Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Overcoming Discouragement

The following notes come from a revival sermon preached at Ridgway First Baptist Church on Nov. 13, 2006, by Bro. Denny Steed. Bro. Denny had recently been diagnosed with cancer, had undergone surgery and was going through difficult treatments. Despite his weakness physically, the Lord gave Bro. Denny great spiritual strength in delivering this message along with three other sermons he preached during this week.

Denny Steed went home to be with His Lord and Savior on October 4, 2007, holding on with supernatural joy, unshakeable hope, and all-surpassing peace to the promises of God’s Word to the very end. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and church family.

Using Psalm 42 as his main text, Bro. Denny shared with us “10 Ways You Can Overcome Discouragement.” What made this message so special and powerful was knowing what Bro. Denny was personally going through as he lived out the hope of the very words he was preaching. He shared openly of his struggles and hardships, yet claimed his victory over sickness and death through Christ Jesus. He knew the reality of Psalm 42:5: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Here are the notes as recorded from this message:

10 Ways You Can Overcome Discouragement

1. Pray in faith – expecting and believing God to answer – and keep on praying until He answers (James 1:2-7)
2. Read your Bible (Joshua 1:7-9)
3. Sing praises to God (Ephesians 5:18-19)
4. Share your burden with your church family (Galatians 6:2)
5. Remember God’s promises (Hebrews 13:5; Romans 8:28; John 14:1-3)
6. Keep your heart and mind on God, not on your troubles. Glance at your troubles, but keep your gaze upon the Lord (Philippians 4:6-7)
7. Keep your hope fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2)
8. Consider your troubles as a lesson of discipline from the Lord (Hebrews 12:3-10)
9. Draw strength from God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
10. Realize that nothing can separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39)

Bro. Denny concluded by saying this: “If God is who He claims He is in this Book (the Bible), why should I be discouraged. If Jesus is my Savior, who died for my sin, was buried and raised again and is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God right now, and promises me one of these days He’s coming back, why should I be discouraged?”

These written notes hardly do justice to the spirit and passion in which Bro. Denny preached. There is simply no way to describe the love he exuded for His Savior, nor the confidence he placed in God’s sovereignty. But if you’ll allow the Lord to speak the truth of these verses over you, claiming His promises and trusting in His goodness and grace, I believe the Holy Spirit will encourage your heart in depths no preacher ever could.

I believe God was greatly glorified in the life and death of Bro. Denny Steed, who walked by faith, not by sight. We grieve with his family and church, but rejoice that he is at home with the Lord, receiving as his reward the “crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:8).

Monday, October 1, 2007

Kingdom-Come Praying

I don’t generally put too much confidence in surveys, but I tend to agree with most studies which show how little time Christians really spend in prayer. How is it that we have time for all the things we really want to do, but spend so little time on our knees? We spend hour upon hour watching television each week, surfing the internet, reading the newspaper and tending our gardens or whatever other hobbies we like to do. There’s nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves, but if they keep us from doing something more essential, such as praying, then we’re wasting time and opportunities God has given us.

Even a church can be so preoccupied with too many programs and activities. Some of these might have been prompted through God’s initiative and movement among His people. Others may just keep us busy, and distracted from the greater need for prayer.

When we do pray, either in our personal “prayer closet” or “where two or three are gathered” in Jesus’ name, I suspect we also ask for far too little, and we often ask for the wrong things. Our prayers can be so self-centered, without even intending them to be. We pray for things according to our will, how we think they should be done. Our corporate prayers are often dominated with requests for the sick (a good thing), yet we ask so little of Him to bring His kingdom (a greater thing).

Believe me when I say that I don’t spend near the amount of time in prayer that I should, either. Nor do I set the standard in Kingdom-come praying. I’ve read the accounts of great faithful men of the past who arose two hours before dawn each day and sought the Lord in fervent prayer. E.M. Bounds wrote a classic book called Power Through Prayer, in which he describes the powerful prayer lives of many godly preachers. One example:

John Welch, the holy and wonderful Scotch preacher, thought the day ill if he did not spend eight or ten hours in prayer. He kept a plaid that he might wrap himself when he arose to pray at night. His wife would complain when she found him lying on the ground weeping. He would reply: “O woman, I have the souls of three thousand to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them!”

Such biographies leave me hungry for that fellowship with the Father, and I long to feast that fully at the table.

O God, fill me with such a heart of love for You, and such compassion for others. Make my consuming passion be for your glory. Whatever the cost. Whatever it takes. Make me a prayer warrior!