When I am discouraged, obedience is difficult

INTRODUCTION. Another post (see #530 on May 13, 2022) on the subject of discouragement and how the believer can and should fight to be free of this condition.

I have posted two articles recently on this idea of fighting discouragement. My purpose has been to help believers see that, of all people, we have the most reasons to be encouraged, and that discouragement should be a place where we spend very little time.

The first article (post #528 on May 11, 2022) was on changing our mental diet. The idea is that the main contributor to being a discouraged Christian is not being careful about your mental diet. Therefore, starve your mind of dwelling on discouraging thoughts. Do not allow your mind to eat any mental food that discourages, but rather train your mind to remain fixed on God’s goodness, on the blessings He has bestowed on you and promised you, and spend large amounts of time in God’s Word, the Bible.

The second article (post #530 on May 13) was about how many of the ideas that would lead to discouragement for the unbeliever should not affect the believer because of the promises given to the believer in the Bible.

In this article, my main idea will be to show that it is difficult for the discouraged Christian to be an obedient Christian. Now, this may sound strange at first. How would discouragement make me less obedient as a believer? What is the connection between obedience and encouragement? Well, consider the following situations.

  • The Scripture commands us in many places to be thankful and the believer has uncountable reasons to thank God no matter what the circumstances, but when you are discouraged, how can you be thankful to God? Are you going to thank God for the things that discourage you? No, you are not. So, the discouraged person is not a thankful person. But the believer knows that not being thankful is a sin. It is disobedient to not be thankful. The fact is that discouragement hinders or stops thankfulness, so discouragement must go! So, when you are discouraged, even for a moment, begin thanking God for all His goodness and provision to you. Soon you will not be discouraged!
  • Jesus Himself gives His disciples a “new commandment” in John 13:34, that we are to love one another. This is a direct command from the Lord Jesus. The believer is to focus on loving others and not focus on himself. But when a person is discouraged, they are usually focusing on self, not on others. Being self-centered and selfish is a sin (Phil. 2:3-4).  Instead of being focused on self and feeling sorry for yourself, immediately begin praying for someone you know and consider how you can do a better job of giving yourself away for others (2 Cor. 12:15).
  • The Bible gives us many commands to rejoice, but how can you obey those commands when you are discouraged? Rejoice always. (1 Thess. 5:16). Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3:1). Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say rejoice (Phil. 4:4). It is difficult to obey the command to rejoice if your heart is heavy and you are discouraged. On the other hand, it is hard to be discouraged if you are rejoicing in the Lord! Will you be obedient and rejoice, or will you be discouraged and disobedient? Sing! Rejoice! Praise the Lord!
  • The obedient believer is content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:12), and the believer’s contentment testifies to God’s generosity toward His children. But when the believer is discouraged, it is very easy also to be discontent. Your discouragement will poison your contentment and will often lead to grumbling about what God has not provided or to coveting what others have and you want. Discouragement endangers your contentment. So, deliver yourself from your discouraging thoughts and you will see contentment return. The Lord provides!
  • We have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10). We are to be a “people for Christ’s own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). The believer is “to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed” (Titus 3:1), and “to be careful to engage in good deeds” (Titus 3:8). Every believer has been created in Christ Jesus (born again, saved, converted, redeemed, etc.) to be a witness for Christ (Acts 1:8) and to accomplish the work God has given us to do (John 17:4). But when we are discouraged, we are not available for good works. The discouraged believer lacks the joy or the energy to accomplish the work they have been given to do. The discouraged believer is not a zealous believer. So, to engage in good deeds the believer must shed the clothes of discouragement and be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and press toward the goal (Phil. 3:14).
  • The believer is to let their light shine before men so that God is glorified (Matthew 5:16), but the discouraged believer has a dim, flickering light that does not shine before men. The encouraged believer shines forth a bold, pure light which attracts people to the light and hopefully to the Light of the world, but the discouraged believer’s light is not attractive. People are attracted by vigor and joy and life and light, and so the encouraged believer gives them a reason to draw near. On the other hand, the discouraged believer seems to feel the same heaviness the rest of the world feels, and so the world passes by. The obedient believer will let their light shine, and that means discouragement must go.
  • The believer is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Although this verse is worded as a declarative statement (i.e., a fact, not a command), it is certainly intended to be an expectation for all believers, and thus has the force of a command. The obedient believer is to proclaim God’s excellencies. But once again, we find that the discouraged believer has no voice for proclaiming the gospel and has no courage for telling of God’s excellencies. Thus, the discouraged believer is not able to obey the Lord’s command, and the primary reason they cannot obey is that they remain in a state of discouragement. Christian! Get rid of discouragement! Sing praises to the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord. Rejoice!

In conclusion, then, I offer these thoughts to encourage the discouraged to shake free of those thoughts and habits that are robbing you of the joy and vigor of the vibrant life in Christ. Change your diet to feast on the riches of Christ and the encouragement that every believer has in Him (Phil. 2:1). Give thanks! Rejoice! Proclaim! Give yourself away to others!

SDG                 rmb                 5/17/2022                   #531

Of Rewards and Wages – What do we receive? (1 Cor. 3:5-8)

Will some believers have a greater reward in heaven than others? Will Apollos receive a lesser reward than Paul because he did not write thirteen New Testament epistles? (Apollos only wrote “Hebrews!”) Will Amos have a smaller crown than Elijah because Amos never called down fire from heaven? Or will Elijah have a smaller crown than Amos because Elijah never wrote an Old Testament book? Does the Bible have anything to say about this?

As I was reading through 1 Corinthians, I came to the passage in chapter 3 where Paul talks about servants (3:5) and about wages (3:8).

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to eachI planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. – 1 Corinthians 3:5-8 ESV

As I considered this passage. I began to think about rewards and crowns and whether each believer receives the same reward to their work or if those who produced more results received a greater reward. So, I decided to explore this question from the Scriptures.

  • The case for, “We will all receive the same reward.”
    • Matthew 20:1-16. In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, every laborer receives a denarius as a reward. Whether they endured the sun the entire day or they came out to the vineyard during the last hour, they all received the same reward of a denarius.
    • Romans 8:32. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him graciously give us all things?” The verse teaches that God will give US all things. If we all receive all things, do we not all receive the same reward?
    • 2 Timothy 4:8. We will ALL receive the crown of righteousness, not just Paul, even though Paul accomplished much more than us for the kingdom.
    • Ephesians 2:10. If God has determined beforehand the extent of my good works, would it be fair that I receive a lesser reward because God determined that I would do lesser works than another?
    • Parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Before the master went on his journey, he gave out talents to his servants, “to each according to his ability (25:15).” Then, when the master returned from his journey, he gave the servant who had gained TWO MORE TALENTS exactly the same reward that he gave the servant who had gained FIVE MORE TALENTS. “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” EXACTLY the same reward for different faithful results.
  • The case for, “We receive greater or lesser rewards based on the fruits of our labors for the Kingdom in this life.”
    • The parable of the minas in Luke 19:12-27. While this parable is similar to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 (above), the rewards given to the servants for their labors are different. The servant whose mina made ten minas more was given authority over ten cities, while the one whose mina had made five minas was given authority over five cities. This indicates that rewards are commensurate with accomplishment and that all do not receive the same reward.
    • 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. These verses reveal different rewards for those who are involved in the building of the church (pastors, church-planters, elders, possibly evangelists).

13 Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

The one who built the church foolishly will “suffer loss,” but will himself be saved, but the “wise master builder (3:10)” will receive a reward (3:14). Thus, there are different rewards for different achievements.

THE THIRD OPTION

But I think that there is a third option that is better than either of the two already proposed. I think that, while we are here on this earth, our focus is not on increasing our personal heavenly reward but is on encouraging one another to faithfully carry out the works God has given us to do. Thus, we are increasing the glory that God receives as a result of our proclamation of the gospel and declaration of His glory to the nations.

  • Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Clearly, the goal is not to compare future rewards, but is to encourage each other as we walk toward heaven.
  • Ephesians 4:16. “The whole body is joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow.” Again, we see that each part is important to the functioning of the whole body. So, “every joint” is important, and it is important for each part to “work properly.” So, each part of the body is to encourage every other part to function “properly.”
  • Romans 12:3-8. While spiritual gifts are distributed differently, each believer is to be a faithful steward of their gifts for the glory of God.

In heaven, there may indeed be different rewards based on the results of our kingdom labors on this earth, but, if that is the case, each saint in heaven will be perfectly content with their own reward and will rejoice with other saints over the rewards the Lord has given them.

SDG                 rmb                 9/21/2020