I was talking with a Christian brother the other day about how it seems that many people are living in sadness and discouragement, when suddenly he made a comment that really caused me to think. He said that according to his studies about the Christian life, it seems to be impossible to be depressed and to walk in the joy of God's presence at the same time.
After our conversation, I continued to ponder this statement, and by the way, I do agree with it. I'm not saying that developing an optimistic lifestyle or being filled with spiritual joy is easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I definitely believe it is a subject worth considering. We know that being joyful in the Lord is a direct result of our personal relationship with him, so in order to live in this state of mind, it's obvious that we must not only restructure the way we think but have a sincere desire to embrace Christ as our Lord and Master.
So why do I at times allow the melancholy feelings of despondency to influence me? It has everything to do with losing focus of Christ, who is the source of my strength and hope. It's so easy to drift away, especially with all the distractions that surround us and tempt us with negative persuasions. It takes a strong determination to maintain a serious relationship with God and to abide in the awareness of his presence. The more we think about God, the more we will desire to be with him.
Sometimes I allow my enthusiasm to be quenched by allowing my circumstances to bring fear and worry upon me. When I've neglected to pray, study or to just spend quiet time with him, I find myself becoming spiritually weak in my faith and doubting that he cares or will take care of my problems and needs. I've also felt discouragement and condemnation from my mistakes and often forget that forgiveness is only a prayer away.
The enemy of our soul never takes a vacation and is devoted to making our life miserable for the missed opportunities we have blown and wrong decisions we have made. We realize there are many faithful workers in the Kingdom of God who are tired and discouraged, and sometimes they do not feel appreciated in their calling, but the Lord sees your labors and considers you a success not because of your abilities but because of your obedience and sincere love for him.
In the Bible, we find a man named Barnabas, who was one of those positive and optimistic personalities that we all enjoy being around. He saw the good and the potential in others, along with having a great attitude and a hopeful outlook on life. The Collins Dictionary defines the name Barnabas as "Son of consolation," and the word consolation means a person or thing that is a source of comfort in a time of suffering, grief, sadness and disappointment.
In Acts 11:22-24, we find a description of his personality. "And they sent out Barnabas to go as far as to Antioch. Who when he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and exhorted [encouraged] them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: And a great many people were added to the Lord."
The ministry of encouragement is one that every Christian has been called to demonstrate, and I definitely need to constantly remind myself about this important responsibility. The word encourage means to inspire others with hope and confidence, to stimulate, motivate, support, advise or urge by approval or help.
I wonder when was the last time we went out of our way to encourage someone? Unfortunately, it seems we seldom realize that we all need encouragement. Maybe it's because we are so focused on seeking it for ourselves that we forget to help others. What a difference it makes when someone comes alongside and tells you they believe in you, that you are doing a great job and are a light of inspiration and hope to the world.
Anne Frank is quoted as saying, "Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is."
Learn more about Billy Holland's new book, "Convictions and Considerations — Encouragement for the Soul" at billyhollandministries.com.