In The Face of Difficulty

One of the more difficult things in life is dealing with discouragement.  Within a ministry or church planting context, I believe this is an even greater issue.  There are plenty of reasons to be discouraged when a person looks around at the world.  Reading thru Acts 4, I see where the early disciples in this first church could have been greatly discouraged.  They had every ‘human’ reason to be sad or mopey or even depressed.  Yet, we read this in Acts 4:32-37:

[32] Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. [33] And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. [34] There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold [35] and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. [36] Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, [37] sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:32-37 ESV)

A church planter could be very discouraged when/if those within his new church were not unified or not caring to one-another.  The early church had a time where ‘the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul’.  That is encouraging.  We should find encouragement in unity rather than in metrics.  I talk often with my brothers in the church planting field and they deal regularly with the struggles of church planting in North America. 

A missionary could become discouraged when the resources to do the mission are sparse and/or when generosity isn’t taking hold within the Body.  The early church lived in such a way that ‘no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had all things in common’.  I doubt they had great wealth to be encouraged and we might not either.  Let us find encouragement in generosity rather than discouragement in lack.  

A ministry thrives upon the power of the saving work of Jesus.  We fan the flame by sharing our testimony and the testimony of Christ.  The early church did this ‘with great power’.  It kept everyone focused on the vision and mindful of the Master.  Discouragement didn’t overcome them just as it promised in Revelation 12:11 ‘And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony’.  Seeing God at work in our life and remembering what He has done is a prescription to defeat discouragement and staying encouraged.  

Finally, to stay encouraged, God sends special ‘encouragers’ along the way.  In our text, that was Barnabas - the son of encouragement.  In your context, that may be a specific person or it may be a group.  We often discount or deflect encouragement.  As a servant leader of The Lord’s Church, let’s look for ways to stay encouraged and to be an encourager to those around us.  Let’s overcome the enemy and the world of discouragement with ‘the word of our testimony’!