Monday, February 22, 2010

"The Sin of Being A Discourager"

The home on the range seldom hears a discouraging word, at least that's what the song says. Have you ever wondered why? Because pioneering life is difficult enough; but, we are not pioneers--at least we are not of the the wagon-train variety. Yet, having not lived before, we are still pioneers either wandering from or following the one who gave us life and a destination, the author and captain of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian needs be reminded that life is exactly as He promised: abundant with enough hardship that our anticipation and hope grows with each passing day for His return and our deliverance from the presence of sin. So, how do we pass the time as we relate to one another?

Anyone who has participated in "The Love Dare" knows what the first challenge is: "say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything." This challenge is directed at just one person--"your spouse." What about the family of God? Is it possible to go through one entire day and say nothing negative to the brethren at all? Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "so I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you." (2 Corinthians 2:1). How quickly we should run out of words! Pain hurts and the last thing Paul wanted to do was face discouragement with brethren.

J.R. Miller's book "A Life of Character" (1906) contains the chapter with the above-mentioned title. Here Miller does not discuss optimism nor pessimism (these words are not even found in scripture); rather, he helps to clarify the contrast:

"There are some people who always look at the dark side. They find all the shadows in life, and persist in walking in them. They make darkness for others wherever they may go—never brightness. These people do a great deal of harm in the world. They make all of life harder for those they influence. They make sorrow harder to bear, because they exaggerate it, and because they blot out all the stars of hope and comfort which God has set to shine in this world's night. They make burdens appear heavier because, by their discouraging philosophy, they leave the heart beneath the burden less strong and brave to endure. They make life's battles harder because by their ominous forebodings, they paralyze the arm that wields the sword. The whole effect of the life of these people—is to discourage others; to find unpleasant things and point them out; to discover dangers and tell about them; to look for difficulties and obstacles and proclaim them."

Do you remember Mrs. Snow? She is a character in the classic story, "Pollyanna." Think for a moment what her name implies: blanketing whiteness; thick, peaceful silence, stillness. When Pollyanna meets Mrs. Snow, she is hardly anything her name implies--she is gloomy, forboding, always planning her funeral from under the blanket of her self-made "sick bed," and determined to make life miserable for her daughter and anyone else she meets. Pollyanna is not phased; rather, through the course of the story, she brings in light and hope.

Encouragement is not about assuming a Pollyanna attitude, making a "glad game" out of every instance; rather, encouragement is about showing love. This is not about flying about with fairy dust and the power of positive thinking. Jesus, who wept in the Garden of Gethsemane, was not in hopeless dispair amidst sleeping friends (how uplifting); rather, He was on His way to the greatest expression of love that could ever be shown. This is good news to a world who builds monuments to the champions of the blues and dispair!

Without love, words don't matter. If love does not accompany words, we are no different than pagans (1 Cor. 13:1). Without love, what you know does not matter (1 Cor. 13:2) because love is comprehensive and strengthens knowledge. Without love, what you do does not matter (1 Cor. 13:3). Either do it all, or give it all up. Buying love is prostitution.

Love demands suffering long (patience), which is always found in the context of relationships, not circumstances. Here's a way to test your patience (1 Cor. 13:4): how do you treat others, especially when you have the advantage? Who is "below" you; and if anyone is there, why are they "below" you, when they should be above? This reflects on yet another aspect of love: kindness. Have you stopped being jealous, envious yet? How does bragging and arrogance communicate how much you believe God?

Love has manners, respect (1 Cor 13:5); that is, love does not start without itself (where you start determines where you go). I received an e-mail once from a woman who claimed to be The Holy Spirit and demanded my worship of her. I asked her how she came to this realization, for her testimony, and she wrote me back very upset that I would even ask. I asked her how she felt she was doing living up to the role of the Holy Spirit as described by our Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel of John (chapters 14 and 16)? She wrote me back with such venom and hatred that her failure was perfectly obvious. I encouraged her to repent and embrace the love of Christ. She responded by accusing me of harassment (she wrote to me). Love is not provoked, or easily angered--how is bad temper the work of the Holy Spirit?

Love and discourgement are not compatible, for love is always upward-looking (1 Cor. 13:6). Love hates sin and rejoices in truth! Don't miss this: love actually believes that truth exists and can be apprehended! Love is also outward-looking (1 Cor. 13:7) and does not quit. Love is not an emotion, but a decision to press on!

The great magician Harry Houdini collected photographs of tombstones of the people he admired and considered them to be badges of his success. He also collected many of personal items of the dead as well, including an electric chair (much to Mrs. Weiss's chagrin. She moved it to the basement only to have it returned to its' place in the living room by Houdini himself--twice). Houdini did this was because he looked up to those who had died. He felt that those who had gone before him had literally prepared the way for him (so to speak); and, because they were in a position they would not suffer his contention as a rival. Consider: the badge of our good news is a cross and an empty tomb, left vacant our Lord Jesus Christ who: living, loved; dying saved; buried carried our sins; rising, justified and one day is coming--Oh Glorious Day!

How will you be a prophet of gloom, or a herald of hope today?
The sin of being a discourager is the sin of lovenessness.

Life is tough; but, God is good!

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