Rick Warren: Fighting Discouragement
If I’m going to fulfill the purpose for which I was made, then I must resist discouragement. Galatians says: “Let us not get tired of doing what is right …” Do you ever get tired of doing what’s right? Sure you do. Because it’s easier to do the wrong thing than the right thing.
When you’re discouraged, you’re ineffective. God cannot use discouraged people, because discouraged people are the opposite of people of faith. And God uses people who have faith. When I am discouraged, I’m saying, “It can’t be done.” That’s the exact opposite of saying, “I know God can do it because he’s said …”
I have a few questions for you. How do you handle failure? When things don’t go your way, when plans don’t happen the way you want them, do you start getting grumpy? Do you get frustrated? Do you start complaining? Do you have a pity party? Do you finish what you start? How would you rate yourself on persistence?
The Bible says you need to resist discouragement. Don’t give in without a fight. Nothing worthwhile ever happens without endurance and energy. When a stone sculptor is trying to sculpt a masterpiece, do you think the first time he hits the chisel with the hammer everything’s going to fall off and it will be a beautiful sculpture? No. He has to keep hitting it and hitting it, chipping away. And that’s the way life is. Nothing really worthwhile ever comes easy in life. You keep hitting it and going after it – and little by little your life becomes a masterpiece.
The fact is, great people are really just ordinary people with an extraordinary amount of determination. Great people don’t know how to quit.
I’m sure many of you are discouraged. Some of you are discouraged over your children. Their lives are not going well. Some of you are discouraged about your marriage. It’s not at all what you thought it was going to be. You feel deflated and disappointed. Some of you are discouraged about your ministry. Or about your finances, or your health, or the economy, or an unanswered prayer.
I want to say something to you. It may sound mean, but it isn’t. It’s the truth. I say this in love. If you’re discouraged, that’s your choice. You have chosen to be discouraged. Discouragement is always a choice. It comes from thinking discouraging thoughts – and you can change your thoughts any time. You have a choice of what you’re going to focus on: either your purpose or your problems, God’s power or your weakness, Christ or your circumstances. It’s your choice.
Great people fight discouragement. Here’s a tip to help: When you get discouraged, ignore it. Just say to yourself, “I don’t have time to be discouraged right now. I’m too busy fulfilling my life mission.” That doesn’t mean you’re a Pollyanna and pretend that everything’s great. Life is a mixture of good and bad. You can be realistic, but you also need to be optimistic because you are a Christian. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And “Lo, I am with you always,” God says. He will help you, and he will strengthen you. Faith starts with optimism.
Some of you have been praying for something specific and you haven’t yet gotten the answer. In Habbakuk 2:3 God says, “These things I plan [for your life] won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient. They will not be overdue a single day.” God’s timing is perfect. Our church claimed this verse from Habbakuk for 13 years. For 13 years we had no building of our own, and the church kept getting bigger and bigger. We’d say, “Everybody else has a building. How come we don’t have a building?” The reason was that God wanted to put us on 79 acres of land. He had a bigger plan. The piece of property we now own wasn’t even available when we started Saddleback. There weren’t even roads leading to it. God had a plan and slowly, steadily, surely the vision was being fulfilled.
The same is true in your life. God’s delay is not a denial. Just because you haven’t had the answer or the miracle yet, that doesn’t mean God isn’t going to do it eventually. It simply means not yet! Maturity is knowing the difference between, “No,” and “Not yet,” between a delay and a denial. God says, “Don’t become discouraged. Resist discouragement. Because there are going to be delays in your life.”
You’re going to be tested in your patience by God. The really good news is you’re not just going to be tested once, you’re going to be tested thousands and thousands of times. Because anybody can be patient once. And anybody can be patient twice. And anybody can be patient three times. So what God’s going to do is test you over and over and over. Why? So he’ll know how patient you are? No. So you’ll know.
God tests you, not for him to find out what’s inside of you but for you to find out what’s inside of you. He tests you so you’ll know your level of commitment, and he tests you so that you can know his faithfulness. His purpose is to teach you.
Some of you are going through some difficult times right now and you feel like dropping out of the race. You’re discouraged because the situation seems unmanageable. Unreasonable. Unfair. It may seem unbearable. Inside you’re basically saying, “God, I can’t take it any more. I just can’t take it any more!” But you can. You can take it some more because God is with you. He’ll enable you. Remember, you are never a failure until you quit, because quitting means you won’t make it to the finish line.
Resist discouragement! Finish the race God has set before you.