discouragements

WHEN GOD CALLS

(January 12, 2023) Dr Jim McClure shares a personal experience, encouraging us to move ahead in God … 

When God called me to serve Him in the ministry, my initial response was, ‘No!’

For various reasons I considered the call unwelcome, unacceptable, impractical and untimely… so initially I pushed back! My response was in some ways similar to that of Jeremiah who, when God called him, expressed absolutely no enthusiasm for the task.  He replied to God, ‘Ah, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child’  (Jeremiah 1:6).  

The word translated ‘Ah’ is pronounced in exactly the same way in Hebrew!  It is actually more a sigh of distress and reluctance than a word.  Jeremiah really did not want to be a prophet and so he made his rather weak excuse.  But, however reluctantly, he agreed to submit to God’s call.

And so did I! I went to a theological college in Manchester for five years.

Brief testimony
However, about a year before I started my college course,  I preached my first sermon.

That was 61 years ago in my home church, Abbots Cross Congregational Church in Northern Ireland, and the sermon was based on Psalm 73.  I remember it well.  As I stood in the pulpit that Sunday morning and looked at the congregation, I was terrified! 

With shaking legs and trembling voice I raced through the sermon I had prepared. And it was terrible!  In fact, it was so bad that someone left me an anonymous note advising me never to preach again! But now, more than six decades later I am still preaching regularly.  (In case you are wondering – No, I never did discover who wrote that note).

My point is this – whether or not I personally wanted to be a pastor and preacher was irrelevant. As a young Christian, I had placed myself into God’s hands and so agreed (with some reluctance) to agree with His call on my life.  Do I regret the decision I made?  Not at all!  At times it has not been easy for many reasons but the journey has been amazing.  I could never have anticipated the things I have done, the congregations to which I have preached God’s Word, the students I have taught, the people I have met, the countries I have visited and in which I have taught, the friends I have made and so on.

And God has blessed me abundantly by giving me a loving, encouraging and supportive wife, Jean, to be by my side through all the hard times and the good.  How rich my life has been because I said, ‘Yes’ to God – however reluctantly.

God does not promise prosperity and success
In truth, when we follow God’s plan for our lives, prosperity and success in all we attempt is not guaranteed. Indeed God may lead us into difficult, uncomfortable and painful situations to further His purposes.  There are many examples in the Bible to support this statement. For example, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have been greatly concerned when they were sentenced to a fiery death (Daniel 3).

My point here is – when God calls us to do something, it is better to say, ‘Yes,’ even with reluctance! It is so much better to place our lives into God’s hands than to live outside His will.

King David wisely declared to God, ‘My times are in your hands’ (Psalm 31:15). The old hymn simply and magnificently proclaims –

‘My times are in your hand;
my God, I wish them there!
My life, my friends, my soul,
‘My times are in your hand;
my God, I wish them there!
My life, my friends, my soul,
I leave entirely to your care.’

Beware of discouragements! 
(i) Beware of discouraging others
 
You don’t know the full picture and are in no position to pontificate to others! Discouragement  can have unanticipated consequences for a person’s development and it may even hinder God’s plans for a person’s life.

I have noted during the years that, while churches should be places of encouragement, the spirit of discouragement is often all too active!

(ii) Beware of allowing discouragement to shape us
It can crush our spirit and damage our relationship with God.

Had I listened to and been crushed by the discouraging words of my anonymous critic all those decades ago, not only would God’s plans for my life have been unfulfilled but my life and that of my family would have been so impoverished.

(iii) Beware of surrendering to self-discouragement
Throughout his 40 years ministry Jeremiah experienced one discouragement after another as the people of Judah mocked him and the religious leaders rejected his messages from God.

He wrote about the people, ‘If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive’  (Jeremiah 13:17). 

But he remained committed to his calling, declaring, ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot’ (Jeremiah 20:9). 

Final thoughts
As we move on into 2023 and God is calling you, may you respond to that call – even somewhat reluctantly. May His word, His fire, so burn in your heart that you will achieve all He has planned for you – whatever that may be.

Don’t yield to discouragement, rather yield to encouragement!

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Dr Jim McClure has authored several books and Bible studies. Offered free in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, is highly recommended.

Questions seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives are welcomed. Link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com
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LEVELLING MOUNTAINS – NOT BY MIGHT, NOT BY POWER BUT BY MY SPIRIT! (Part 2)

(September 4, 2022) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, concludes his timely challenge on overcoming ‘mountains’ of various kinds…

Last month I shared reflections on Zerubbabel, how God helped this faithful prophet fulfill the challenge He’d been given him. I had mentioned two aspects regarding our accepting of God’s challenges to us, in brief –

1. Inflexible commitment to God’s will… God requires followers like Zerubbabel who are truly committed to Him, Christians whose integrity and commitment will be unshakable, no matter what ‘mountains’ we might encounter!

2. Intimidating pressure of discouragement… God also requires such dedicatedfollowers to bravely face and overcome pressure that comes when we commit to accepting His assignments. Such as the mountains of discouragement that not only come from Satan and outside the church, but sadly from within!

I now reflect on two other aspects, highlighting thatour all-powerful God who has all things already planned goes before us (Isaiah 45:2)!

(more…)

NOT HOME YET – WORK STILL TO BE DONE!

(August 8, 2017) Maureen McQuillan encourages all who feel unappreciated …

There’s a tale that’s been around since my Sunday school days – an unsourced homecoming story that’s been told and retold over the years in various ways. Basically it goes something like this…

A missionary couple, old and wearied, was returning home to the States to retire after toiling many years in what we were told back then to capture our imagination was ‘Darkest Africa.’ Not overly successful in their missionary service they were unknowns compared to such ‘greats’ as Dr David Livingstone.

But they’d been faithful to their calling and had shared God’s love and the gospel of Jesus in many caring ways. They had reached to neighbours – strangers – not only to preach but to help in practical ways. And they would pray for the sick and needy and witness miracles – and over many years had known the joy of seeing several indigenous people accept Christ as Saviour.

This couple had grown old together as they laboured on despite many difficulties, opposition from demonic forces, misunderstandings from locals including other ministries, and even lack of meaningful prayer and financial support from their church back home. (more…)