Introduction: What has beaten more politicians, defeated more ball teams, lost more wars, and closed more churches than anything else? Discouragement. The word “Discouragement” is the word “courage” with a “dis” in front of it, which means the opposite of—not. When you discourage someone you take away their courage or confidence. Discouragement happens when we get into a slump; and it can happen even in church work and Christian work and in the Christian life. Some time ago, I collected some quotations about it:
- Discouragement is the occupational hazard of the Christian ministry–John Stott
- Could we but see the smallest fruit, we could rejoice midst the privation and toils which we bear; but as it is, our hands do often hang down–Missionary Mary Moffat
- If I should write of the heavy burden of a godly preacher, which he must carry and endure, as I know from my own experience, I would scare every man from the office of preaching--Martin Luther
- Sometimes I am quite dejected when I see the impenetrability of the heart of those with us. They hear us preach on the Lord’s Day, but we are forced to witness their disregard to God all through the week–William Carey
- Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of failure and sin oppressed me--J. Hudson Taylor
- Discouragement…creeps over my heart and makes me go with heaviness to my work…. It is dreadfully weakening–Charles H. Spurgeon
- In addition to the immense troubles by which I am so sorely consumed, there is almost no day on which some new pain or anxiety does not come. The wisest servants of God sometimes weaken in the middle of the course, especially when the road is rough and obstructed and the way more painful than expected. How much more, then, should we ask God that he never withdraw the aid of his power among the various conflicts that harass us, but rather that he instill us continually with new strength in proportion to the violence of our conflicts—John Calvin.
1. When We’re Discouraged… (Malachi 3:13-15). Notice how the people felt: It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out His requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? Evildoers prosper.
2. Here’s What To Do (Malachi 3:16 -4:6) – What is Malachi’s answer to discouragement?
- We should fear God (verse 16). This is one of the great 3:16s of the Bible, and it begins: Then those who feared the Lord…. There are over 300 times in the Bible when Scripture refers to fearing God. There are two ways of fearing God. The first is the kind of fear that should be and will be experienced by unbelievers. The Bible says that our God is a consuming fire, and that it’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But for those of us who know Jesus Christ, we’re to fear God too—not in the sense of terror and dread of judgment—but in the sense of awesome respect. Here’s a sampling in the book of Psalms of the promises set aside for those who fear God, who approach Him with awesome reverence. See Psalm 25:12-13; Psalm 33:18-19; Psalm 34:9; Psalm 103:11, 13, 17; Psalm 115:12-13; Psalm 128:1-4
- We should talk to each other about the Lord (3:16). Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning the Lord and honored his name. When our children were young, sometimes one of them would say something funny or cute or cleaver. I’d race right to my journal and write it down before I forgot it. According to Malachi 3:16, that’s what the Lord does. When we say something that delights Him, He writes it down. So here you have people saying, “It’s futile to serve the Lord.” But God’s people got together and the remembered how God had parted the Red Sea, and what David had written in Psalm 23, and what Isaiah had said about mounting up on wings like eagles. And they encouraged one another with Scripture.
- We should move our focus from the present to the future (3:17 – 4:5). Fittingly, the book of Malachi (and thus the Old Testament itself) concludes with a reassurance about the coming of the Messiah. It’s referred to with these words: “On the day when I act….” When He acts there will be a clear-cut difference between the righteous and the wicked. The righteous will be God’s treasured possession, His children. The wicked will face the furnace of God’s justice. Verse 2 says: “But to those who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.” This is a wonderful picture of Jesus Christ. Notice that the Old Testament ends with a reference to both Moses and Elijah – and those are the two men who appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. The reference to Elijah may have double fulfillment. It referred to John the Baptist at our Lord’s first coming (Luke 1:11-17). The last prophecy of the Old Testament was fulfilled by John the Baptist in the Gospels, but perhaps will be filled literally if Elijah is one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11. Christians are future-oriented. We may not have a lot of visible encouragement today, but we have all the prophetic encouragement the Bible has to offer.
Conclusion: Let me end with two more quotes about discouragement. The great missionary J. O. Fraser said: All discouragement is of the devil. Discouragement is to be resisted just like sin. And the eloquent preacher of yesteryear, T. DeWitt Talmage, said: “There may be long seasons of darkness (in ministry)–the chariot wheels of God’s Gospel may seem to drag heavily, but here is the promise and yonder is the throne; and when omniscience has lost its eyesight, and omnipotence falls back impotent, and Jehovah is driven from His throne, then the Church of Jesus Christ can afford to be despondent, but never until then.[viii]
[i] Quoted in Kevin A. Miller, Secrets of Staying Power (Waco: Word Books, 1988), p. 9.
[ii] Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), p. 145.
[iii] Martin Luther, The Table Talk of Martin Luther (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1952), p. 245.
[iv] Mary Drewery, William Carey: A Biography (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), p. 57.
[v] Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), p. 182.
[vi] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Messages of Hope and Faith (Cleveland, Ohio: Publish House of the Evangelical Association, n.d.).
[vii] These quotations are found in William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 26-27.
[viii] John Rusk: The Authentic Life of T. DeWitt Talmage (L. G. Stahl, 1902), pp. 370-371.