The late Dr. Billy Graham once said, “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’” It comforts me to know someone as faithful as Dr. Graham has said something like this because I too have experienced discouragement on many occasions.
There were the times when as a pastor I was broken-hearted at the spiritual lethargy and backsliding of my parishioners. Nothing I did to stir them seemed to make any difference. It was hard when certain members of the church betrayed me or purposely made it difficult to lead effectively. It was especially difficult when the Board of Deacons at one church called for my resignation, when I had done nothing worthy of censure or dismissal. Instead, I had been proclaiming the unadulterated Gospel of Christ, which some found offensive. It was terribly discouraging as a young pastor to discover that doing right doesn’t always lead to a right result or that I would be rightly treated by people who should know what was right.
As executive director and lobbyist for the Christian Action League, there have been a lot of discouraging experiences.
There was the time when my lobbying activity blocked the proposal for a state-operated lottery dead in its tracks, when suddenly and unexpectedly everything changed, and that damnable predatory racket gained passage by one vote. Then there was an egregious piece of alcohol legislation that I was sure my advocacy had killed, but it later revived and passed by an act of political treachery. Certainly painful was when a rogue federal judge overturned the Marriage Protection Amendment added to North Carolina’s Constitution – a measure that I had labored on for ten years to see passed. Then there was the repeal of HB 2, commonly known as the bathroom bill, good sense legislation meant to protect women and children from having to share restrooms, showers, and locker rooms with men. HB 2 died from the media’s mammoth smear campaign and formidable political pressures from Leftists groups. Nothing done was effectual to save it.
Not long ago when I was discouraged and in a dark place, I hid away in my bedroom. While lying on the bed, Kim, my wife, came in and urged me to share what was troubling me. I opened up and recalled some of the things I’ve mentioned in this article, and concluded: “So many losses! So many disappointments! It causes you to ask, is it worth it? Why labor so passionately, so sacrificially, in the face of such failure?”
Seeking my comfort, Kim tenderly kissed me on the cheek and said, “Yes, it was worth it. It was worth it because Jesus is worth it! And it is worth continuing because he is worthy. He is worth every arduous mile of the journey, every insult, every injury, every inconvenience, and every incapacitation.”
Tears filled my eyes. How could I ever forget that Jesus was worth it?
O God, forgive me, help me.
Indeed. I cannot separate the causes for which I have given much of my life from Jesus Christ himself. I pursued them in obedience to his call. But the defeats can be somewhat disillusioning – somewhat confusing – that righteousness often doesn’t succeed – that evil many times wins the day. It can be very discouraging. Nevertheless, what lifts my heart out of the muck and mire of lost confidence and enthusiasm is that Jesus is always worth the effort to defend or advance the purposes of God.
Our Lord doesn’t call upon us to succeed, but to be faithful.
Think of it. Noah preached for decades while the people of his day only scoffed at the truth. The prophets proclaimed the Word of God to wayward Israel, but Israel did not turn from her sins, and God’s own people murdered many of them. What about Jesus? When he came to the end of his ministry, it appeared as though his disciples hadn’t actually believed him. Despite three years of concentrated and exhaustive ministry, his inner circle forsook him, and the religious authorities had him crucified. The Disciples of Christ suffered tremendously for their faith, and most of them died violent deaths.
Still, the apostle Paul admonished: “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (I Cor. 15:58).
Knofel Staton has beautifully stated that followers of Christ need to be positive and optimistic and encourage each other as they approach the end of days.
“Christians should preach the kind of hope that will cancel depression, the kind of values that will cancel self-pity, the kind of victory that will cancel defeatism, the kind of power that will eliminate weakness,” says Staton. “Christ has already won! So has everyone who is in Christ! We are already winners because of him.”
One day we will see the Lord take all of our labors for his name’s sake and weave them into an incorruptible kingdom tapestry, where the words of Christ’s model prayer will finally be answered, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt. 6:10).
Yes, it’s worth it. It’s always worth it because Jesus is worth it.
Rev. Mark H. Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina Inc.