Listen in on William Jessup University’s chapel series every Wednesday and Friday to hear speakers from across the globe, bringing messages from God’s word to our students, faculty, and staff.
Hey Jessup students, it’s so great to be with you again. As the president of William Jessup University. I know that these are extraordinary times my son was asking me the other day Hey, Dad is stuff like this happened before and near as I can tell, certainly not in my lifetime of 58 years. Maybe you’d have to go all the way back to 1918. This is a this is a rough season, and it’s a season for endurance. So today, I wanted to talk to you about something specific, but before I did, I want to just share with you a couple historical stories, after Fred Astaire his first screen test and a 1933 memo from the MGM testing director said can’t act slightly bald can dance a little, Fred Astaire frame that memo and put it over his fireplace in Beverly Hills. An expert said of the famous football coach Vince Lombardi, quote, he possesses minimal football knowledge lacks motivation. Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women was advised by our family to find work as a servant or seamstress. Walt Disney love this story, Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for lacking ideas. He also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. And my personal favorite is that Michael Jordan did not make his high school basketball team. Can you imagine that? I’d hate to be that coach. So anyway, you think about all this and what am I getting at? Is the topic of discouragement. I think discouragement can be very, very toxic. And particularly when we’re in seasons like we are now it’s easy to get discouraged. And maybe already in the couple short weeks of this Coronavirus, epidemic and pandemic you’ve struggled with discouragement. If that’s the case, you’re not alone, I want you to know that there are so many of us who have been grappling with discouragement. In fact, I think discouragement is a tool of the enemy. In john 1010. Jesus said this, the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But then Jesus said, I have come that you might have life, life to its full. That is what Satan does. He comes to steal your joy, to kill your hope and to destroy your dreams. But Jesus came so that you could have a life and have a future. Today, I’d like to spend some time with you talking about a famous biblical character. I think he’s the greatest one to learn about discouragement from the biblical character is Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a god honoring man, but he was serving in a pagan environment. He was serving in the Babylonian kingdom, he had an important responsibility. But he got news that his homeland was destroyed. The walls literally were torn down. Now that may not mean much to you or me. But in those days, if your walls were torn down, you had no protection, no defense, you were laid bare. So Nehemiah wept, he prayed, he finally went to the king and he got permission to go and to get supplies and to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. When you read the book of Nehemiah, it’s an amazing story. And we’re going to pick the story up in Nehemiah chapter four. And I’m just going to make some references to verses I really hope that what you do is that you’ll open your Bible to Nehemiah chapter four. And as I’m walking us through this lesson, that you’ll say I too want to defeat toxic discouragement. So the first thing that I just want to tell you, that’s a cause I’m going to give you a seven causes of toxic discouragement. And then five things that you can fight against it with. Those seven causes are identified in Nehemiah chapter four. The very first one is criticism. Now, sometimes by the way, criticism can be good, it can be constructive. It can reveal blind spots, but many times criticism is flat out destructive. If you look in the first three verses of Nehemiah chapter four, you’ll see some criticism. I just want to read the last part of it. The Israelites have started to rebuild the wall, and then they start facing some criticism. And here’s what it says at the end. What are these feeble Jews doing? Can they bring the stones back to life? tobiah The Ammonite who has at his side said, what are they building if even a fox climbed on it? He would break down their wall of stones. Maybe you’ve faced criticism like that, and it can really lead to discouragement. A second one is the whole idea of the half way syndrome, the halfway syndrome in verse six it says so we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half of its height for the people worked with all their heart. Now maybe that’s true of you. Maybe you feel like Gosh, I’m in the middle of this Coronavirus thing and we’re we’re halfway there. I’m recording this today on a Monday and we heard just yesterday that the shelter in place and national kind of guidelines are going to continue at least through the end of April. And maybe we’re you feel right now. It’s just Oh my goodness, we’re
halfway there. Or at least you hope we were almost all the way done. But now you’re finding that you got to keep going. Sometimes that can really cause discouragement, when you feel like you’re halfway there. A third thing that can cause discouragement is just flat out opposition. Whereas criticism is maybe passive. Sometimes opposition is very active. And in verses seven to eight, the opposition actually assembles and they begin to sort of fight against the Israelites. And just knowing that you’re facing opposition, this is not a passive, maybe environment of negativity. This is active opposition. Maybe you’re facing discouragement right now because you feel like you’ve been facing active opposition. Nehemiah faced that as well in verses seven through eight. The next one, number four is loss of strength. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just feel like my strength is faded. And in the first part of chapter 10, it says this. Meanwhile, the people in Judah said the strength of the labors is giving out. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like my strength is gone. I feel like man, I got nothing left. And that’s a really hard place to be. I’ve always loved the story of a Colonel Sanders and I won’t read the whole story too. But Colonel Sanders essentially lived his whole life worked for the post office, he retired, and he’s sitting on his porch. And as he sat in his porch, he was thinking about, man, my life’s a bummer. It’s all over. I’m just collecting my monthly pension jack. And that’s it. But in that context, God reminded him about all the blessings, he had all the many gifts that he had. And as he was making his list, one of the things he came upon is, you know what, I’m the only one who knows my mother’s fried chicken recipe as 11 original herbs and spices. Well, you know, the rest of the story, Colonel Sanders ended up developing Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises that went all over the country and all over the world, by the end of his life, who is receiving a $250,000 a year plus, in order to just continue the legacy of his work that started after his strength had run out. Number five is loss of vision. That’s in the second half of Nehemiah chapter four, verse 10, it says this, there’s so much rubble that we cannot build the wall, people really begin to lose
I love this quote from Victor Edmond, it says this, never doubt in the dark, what God told you in the light. And for some of us, right now, we’re struggling with discouragement. Because we feel like dreams and hopes that we had are being laid aside. Maybe some of you listening to this, we’re seniors, and you are hoping to graduate and our commencement ceremony in May. And now we’re not going to do that. But stay tuned. By the way, we’re working on some ideas, maybe a virtual ceremony of sorts or something. But maybe you had other dreams and hopes that it just seems like this whole environment is crushing it and you’ve lost vision for your life that can really cause discouragement, discouragement that can be toxic. Just a couple more. Number six is loss of confidence. In verse 11. In Nehemiah four, it says, Our enemy said before they know it or see us, we’ll be right there among them, and we’ll kill them and put an end to their work. Oh, my goodness, now they began to really question, can we ever finish this? Can we rebuild the wall, our opposition’s going to come and they’re going to destroy us. And you know, I’ve often found this, sometimes I begin to look at the microscope, instead of the telescope. I don’t know about you. But sometimes when I get a really detailed look at something, I can end up being overwhelmed. And so I think we need to pay attention to details. But we also need to see that telescopic view, just remember that God is in control, but that loss of confidence can really affect us. And then finally, number seven is negative thinking. Verse 12, and Nehemiah four says this, then the Jews who live near them came and told us 10 times over, wherever you turn, they will attack us. Even their own people who were working on the walls. were being discouraged by other Jewish people saying, Well never finish, and you’re gonna get attacked. How’s that for a bummer? Well, I don’t know where discouragement comes from in your life and I don’t know what you’ve been grappling with. I know that all of us are facing some aspect of the Coronavirus. All of us are facing some aspect of what disruptions are taking place in our families, our finance, our health, maybe you’re grappling with the future what what’s going to happen to our country, to the world?
I don’t know about you. I for instance, have been thinking about not only my own family, I’ve been thinking about the shut ins who are in the convalescent homes. I don’t know why but just last night, I was listening to a story and I got kind of overwhelmed by that. There’s so much to be over. whelmed by there’s so much to be discouraged by. So what do you do? What do you do? and discouragement seems like a dark cloud around you. What do you do? And it seems like the enemy of your soul, as Jesus said he, he comes to steal, to kill and destroy. What do you do? Well, number one, I just want to encourage you. This is a spiritual battle. There’s a spiritual foundation to all of this. Yes, this is on the ground medical, physical health stuff. Yes, it’s real economic reality. But this is a spiritual battle. So I want to give you five things, five things that can help you defeat discouragement. The first one is this. Nehemiah did these five things, he united the people around the same vision. In verse 13, it says, Therefore, I station some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families with their swords, spears and bows. It’s been said that Abraham Lincoln was asked the question, if you had five hours to cut down a tree, what would be the first thing that you would do? And what I understand his answer was, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe. I found that having a common vision, being really clear on your priorities, knowing for sure what your life is all about, this is actually a great moment. Just when the enemy of your soul wants to crush you. Just when he wants to say to you, your life has no value, you have no future your generation is lost. Just when the enemy says that is when the one who loves you, the one who made you, that God of all heaven and earth is looking you in the eye right now, and saying, I love you.
I made you. You have a purpose. I encourage you to have a vision for your life. Dig deep. What is God saying to right now about why he made you? Number two, Nehemiah redirected their attention from their problems to the Lord. I know that this is the key, putting our eyes upon the Lord. In verse 14, Nehemiah said this, after I look things over, I stood up, I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who was great and awesome, and fight, fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives, and your home? The truth is, is that your focus determines your attitude, or sometimes so overwhelmed. Our problems are not too big. But sometimes our God is too small. So I want to encourage you look up. Yes, we have problems. Please don’t hear me in any way denying the reality of the Coronavirus. I’m reading in my responsibilities as a president, I promise you, I’m thinking wide. I’m thinking details. Many, many things are happening. But I know if I do not worship Him, if I don’t have my heart in the right place, if I’m not making sure that for myself, for my family, for the Jessup community, for the larger Sacramento region, for all those that God has given into our care that I point people up to Jesus, some of you, you’ve been kind of casual about your faith. Like maybe before you go, yeah, I’m a Christian. But you’re Christian in the same way that you’re American, it’s sort of been a casual thing, I actually really believe that now is the time for us to come into the arms of Jesus more than ever before. You need to press in and say, Jesus, if you are who you say you are, if you are real, then I want to surrender my life to you. Would you meet me right now. And I promise you on the authority of the Word of God, that Jesus Christ will come to you wherever you are. He longs to forgive you of your sins, to set you free from what has kept you captive. And to help you become the man or the woman that he’s created you to be. The third thing that Nehemiah did is that he encouraged them to keep their balance. One of my favorite texts in Nehemiah four is verses 15 through 18. And I’m not going to read it for you. But part of it says that while they were working on the wall, in the one hand, they had a trial and a trial that they were sort of building the wall up brick by brick, rock by rock with a towel, but in their other hand, they held a sword. And I’ve always loved that imagery. In fact, a famous Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, he loved that imagery as well. And he named his magazine, the sword and the trial. I think it’s a good thing. Part of us builds the Other part of us protects and defends. So we’ve got to keep our balance and make sure that we understand during this time, there’s a part of this. It’s about building. And there’s another part of this that’s about protecting and defending. Here’s the fourth thing I want to encourage you with that Nehemiah gave them a plan for their defense. Sometimes I hear people say, and I don’t mean to demean, hear people say, Oh, I’m just going to trust God. I love that I love trusting God. But you know, Jesus Himself said, we should love the Lord our God, with our our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. He gave us a good mind, he gave us amazing health experts. So I really want to encourage you to be able to have a plan. Nehemiah, his plan was this, the work is extensive and spread out were widely separated. So come together, that’s in verse 19. And 20, Nehemiah brought people together, and he said, Look, this is what we’re going to do. So I know, we’re separated. We’re separated by physical distance. We’re doing these kinds of things by video. But you know what the enemy intended for evil. God always turns towards the good. I have pastor friends all over the country. And you know what they’re telling me, they’re telling me that actual church engagement is increasing. during these times, more people are coming to church via video, people are beginning to connect with one another, you know, but I bet you’ve actually been on the phone more these last couple weeks than ever before. Because typically, we didn’t call we just text. But in this day and age, people are calling their video chatting, or facetiming, their Facebook Live thing. Or you guys use all kinds of platforms with Instagram and other things. You know, God wants to redeem the time, but he wants us to have a
plan for our defense. Here’s the fifth and final thing is Nehemiah involved them in serving others. So a little counter culture to think, wait a minute, if I’m discouraged, I gotta take care of me. But actually, the lesson of life is that when you feel discouraged when you feel down, and when you feel depressed, one of the greatest ways to lift your spirits, is to actually take the focus off yourself. Put it on him, and then say, God, what would you have me to do to serve others? It’s amazing what that does in your life. It’s amazing. I’ve actually been discouraged and depressed and overwhelmed before. And then felt like God came in. And I felt like it took me out of my stuff. And by focusing on helping other people, I actually got lifted up. Now, by the way, you do need to take care of yourself. don’t hear me say don’t take care of yourself. You do need to take care of it. All these things we’ve talked about, are about getting your perspective and priorities right? As you do that. When you look up, and you look in, and then you look out what an amazing thing happens. Nehemiah in verses 21 to 22 said, we continue to work with half the men holding spears. And then they said, Every person would stay in Jerusalem at night and others would guard during the day. It just kept rotating back and forth. They developed an amazing plan. One of my favorite New Testament passages in the book of Galatians. And I think it’s the corollary to this last point to be involved in serving others Galatians chapter six, verses nine and 10. Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity. Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Now, I’m recording this probably I think it’s a couple of weeks, maybe three weeks into this whole Coronavirus thing. And we don’t know what will happen.
Yesterday, we heard from the President and from health experts that they believe the ultimate catastrophe could have been a couple million deaths, and that they’re praying and hoping that it would be under 100,000. That’s with all the social distancing everything under 100,000. Can I tell you what I’m praying for? Since the beginning, I felt like God told me pray for me to break the curve. Everything we’re doing, by the way with social distancing is about flattening the curve, sort of delaying the long term so that the health systems and our doctors and amazing medical care professionals are not overwhelmed. And that’s great advice. I hope you’re complying with that. But I’ve been praying not just for the curve to be flattened, but for the curve to be broken and be broken by Jesus. Now, again, I’m recording this. I think it’s about March 30 or 31st. But I want you to hear this. early on. President Trump said that he was hoping we could sort of get back to normal and back to work by April 12 Easter Sunday and It now looks as of yesterday like now, we’re I have to extend the guidelines to at least April 30. And maybe life won’t really be back to normal till June 1. Here’s what I’m praying for. I’m praying that Jesus Christ breaks the curve. And I’m praying that by Easter Sunday morning, we’re able to announce a miraculous intervention by the Lord, an intervention in such a way that what we would see as the spirits of America and the globe lifted. Now, again, I’m complying with the medical guidelines, I absolutely submit to the governing authorities, as long as it doesn’t transgress my faith. But I want to encourage you, now is an easy time to be discouraged. In fact, it’s a primary tool of the enemy. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. But my prayer is that you will not give in to discouragement. Instead, you’ll be encouraged in heart. At the very beginning, I said these words, I hope they encouraged you. We partner with the Father, we do not partner with fear. My prayer Jessup community is that we will lean into the goodness of God, and that will receive all that He has for us. And we’ll say no, to fear and no to discouragement, and instead, we’ll look up. We’ll look in and we’ll look out to the glory of God. I hope you enjoy Nehemiah chapter four. It’s an amazing chapter. And I hope that you experience the goodness of God in your home and in your dorm right now. God bless you