiling at these people who were starring at me as if I had no right to be in my own country.  When possible, I spoke to them.  Some returned my smile or my greeting.  Others did not.  That day, I was reminded of a valuable lesson.  God’s love is unconditional. God loves even when the love is not reciprocated.

The Solution

The only way to overcome the issue of racism is the same as any other sin issue–Jesus Christ!  Does the Lord care about racism?  Of course He does!  All humans are created in His image.  He did not create us all to look exactly alike or think exactly alike.  Our God loves variety, and He commands us to love each other.  We can appreciate the differences of others, yet be confident in who we are in Christ.  How?  Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

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Racism has been used as a political talking point.  The race card has been used and abused, but we must not forget that there are still cases in which people are very racist.  Through prayer and walking in the love of Christ, we can pull down this stronghold.  No, we will not reach everyone, but we can start somewhere.  Why not let the solution to this worldwide problem start with you?  Reach out to someone of a different culture or race.  Allow them to see the love of Christ in your life.  The Holy Spirit has ways of tearing down walls that divide people.  Let’s yield to Him!

“There is no Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male and female since you are all one in Christ Jesus,”  Galatians 3:28 CSB.

What Heresy Is and Is Not

While it is true that heretical teachings are rampant in this day and time, far too often, Christians are quick to use the “heresy” label on anything with which they disagree.  The Bible is clear that we are not to tolerate false doctrine; however, we are also admonished not to label people heretics concerning certain matters.

The Definition of Heresy

christ like pixabay (2nd pic)Heresy is defined as a belief that is contrary to religious doctrine, more specifically, orthodox religious doctrine.  1 John 4 also defines what is false.  When you look at the scriptures in 1 John in context with Romans 14, you will find that a doctrine can only be declared Biblically heretical when it attacks the deity of Jesus Christ; suggests that salvation can be obtained by any other way than the Way, Jesus Christ (John 14: 6), or twists specific scriptures in the Bible to justify an act that is clearly a sin.  Examples of this would be abortion, changing the Biblical definition of marriage, or stating that sexual sin is now acceptable to God.

Now that the definition of heresy is clear.  We should be careful whom we label a heretic, or apostate.  Many of God’s people are quick to state that certain people are false teachers simply because of a disagreement about doctrine that does not pertain to salvation.  You might be wishing I would give some specific examples.  Wish granted!  I am getting ready to do just that.

Heresy:  What It Is and What It Is Not

Although I support ministers who are women, I have no right to label as heretics those who disagree with me.  There are many Christians who do not believe women should preach or teach in the church.  I disagree, but that does not make those with whom I disagree unsaved.  Why?  There is no denying the deity of Christ nor claiming another way of salvation in this belief, so, we can agree to disagree.

Another example of what is not heresy is the following:  I believe that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4) are for today.  I have been blessed to see these gifts at work, and working in order, in the body of Christ.  However, those who believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the Apostles are still my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Why?  Refer to the previous paragraph.

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The following is an example of heresy:  If a minister preaches another way to heaven, or another means to obtain salvation other than Jesus Christ, I can declare that preaching or teaching to be heretical because it goes completely against the Word of God and the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

Another example of heresy would be for someone to teach that Jesus Christ is not God.  The Bible plainly declares His deity in John 1 and Colossians 2:9.  The deity of Jesus, aka The Word in Flesh, is also declared throughout the Old Testament.  It is fair and right to declare attacks on the deity of Jesus Christ heresy.

Agree to Disagree

On issues such as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, women ministers, the doctrine of Oneness, etc., we can agree that we disagree yet continue to love each other.  Why?  Jesus clearly stated in John 13:35 that our love for each other would be how the world would know we belong to Him.  Love is the answer for what divides the body of Christ.  Love is what points people to the way of salvation–not squabbling over doctrine.

UnityWe are living in what I believe is the season of Christ’s return.  People are hurting and searching for something that is real and lasting.  All that will fulfill people’s longings is Jesus Christ.  Point people to Him.  The rest can be sorted out later.

If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can know Him right now.  Romans 10:9-10 states the following:  “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

 

Contending for the Faith

Jude 3 contains a well-known phrase that many ministers use for sermon titles.  This one-chapter book of the Bible exhorts us to contend for the faith.  Next, the brief epistle reminded its readers that many false teachings were spreading to a dangerous level during the time period in which the book of Jude was written.  False teachings and apostate doctrines are alive and well today.  Some of the most dangerous of those are prevalent in the western portion of the world, especially in the United States.

What does it mean to contend?

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The Greek word that is used for contend is epagonizomai meaning to struggle for, to combat.  The word is a verb indicating an action that is to be taken.  In other words, we are to be willing to fight for our faith.

When looking throughout the Bible concerning spiritual warfare, it is imperative to note that our struggle is not against people.  Unfortunately, people are involved when we have to stand boldly for the faith in loving disagreement.  Often, people take our disagreement with them to mean we lack love.  Although there are cases in which that may be true, a genuine child of God, learns to disagree yet still love the people involved.

Contending in Deed more than Word

Although standing boldly for the Word of the Lord often requires us to speak boldly, our actions should speak louder than our words.  If we say we believe in a certain principle, we should stand by it.  Saying one thing and doing another is one sure way to make faith-contending less effective.

When we have to speak against the actions of a person, or a group of people, it is important to do so in love.  In Ephesians 4, Paul admonishes his readers to speak the truth in love.  Speaking the truth without love often does more harm than good.  Truth coupled with love brings change.  However, it is important to note that if you have spoken the truth in love, and people are still offended, you have done no wrong.

Beware of a False Gospel

What I am about to write is without malice because I love my country.  I am thankful to live in the United States of America.  With that being said, it is vital that I make it clear that we in the western portion of the world often are used to being comfortable.  Confrontation and boldly proclaiming the gospel demand that we come out of the comfort zone.  The disease of political correctness is plaguing the Christian church in America.  Pastors and teachers will not speak out about controversial issues such as abortion, questioning one’s gender, and so on.

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By remaining silent, we are allowing the gospel of comfort to spread rather than the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  The true gospel saves sinners and sanctifies them.  The agape love of God loves the sinner, but when the sinner comes for salvation, He loves the individual too much to leave him in his sin.  I do not believe we have to beat people down, but I do believe we have to let them know that God has a much better way.

The book of Jude closes on a positive note.  Verse 24 reminds us that Jesus Christ is able to keep us from falling.  Our boldness and ability to contend for the faith comes from Him and not ourselves.  When I am reminded of that, it brings comfort because I am not able to stand boldly without Him.  Neither are you, but the good news is that you don’t have to stand alone.

For a more in-depth study on the book of Jude, check out the study guide I have on Amazon.