On Paul’s second missionary journey he almost gave in to discouragement. Notice the passage in Acts.
Acts 18: 1After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.[a] 6But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
7Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.
9One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." 11So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. (NIV)
If we are not careful we will miss something. Paul is on his second missionary journey. He and his party had been thrown out of many of the towns they had preached in. He left Silas and Timothy in Macedonia. He went to Athens alone (except for the presence of the Holy Spirit) Then he traveled to Corinth and waited for the rest of his group. While waiting he discovered a couple who had been run out of Rome at the order of Caesar Claudius. They were Priscilla and Aquila, who were also tent makers like Paul. After his team arrived he began preaching Gospel. But again the Jews began to make it hard for Paul. They actually became abusive. So in verse 6, Paul essentially says, “I have had it! You Jews can just go to hell. It’s the last time you will hear from me!” Now, Paul was speaking from discouragement. How do we know? Look at verses 9-11. In a vision God said to Paul, “do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent.” The word “afraid” in the Greek is Pho bi’a, hence the English word phobia. It is in the passive voice, which means it has no object. He is not afraid of anyone or thing, he is just afraid.
Now, you ask, “how do we get the idea of discouragment from this? Look at the word, "dis-couraged." What does it mean? It means a loss of courage. Discouragement is 99% phobia or fear. In this case it was a fear of failure.
By The Way, all of us who are walking and praying toward that golden city, the New Jerusalem (all who have been born again) sometimes become discouraged. And what happens is that it retards our progress, it hurts our influence on others, and it takes away our joy. Oh yes, we will make it to heaven, but the journey is not what God intended.
If we have become discouraged, how do we get our courage back? How are we encouraged?
1. For one thing we have the partnership of friends. Paul had just met Priscilla and Aquila. That had to be some encouragement. Then finally Silas and Timothy made it. They must have helped. The partnership of friends is very important but Paul needed more. We need friends in our walk with God. They can encourage us by their words, their presence, and their prayers.
2. But Paul had something else, and sadly he had overlooked it. He had positive results. He did what we sometimes do; instead of focusing on the positive fruit our efforts have born, we gaze at what we consider failures. That, my friend, will lead to discouragement. Yes, Paul was perhaps in the wickedest city of the Roman Empire. The temple of Aphrodite was located there. Temple prostitutes served “worshipers” twenty four hours a day. But even in that sinful place there were those who believed.
I remember a missions meeting in Illinois several years ago while we were serving as church planters. Several in the group were bemoaning the fact that 50% of all new church starts died before they could really get established. After much discussion, an older gentleman in the back stood and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have a solution for the problem.” He paused for several seconds as the rest of the group tuned in to hear what plan the old man had. Said he, “Just don’t start any more churches.” You could have heard a pin drop. But everyone got the message. We were focused on the 50% that failed when we should have been acknowledging the 50% that succeeded.
3. But the most important thing that encouraged Paul is found in verses 9-11. It is The Promises of God. Note: (1) God said, “I am with thee.” We have the promise of God’s presence. (2) God said, “no man shall hurt thee.” We have the promise of God’s protection. (3) Finally God said, “for I have much people in this city.” God was saying to Paul, "if you stay the course and preach, there will be a harvest of souls. Many will come to know Christ." Paul stayed on for a year and a half. And what God said was true. You see, we have the promise of God’s power.
What a promise! We have God’s presence, God’s protection, and God’s power. Think about it! If this does not encourage us, and take away the phobia, the fear, the discouragement than nothing will.
THOT: GOD DOES NOT GIVE THE SPIRIT OF FEAR, BUT OF LOVE, PEACE, AND A DISCIPLINED MIND. IF YOU ARE UNDER DISCOURAGEMENT YOU DID NOT GET IT FROM GOD.