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Fighting Depression

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
May 23, 2022 2:00 am

Fighting Depression

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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May 23, 2022 2:00 am

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I have your Bibles with you tonight. Turn with me to 1 Kings chapter 19. And we're going to be looking at verses 4 through 8 this evening. But he himself, on a day's journey into the wilderness, came and sat down under a broom tree, and he asked that he might die, saying, It's enough now, Lord.

Take away my life, for I am no better than my father's. And he lay down, and he slept under the broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you. And he arose and ate and drank.

And he went in the strength of that food 40 days, 40 nights, to horrib the mount of God. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, I understand that I'm dealing with a very difficult subject tonight, subject, Lord, on depression. I know that in our world today, there are many that suffer with this malady, and it brings great hurt, sometimes almost to hell on earth. I want to ask Heavenly Father that we might look at some of the things that you have to say about depression in your Word, for here we see the prophet Elijah that has gone through a deep, deep depression himself.

One I would imagine that he had never experienced before. Father, I know years ago I went through a depression myself, and I had never done this before, and I used to have a misunderstanding of what it was all about and would almost want to tell people that were telling me that they were going through a depression that it's not that big a deal. Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get going. And I realized at that point in time that sometimes it's not that easy. And I would ask Heavenly Father that you might help us to see that drugs are not our answer, that psychology is not the answer, but that Christ is the answer to depression. Heavenly Father, help us that we might understand that you have the power to take it away. You took Elijah's depression away from him. You gave him peace. You gave him joy when he felt like his whole life was falling apart. May that be true of every person here that suffers with depression.

May you take that depression, do away with it, and fill them with joy instead. Guide and direct us through this passage, Lord. May Jesus be honored and exalted by what happens here tonight. It's in your precious Holy Name we pray. Amen.

You may be seated. I have many spiritual heroes. One that is very close to the top of my list is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He's often called the Prince of Preachers.

I think that's a fitting nickname for him. He was a man who had a photographic mind. He could do things that most people can't even think about doing. He had the ability to think about eight things at one time. He could be working on or preaching a sermon and just preaching from a very short outline, and then as he's preaching that sermon in the back of his mind, he's thinking about the next sermon he's going to preach and figuring out an outline for that. I think they call that multitasking. I can't even relate to that.

I can't chew bubble gum and walk at the same time, and he could do this. It was amazing. He was the most prolific preacher in church history. His schedule was amazing. He read two to three books a week. He taught at the pastor's college. He preached three to ten times a week. He wrote periodicals and books and pamphlets. He was the administrator of an orphanage that the church supported. He did all these things.

There are more printed sermons, books, and pamphlets that were written by Charles Spurgeon than by any other preacher or theologian to ever live. He died at age 57. He would go into a pulpit on a Sunday morning. There'd be 5,000 people there, and he would preach his heart out. Sunday night, he'd come back.

There were 5,000 people again, and he would preach again, and the people in that congregation would walk out of there rejoicing, praising God for his sovereignty, praising God for his grace and for his mercy, and it was an unbelievable time. And sometimes as he came back home on Sunday night, he would get in bed to go to sleep. He would fall under such a deep depression that he couldn't get out of bed for the next two weeks.

That happened to him several times, and when it happened, he would get terribly upset with himself, for he would say to himself, this is depression, and depression is nothing but a lack of faith, and I'm sending against God to do it. Charles Spurgeon suffered with gout. Now, people and doctors and scientists back then did not know what we know now, but we know now that gout can cause a chemical reaction to take place in the body that can lead to depression, and that could be a lot of his problem.

But Spurgeon's worst time of depression came on September the 19th, 1856, and this time it had absolutely nothing to do with gout. Because their church building in London, England was not big enough, they decided that they would rent out the Surrey Garden Music Hall, and it was a huge building, and they rented this out, and on one particular Sunday night, it was absolutely filled to the brim. Every seat was full, all the aisles were filled with people, people were standing up to hear him. Spurgeon had his prayer, and after his prayer, somebody for a joke just cried out, fire! And when they did, all of a sudden there was a panic, a horrible, terrible panic, and people began to push and to shove, and it wasn't long before a stairwell broke and people fell from one story down to the next.

There were seven people who died. There were 28 people who were terribly hurt, and Spurgeon, the tender-hearted Spurgeon, never completely recovered from that. That emotional impact that it had on him for the rest of his life was extremely tough. Spurgeon said it was a black cloud over his head, and it made life a burden. The London newspapers put all the blame on Spurgeon. They said he was nothing but a callous megalomaniac, and all the reason that he wanted these huge crowds was so that it could stroke his ego. And their fiery darts of criticism tore into Spurgeon's heart and caused him to be deeply depressed.

Spurgeon had the same kind of questions, I think, that we would probably have. Lord, why? Why did you let this happen?

And Lord, why can't I get over this depression? Why? Why?

Why? I think Elijah had some of those same questions, and he was experiencing a lot of the pain that Spurgeon did. Now, I don't have all the answers to explain all the inner workings of of depression, but it seems to me that the greatest lessons that I have learned in my life have not so much been in those times of great revival or those times of spiritual and emotional highs. I think the times that I have learned most and maybe grown closer to God were times of trial and tribulation and some of the down times in my life. So it was in the life of the prophet Elijah. Elijah had just been used of God as perhaps no other person up to this time in history had ever been used, maybe Moses himself. Elijah was truly an instrument in God's hands. Through the ministry of Elijah, Baalism had been dealt a death blow in Israel. And Elijah had gone up on top of Mount Carmel, and there was a contest between God and Baal. And Elijah was used by God as his instrument to call down fire from heaven. Because of that, the people of Israel had come to realize that that God, Jehovah God, was truly God. And that Baal was a phony. He was a demonic being.

There was no reality to him. And it was a horrible, terrible thing until Israel finally saw that. And when they saw it, it was a glorious thing because they came to realize that God is majestic and that He's real, that He's sovereign, that He's powerful, and that they can trust Him. No one could deny that Elijah was God's man. No one could deny that the hand of God was on Elijah. We get into the 19th chapter of 1 Kings, we see the faith of Elijah has begun to falter. For when he's threatened by Jezebel, he runs for 80 miles, he goes to a wilderness right outside of Beersheba, and there he gets up under a juniper tree, and he prays, and he cries to God just to go ahead and take his life, says, I don't want to live anymore.

That was a deep depression. Now if God is a sovereign God, and He is, then the situation that we have here is not by accident. For the several days immediately preceding this, God has been using Elijah to teach the nation of Israel some of the greatest lessons that they would ever know. But now it's time for Elijah to learn some things. When Jezebel threw a tantrum and made a declaration that she was going to kill Elijah, God could have struck her down right there on the spot. That would have eased Elijah's tension, would have stopped the depression, he would have said, I'm fine, I'm okay. God didn't do that.

God could have spoken to Elijah's heart and said, Elijah, don't worry about a thing. Don't you know that I'm going to protect you? She's not going to be able to get to you. She can't do anything to you. I will protect you.

You don't have a thing in the world to worry about. God didn't do that. He allowed Elijah's faith to falter. He allowed Elijah to get intimidated. He allowed his prophet to run away from the problem.

Why? God was taking his boy to school, and Elijah learned more about the ways of God under the juniper tree and in a cave in the side of a mountain than he did the whole time he was up on Mount Carmel calling for God to send fire from heaven. Sometimes God speaks very clearly through a hospital bed, a funeral home, a financial collapse, or a personal tragedy.

What does that mean? Does that mean that we don't need the Word of God anymore because God speaks through all these things, these painful things? We don't need the Word of God anymore?

It doesn't mean that at all, because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. But God often uses trials, tribulations, and even tragedy and depression to open up the heart in order that we might understand what God's Word really says. 33rd chapter of Exodus is a great chapter.

I love that chapter. Moses is in the cleft of the rock. Moses is hungry for God. He's by himself. He's just crying out to the Lord, and he says, Lord, show me your way that I might know you.

Show me your glory. And the Lord just put Moses right there in the side of that mountain, and he came right past right by him, and Moses got to see a little bit of God's glory, more so than any man of Israel had ever seen before. And let me tell you, it did something to Moses.

He was never the same again. Moses found the key. He didn't seek an experience, and he didn't seek a gift, and he didn't seek a spiritual high. He sought God. He sought God. Lord, show me your way that I might know you.

Show me your glory. And God did. Folks, don't let extremism scare you into missing God's blessings. God doesn't want us to fry in fanaticism, nor does He want us to freeze in formalism, but we need to understand this. We need intimacy with God.

And how do we get that? We need to seek God's face, not His hand, but His face. We say, oh, but God is holy. He's righteous. He's an all-consuming fire. He's omnipotent.

He is totally sovereign. That's true. He's also Father, and He desires intimacy with us as His children. I think sometimes we don't think about that. I think sometimes we don't realize how much God wants us to experience not just what He says, not just what He does, but Him Himself. Intimacy with Him. I submit to you today that one of the reasons that God allowed Elijah to fail was to bring him into a deeper, more intimate fellowship with Him. If you're struggling with depression, God may do for you what He did for Elijah. He can use that depression to open up your heart that you might be more receptive to His will and to deepen His intimacy with you. Now, why was Elijah experiencing this horrible, debilitating depression?

Let me give you three quick reasons. Number one, it was unfulfilled expectations. Perhaps Elijah expected Ahab and Jezebel to experience revival themselves, and maybe he thought, ma'am, once they find out that Jehovah is truly God and that this Baal is nothing but a demonic god, that once they understand that, then they're going to come to the Lord.

They're going to help me bring revival to this nation, and that didn't happen. In fact, it was the exact opposite. They put a contract out on Elijah's life, and they were doing everything they could to fight against God. He had unfulfilled expectations.

Number two, it was an improper perspective. Elijah was looking with physical sight instead of spiritual sight. He was not looking at God anymore.

He was looking at Jezebel. Number three, Elijah was mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally worn out. Absolutely worn out. He was dead tired, and he was totally exhausted. Listen, Satan knows when you're at that point. He knows when you're totally wiped out. He knows when you're tired mentally.

He knows when you're tired spiritually, and he knows exactly when to attack. What did Moses do to make him so tired? He was up on the mountain calling down fire from God. This was a contest between the Lord God and the false gods of Baal, and he called down fire from heaven. But then after that was over, God commanded Elijah to slaughter the prophets of Baal. He killed 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of Asherah, and he did that evidently by himself. And then what did he do? We find out that he runs 80 miles all the way down to the wilderness of Beersheba. No wonder he's worn out.

Look what he has done. All right, point one, the cause of Elijah's depression. Look at verse four with him. First of all, what was the center of Elijah's problem? I think the center of Elijah's problem is spiritual pride. That's certainly not true for everybody that's going through a depression, but for Elijah it was huge. Verse four, but he himself on a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree, and he asked that he might die saying, it is enough.

Now, Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my father's. There was a problem in Elijah's heart. Elijah didn't see it.

Most of the people in Israel didn't see it, but God saw it. That problem was spiritual pride. Verse four, he says, look at me, I have made a mistake.

My faith faltered. I may as well die, get this over with, because this proves that I am a man just like everyone else. Well, that's exactly what it proved, and he was a man just like everybody else.

I think Elijah got a little cocky when he was up on that mountain. He said, man, look what I did. I prayed and God sent fire. I prayed and God sent the rain.

I'm something special. I prayed and God answered me. Philip Ryken was the pastor that succeeded James Montgomery Boyce at 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He left a little bit later on to go and be the president of Wheaton College, but he also wrote the First Kings part of the Reformed Expository commentary series and did a great job with it. I want you to listen to what he said about Elijah's Messiah complex. He said this, there's another reason for Elijah's depression.

Although there's a reason that most commentators have overlooked, it may be more important than all his other reasons put together. Elijah was suicidal because he needed a Savior. Imagine for a moment that the Bible went only up to First Kings 18. If we had only the first 500 pages of the Bible or so, which is about what Elijah had, what would we conclude about the prophet's identity? Where would we place Elijah in the history of redemption? It would be easy to guess that Elijah might be the promised servant, God's chosen prophet. God had promised to send a second Moses to the people of God.

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers and I will put my words in his mouth and he shall speak to them all that I command him. Elijah must have seemed like an excellent candidate to fulfill the promised role. He could shut up the rain in the heavens and bring manna to people without bread. He could raise the dead. He could pray down the glorious fire of God's presence.

He could turn the hearts of God's people back to their God. Could it be that Elijah was the prophet like Moses? Could it be that he was the Savior God promised who would save his people from their sins?

No. Elijah was not the prophet. He was not the Messiah who was sent to save his people from their sins. His depression amounted to an admission of his failure to be that Savior. It is enough now, Lord.

Take away my life. I'm no better than my fathers. When he referred to his fathers, Elijah was not speaking about his natural father and grandfather. Rather, he was referring to his spiritual fathers among the prophets of Israel. Elijah was no better than any of the rest of the prophets. Like every last one of them, he was a sinner. The reason Elijah was depressed about being no better than his fathers was that he knew that what the people of God needed more than anything else, what he himself needed was a prophet who was better than his fathers. This is what the people of God always need, a Savior who will not sin, a Savior who will never desert us or abandon his calling, a Savior who will not flinch in the face of death. But the depressing reality for Elijah was he was no better than his fathers.

He was no better than Moses or any of the other prophets. Like all the rest, he was a sinner in need of a Savior, and his suicidal depression was a desperate plea for the Savior that God had promised. You see that pride? Now, when we think of the big sins, we usually think of things like murder, theft, adultery, pedophilia, those things. But when God thinks of the big sin, he thinks of spiritual pride, spiritual pride. In Proverbs chapter 6, the Scripture says that there are six things that God hates, seven that are an abomination unto him, and the first thing on that list is pride. What is pride? Pride is the assumption that what you are and what you have is the result of your own goodness and your own ingenuity. Pride is a total misunderstanding of the grace of God.

Pride is a slap in God's face, where the creation tells the Creator, I made myself this way. When I first began to study the doctrines of grace, the electing decrees of God, the total depravity of man, I kind of balked at that. I didn't want to believe it, because I said, surely there was something about me that was a little bit different that made me come to want to know Christ. It had to be something down inside of me that gave me a desire to turn from my sin and to turn to Jesus.

There's something in my spirituality that did that, and what a shock it was to find out that I was spiritually dead, and I didn't have any ability of my own to even work up anything like that in my life, that the only reason I repented, the only reason that I trusted Christ, the only reason that I came to him in faith was because of the Holy Spirit's regeneration in my life, that he came sovereignly and did a work that brought conviction in my heart and that drew me to himself. I've talked to people who are financially wealthy and they look at themselves as kind of self-made men, and I know that they work hard and that's why they've made a lot of money. I also know that they make wise investments and they've made a lot of money, and that's good, but why did they do that? Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 18 says, For it is God who gives you the ability to make wealth.

The Scripture says it is God who gives you the ability to make wealth, and in the book of Haggai, it's very interesting, there's a verse there that says that your wealth is in the hand of the Lord like a handful of dust, and says God has the ability to just reach over and blow on it, and just like that, it's gone. Others have prided themselves on their physical beauty or their physique, so why is it that you have beautiful blue eyes? Why is it that you have this masculine physique? God made you that way.

That's why it is. You didn't do anything to get that. What about your mental capacity? I've been to college. I got my master's degree. I'm working on my PhD. I find it very easy to really express my wisdom to other people.

Oh, is that right? What is it about you that makes you love to study? Why is it that you're able to make A's and other people are just making C's?

Let me tell you what it is. It is God who gave you that capacity. God didn't just want Elijah's boldness. He didn't just want Elijah's ability to preach. He wanted Elijah's heart.

He wanted Elijah's heart, and he got it by breaking his pride. William McDonald said, we mistakenly think that all people are created equal and we tend to look down on those who don't fit our profile of what equal means. The truth is that not all are created equal. Some have greater intelligence than others. There are differences in physical attractiveness and in differing talents.

Some are born with serious impairments. If I am compassionate, I will make allowance for these differences. My heart will go out to those that others despise. I will not rape people as the world does, but will see them as precious, never-dying persons from the Son of God died. I will value them as God does.

That is a pride breaker. Dan Nicholas is in our accountability group, and it was seven or eight years ago we were in our group discussing depression. Dan had a sermon that was preached by Alistair Begg, who I have great respect for, and it was a sermon that he did on depression.

I took that sermon, I took notes from it, and I kept them, and I've had them for seven or eight years. I just wanted to go back and share with you some things that Alistair Begg said about depression I think are helpful. He said, how do you know if you're headed into a depression? Begg gave four things to look for. Number one, a dreadful problem with frequently wasting time. Number two, overworking for no apparent reason. Number three, allowing our work to pile up.

Number four, becoming fearful of very simple tasks. I think Begg is right, but I would add something to that, that once depression deepens, many people shy away from work and they desire to sleep or just do nothing. It's also interesting that after God allowed Elijah to rest, he put him right back to work. I'm not talking about work like workaholism where you're working for no particular reason, you're just doing it. I'm talking about godly work, work that would honor the Lord, work that would help your family. God put Elijah back to work, sent him to Horeb, and that was therapeutic for Elijah, had much healing power. Begg also listed four things that you should not do if you feel yourself sliding into depression, and I thought these were good as well.

Number one, while in depression, do not make a major decision that will affect you or your family. When I was in seminary, we were told never to resign your church on a Monday. Sundays is a big day for us as preachers.

It's a good day. It's a day that we look forward to, a day where we get to share the Word of God, and it's an exciting day. It's also a very draining day, and if that church service or that day where you were with God's people, if there were people who were critical, if there were situations where problems in the church started to rise, then you go home that evening, you go to sleep, you get up the next morning, and it's still all that's on your mind, and it weighs heavy on you, and you just get to the point you say, man, I'm just ready to throw up my hands and give up. My seminary professor said, my seminary professor said, don't do that. Don't resign your church on a Monday. Years ago, I heard Chuck Swindoll say that if you were doing well as a pastor and you're in a very healthy church, he said then you can count on about 13 percent of the people in that church would probably rather have somebody else's pastor than you, and I thought, wow, and he said don't let that 13 percent negate the good work that you're doing that the other 87 percent are happy with. I don't know where he got his his statistics from, but I thought that was pretty good advice. In other words, strive to please Jesus and quit worrying about pleasing people, because you're not always going to be able to please people, and sometimes you're never going to be able to please some people.

That's true. Number two, if you feel depressed, do not write important letters, and I would add texts or emails. When you're sliding into depression, your perspective gets out of line, and you start trying to figure out people's motives.

You start listening to people, you start reading between the lines and what they're saying and what they're thinking, and then you write them a letter or a text or an email or something, and you say something that's not just wrong but it might just be down and out weird, just strange. What would you say that for? Or it might be an actual attack on the person because you think they're thinking something that they hadn't thought at all. I can't tell you how many times I've had people come up to me after a church service, and there'll be a statement that I made in the sermon, and they'll say, why did you point me out like that?

And I'll say, what are you talking about? And they'll tell me about this, and I'll say, well, I had no idea that that was a sin in your life or a problem, and I said, if that's what I said and I had no idea because I'm not preaching just at you, and I had no idea about it, that you can rest assured that may have been the Holy Spirit convicting you and not me. Number three, do not judge your own personal spiritual life if you're slipping into depression. William Guernol's book, The Christian in Complete Armor, may be the best book on spiritual warfare outside the Bible that I've ever read, and just some great, great stuff.

I want you to listen to Guernol as he talks about fighting depression, which is indefinitely spiritual warfare. He says, while Satan is a master inquisitor, we know that not all our rebukes come from him. God's word clearly states that whom the Lord loves he chastens. How then can we discern the spiteful accusations of Satan from the loving reprimands of God in his spirit?

Try this test. If such rebukes contradict any prior work of the spirit in your soul, they are Satan's and not the Spirit's. Satan's purpose in emphasizing your sin is to try to unsaint you and persuade you that you're only a hypocrite. Ah, he says, Satan, now you've shown your true colors.

See that hard stain on your jacket? What other saint ever committed such a sin? Your whole life is a sham. God wants nothing to do with such a desperately wicked person as you, and with a single blow Satan dashes all in pieces. The whole mansion of grace which God has been building many years in your soul and all the special comforts the Holy Spirit has brought are blown down by one gust from his malicious mouth. He leaves your life a shambles and then tells you that it's your fault. Number four, if you're in depression, do not judge anyone else's spirituality. Same reason as number three, when we're slipping into depression, our perspective is skewed and we can unduly be critical and harsh to others. All right, my point too is a cure for evangelism, I mean for Elijah's depression. Verses 5 through 8 says this, and he lay down and he slept under a broom tree behold an angel touched him and said to him arise and eat and he looked and behold there was this at his head a cake baked on hot stones in a jar of water and he ate and drank and he lay down again and the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said arise and eat for the journey is too great for you and he arose and ate and drank and he went in the strength of the of food 40 days and 40 nights to horrib the mount of God this might sound too simplistic but it worked and it was God's it was God's method the first thing that God gave Elijah after Elijah was in this deep deep ugly dark depression was rest he he put Elijah to sleep it wasn't just a nap he took it was a long long deep sleep when Elijah finally woke up from that sleep there was an angel there the angel made a big meal for him he ate the big meal and then what did he do he went right back to sleep he slept another long long nap he woke up the angel was still there made another meal for him and uh and and ate that great meal and was nourished but Elijah needed rest he needed to physically mentally spiritually and emotionally recuperate and he woke up refreshed and God sent him to mount horrib he sent him back to work as I look at this here's the grace of God there's not one word of rebuke from God to Elijah at this time God knew that Elijah was going through depression hell Elijah at that time did not need criticism or chastisement he needed intimacy with God God rested him nourished him and then sent him right back to work now later on the Lord straightens him out on a few things Elijah had sinned during his time of depression he had just gotten mad with life he'd gotten mad at God praise an awful prayer Lord just go ahead and take my life I don't live anymore that was horrible God dealt with him about that but at this point in time God does not rebuke he just heals if you're slipping into depression and if you've just had enough then let me assure you this Jesus is more than enough he's more than enough Jesus said this coming to me all you that labored are heavy laden and I'll give you rest take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly of heart you will find rest into your souls remember Romans chapter 8 verse 1 there's therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus if you've had enough rest assured of this Jesus is more than enough let's pray heavenly father I thank you and praise you for the opportunity to preach tonight I pray father for those here that are struggling with depression that Lord you might do a work in their heart I pray father that you'd bring refreshing to their soul I pray father that you would help them to realize that intimacy with Christ is one of the the great ways the most important ways to fight depression Lord you would give them that intimacy that they might experience just a wonderful sweet presence of yours heavenly father we are now ready for another special time in the life of grace churches we have the privilege of baptizing a brother in Christ we pray heavenly father that you would be with Jerry as this baptism takes place today and this will be a meaningful experience for him and that Lord you would be glorified by it and through it and we ask this prayer in your holy and precious name amen
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-15 18:03:32 / 2023-04-15 18:16:44 / 13

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