Friday, October 21, 2005

The Cure For Discouragement

The term quarantine refers to the isolation of persons, animals, places, and effects that are harboring or are suspected of harboring a communicable disease. Quarantine originally referred to the 40 days of offshore waiting, during which time incoming vessels could not discharge passengers or cargo. This was during the era when plagues of epidemic proportion swept across Europe killing untold numbers of persons. For most of these communicable diseases, there was no cure, hence the need for quarantine. The idea behind this practice was to allow the disease to run its course without the infection of other individuals or populations. If the quarantined individual survived, he or she was usually free from that particular communicable disease. Chicken Pox is an example of such a disease for which there is no cure. When a pustule ruptures, the disease becomes contagious. Hopefully, the infected individual has been diagnosed by this time and has followed the suggested precaution of isolation. After the disease runs its course, the quarantine is lifted for the individual no longer poses a threat to others. Naturally, if a cure existed for Chicken Pox there would be no need for quarantine.

I wonder if quarantine would work for the contagious disease of discouragement? After all, I've never heard of a cure, have you? Yet, this disease is so deadly, that the majority of persons, who are infected with it, just give up. In fact, not only is discouragement deadly to the individual who is carrying it, but it is just as lethal to those with whom the individual associates. You're not sure you've heard of this disease, much less experienced it,' you say. Why certainly you have. You know, it's that feeling of despair in the face of obstacles. 'I have never felt despair,' you say. Well what about disheartenment, or dismay, or just plain feeling down or blue? Sure you have, we all have. You know, in Paul Bunyan's book, "Pilgrim's Progress, the main characters -- Christian and Faith, land in the dungeon of despair, in the Castle of Despondency. Why did that happen to them? Well, in the land of Enchantment they laid down to nap, and were lulled into a wonderfully deep sleep. What a pity! For in this land was the rather large, greasy ogre, who had captured many a trespasser, and never let them go. Now friends, Christian and Faith were isolated from everyone else. (That means they were quarantined). So, although they could hear the moans of the other prisoners, they could not help them, even if they wanted to. Furthermore, Christian and Faith didn't even have the energy to try. What were they to do? They tried jumping up to reach the only window in the cell, but they couldn't jump very high, and soon tired. They were so cold and hungry. Furthermore the cell was dark and damp. Cheerlessly they tried to sing, but that didn't help either, for neither of them could remember the words, nor the tunes.

Just then, Faith remembered the rather rusty little key that hung from Christian's neck. Given to Christian on his journey, he had faithfully worn it around his neck. Faith remembered another thing too, he remembered that the key was especially useful in emergencies and he told Christian so. But Christian was so cold and hungry and tired, that he just groaned and moaned the louder. "Perhaps," thought Faith, "this is such a time." and with that he asked Christian for the key. Christian had trouble getting it, so Faith helped. With some difficulty, out came the rusty little key. It was so small, Faith was afraid he would drop it, but he held on tight. "What are you going to do with that rusty little key Faith?" "Why I'm going to open the lock." "But", protested Christian, "the lock is so large, and the key is so small it won't fit." "Well I'm going to try," replied Faith, and with that he stuck the little key in the big lock. In the lock it seemed to grow a little larger and heavier. "Hmm," thought Faith, just then an almost audible thought came to mind, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'move,' and it will move." "Hey, said Faith, the key grew, but it is still not big enough yet." Just then another thought came to mind, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word." Faith was so excited by now, that he said the verse out loud to Christian. And the key grew larger, and stronger. "Look Christian, look, the key is growing," whispered an excited Faith. Suddenly, the thought that came to mind was even louder and more insistent than all the others had been. "Prayer is the key in the hand of faith that unlocks heaven's storehouse." With that, the key turned in the lock, the jail door opened, and Christian and Faith were able to make their narrow escape.

What is faith? It is believing that Jesus means just what He says in the Word. It is believing that He is faithful and keeps His promises. Above all, faith is knowing what Christ has specifically promised you, and choosing on a daily, even hourly basis to live by those promises. Simply put, faith is your heart and mind's response to believe Christ's Word to you. Accordingly, the Apostle states in 2 Peter:

2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises:
that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having
escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

If these promises are great and precious, should we not receive them from our Lord? I Corinthians 16:13 says, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith... ." And I Peter 5:9 says that we are to "resist (Satan) steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." And lastly, Galatians 2:20 reads, "I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." What wonderful promises. Why don't you ask the Lord which ones He has for you today? He will be very to pleased to answer you.

In the above adaptation of Pilgrim's Progress, Faith and Christian were not the only persons overtaken by discouragement. Others were present, moaning and groaning in the same dungeon of despair, for they all had the same disease. Yet only Faith and Christian were cured and able to escape. What was it that freed them? Was it being quarantined, (or isolated) from their peers? No, it wasn't. It was faith in the promise that the key was the solution. Here is a reminder, Ellen White has said, "prayer is the key in the hand of faith ..." (Steps To Christ, p. 94-96). When we feel down and isolate ourselves, we are going contrary to scripture, for nowhere in scripture is it said that isolation is the solution for discouragement.

Scripture establishes that Paul is the author of the letter to the Ephesians, and that it was written while he was in prison. You will no doubt note that the word discouragement does not appear in the letter to the Ephesians. You see, Paul had heard good reports of the church in Ephesus, and was pleased to learn of their continual Faith in God and their unconditional love for others. He wrote in Ephesians:

Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
Ephesians 1:16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

And yet if the Ephesians were so strong in faith, and love, why write to them? The entire epistle seems like a good bye letter, written as if Paul knew he would not return to their midst. As such it is likely that he sought not only to encourage the Ephesians to continue living 'in Christ,' but to remind them of the doctrines he had taught them. By writing this letter, it is likely Paul desired to forestall the discouragement that is most probably going to come upon them when they realize
that not only is he imprisoned, but that he has gone for good. You see, the members of Ephesus had probably unwittingly become attached to Paul's ministry. After all, he was the greatest example of Godliness they had heretofore seen. Furthermore, he had founded their church. Just imagine how you would feel if an important and tireless leader in your church were to suddenly be taken from you. Imagine how others in your church would feel, particularly if they thought that person was irreplaceable. Not only would the church suffer, but what would happen to the preaching of the gospel? Oh, to the Church at Ephesus, Paul's imprisonment was frightening.

And yet, it was Paul that was imprisoned, it was he that was isolated (or quarantined) but not discouraged. Paul was not without hope for he knew that he had already died 'in Christ,' and was living in Him. Therefore death held no fear for Paul. And so in the midst of prison, he prayed, interceding for the saints at Ephesus. In his hand, Paul held the key to faith. For through the Word, he had the faith of Jesus. Remember the scripture says, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word..." (Rom. 10:17).

What does this mean to us today who may be tempted to give up? Remember, the Word is your friend, it will: lift your eyes from the view of burdensome daily cares to Jesus; and take your mind off of yourself to joyfully and gladly help others in need. Whatever may be your trials, whether family, work, finances, church issues or health problems, remember, The Faith of Jesus is your answer. You don't need to quarantine or isolate yourself, for if you have this, you will 'never, never, never, never give up,' and the victory that Christ has already won for you will be yours at last.

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