18 I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight,
19 having faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith;
Amen. The word of God. Thanks be to God.
One Sunday a wife said to her husband, who was still in bed, “You need to get up and go to church.” He pulled the covers over his head and mumbled, “I do not want to go that church anymore.” She said, “Why not?” He said, “They are always fussing and fighting. They are a bunch of grumpy, cranky people. I just do not want to be around them.” She said, “Maybe they just need you to cheer them up.” He said “I can not cheer them up because nobody at that church likes me.” “Well,” she said, “You have got to go anyway because you are the preacher.”
I suppose the point of that story is that everyone has times of discouragement. Winston Churchill, for example, called it his “black dog of despair.” Churchill suffered from long and recurrent fits of depression throughout his life. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was called the greatest preacher since Jesus, but Spurgeon was often so depressed he could barely preach at all.
Everyone sometimes feels sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps.
We might sing the song:
Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play;
Where never is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not clouded all day.
But in fact some days look pretty cloudy and sometimes we are discouraged beyond words. So what do we do then? That is our question for the day. How do we handle discouragement? When you feel down, what should you do?
Well, the psychologists give us some practical things to do, and these should not be disregarded even by religious people. For example, many authorities promote exercise as a counter to depression. If you feel blue, go for a walk, a long, fast, hard walk. Probably good advice, but you can’t always do that.
Another bit of advice is call a friend on the phone. Make contact with people. But do not talk about your troubles. No one wants to hear your troubles anyway, so be a good friend and talk about something else.
A third bit of advice is: Find something to laugh at. Now this may be easier said than done when you are depressed, but you should make a deliberate effort to find something funny. Read the comics in the newspaper. Actually I find the editorial page pretty funny sometimes too. Laughter is great medicine.
Do you remember the old TV show Hee Haw. it was on TV for more than twenty years. You can still see reruns on cable. It was comedy show, with a lot of country, bluegrass, and gospel music mixed in.
They had comedy song skits. One skit began with this little song:
Gloom, despair, and agony on me! (WOE!)
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery! (WOE!)
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. (WOE!)
Gloom, despair, and agony on me!
Then they would go on to talk about a situation that was so absurdly bad it is funny. My wife ran off with a traveling salesman. My mama tried to stop the train that they were leaving on but the train ran over her. My dog was chasing the train but the dog fell into the river and drowned. My boss called up and fired me, and my house burned down, and the bank says that the wife took all my money. Not only that when I ran out of my burning house I fell and broke my leg.
On Hee Haw they went on and on with stuff like that. They made fun of bad stuff. And that can be good therapy.
Humor can help us deal with depression, but that is not to say that real depression is funny. Depression can keep you awake at night. It can effect your appetite. It makes you feel tired and worthless. You feel guilty and unloveable. You have difficulty concentrating. You may feel agitated, restless, and irritable. You may even think of suicide. In summary, depression prevents us from living the sort of full life God has called us to live.
According to an old Appalachian mountain legend, the devil decided to have a yard sale. I do not know why, maybe he was hard up for cash, but anyway, the devil was having a yard sale, and he was selling his stuff like hotcakes. People were buying gossiping and lying and cheating and stealing. But the devil had one article at the end of the table without a price tag on it. It looked old and worn and well-used. Some people asked what it was and why there was no price on it. The devil said, “That is not for sale. I use that all the time. I have always used it. It is ‘discouragement.’ If I can get people discouraged, then I can do almost anything I want with them.”
That is true. Discouraged people are defeated people. It does not even matter whether they have fought their battles yet. They are already defeated. They are already losers.
So what should we do to avoid being defeated losers? When we face Churchill’s “black dog,” what do we do about it? I have already given you some helpful hints--exercise, talk to people, laugh. But all these things take will power, and a depressed person does not have will power. Their energy levels are at rock bottom. They feel hopeless and helpless. They do not want to go for a walk, they don’t see anything funny in their situation, they certainly don’t want to talk to people. What is going to motivate them to take some action to overcome their particular brand of discouragement.
A lady told me about a method she used to overcome “the miseries.” She said, “I sit myself down and I give myself a good talking too. And I say to myself, ‘Look, you have a lot of good things happening in your life. First of all, you are a Christian. That means that you have eternal life.’” And then she goes through other good things. She makes herself think of only good things in her life. And after awhile, she feels better.
When we have “the miseries,” we need to give ourselves a good talking too, and count our blessings. And like that lady, the first thing on our list ought to be Jesus.
In I Timothy, we see Paul as an aged and experienced apostle writing to his protégé, his son in the faith, Timothy. Timothy was discouraged. Paul says, in v3 and 4: “When I was leaving for Macedonia, I asked you to stay on in Ephesus and warn certain people there to stop spreading their false teachings. You needed to warn them to stop wasting their time on senseless stories and endless lists of ancestors. Such things only cause arguments. They don't help anyone to do God's work that can only be done by faith” (CEV). We suspect that the church at Ephesus was not very large, but it had a number of people who had their own ideas about Christianity. Some were Gnostics. Paul is perhaps referring to them when he speaks of people who tell “senseless stories.” The Gnostics had all these stories about how Jesus only appeared to be God. Some were Judaizers. Perhaps Paul speaks of them when he mentions those who seem to believe salvation lies in their ancestry. And all these people argued endlessly about their pet doctrines. Timothy was supposed to bring order to this bedlam. But he had not been very successful. The church at Ephesus was in chaos and confusion and apparently no one paid Timothy much attention. He must have felt like the pastor I mention at the beginning of the sermon, “No one at this church likes me.” So Timothy had the blues, the miseries.
Paul urges him to buck up, snap out of it, get over it. Paul’s remedy for discouragement is good advice to us.
Paul presents himself as an example. He says in vs12-13: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence.” Paul says, I did some things that I should not have done. I could be down and discouraged because I have done evil. but I am not because Christ has forgiven me, Christ strengthens me, and Christ has now appointed me to his service.
Thus, when you feel down, turn to Christ. Christ will forgive you, strengthen you, appoint you to his service. In v18, Paul says, “I am giving you these instructions,” I am talking to you about this, so that “you may fight the good fight,” Timothy has been so down and depressed that he is unable to deal with these people who are causing so much trouble at Ephesus. Paul advises him to make Christ his foundation and rise up in strength and vigor. In v19, Paul advises Timothy to depend upon faith and a good conscience.
The reason some people are depressed is guilt. They have done some things they are ashamed of and these things weigh on their conscience so much that they despair of themselves. They have this burden of sin that is weighing them down. They carry this load around all the time. No wonder they are depressed. They need to turn to Jesus. They need to take their guilt and sin and depression to the cross. There they will find forgiveness and love and acceptance. They will be freed of the burden of sin and the guilt of sin. And thus they can live in strength and power.
Another related part of the remedy for discouragement is the power of a good conscience. There is a strength in knowing that you are right. This strength can overcome many obstacles and difficulties. So part of Paul’s advice to overcoming the miseries is do right or do good. If you know that you are doing right, you feel good about yourself.
To carry that a little further, I have often heard it said by folks that help other people that they get more out of helping others than the others do by being helped. So, in order to overcome discouragement about your problems, help someone else with their problems.
But the basis for your doing right or doing good has got to be as the apostle Paul says, your faith in Jesus. When we, as the lady said, sit ourselves down and give ourselves a good talking to, our primary remedy against discouragement is our faith.
I said earlier that everyone has times of discouragement. Everyone gets the miseries sometimes. That is true, but you do not have to let the miseries take over your life and dominate your days so that you miss out on the joy of living. Turn to Jesus. Bring your problems to the cross, and leave them there. Depend on the lord for a solution.
That is the instruction Paul gives Timothy and us. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by our problems. Remember this. You do not have any problems that Christ cannot handle. So trust the lord. Give the lord your depression; give the lord your discouragement, and that same Lord Jesus will strengthen you and lift you up to a new and abundant way of living.
We should all sing that old Fanny Crosby Hymn when we have the blues:
All the way my savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know what ‘ere befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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