White Unto Harvest

Dealing with Discouragement
in Mission Work


There has likely been more interest in mission work in the 1990's than in anytime since the period immediately following the Second World War. The countries wherein Gospel preachers are presently laboring are numerous enough that even attempting to list all of them and all the workers is quite a chore (I tried this recently). This alone is a testimony to the commitment preachers and churches have shown toward fulfilling the great commission in our time. In spite of all these efforts to further the Gospel a familiar enemy can present a great hindrance: Discouragement.

Discouragement can rob a foreign worker of the zeal and devotion he needs both to sow the seed and bring fruit "to perfection" (Luke 8:14). It can cause him to be lax toward his own spiritual needs and can sap or divert his energy, or even cause him to leave the mission field. Such a state of mind will affect his work negatively: When the preacher is discouraged he will have a hard time encouraging others -- both lost and saved. Thus, in spite of the interest and support of brethren in many places, discouragement can blunt the sword of the Gospel at the very point of contact with needy souls in the mission field.

Discouragement can be caused by a number of things. It can come from one's perceiving a lack of interest in the Gospel on the part of the lost. For example, a number of men who have worked in Lithuania have seen how disheartening it is when we plan and advertise a lecture, and then have few or no people attend. And who can deny how discouraging it is when we lose a promising young Christian to the world? Likewise, having to deal with church problems or church discipline, as necessary as such work is, can take the wind out of one's sails. Beyond these things, being far from home, loved ones and familiar surroundings can also have ill effects. Hence, it behooves us to look at some ways to overcome discouragement for our own good and for the sake of the Gospel.

  1. Walk with God. The confidence which Paul exuded in even the most trying circumstances was born of his faith that God would not forsake him because he had faithfully walked with him (2 Timothy 4:7,16-18). Do your work of preaching and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2-4). Seek God daily in prayer and through his word. Live soberly, righteously and godly in spite of the spiritual climate of your surroundings (Titus 2:11-12). Build on the one foundation so you can stand in the storms of life (Matthew 7:24-27). Our next point is connected with this.

  2. Use the correct measure to measure your work. Paul wrote, "So that from Jerusalem, and round about to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ" (Romans 15:19), and "For I have not shunned to declare unto you all of the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). While all brethren would like to hear of a foreign worker converting thousands, my work as a Gospel preacher is to "fully preach" Christ in the area of my labors and declare "all the counsel of God" to those who will hear. It is the hearer's responsibility to hearken (Matthew 13:9). Let a man be conscious of his true responsibilities and his work toward fulfilling them, and any perceived failings can be dealt with. (God will grant us the same forgiveness which we preach to others. [1 Timothy 1:12-16]) However, if a man starts measuring himself by other preachers or by the number he converts, he has stopped using the measure God has given him (2 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Kings 19: 4,10). Let not such a one be surprised when he lacks the wherewithal to go on.
  3. Take encouragement from brethren where you are (Acts 28:14-15). I remember a time many years ago when I was down and wondering what I was doing here in Germany. In this state, I walked into a room full of brethren with whom I was working at the time and I thought, "This is what I am doing here." Like a father is happy in his son, so should preachers draw encouragement from those he is nurturing in the Lord (Galatians 4:13-15).
  4. Recognize that God is with us in our trials and works good from them. Joseph, Daniel and Paul exemplify this, as does our Lord. Think of what a curse it would be to go through life with no problems! We would have no real view of life in the sense of such men of faith from the Bible. Please recall the cruel wrongs suffered by Joseph in a foreign land. Yet, because "the Lord was with Joseph" (Genesis 39:2,21), these things turned out to be among the good things in his life. The psalmist wrote, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Psalms 119:71).
  5. Stay in contact with other brethren. The wise man wrote, "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (Proverbs 25:25). If you need some "cold waters" for your soul, please read the following report summaries! Brethren are spreading the Gospel in other countries. Many souls are obeying it. God's kingdom is being furthered and strengthened. Do not isolate yourself from such "good news" from your fellow laborers or from your brethren in other places.
  6. Visit home. As far as I am able to tell, either Jerusalem or Antioch seem to have been Paul's adopted home. He returned to these churches over and over again (Acts 14:26-28; 18:21-22; 21:15-19). Whether one agrees with my analogy here or not, the facts are that Paul did not stay in the mission field but returned from time to time to visit the area wherein his life with Christ began. Such visits are part of the work in a foreign land in that they allow the worker time away to recharge and rest in order to carry on his work there.
  7. Plan for the future. Think of what you might do "if the Lord will" (James 4:15). Paul did this (Romans 15:22-29). Your work is giving you experience that will make you more and more useful to our Lord. Because God has blessed you with the opportunities you presently have, you are learning more about your abilities (Matthew 25:14-15). How might you apply these abilities in the future? Looking beyond the present can lift us up and help us go on in spite of present difficulties. Ultimately, we must plan for our future with the Lord around the throne. Serving him today will lead to serving him in the eternal city (Revelation 22:14). Serving him today is part of planning for the future.

Conclusion

In spite of what has been in the past, today is a new day. Use it to serve God. Discouragement will come. What will it make of you? Please remember Paul's view of all such affliction: "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Deal with discouragement properly. Let it have its proper "work" with you.


To conserve space on our server, field reports are maintained on site only for the current calendar year.  Thank you for your consideration in this.


For comments to the author, or to contribute news, reports, and information regarding preaching efforts in foreign lands, please contact Steve at 100416.655@compuserve.com

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