Today on Fellowship in the Word, Pastor Bill Gebhardt challenges you to become a fully functioning follower of Jesus Christ. Comparison will make you discouraged. You compare your life with somebody else's life.
And we always compare up, by the way. You compare your job with somebody else's job. You compare your house, your home with somebody else's home. You compare your marriage with somebody else's marriage. You compare your clothes with somebody else's clothes.
You get discouraged. Thank you for joining us today on this edition of Fellowship in the Word with Pastor Bill Gebhardt. Fellowship in the Word is the radio ministry of Fellowship Bible Church located in Metairie, Louisiana.
Let's join Pastor Bill Gebhardt now as once again he shows us how God's Word meets our world. Author Stephen Pyle writes of a heartwarming story of a situation that happened in London in 1978. In 1978, the firemen of the city of London had gone on strike, and so their duties were performed by the British military. And so on January the 14th of that year, an elderly woman in South London called the military and told them that her cat needed to be rescued out of the top of a tree. And so the military came in with tremendous military precision, were able to rescue her cat. And this elderly woman was so happy with what they had done that she asked them to come in for tea, and they did. And they had tea with her and talked to her, and as they were leaving then they embraced each other on the front porch of her house and exchanged greetings and thanks.
And then they got into their truck and pulled down the driveway and ran over the cat and killed it. These don't often turn out the way you think they will. The fire of high expectation is often extinguished by cold splashes of reality in our lives. Few of us, if you stop and think about it for a moment, imagine when you were teenagers, and for you teenagers this shouldn't be real hard. But few of us, do you have the job you always imagined you would have when you were a teenager? Do you have the marriage that you dreamed about when you were a teenager? Do you have the body?
Life can be cruel. See, we live in a culture that through the variety of media that we have, constantly parades in front of us what a perfect job should look like. What perfect marriages look like. What perfect bodies look like.
What perfect health is. And the process of seeing that leaves so many of us discouraged. We become discouraged. I mean, the whole idea that we talk about having a midlife crisis just tells me simply that happens to a lot of people by midlife, they become extremely discouraged. So what I want to say this morning is you don't have to live in discouragement.
There's a solution to discouragement. And as always, it's found in the Word of God. Would you open your Bibles to Haggai chapter 2, the prophet Haggai near the end of the Old Testament? Haggai was a post-exilic prophet, which meant after Judah was taken to the 70-year captivity in Babylon, they were brought back into the land by Zerubbabel. And then God began to send prophets their way and he sent two prophets their way. One Haggai, the other Zechariah. Zechariah, whose book is right next to Haggai, a sort of head in the clouds kind of prophet, mystical, writing about the future, using all kinds of imagery. Haggai, nuts and bolts, straightforward, nothing mystical about what Haggai says. He is the James of the Old Testament.
Everything to him is straightforward. His ministry was very short-lived from September to December in one year. That's when he gave his prophecies.
And you don't hear anything about him before or anything after. God wanted to say something specific to his people and he wanted this man to do it. Haggai, in the chapter 1, told the people that they had to reconsider to think about the way they were living their life.
They had taken the cedars of Lebanon and paneled their houses with it. They had not started construction for about 17 years on the temple of God. God was not pleased with that. And so he told them that they need to think about this, what they're doing, and he confronted them with Haggai. And he said, look, after you get done thinking about it, go up to the mountains and get busy and build the temple. Now, Haggai had something happen to him that I don't know any pastor who would ever have that happen to them, rarely. But Haggai spoke to a whole community of people in Jerusalem and he spoke once to them. And if you read that, maybe this is the key.
He only spoke for about three minutes. Maybe that's what it takes. But when he was done, it says in verse 12, and the people showed reverence for the Lord. They totally repented and they got to work on the temple. That's amazing. I mean, that's absolutely amazing that you could speak one time to God's people and then just say, OK, you're right.
I'm going to do it that way. But he did. But it didn't last.
As it so rarely does. The people would change their hearts from being self-centered to God-centered. But we're going to see something begins to happen in chapter two, first three verses. On the 21st of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, Speak now to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying, Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? How do you see it now?
Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? These first three chapters, we see the reason for their first three verses. We see the reason for their discouragement. And it's found in verse three. Haggai says to someone comes by who was left among you who saw the temple in its former glory, and you'd have to be elderly. You can just imagine that somebody walked by the temple as they were rebuilding an elderly person, probably very slowly, looked over and said, What's that? That's nothing.
When I was a child, I got to see Solomon's temple. And it was magnificent. And this, this is nothing. That's what he goes on to say. How do you see it now?
Does it not seem to you like nothing? And then the key word, the last word in comparison. You see, if you had seen Solomon's temple in First Kings six and seven, there's descriptions of it. Walls paneled with all that cedar paneling, overlaid with pure gold. Doors made out of olive wood, hand-carved cherubim on all the doors. Polished stones everywhere, brass pillars, golden lampstands, magnificent.
Beautiful, beautiful temple. And they weren't building that. They didn't have the resources. And so they were building what they could.
This would be like comparing the Taj Mahal with a Morgan utility shed. It's just not the same. And so they began to get discouraged. Their whole view was it just is nothing. We're wasting our time.
It's just not what it ought to be. You see, that word is the word that is really at the heart of discouragement. That last word in that verse, comparison. Comparison will make you discouraged. You compare your life with somebody else's life.
And we always compare up, by the way. You compare your job with somebody else's job. You compare your house, your home with somebody else's home. You compare your marriage with somebody else's marriage. You compare your clothes with somebody else's clothes. You get discouraged.
You compare your children with somebody else's children. And you're both discouraged. Yeah, once you begin to compare, right at the heart of it is discouragement. We keep thinking that in life we should be more, we should do more, we should have more. And we always compare ourselves with somebody else and we begin to get discouraged. And God says that's just not the way to live.
And it's exactly the way we live. People compare churches. And it's kind of an interesting thought.
And it's interesting. We have people who come from other churches. And they always compare our church to the church it came from. And if it's a first love church, it doesn't compare. Then we have people from our church that move somewhere else.
And then they send back the email and they're in a tremendous city. Dallas, Texas, Houston, Texas, Birmingham, churches everywhere. Well, we've been looking, but we can't find a church that compares. You never compare. Comparison is what you do when you want to become discouraged.
The reason for their discouragement was comparison. But notice the timing of their discouragement. Who was left among you says, but now take courage, he says, declares the Lord, take courage also, the son of Joshua, the son of Jehoshadak, the high priest and all you people in the land, take courage, declares the Lord and work. What's interesting about this is that if you look at the timing of this before he begins to give them the prophecy of what they need to do, he knows that there's a problem.
They tell him to do something about it. But the timing of it is kind of interesting. Notice the verse 15 of Chapter one says, on the twenty fourth day of the sixth month of the second year, Darius the king. Twenty fourth day of the sixth month. Notice the chapter two, verse one on the twenty first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came to Haggai.
It's less than four weeks. Less than four weeks after they repented, got themselves really going, they became discouraged and they became discouraged by comparison. You see, the timing of their discouragement was right after spiritual victory.
That often happens. At the time you get discouraged is right after you've had a spiritual highlight in your life. You see, I think that's because that's when Satan takes interest in you. He sees that you're moving in the right direction. He sees that you could be used to the glory of Jesus Christ. And so all he has to do is put you in the right set of circumstances and you become discouraged. And so that's what he followed it up with.
And he used comparison as the way. Sometimes when you change the priorities of your life, it's followed by a moment or a period of discouragement. Sometimes when you recommit to your marriage and try to put your marriage back together is followed by a period of discouragement. Sometimes you rededicate yourself to the disciplines of the Christian life, getting into the word of God, getting in prayer, being around other believers, worshipping God, followed by a period of discouragement.
I really believe that that's all part of the strategy. The idea is that that's a time to drag you back down. I can remember myself that the one period of my life I can remember really being discouraged with the end of the second year at Dallas Seminary. And at the end of the second year, I was discouraged enough to really contemplate not finishing, just moving back to western Pennsylvania. I was really I had.
Well, let's say this. I had had enough of Hebrew and Hebrew had had enough of me. OK, I mean, it was just that way.
And by the way, when you're sitting beside in class Old Testament majors, you know, people who really for recreational reading read Hebrew and Eucharitic. You just feel like a buffoon in that class. But I can just remember thinking, I just think it's time to pack it up. I just think it's time.
I've just had so I'm so tired of it. I remember talking to Paul Meyer, the Christian psychiatrist and professor, one of my classes, and his whole view was that's good. That means you're right on the right track because the enemy is real and discouragement is being hung out in front of you. See if you'll quit. Don't quit. And I remember making it through. And I could see that that was a point in life where Satan, after two years, finally figured he might be doing something constructive.
Who knows? So let's try to take him out before he does. That happens all the time. I get couples in my office, especially in marriage counseling, going through a lot of difficulties. And then they get where there's a breakthrough where they recommit and they really want to try to put together their marriage.
And they've had a lot of a lot of issues and a lot of pain being distributed back and forth. Inevitably, I know that that first Sunday after the counseling, I'll see them. They'll be in the lobby. They'll be actually holding hands. You know, they're sort of giddy happy at that time.
But I know within a month or so, they'll be back. And they'll say they're always discouraged. Something came up. Something happened. The other shoe fell.
Something big. And it's always part of the strategy to destroy your commitment. It's always part of the strategy to make you discouraged. And so the timing of discouragement is so often after you've had spiritual breakthroughs in your life. So if you're in a spiritual high point in your life, be leery at that particular time. Satan would love nothing more than to stop your enthusiasm for Jesus Christ. So the reason for discouragement is comparison and the timing for the discouragement is right after a spiritual high.
And the solution was right there as I read it in verse four. The solution to discouragement. Take courage.
He says there's a rubable. Take courage, Joshua. And then to the people, he says, take courage.
Isn't that amazing? What is the solution to discourage? Drop the dish. Just drop the dish. And you're left with courage.
That's what he's telling them. Take courage. That Hebrew word. I do remember some Hebrew, by the way, that Hebrew word. Means inner tenacity. It means persevere. Means endure.
That's what it says. Be tenacious. Take courage. See, that's right at the heart of it. The solution to courage, to discouragement is courage. But the element of what courage is, is courage is doing things.
Persevering through things, enduring things, even when you don't feel like it. Hold your place and turn with me to Hebrews chapter 10. Hebrews chapter 10.
Verse 32. The writer of Hebrews says, But remember the former days when after being enlightened. Notice, after they had the spiritual high, after being enlightened, you endured. A great conflict of sufferings. Partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly become insurers with those who were so treated.
For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have yourselves a better possession and an abiding one. Discouragement was right there for the Hebrew believers. They actually had their property being seized by Hebrew Jewish authorities. And because they were believers in Jesus Christ, they were losing their way of living. Easy to be discouraged. He says to them, though, after you enlighten you endured. Verse 35. Therefore, he says, Do not throw away your confidence which has great reward, for you have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. In other words, you need to endure you endurance.
You need the courage of endurance. In Chapter 11, then of Hebrews, the whole chapter, which we call the Hall of Fame of faith, is really the Hall of Fame of endurance. And as he writes on and on, he tells you what they endured and the beatings they took. Some of them were killed.
Some lived in caves. He goes on and on and on. But notice over in Chapter 12, then at the end of that Hall of Fame, the examples he had of faith. He says, Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin is so easily entangles us and let us run with. Endurance.
The race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him did what? Endured. That's kind of what courage does, by the way, and that's what faith does. Faith, F-A-I-T-H, forsaking all. I trust him. Faith. Forsaking all.
I trust him. I'll endure whatever it takes that comes out to look like courage. But it's endurance. But we need it. We need it in our lives not to be discouraged, but to have courage. You need it for everything.
You need it by the end. Betty Davis said old age isn't for cowards. You know, she's right. You know, we read this and we see the Hall of Fame of faith and we keep thinking, these are the people that had it so wonderful. Because these are the champions of the Christian faith. They were stoned. They were sawn in two. They were tempted. They were put to death with a sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted and ill treated. There's the champions of our faith. Of what they endured.
See, that's what Christianity is a little bit like. It's sort of like the ad that was in the paper, Lost Dog. Three legs. Blind and left eye. Missing right ear. Tail broken. Accidentally neutered.
Answers to the name of Lucky. That's what Christians are. Life is wounded. It's painful.
What makes it so exceptional is not the fact that we don't have it ever happened to us. It's that we can endure and have courage as we go through it. Now back to Haggai. Take courage, take courage, take courage.
And then he declares the Lord and work. There it is. Be courageous.
Drop the diss. Now get back to work. That's what he says. Just going back to what you were doing, which is pretty mundane compared to what Solomon had done. Pretty much normal everyday life.
He said that's what it takes. Courage is absolutely operating in the normal world in the midst of fear. Fear of anything. Comparison, failure, whatever it is. But courage operates.
That's what it does. Mark Twain said courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of it. You know, that's really what it takes. And so even though they were discouraged by comparison, feeling that they weren't accomplishing anything, God's answer to it was just get busy. Take courage.
Persevere indoor and start building again. That's the solution to discouragement. Now, the question is, though, how do you do that? I mean, that's the question we know and want to do is one thing, but how to do it.
That's something else. That's what he gives us in the rest of the chapter. He's going to say the Haggai is going to say three things to us that when you're discouraged, you drop the disc, get busy. And you can do it by first one, by remembering what God is doing. You see at the end of verse four, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts.
How can I take courage? He says, well, because I'm with you, says the Lord of hosts. But think of the things that bother you. What are you comparing that makes you discouraged in your life?
So what is it that causes you to despair or fear in your life? And he says, don't worry about that. Get busy, for I am with you. It's interesting to me that this idea that I am with you is just simply trying to tell you, look, you don't face this alone. And I think that's so often what we end up doing when we get despairing or discouraged.
We actually believe we're facing something alone, but you never are. He says, I am with you. He enlightens me. He strengthens me. That's what he does. There are no limitations to what God can do if God's working in your life.
No limitations. I mean, that's an amazing thing. Paul said to the Ephesians in Ephesians Chapter one that he prayed that he wished that they would know the power, the power that they had at their disposal. And then he goes on and explains that that power is resurrection power. He said, that's one of my prayers for you, would understand the power that you have. Paul understood it in the Philippians.
He said, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. Do you understand what you really have a resource if you know Jesus Christ in the spirit of God indwells you? Do you understand the resources that you have? The resources to give you contentment in circumstances that are difficult, give you contentment in the midst of ill health.
They give you the perseverance to work out the problems in the situations you are in at work or in your marriage. Do you have any idea what's at your disposal? Paul says, the only way I can tell you what's at your disposal is you have a sense of the kind of power that you have is the same kind of power that raised Christ in the dead. Think about that. That what you think about when something discourages you? You and God are a majority.
I mean, that's really what it takes. You and God are a majority. No matter how fearful it may seem, how discouraged you are, you can persevere through that. I remember reading the account once of Rosa Parks. We sat on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama, really changed the United States forever and for the good. And when she sat on that bus and she was not in a real assertive person, she said, I knew I was not sitting there alone. I knew I sat there with the Lord and I was willing to take whatever came my way because I knew I could because he was with me.
That's courage. I am with you, says the Lord. You've been listening to Pastor Bill Gebhardt on the Radio Ministry of Fellowship in the Word. If you ever miss one of our broadcasts, or maybe you would just like to listen to the message one more time, remember that you can go to a great website called OnePlace.com. That's OnePlace.com and you can listen to Fellowship in the Word online.
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That's fbcnola.org. At our website you will find hundreds of Pastor Bill's sermons. You can browse through our sermon archives to find the sermon series you are looking for, or you can search by title. Once you find the message you are looking for, you can listen online, or if you prefer, you can download the sermon and listen at your own convenience. And remember, you can do all of this absolutely free of charge. Once again, our website is fbcnola.org. For Pastor Bill Gebhardt, I'm Jason Gebhardt, thanking you for listening to Fellowship in the Word.
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