Archive for December, 2014
Discouragement is one of the enemy’s most effective tools against the people of God. How many small group leaders begin with great dreams of seeing spiritual growth in their group members only to become discouraged and quit? How many pastors assume leadership in a new church only to run afoul of a power structure, become discouraged, and lose heart?
How many men and women enter the world of business with big goals and high expectations but end up experiencing discouragement? How many people enter marriage in love with one another and soon become discouraged with each other and marriage itself?
Let God Encourage You
Writers in the Psalms knew discouragement well. They also knew God was faithful to provide encouragement. Consider Psalm 42:1-2, 6 as it says, “As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar” Have you ever been that hungry for God while feeling detached from Him? You are in good company! Chase after God when you face discouragement.
God Gives You Hope
But the psalmist didn’t stop there. He expressed great hope in God’s encouragement. “The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night–a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8). Then he asks and answers his own questions: “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).1, 2
Philip Nation writes, “We can learn to be thankful even for the difficulties of life because even those difficulties remind us of God’s presence.”3 Even the best known of Psalms, the 23rd, reminds us of God’s presence in the valley of the shadow of death.
Ways God Encourages Us
Encouragement from God can come in many forms. Sometimes it is a timely verse of Scripture during our quiet time. Sometimes it is the overwhelming sense of His presence while we are in prayer. At other times it is a word from a friend spoken at the right time. At yet other times it is a refreshing spirit of worship. God is not bound in His ability to encourage us, nor stingy in His willingness to do so.
When Discouragement Overwhelmed Me
There have been several times when discouragement has overwhelmed me. I could account several times through the years when I believed with a deep conviction that God wanted us to do something in our church. Yet, it did not happen. Discouragement overwhelmed me.
There have been times when laypeople or various members of our staff team have left our fellowship. It has been especially discouraging when it was not done in the highest manner biblically and spiritually. In some of those moments, discouragement overwhelmed me.
There have also been moments when I thought God was going to do something with me. Yet, it was not His plan. Discouragement overwhelmed me. These have been the moments I have rebounded from the quickest because I have a consuming theological belief in the sovereignty of God for my life.
God is Always Faithful, Abounding in Grace
Through each of these personal moments of discouragement, God has always been faithful to me. He has lifted up my life with an encouragement and confidence in Him that far surpasses any level of encouragement.
I leave you with this confidence today because of God’s faithfulness and grace in my life:
“Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.”4
And all of God’s people said…. Amen!
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. FloydSenior Pastor, Cross Church General Editor, Bible Studies for Life President, Southern Baptist Convention
1– All scripture, Holman Christian Standard Version.
2– “Depressed” in this context refers to discouragement, not deep or clinical depression. Clinical depression has roots not yet fully known. I believe God can work through the medical community in cases like these.
3– Bible Studies for Life, Storm Shelter, Philip Nation
4-Brennan Manning, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/brennanman531767.html
Under deep conviction by the Holy Spirit that I must do something as a Christian, a pastor, and as the current President of the Southern Baptist Convention, this past Wednesday, I conducted a conference call with four of our SBC African American pastors and two Anglo pastors. We talked openly and honestly about the growing racial tension in our nation.
The conversation we had on this conference call led to this article. When I shared with these men my desire to write on this subject, they immediately joined in and said, “Let us help, sign our names, and enlist a few others to come alongside of speaking to the issues of racism and injustice.” Various representatives of ethnicities, who have signed below, are joining us in releasing this article to the pastors, churches, leaders, and laypeople of our Southern Baptist Convention.
We are grieved that racism and injustice still abounds in our nation in 2014. All human beings are created by God and in His image. The dignity of each individual needs to be recognized and appreciated by each of us and by all of the 50,000 churches and congregations that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention.
Southern Baptists have always been a prophetic voice crying out against matters such as the evil of abortion, the persecution of Christians around the world, the tragedy of human trafficking, or the sexual sins from adultery to homosexuality. The time is now for us to rise up together and cry out against the racism that still exists in our nation and our churches, and the subsequent injustices.
All racism and injustice is sin. All ethnicities are capable of committing the sin of racism. Pastors, churches, leaders, and laypeople of the Southern Baptist Convention, the time is now for us to repent personally and collectively of all racism and injustice. Silence is not the answer and passivity is not our prescription for healing.
The Wounds Run Deep
The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” With heavy hearts, we recognize the deep pain and hurt that has come to many of our African American brothers and sisters. The recent events in America have reawakened many of their greatest fears. Their wounds from the past run deep.
Without relationships and conversations, we will never understand one another. Because you hurt, we hurt with you today. We are a part of the same body of Christ, His church, which is to be a picture of the multi-faceted wisdom of God.
Because we believe the Bible, there is only one race – the human race. As Bible-believing Christians, we affirm that 1) All people are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), 2) Jesus died for all people (1 John 2:2), and 3) God loves all people (John 3:16).
We are not black Christians. We are not white Christians. We are not Latino Christians. We are not Asian Christians. We are not Native American Christians. We are Christians! We are followers of Jesus Christ.
The Church Must Rise
In this desperate hour in our nation when the racial tension is building rapidly, the church of Jesus Christ must rise. We are not black churches. We are not white churches. We are not Latino churches. We are not Asian churches. We are not Native American churches. We are the church of Jesus Christ. We are members of the same body.
The Bible says in Ephesians 3:10, “This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens.” Just as a jewel can be multi-colored, exhibiting beauty beyond words, the church is one powerful body when all races and ethnicities fellowship and worship together.
Racism and injustice must end, letting grace begin to unite us together in the bond of peace. Schisms and divisions will end when the gospel of grace begins to rule in our hearts again.
We read these words in Ephesians 2:14-15, “For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.” Since the gospel of grace can tear down the wall of enmity and hate between Jews and Gentiles, this same gospel of grace can still tear down the walls of racism and injustice today.
Since the gospel of grace removes the wall between all ethnicities and races, His death on the cross has made us one in Jesus Christ. It is time for the walls of racism and injustice to come down!
Let our Southern Baptist churches rise up as one, filled with the beauty of multiple races and ethnicities, shining forth the grace of God to a world that needs the testimony and hope of the church today.
The church must rise with both grace and love. We need to repent of our racism and injustice and return to the first commandment of loving our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says in Matthew 22:37-38, “He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment.” The church must fall in love with Jesus again.
When we love Jesus, we will love all people. We will see all people the way Jesus sees all people. We need to stop talking about “my people” and start loving all people. When we return to the first commandment, we will experience a revival living out the second commandment as recorded in Matthew 22:39, “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” The church will love all people from all walks of life and even various colors of skin when we fall in love with Jesus again.
When grace is experienced personally and collectively, love will be demonstrated loudly and consistently.
We Are a Jesus Convention and a Kingdom People
In our Baptist Faith and Message 2000, we find in Article XV what we believe about The Christian and Social Order. In this article, we are reminded that, “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism.” Today we restate we oppose all racism and injustice in America and around the world.
We replace these evils with the beauty of grace and love as His people and His church. Yes, one body of Christ. We are not a black convention. We are not a white convention. We are not a Latino Convention. We are not an Asian convention. We are not a Native American convention. We are a Jesus convention.
Jesus is the Lord of our churches. We are a Kingdom people. Therefore, before our broken and hopeless world, may the walls of racism and injustice fall, and our churches rise with grace, love, and hope.
Praying John 17:21, “May they all be one as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.”