Don’t Loose Heart

Introduction

The last several years we have been slammed with bad news.  The ravages of the bad economy have been tough on individuals and families.    Students have school debt, and are not getting jobs.  Budgets have been stretched to the limit.   Home equity for many is upside down.  The average family has lost 40% of it’s net worth in the last few years.  One article I read talked about the fact that kids are showing signs of intense stress in the homes of the unemployed.

Story of a troubled family

A CNN article mentioned a couple named Ron and Robin, who live in Boulder City Nevada.  He is a 48 year old construction superintendent.  After being laid off he put his name in the union list for jobs.  There were over 1,400 people ahead of him on the union list.

Robin describes some of their life-style choices they are having to make.

“We get $1,500 a month from the unemployment checks, and the money is not enough to cover expenses. Our mortgage is $1,110 a month.
We’ve cut back to just the basics, even with groceries. We’ve applied for free lunches for my daughter so at least she can have a hot meal at school. We don’t go into town unless we absolutely have to.
We’ve been racking our brains to come up with extra money. I’ve been working on a children’s e-book, and I’d like to start selling it online soon. Ron and I might start selling motorcycle parts, and I’ve already sold some things on eBay. It’s little opportunities, but we’re trying.”
Coping with life has made many people weary.

In Galatians 6:9,10 Paul challenges the Christians in Galatia not to let weariness in life cause them to loose perspective.

(Don’t become Weary in Doing Good

Galatians 6:9-10)
9  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

The weariness of life can sometimes make us feel like we want to give up, to throw in the towel, to admit defeat.  But this verse encourages patience as we watch for God at work.  God is at work even when we don’t see the outward evidence.

This morning, I thought we could look at some of the things which can make us weary.  I won’t leave us there, but then look at some antidotes to weariness.

I.  Weariness Producers

Even without the economy for believers in Christ, being in a sinful world is weighty.  Paul had an interesting way to describe the tension we live under.

Creation Groans

Romans 8:22-27
22  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
We live in a broken world.   Jesus’s death established the solution.  Through his death not only will we as believers in Jesus Christ go to heaven, but the whole broken world we live in now will be completely transformed.  The world will stop groaning.
But in the mean time we groan.  We have to be around sin, we get tempted by sin.  In this broken world we experience things like drought, unemployment, and sickness.
Just after the these verses about groaning we read the following in verse 26.
26  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
When we do not know the answer, God is standing with us in our groaning.  He groans with us and for us.  The Holy Spirit of God is praying for you.  Pretty amazing.
What are some of the things that make us weary?  what make us groan?

So much to do

For many weariness comes from just having sooo much to do.  Someone figured out, that in the average home there is 50 hours of work.   The food needs to be bought, the kids cared for, the yard done, the house cleaned, the doctor’s and dentist appointments taken care of.  So, the husband and wife get home from work wanting to relax, and realize there is 25 hours each of additional work ahead of them for the week.

Another kind of weariness is social

We have trouble with neighbors
Drama at Work
Arguing in the home
unrealistic expectations at work

These things together can  drain our energy.

There are physical stressors also.

Some of you are struggling with different kinds of physical problems.  Sickness can really drain us of even spiritual and emotional vitality.  Some of you have long hours in caring for people in your family or helping out dear friends.

Then there are Spiritual stressors.

We struggle with false guilt put on us by Satan

In Revelation 12:10 Satan is called the “accuser of the brothers”

Sometimes we have trouble understanding if what we are thinking is coming from God’ conviction of sin or from Satan’s accusation.
Satan says you are bad, but God says you are forgiven.
Satan gives you general guilty feeling, but God points to some sin and says, “I love you, but you have to change this.”
It is crazy, there have been times that I have heard these accusations from my Christian brothers and sisters.  I have sometimes listened to Satan about my brothers and sisters.
When we hear those accusations we need to stand against Satan and tell him you will not believe those things and tell him to go away.
Ministry can be a spiritual stressor.

Ministry is a joy, but there are times when being involved in ministry can be tiring.

A third spiritual stressor can be persecution
Persecution

Another kind of Spiritual stress is persecution from unbelievers.  This can be subtle, or it can be out and out hostility.

I Peter 4:1-5  says
1  Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2  As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3  For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4  They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5  But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Romans 1
32  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

One of the students I worked with told me that his old drinking buddy was so mad at him for receiving Christ he would not even talk to him.  He did not allow my friend to change in the way they related to each other.  Just by our existence sometimes we can cause guilt in the heart of an unbelieving friend.

All these pressures can bring weariness.
Conclusion of Part 1
Don’t be Surprised at Suffering
I Peter 4:12-19                                                                                                                                  12  Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed…. 16  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name…..19  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
You may be saying, “Thanks a lot Bob, I felt great when I got up this morning, now I am really bummed.”  As Christians we do not have to hide from pain, but we can face it head on with our trust in a great and powerful God.
Let’s look at how we can keep perspective when troubles are screaming at us.

II. Antidotes to Discouragement

In the midst of our pain we can watch for God at work.  There are so many ways He strengthens us.

There is an amazing story of God’s provision for one of God’s prophets in the OT.  Elijah was told by God to tell a wicked king that there was going to be no rain in Israel.

A.  Watch for God’ Provision

Elijah at the Brooke
I Kings 17:1-16
1  Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
2  Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3  “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4  You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.”
5  So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6  The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
It did affect Elijah’s lifestyle, but his needs were met.  Imagine the chaos happening in the nation with no water.  But in the middle of these problems God was meeting Elijah’s needs.

But then something happened, the brook dried up.   So there is Elijah, relying on the brook, and then it dried up.

I Kings 17:7-16
7  Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8  Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9  “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” 10  So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11  As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
12  “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
13  Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14  For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’”
15  She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16  For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
God protected His prophet and used him to meet the needs of a needy widow and child.

We can not only look for God’s provision, but we can watch for His hope.

B.  Watch for God’s Hope

Romans 5:1-5
1  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4  perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
A friend, Dave, struggled in his faith for years.  But as he was having body parts taken off because of diabetes he said to me, I trust God more now than I ever have.
Hope is not based on what we see.  Hope is an aspect of faith.  We rest in the character of God.  As we trust him, things can get worse,  yet hope can increase.
Dad, years ago.
The ultimate hope is the hope of heaven.  As I have met with many old people in rest homes they have expressed that they do not know how people can peacefully grow old without the hope of heaven.  In the light of eternity with God our troubles are light and they are short lived.  Hope makes the difference
C.  Watch for God’s Love
None of the stressors we have looked at this morning can separate us from God’s love for us.
Romans 8:35-39
35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36  As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As pastor Gary shared with us last week, God loves us as much as he loves Jesus
John 17:23
I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
No person or circumstance can take away God’s love.  God’s love for us in rock solid.  It will not fail.  That can bring us peace as we go through tough times.

D.  Watch for God’s refreshment
We need to get breaks from our difficulties.  I have been underemployed for nine months.  I cannot carry that tension with me all the time.  Take some small escapes from pressure.  Little breaks can help restore our energy and hope.

Listen to music
Get out into nature
Do something unselfish for someone else.
Go for a walk
Put your pain to prayer
Read a psalm
Fish with a friend
Have coffee with a friend
Share your pain with someone

E.  Watch for God’s Empowerment

In Acts 4 Peter and John had been arrested by the authorities for preaching the gospel.  They had been beaten and told not to talk about Jesus.  Listen to the prayer they prayed.

Acts 4:23-31
23  On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24  When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25  You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26  The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.
27  Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28  They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29  Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31  After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
When we are at the end of our solutions, God can empower us to keep ministering, keep loving, keep encouraging.  The apostles were bold in their witness to neighbors and friends.  They looked forward to being in heaven with people with whom they shared the gospel.

Conclusion

We started by looking at the verses

Galatians 6:9-10
9  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

When I was studying for this sermon I came across a group of verses I want to leave with you to think about.  We know things are tough right now.  We may be watching the wind up to Christ’s return, or we may be going through hard times that every generation has faced.  But these verses should be taken seriously as we live our lives

I Peter 4:7-11   (summarizes our responsibility)
7  The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.   9  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.    11  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
As, together, we look to God for strength, we will not only have less stress, but will live with great joy and anticipation as we see God work in our lives and the lives of our neighbors.
Lets listen to this song, and then I will close in prayer.

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Parenting Decision #10 Keep your Kid’s Life Interesting

Children today are in such an amazing world of the internet, and entertainment, large screen TVs and amazing graphics in video games.  How in the world do we as parents help them balance all of that and not make Christ seem boring.  It is tough.

Though all these things are fun and can fill time, if that is all there is to life, life quickly becomes boring and the kids become discontent.  These things can lead to kids being couch potatoes and can move them toward depression and a poor self image.

On the other hand, being around real people, doing active things with their bodies, and having family connections, are all things that produce different emotions than the stuff.

It is good to do things that challenge kids minds, when they are small.  Learning toys, table games, good books, family adventures are all things that are fun.

One thing we did with our kids was getting in the car, and flipping a coin to see whether we turn or go straight, and right or left.  Go three streets before the next set of coin tosses.  The nice thing is that it is unpredictable, and you see things along the way to talk about.  My car had a habit of turning in at ice cream shops along the way.

Their interests such as Sports, music, art, or dance, can be a great thing in which to involve kids.  Active kids just seem to end up with better friends.  Don’t do so much that your kids are stressed out.  Balance is the key.

Learning to be well rounded, knowing skills like tennis, bowling, racquetball, swimming and other things can help kids get a better self image.

How do we expand their world?  Get involved in helping people once in a while.  Habitat for Humanity, international mission trips, or volunteer work at a senior citizens center are all things that can help your kids world expand.

Take the time to expand the experiences of your kids.

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Parenting Decision #9 Admit to Your Children When You Make a Mistake as a Parent

Both of our girls were thankful that we admitted we were wrong at times.  I don’t know why it is so hard for us, as parents, to admit when we make a mistake–when we sin.  I think part of it is a natural human instinct not to admit our failures.  People fight a whole lifetime against admitting to God that they are sinners, and asking His forgiveness.

Another reason, I think, that parents do not admit they are wrong, is because they feel that it will weaken their authority.   But, if we do not admit to our kids that we were wrong, when we mess up, we come off as hypocrites.  We ask them to admit when they are wrong, so why do we think we are exempt.  I think it gives us more authority as parents if we humbly admit when we are wrong.

By admitting we are wrong, we place ourselves under the same authority they need to be under– God’s.  We can be a model for them of humble obedience to our loving heavenly Father.

We have made many mistakes as parents and house parents.  We can only hope that our heart for God, and for them, showed through enough for us not to turn them off to God.  That is when we have to rest in God’s grace and kindness to us, and our kids forgiveness for when we failed to be Christlike.

A skill needed for parents is listening.  It is easy to talk, it is hard to listen–especially if the child is talking about how you hurt them.  Listening does not mean you have to agree with the child, but they have to feel that you a least gave them a good, and real, hearing, and thought about what they said.

Don’t get me wrong.  You do not have to listen to every complaint.  For example.  “Could you please clean your room”.  Response, “Can we talk about that?”.  No, the child needs to clean their room.  But if after a hard week the child complains, maybe it is negotiable as to when it should be done.  Perhaps at times you just say.  “Let’s forget it for this week”.

Admitting we are wrong at times does not take away our right as parents to control the home and to make sure we are obeyed.  We just need to keep aware of how our own actions affect the child, and the family.

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Parenting Decision #8: Intensional Spiritual Training

If you take 5-10 minutes each day for 18 years teaching your kids about the Bible, that is between 600-1000 hours of teaching.  What an amazing amount of input to the heart of a child.

When our kids were little we sat on their beds and talked.  We listened about their day, and we read something to them.  Often we read a children’s story book about the Bible.  Our favorite when the girls were little was The Bible in Pictures Little Eyes, By Taylor.  The picture of Jesus on the cross created a great discussion with one of our girls.  It led to her Receiving Christ very early.

When the girls were in grade school we read the “Chronicles of Narnia” each evening.  Teaching did not have to be rigid.  The best learning happens when the child is enjoying the conversation.  Each chapter ended in suspense.  We wanted to find out what would happen.

We also had simple prayer together.  For a while, when the girls were in preschool and early elementary, we kept a book of their prayers.  When God answered prayer we wrote it down.  It was fun to see God listen to a little heart.

As the girls got older we would pray with them at night, and we pretty much discussed things that were on their heart.  Teaching became more of “as we live our life” kind of teaching, rather than formal.  We tried to get good books into their lives.  We helped them begin to read the Word and pray on their own.  Our desire was to get them more directly in contact with God over time. There are awesome teen Bibles that have cool stories as insets.

As our girls were teens, we found that they did not always want to talk.  That was fine.  We waited until they wanted to talk.  Often, that wore us out, because the time they wanted to talk was late at night.  But those were such valuable discussions, they were worth the next day’s bleary eyes.

I think the two most wearing times raising kids are when they are preschoolers, and again when they are teens, but for different reasons.

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Parenting Decision #7: Choose Your Battles

This decision is related to our not worrying about our reputation.  Especially when our kids are teens we need to choose our battles carefully.  Another way of saying this is, ”major on the majors”.

There are actions or attitudes that our kids choose as they are discovering themselves.  Some of these minor things will bug us to death, as parents.  But, in the big scope of things they are minor.  Other decisions our kids make, however, can be life or death decisions, or mistakes that can really damage their future.  Those are the things we should really look after.

One of the things I learned from my parents was explaining why certain actions were not good.  They taught me well, so that I understood the ramifications of decisions.  Teens, notoriously, do not think things through.  My dad helped me by asking questions, to help me think things through.  He also told me ways in which he messed up as a kid.

Bev and I learned that the frontal lobe of the brain does not fully develop until the early 20’s.  This means our kids are functioning without a full ability to reason.  Teens are more children with big bodies, than they are young adults.  Though they will not appreciate it all the time, we have to provide some of the reasoning for them.

There are times when a child refuses to listen.  At those times the law of “natural consequences” takes over.  We worked forever talking to a daughter about good eating manners.  Her manners did not change until someone at school commented on how terrible her manners were.  Hmmm.

It is helpful for parents to talk with each other or with a trusted friend about things that trouble us  about our kids.  Many times we can get so tied to things emotionally that we can blow things out of proportion as parents.  It is sometimes difficult to step back and see the big picture.

We can also “major on the majors” by helping our kids get a picture of what they want for their future area of study or vocation.  We can help our pre-teens have a picture of what they want in healthy relationships in adulthood.  For instance, they can make good relational decisions now so they can have a great marriage in the future.

People with vision produce great things.  Kids with vision can learn to set aside attitudes or actions which will not contribute to that vision.  As parents we can gently keep their vision before them.

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Parenting Decision #6: Don’t Worry about Your Reputation

Decision #6  Don’t Worry about Your Reputation

I was a pastor during part of the time my girls were teens.  Bev and I felt the responsibility to be models of behavior in the church.  We had to be so careful not to burden our children with our responsibility.  I think they felt pressure as a matter of course, but we tried to minimize that pressure.

My girls were teens during the 80’s when big baggy clothes were the rage.  From my perspective the fashions did not look good.  We let the girls go to church dressed like their peers, and tried not to let it bother us.  We usually succeeded.  If I remember correctly, skirt length was a topic of discussion at times :-).

Other parents later said that they watched us and appreciated our letting our kids be “normal” kids.

Josh McDowell used to make the statement that “We are responsible to our kids, not for our kids.”  That has a lot of wisdom.  We are responsible to show our kids consistency, integrity, work ethic, etc.  We are responsible to love, train, believe in, and help our kids.
We are not responsible for the choices they make.

Some parents will get on their kids, because their kids actions reflect poorly on them.  We parents just can’t go there.  Kids need to do what is right for their own sake, not for the sake of our reputation.

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Parenting Decision #5: Stand against Defiance

It amazes me to watch a two year old look up into the face of a parent and say “no”.  That out and out defiance is something that has to be broken early.  We were determined when our kids were small, that in a case of defiance, we were going to win.  This was not to be mean, but was necessary for our kids ability to function in life.

We started to give simple limits to our kids early to establish our authority.  When one of our kids was 7-8 months old we were living in a dorm room for a couple of months.  We just had one area, the top of the refrigerator she could not touch.  Everything else was OK.  I can still remember when she touched it, we said “no”.  Then she touched it again looking at us.  We slapped her little hand.  She thought about it, and cried.  Then she looked at us, began to reach out to touch the frig, and then she pulled her hand back.  We had established authority.  We did not have the “terrible twos”, and I think it was because we established authority early.

One teen we knew really struggled with defiance.  When she was small her will was never broken.  That made her extremely willful as a teen.  When she realized her will was never broken as a child, that she had to choose not to be willful.  It was great watching her slowly change, but it was difficult.  Once she saw this, she did a great job of moving away from defiance, toward obedience to her parents.

You help your child if you break their will when they are small.

The balance: we must break a child’s will, without breaking their spirit.

We break their spirit when we say things like, “He is just a bad child” or “You are a bad child”.  Bev and I always tried to separate, in our mind, the child from their behavior.  Our attitude was, in essence, “We love you, even though we do not like your behavior”.

We also break their spirit when we blow up in anger and lose control ourselves.  That makes our anger the issue rather than the child’s action.

I am not going to get into specific forms of discipline, but suffice it to say, with each child figure out a way to stop defiance.  The earlier you do this as a parent the easier your life will be as they get older.

Be careful, especially when kids are small, that you leave room for them to be children.  Kids get so engrossed in playing that they forget a rule.  We found that, before assuming it was defiance, we needed to remind the child that they are not supposed to do such and such.  Then if they did it again it, soon after we reminded them, there is a pretty good chance that it was defiance.  We punish for defiance, not for being a child.

One book we read said that if a little child is not doing something you ask them to do, you may need to take their hand and “help them obey”.  We found that just by taking their hand and helping them move toward obedience they were able to begin to do what we asked.  We would say something like, “let me help you obey”, walk with them to the place where they needed to go.

Remember, the earlier you establish authority, the better life will be for everyone.

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