Pastoral Discouragement

Discouragement
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While reading Psalm 5, I see that David is just plain discouraged. He prays to the Lord, “pay attention to my groaning” (Psalm 5:1 NLT). Unless I miss my guess, he sang these lyrics while hearing dissonance in his mind.

So many pastors I meet play out their entire lives in the dissonance of discouragement. There is the grinding dismay that follows unachieved goals or failed relationships.

Some are discouraged over their marriages which began with such promise but now seem weak, borderline hopeless.

Lingering ill-health can discourage and demoralize its victims, especially when the pain won’t go away. And who can’t identify with those ministers who gave it their best shot yet took it on the chin from a few self-appointed critics?

Focus on Worship

man
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The conflict between the urgent and the important is inescapable. How easy to get the two confused! It is common for us to think that by staying busy and working hard we’re dealing with the important things.

But that is not necessarily the case. Those things most urgent rarely represent things that are most important. And therein lies the reason so many people today feel such a lack of satisfaction after working so hard and for so many hours each day.

Not only is that frustration true in the world in which we live, it is all-the-more true in the church. When we substitute the urgent for the important in the church of Jesus Christ, we emphasize . . .

Remember Your Roots

Roots
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How refreshing it is to come across individuals who realize they have their parents to thank for so much of what they have in life. Marian Anderson was one of those individuals.

She had a magnificent contralto voice that gave her worldwide acclaim.

On one occasion, a reporter asked her to name the greatest moment in her life. Those in the room hearing the question wondered what she would say.

There were so many great moments, like the night Arturo Toscanini said publicly,

The Secret of Stability

Decisions
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You may be facing what could be an unsolvable problem. You alone know what it is. If so, let me encourage you this week. Often the situations with no human answers form the basis upon which God does some of His best work—even in the lives of His messengers.

This is illustrated beautifully in the life of Job.

I know, I know . . . we’ve all preached on Job. Personally, as pastors, we tend to flip the page when his name comes up. We’re too familiar with his story.

The account of his misery has become common and—may I say it?—boring. I mean, what else does this sad, suffering saint have to teach us?

Two Searching Questions

Change Direction
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Let me ask you two pointed questions—from one pastor to another. First: What makes you afraid of taking a risk? Walking with the Lord is a risky path, and everything within us, when we lean on our own understanding, screams . . .

Just keep it like it is. Just leave it alone. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But sometimes things need to be rearranged even though they aren’t broken.

Sometimes we need a major change of direction, not necessarily because we are going in an evil direction—it’s just not the direction God wants for us.

Now, here’s my second question:

God’s Decreed Will

Peace
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God is at the helm of His creation. Not fate, not chance, not some impersonal force of nature but the Lord alone is in full command of your life.

He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and His decrees govern what happens in His world.

God’s decrees are:

Unidentified Inner Promptings

Inner Promptings
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Do you ever have those unidentified inner promptings? (Don’t worry; Swindoll hasn’t lost his marbles—at least, not yet!) I’m talking about when the Spirit of God urges your spirit in a very specific direction.

The book of Jude offers a wonderful example of the powerful prompting of the Holy Spirit:

Willing to Do God’s Will? Really?

Doing God's Will
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We pastors are great at telling people the will of God for their lives. But what about following God’s will in our own lives? Truth be told, it’s a lot easier to preach it to others than to put it into practice for ourselves.

The apostle Paul’s words come to mind:

[If you] know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? (Romans 2:18–23)

Paul’s words were directed to Jews who knew (and believed) the Word of God. By principle, that’s us as well.

Let me ask you a penetrating question: are you willing to do God’s will? Really?

God Is Not Surprised

God
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No doubt, you’ve run across people who believe that the One who created us is too far removed to concern Himself with the tiny details of life. But that is not the case. God’s plan is running its course right on schedule, exactly as He decreed it.

This world is not out of control, spinning wildly through space. Nor are earth’s inhabitants at the mercy of meaningless chaos.

Focusing on the Facts, Not the Fear

Pastor
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Thinking theologically can be a tough thing to do—even for us pastors. That’s because we focus most of our energy and attention on what I all “the horizontal” aspects of ministry. Thinking vertically is a discipline few have mastered.

We much prefer to live in the here-and-now realm, seeing life horizontally as others see it, dealing with realities we can . . .

  • Touch
  • Analyze
  • Prove
  • Explain

We are much more comfortable with the tactile, the familiar, the logic shaped by our culture and lived out in our times.

But God offers a better way to live—one that requires faith as it lifts us above the drag and grind of our immediate little world.