Thoughts on Discipleship #4

Let’s talk about discouragement. 

No aspect of ministry is easy! Often, there are struggles and opposition to contend with. In the New Testament, we read about the persistence of Jesus, the disciples, Paul, and others. Paul told the church in Corinth about what was endured in Macedonia: “…we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way: conflicts on the outside, fears within”(2 Cor. 7:5). 

In our context, leading a group has its share of difficulties. Maybe some just can’t commit to attending faithfully. Others are unwilling to hear the truth of God’s word. Perhaps some are unkind or critical. These and so many other facets of small group ministry can be disappointing, and that can lead to discouragement if we are not careful. And as there are those in our groups that are hurting and need encouragement, we are less effective if we are discouraged ourselves. 

In Acts 14:21-22, Paul and Barnabas encouraged the disciples on their journey to keep the faith even though they would face hardships. Paul wrote this in 2 Corinthians 1:4: “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 

We know that we will face problems, though they pale in comparison when compared to those mentioned above. When we face problems, we must rely on God to comfort us so that we are then able to comfort others. Going through difficulties and dealing with discouragement prepares us for circumstances in ministry. We do not have to have gone through the exact situation as those who come to our groups. We do have to rely on the peace of God. Philippians 4:4–7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 3:2 says, “And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith.” The word “encourage” is the Greek word parakaleō, which literally means “to call to” or “to call alongside.” It is the picture of coming up next to someone and getting involved personally. When group members are hurting, we must be willing to come alongside them – with others when appropriate – and help. Scripture, prayer, and encouragement can have an incredible impact on the lives of those we lead. But we must rely on God’s comfort so that we can be there for those who need us.