• The Preacher Says

How do you avoid discouragement?

People ask: "How do you avoid discouragement?" All of us get down at times. It is part of what it means to be human. In "our" circle, however, this question is often associated with an ex-offender who is not doing well. Let me offer a few of my counter-thoughts.

(1) I force myself out of my fish bowl so I can see the "bigger" picture. When I compare new Christians coming out of prison to new Christians who have never been in prison, the scene is similar. Look through last year's list of baptisms in the local congregation. Where are they today? Get the point?

(2) Still, I may need to ask more questions. Each soul gets to make his/her own choices. I cannot rob souls of this responsibility. I want to be the best possible example, but I cannot "control" or "force" desired behaviors or conduct.

(3) I stand ready to help any Christian who has stumbled and seeks to get back up. I will go the Second Mile. I am eager and anxious to help. However, if one is intent on doing wrong, I will not hunt them down and expend all my energy chasing, phoning and getting them to do what is right.

(4) Most of my time is dedicated to working with those who sincerely want to change their lives. They may also stumble frequently, but they do not hide, deny, or run the other direction. They continue to seek fellowship with good people, attend church services, and refuse to give up. They energize me.

(5) Jesus stressed the value of just ONE soul. I steer away from the "numbers" game. I know the Lord wants to see the whole world saved, but I can't reach "two" until I reach "one". One billion starts with one. I do my best when I focus one-on-one...eye ball to eyeball.

(6) Now, I try to step back and really see the BIG picture. In my tunnel vision, I forget the ex-offenders who are faithfully serving the Lord today as preachers, missionaries, soulwinners, Bible School teachers, deacons and even elders in the church. It is not easy but through the power of Christ, lives have been drastically changed!

(7) I'm feeling much better. I'm getting enthused to rush back into the lion's den and rescue the perishing. Yes, it's hard work and sometimes I get "down" after much sweat and tears, but I cannot give up. I am dedicating myself to do a better job in the future. My "best" is all I can do. I must accept my limitations. I am just one of God's servants, not GOD.

God did not say serving Him would be easy. He did not promise everyone would say, "Thank you very much" or "I really appreciate you." They did not say such things to our Lord either.

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Keith Bellamy, Minister