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Pressing On Despite (or Perhaps in Spite of) Discouragement

Long and winding road by Valerie EverettLong and winding road, a photo by Valerie Everett on Flickr.

And we’ll never be short on redemption. ~”Lay It Down”, Jars of Clay

I was feeling rather discouraged last night as I readied for bed. So many unmet goals and unrealized dreams bottle-necked in my mind as I wondered when I would overcome some particular bad habits. And rather than subject my patient husband to my late night ramblings, I talked to God about it for a bit and put pen to paper in my journal.

Then something curious happened.

I started to be encouraged. I was reminded of how small changes, over time, will yield good results. I could be closer to a breakthrough than I think. And above all, the God I serve is faithful – even when I’m not. So I was able to end the night on a happy note, not with memories of my sins and failures jumping around my brain, but with recollections of victories and hopes and solid promises scrolling through my mind instead.

This tied into something I read a little while ago in Acts 13 about Paul’s missionary journeys. In Acts 13:14-15 the Antioch synagogue leaders asked Paul to share any words of encouragement with the people who had gathered there on the Sabbath. So Paul stood up and proceeded to give a brief history lesson on the nation of Israel, which then segued into a message on salvation. In Acts 13: 26-29 (NKJV) he said:

Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know [Jesus], nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.

Some people may have been scratching their heads as Paul moved into this part of his narrative. “How,” they may have wondered, “is this encouraging? I mean okay, the whole ‘word of salvation’ had me getting excited. Then boom – innocent man put to death. What am I missing?! Be happy it wasn’t me?”

But Paul wasn’t done yet. He was one breath away from speaking seven words that changed the course of his story:

But God raised Him from the dead. - Acts 13:30 (NKJV)

I bet that silenced any murmurings and rumblings in the crowd! It certainly gave me pause as, even with knowing how it all turned out, I was caught up in Paul’s narrative. Jesus was dead and buried. That’s it, end of story, no encouragement for you, buh-bye . . . but then God raised Jesus from the dead!

Yowza!

And He can do the same for the dreams, hopes, plans and goals He has for all of us to fulfill. We may think we’ve missed one chance too many, that we’re too old or too slow, under-qualified or stupid, nonredeemable or hopeless. We may have made the grave site our second home.

But God can raise the hopes and dreams we think we’ve squeezed the last bit of life from back from the dead.

So how about we let Him do just that? Lets back away from the stones we’ve rolled in front of the tombs we’ve put our God-given dreams in, and let Him breathe in fresh hope and new life.

Think of the stories we can tell and the encouragement we can offer when we do.

*Photo Credit: Valerie Everett (Creative Commons)

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