Opposition and Hardships

As I have been studying the biographies of famous Christians in history I observed that every single person who achieved anything of recognition went through some very difficult trials, received criticism, and experienced many failures. This is the same pattern we find in scripture. The inspired history of God's servants includes the accounts of opposition from enemies, criticism from peers, betrayal by friends, personal weaknesses, blunders, and failures. The thing that made them great servants of God was not that they were superhuman, or even above average in talent. The thing that made them effective was their devotion to God and a fervent dedication to the calling He had given them. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, Nehemiah, Simon Peter, and Paul all had their failures chronicled in scripture as well as their successes!

Church history provides us with the accounts of many well known Christians who have been recognized as making great contributions to the cause of Christ. C.H. Spurgeon, known across the world as the "Prince of Preachers", led the largest congregation in the world during his lifetime. His sermons have been printed and read by millions. He is acclaimed by many Christian historians and scholars as having been the most gifted sermonizer in the history of the church. Did you know that he was severely criticized by several prominent contemporaries? One well known pastor in London even questioned the legitimacy of his conversion and called him a dangerous and errant man. Others took issue with him for using humor and anecdotes to illustrate his sermons. They found fault with his person, his style, and his theology, yet history has demonstrated that he made thousands of genuine converts who went on themselves to win many thousands more!

Jonathon Edwards, known as the Father of the "Great Awakening" and author of the famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was later fired from his own church for insisting that church members should be genuinely regenerate! The man we all now consider to be specially anointed to turn a country to God was dismissed from his pastorate by political players.

There are times when we are reminded of our own weaknesses and limitations. For those who strive to achieve something, there will be setbacks, failures, and disappointments. There will be those who will find reason to criticize, mischaracterize, castigate, and even demonize the man or woman who follows the call of God. If God waited for the perfect people to surrender for service, He would be waiting still and no one would be found. God uses flawed people. He uses cracked vessels. He uses mistake makers. He always has.

Have you messed up? Do you think that your mistakes have ruined you for service? Are you wounded because of the enemies' assaults on you? Take heart! God can take you at whatever state you may be in, re-work a plan for your life, and empower you to be His servant again. It is better to be the one taking the arrows than the one shooting them. It is more admirable to fail at something important, than succeed at something mediocre. Is it more commendable to draw the hatred of the small minded than to enjoy the false peace purchased with the price of cowardice?

Our ultimate example of worthy accomplishment is our Savior Jesus Christ. He had no faults, yet He was grievously accused. He made no errors, yet He was constantly harassed by critics. He never acted in malice, yet he was the victim of the worst malicious violence sinful man ever displayed! If the most perfect man in the world received unjust criticism, surely we who are flawed, faulty and often errant will experience criticism, both deserved and undeserved.
Press on. Pray hard. Play fair. Perform! God will help you.

 "If you want everyone to leave you alone, it is simple... just don't be anything, do anything, or have anything!  But if you try to be something, do something, or have something, expect opposition."  Vance Havner
 (When he heard that he was being criticized by a gossiping woman)  "Well, I agree with her that I am not a good man.  I know more bad things about myself than those she claims to know!"  George Whitefield
"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them."  (attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson)
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."  Winston Churchill

Expectations In Ministry

Sometimes a preacher needs to remind himself of the promises of God.  He promises to bless our efforts in His name and to reward faithful service.  While he does not guarantee we will always see the results we would like to see, He does promise to empower us and to be with us as we obey his commission.  So here are a few thoughts along those lines that God has impressed upon my heart recently.

1.  I should expect God to convict and draw sinners to obey the gospel; therefore I should preach it authoritatively with the expectation that repentant sinners ought to respond.

2.  I should expect those who are sincerely saved to be willing to go public with their faith; therefore I should preach baptism, church membership, and enlist converts in becoming committed followers of Jesus Christ.

3.  I should expect followers of Christ to want to grow in their faith and to learn the principles of discipleship, namely, worship, fellowship with other believers, and service; therefore I should preach such truths and work to provide an atmosphere where this can be promoted.

4.  I should expect that success may not always be visible and the success which appears to be visible may even be deceiving; therefore I should do my best and rest in the sovereignty of God to build His church as He promised He would.

5.  I should expect Christ followers to give of their wealth and of their time to serve Christ; therefore I should teach and preach what the scriptures say about giving and service.

6.  I should expect that all the things we strive to do for Christ will receive opposition from Satan; therefore I should be dependent upon the Holy Spirit for power, guidance, and comfort as I experience any hardships and disappointments that opposition may bring.

7.  I should expect that the clearer and more central these expectations are, the better my life of service will be and the better the people I shepherd will be.   

Dealing with Depression

“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  Philippians 4:4-8

When we concentrate on the negatives, we can become depressed.

What are the thought patterns that most often lead to a depressed attitude?

1.  Things are not going my way.  (Expectations not met)

2.  Others have it better than me.  (Comparisons to others)

3.  Others are mistreating me.  (Anger at other people)

4.  God is mistreating me.  (Anger at God)

Notice!  Each of these has the personal pronoun “me” or “my” in it!

Types of depression:

Circumstantial - Due to temporary setbacks or losses.
Chemical –  Due to physiological imbalances.
Cognitive – Due to a pattern of unhealthy thinking.
Chronic – Due to a longtime pattern of combined causes.

(Types 2 and 4, in some cases, may require medical treatment.)

Attitude is the key!  Pro. 18:14The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?

Here are several spiritual keys to deal with depression:

1.  Accept yourself as a creation of God.  Ps. 139

2.  Accept and rejoice in God’s forgiveness.  Rm. 4:6-8

3.  Remember you are a work in progress.  Phil. 1:6

4.  Be positive.  Avoid griping, complaining.  Phi.l 4:8

5.  Practice trusting in God.  Isa. 26:3, Phil. 4:19

6.  Have a steady devotional life.  Phil 4:6-7

7.  Worship and Serve God.  Get out of self!

8.  Serve others.  Get out of self!

9.  Develop the attitude of gratitude. I Thess. 5:18

10. Take care of your body!

Physical exercise – Releases healthy endorphins
Good sleep – Deprivation can lead to imbalances.
Healthy diet – Balanced nutritionally and moderate
Have fun – Plan something you look forward to doing , then follow through with it.

God can help us with each of these sources of depression but cognitive depression is up to us since it is self imposed.  Even God will not override our conscious choices and artificially create euphoria or joy in the heart of someone who chooses to think in a way that brings him down in his spirit.  It would be like asking God to help you with a drinking problem while gulping down alcohol!

God has a different value system than we do. Lk. 16:13-15 Our old nature is like a little baby impatiently and irrationally crying for attention.  Before we can see that the Father is right there we have to stop crying and look at him!  Training ourselves to think better requires staying in God’s word, reaching out to others and maintaining a busy schedule with times for rest. 

Giving in to depression is something that we should resist with everything we’ve got.  When and if it grabs us, we ought to endure it for the time and then snap out of it as soon as we are able!



Depression is many things.  There is the kind that comes naturally from negative experiences such as death of a loved one, a sickness or failure. I call this "normal depression".  Then there is the kind that comes from chemical imbalances that may be more tied in with the body and its complex glandular system.  This is "physiological depression" and can be caused by a number of factors including drugs, bad diet, and abnormalities of the internal organs, hormonal fluctuations or hereditary reasons.

The trickiest kind, in my opinion, is that kind of depression which is the result of faulty thinking or errant belief.  It is the kind of thinking that makes a teenage boy think he has no future because his temporary troubles seem so large and overwhelming. Teen suicide. It is the kind of thinking that makes a preacher think he is useless and a failure, when in reality (God's view of things) he is doing a great job.

This depression is what I call "cognitive depression" in that it is based inside ones own head with little or no basis in reality.  Often the reason for this is a lack of a reference point or a faulty reference point.  Not knowing where you are creates the fear or the assumption that you are nowhere.  Thinking you are not where you should be assumes that you are an accurate assessor of where you
should be.  We are not.

Therefore, this kind of depression is a spiritual problem and it can lead to mental and physical problems.  Hope, faith, love and trust in God along with a renewed emphasis on working will combat physical depression.  There are two human factors behind it:  1. Pride (The example of Elijah "I am not BETTER than my fathers" Who said you had to be better than anyone?)  and 2. Fear.  Perfect love casts out fear.  I am convinced that if we can deal with these two things we can go a long way to getting over depression in our own lives and help others
to gain victory as well.

One thing I have found is that most depressed people have way too much time on their hands.  Some, in the absence of any real challenges or difficulty, will imagine or create the same except these manufactured problems cannot be solved or won over in reality because they do not really exist except in their minds.

For example, Hypochondriacs will often lose their strange, illusive symptoms when they acquire an actual illness.  I once pastored a woman who always had some stomach problems or headaches. She had gone to many doctors and was on all kinds of medicine.  She once fell down some steps and broke her leg.  For several weeks she was healthier and felt better than she had in years!  She had a real problem that she could focus her energy on and it relieved her of the imaginary ones. 

I think this may be why we have so much "angst" among our youth.  Our affluence has shielded them from real difficulty so they lack a reference point. The youth of the Great Depression or World War Two had too much real trouble to spend their thoughts on how bad things are. Maybe this is the reason behind piercings and other self inflicted pain.  Those who are getting real cuts, blisters and bruises from working a physically demanding job are generally not as interested in poking holes in themselves.  They may do it to conform to a fad but they probably wouldn't think of it themselves.

With the exception of those whose depression is the result of burnout (another issue but very related) I have prescribed them to get a job or add to their daily activities.  Doing something good for others is the best cure I know for those whose depression is the result of being too inactive and self absorbed.

I could say a lot more but these are just some of my observations   gained through my years of ministry.