Monday, November 30, 2009

THE CHRISTIAN AND DEPRESSION # 9

TEXT: Galatians 6:9 ; Lk 5:1-6
TITLE: “Growing Weary in the Work “
DATE PREACHED  : 29/11/2009

Here is another great cause for discouragement and depression among Christians : Working hard in God’s field and seeing very few and meager results for all our labour!
This problem may be more accentuated among those who are very committed in gospel labours , but it is by no means peculiar to those that work hard in the cause of Christ and His church. I think that this equally applies to many Christian parents who are determined to raise their children for the glory of God, and who grow at times weary, wondering whether they will ever see their children’s hearts firmly attached to Christ. I see it also in the lives of those Christian husbands or wives who live with a difficult man or woman , and who always praying and always seeking to live for the glory of Christ in that difficult marriage, may wonder how much longer they will be able to bear up under the strain. I trust then that this morning the Lord may encourage you with this word from Galatians 6:9.
This text does not only tell us concerning the reality of the discouragement that arises from maintaining a consistent Christian work and testimony , but it also contains an important encouragement !
Context :
As always , we must consider why and for what purpose we find this text here.

a. In the broader scheme of this letter:
The letter to the Galatians ( a region in  modern Turkey) was written by Paul in response to the news that the Galatian Christians were beginning to revert back to the law as their primary term of reference. Surely it must be very disheartening for any preacher of the gospel to hear that the people that had made such a promising start by trusting in Christ alone for their salvation , are now reverting back to the Jewish lifestyle with its emphasis on living by the law , rather than by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross.
Christ has set us free” , says Paul … “ stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery( Gal 5:1) . The Christian life cannot be lived by self effort , but only in dependence upon the power of Grace and Faith in Christ . One of the most famous verses in the Bible affirming this truth is found in Galatians 2:20 : “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live , but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God , who loved me and gave himself for me.”
The principle and power by which the Christian lives is by the indwelling Christ. When you are born again, the Holy Spirit brings Christ into the center of your life. He directs our hearts and minds to love, obey and serve Christ. The Christian lives by his attachment to Christ, and not to the law. Christ surpasses and completes the law.
Now, to return to my point - if you are a preacher and a pastor, and you have preached these things, and you have seen your people come to know the joy of freedom under Christ, then it is a very discouraging thing to see them revert to the bondage of slavery of the law, and the flesh and the world which leads them to live by fear (Rom 8:15) and not in the freedom of Christ. At such times it is very tempting for pastors to grow weary in doing good.

b. The narrower context of Galatians 6 :
In Gal 6:1 we are introduced to the very real issue of sinning Christians, and how those that are spiritual must restore them. Sin not only damages the life and testimony of the sinning Christian, but it drains the energy of the church and particularly the energy of her elders. And all these things make the pastor / elders grow very weary at times – to the point of wanting to give up.
We may  apply this problem not only to the spiritual leaders of the church - but to all who labour intensely to see Christ at the center of everything, whether in the church , our children, our marriages or at work.

So then, there is this particular danger that faces those that are very committed to Christ,  those who hare going in the right direction, but who are now at that place where they feel weary. They are as it were “shuffling along with drooping heads and hands and the whole spectacle and picture they present is the very antithesis of what the Christian is meant to be in this life and world .”
It is not so much that such people are “tired of the work , but tired in it“.

What counsel must we give to such ?
a. Don’ts :

1. Don’t give up by running away :  e.g. The Elijah syndrome ( 1 Kings 19) . In 1 Kings 18, Elijah fights a very courageous battle against the ungodly regime of Ahab and Jezebel and their 400 prophets of Baal. This singular prophet in the hands of an Almighty God defeats this evil syndicate; however much to our astonishment,  in the very next chapter (1 Ki.19) we see him fleeing in an instant when Jezebel threatens him (19:2) . How do we explain this ? Well , he capitulated to the “ Peter syndrome” ( see Matt 14:29-31) . Formerly he had his eyes firmly on God, but now after the battle is over, he has his eye on Jezebel, and as a result we read in 19:3 : “Then he was afraid , and he arose and ran for his life …”. He finds himself in the wilderness wishing for his death (19:4) . Clearly this great prophet is depressed . What accounts for this ?  
Two aspects may be considered :
(i) God allowed this to happen to ensure that He alone would retain the glory and not man .
(ii) We must remember that all men are dust. All of us are very frail . And on a human level we must confess that particularly after significant exertions of energy we re prone to experience ‘letdowns’ . So be aware of this ‘Elijah syndrome’ . When this happens , stay put . Don’t run away . Look to Jesus, even when all looks dark and bleak. Many pastors face the Elijah syndrome on Mondays, after they have expended themselves on Sundays. Mondays are the days when the temptation to quit is the greatest. A good friend once wrote to me and said : “Never resign on a Monday !” That is good advice . You will feel better by Wednesday, provided that you take your eyes of yourself and look where you ought to look : at Christ !

2. Don’t give up by simply resigning yourself to the situation ; don't become stoic about the situation. Don't just  “grin and bear it “ , and  so simply fall into the category of the “dutiful but joyless” Christian.

3. Don’t become dependent on artificial stimulants to counteract your weariness. Here we must not only mention the danger of alcohol and drugs or pain killer prescriptions. We must also mention the common sex addictions that seem to haunt our generation, and from which it appears, Christians are not excluded, and to which the internet greatly contributes.

4. Don’t try to change or substitute the gospel with fads. One of the greatest temptations for those who have become weary in gospel labours , is  to adopt new methods , new programs. Some churches live on this mentality and they work hard at keeping people entertained and easy. It is of course true that new activity stirs new interest. But we must remember that we will never convince the world that Jesus Christ is LORD by pandering to the world – by making Jesus attractive to the world . We are not here to announce to everyone that Jesus loves them and has a special plan for their life! No! We must let the world know that there is bad news - all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God  ( Rom 3:21) ! And we must tell the world that Christ is the soon coming King who will judge the living and the dead according to their acceptance / rejection of Him who is the way , truth and life. The world must know that Christ has given the world an ultimatum to turn to Him and be saved. Only when people cry out “What must we do to be saved ?” , can we give them the Good news that Jesus saves broken sinners! We have no right to entertain sinners ; we must preach the full gospel !
There is great pressure on a weary preacher to change this message  . Don’t!

b. Do’s
1. Do examine yourself : get to the source of your weariness.
If you do not know what makes you depressed and discouraged you will not be able to treat the cause . Some Diagnostic Questions to ask may be :
• Are you working too hard ? Not enough balance in your life between work ,rest and exercise ?
• Are you doing this work in your own strength ? Are you depending on Christ , and are you persevering by prayer ?
• What are your real motives for doing this work ? Are you really called to do this work ? This is a strange question , but it is an important one . Many people may be wearing themselves out in the ministry , or in the exercise of their ‘ perceived ‘ rather than ‘actual ‘ spiritual gifts. The reality is that no one can do God’s work without God’s blessing or power . You will burn out , if you are not equipped or called by God .

2. Do persevere! ( Do not grow weary in doing good ! ) Don’t give up on  the first principles of the Christian life. Continue to do what is right according to Scripture,  even if everyone around you disagrees . Continue to let your life be shaped by biblical principles of doing ministry, child raising , marriage principles etc .

Positively speaking … a promise !
“… for in due season we will reap , if we do not give up …”
Whenever you feel tired and weary , take a step back and ask yourself this question : Where is all this perseverance leading me to ? Then tell yourself that it is leading you to eternity. So, keep eternity in view!
See this life as a preparation , the foyer of eternity.
Remember also that the greatest joy you are able to experience here is but a faint glimmer of the unspeakable joy that you will experience when you see Jesus face to face .
For this reason the Bible encourages you to keep on sowing and planting : In due season you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. God knows how to encourage us with little harvests now – but remember the ultimate harvest is in heaven . That is why Jesus says : “Store up for yourselves riches in heaven .”
So, keep eternity in view .
When you understand that, then you will have understood and applied Galatians 6 :9. Amen !

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