Encouragement and discouragement

Dear friends and fellow-workers,

Our lives and ministries are often combinations of encouragements and discouragements, joys and frustrations, pleasures and pains, successes and failures, sanctification and sin, health and sickness, abundance and want, joys and suffering, support and opposition This may be the case in our personal or family life; in our own ministry; in the immediate context of our ministry; or in the broader context of our ministry.

Peter Adam | October 2018 |

Negotiating all this requires wisdom, patience, and hope: it requires godly contentment and godly discontentment. I often think of Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer,

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

But when I use it I re-word it,

Loving heavenly Father, please grant me faith, hope love and wisdom:
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

For serenity may be an outcome of faith, hope, love and wisdom, but is not a pre-condition!

We need to learn to welcome God’s less-welcome gifts, such as discouragements, frustrations, suffering, sickness, and opposition.

Here are some prayers to pray:

Loving heavenly Father,

  •  Please help me to receive all your good gifts with gratitude; hold them with an open hand; and at all time to love, trust, and depend on you the giver, and not on your gifts.
  •  Give me patience in accepting the necessary difficulties, frustrations and pains of life and ministry, and to offer my acceptance of them and my suffering to you as a sacrifice of faith.
  •  Strengthen my trust and confidence in you as the sovereign God, saviour ruler, and judge of this world, and my trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ as the sovereign saviour, ruler and judge of his church.
  •  Give me godly contentment in what I must endure, and godly discontentment with what needs to be changed.
  •  Help me to work for change in my own life, in my own ministry, and the contexts of ministry in which I work with faith, love, hope, patience, and endurance. Help me to work with others, and to pray that you would make our prayers and our labour effective in your sovereign power.
  • Cover my mistakes and sins in ministry by the blood of Christ, and accept my life and ministry through Christ our saviour.
  •  May your name be hallowed, your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Come, Lord Jesus.

And remember:

God is such a good house-keeper that nothing is wasted in his economy: no prayer, no sacrifice, no gift, no godliness, no good work, no godly desire, no good example, no gospel ministry, no love, kindness, generosity, care, love, service, exhortation, rebuke, encouragement… God uses them all for his glory, and for his good purposes.

We do not see many results in this life. We do not see the answers to most of our prayers; we do not the good effects of our lives and ministries; we do not know most of the good works or ministries that we do, because God does them through us and we are unconscious of them.

We cannot evaluate our lives and ministries, and now is not the time to do this. Jesus will do it when he returns. He is the only one who is able to do it, and he will do it at that time, and not before!

Hear these words of assurance:

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.

Hebrews 12:5-7]

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies … In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness … And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:22-28

 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness … For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:3-7

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it … If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

I Corinthians 3:10-15

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance …  your afflictions and your poverty … I know where you live … To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne …

Revelation 2 and 3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1 Peter 1:3-7

With warmest good wishes for your own lives and ministries,