Lesson 3 -- first quarter 2002
December 16, 2001
© Copyright 2001, Christian Light Publications
Talk about feeling bleak! I came home from prayer meeting feeling cast down, crushed, and out of sorts. Usually, prayer meetings have the opposite effect on me, but not this week. Another brother has gone down in flaming moral and spiritual defeat. Another point of division has added yet one more crack in our unity. Another brother is battling depression. When do we get a break?! Will the arrows and assaults never cease?! Who and what will be next?
So what happened at prayer meeting to cast me further down instead of boosting me up? As I reflect on this, my conclusion is that the list of problems and defeats distracted me. I don't recall taking matters to Jesus and letting Him "get worked up" over them. Instead, I went around and around the problems, looking at them from this angle and that, becoming increasingly aware that "things are going from bad to worse around here." No wonder prayer meeting "didn't work for me"!
No matter what the defeat, "The Lord GOD will come with strong hand" (Isaiah 40:10). No matter what the need, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isaiah 40:11). No matter what the problem and distress, we must encourage our hearts in God like David did: "David was greatly distressed . . .but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God" (1 Samuel 30:6).
I don't see how anyone can be encouraged by focusing on negatives. So let's resolve to look to Jesus! I want Him to be "my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction" (Jeremiah 16:19).
"O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee" (Psalm 84:12).
Be an encourager
Now that you have received, give. Now what you have been blessed, bless. Now that you have been encouraged, encourage. Now that you have been lifted up, lift up. Now that you have been comforted, comfort. The God of all comfort delights to comfort and encourage us "in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Both the world and the church have plenty of downcast, discouraged people who go around casting down and discouraging yet others. Refuse to be one of those! Encourage yourself in the Lord, then go -- encourage and build up those around you, even if they seem not to need it. "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do" (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
So let me tell you that regardless of how deep the valley may be or how imposingly high the mountains may appear, "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low" (Isaiah 40:4). Not only that, when life gets awfully convoluted and the way you walk becomes absolutely rough, don't forget that "the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain."
The tidings we have are good news: God cares; God is with us! And that God says to us, "Comfort ye my people" (Isaiah 40:1). Now go and see what you can do to put to practice what verse nine of that chapter says! Go in the strength, blessing, and courage of the Lord.
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