By Edward O. Bragwell, Jr.
Discouragement is always a difficult thing to deal with. There seems to be so many things that happen in our lives to bring it on. It is easy to become discouraged as we attempt to serve God and things just don’t seem to be working out, at least for the moment. But, we are not the first ones to become discouraged in this way. There are several examples in the Bible of those who really became disheartened over some turn of events as they went about trying to serve God. One such man was Samuel.
Samuel became a great spiritual leader of the children of Israel. Through him God judged the affairs of His children. However, the children of Israel were not happy with this arrangement, and demanded, that a king be set up over them so that they could be like the nations about them. God then explained to Samuel that the people were not rejecting Samuel, but God Himself as their ruler and instructed Samuel to anoint Saul as king (1 Sam. 8,9). This Saul, at first an humble man, became a mighty king. But as he gained stature and power, he began to think more highly of himself than he ought. Saul’s opinion of himself became evident, when he disobeyed God’s instructions concerning the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15). Samuel had brought the word of God to Saul instructing him to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites and not to leave any man or beast alive. Saul, however, saved some of the best of the livestock and the Amalekite king Agag. He disobeyed the instruction of his God. As a result of his disobedience the kingdom of Israel was taken away from him and Samuel had to pronounce this punishment. This had a profound effect on Samuel. We are told that he “mourned for Saul.”
I think that many of us can understand how Samuel felt. How many times have we had those who we thought would be faithful servants of God to disappoint us? It is easy to become discouraged when others disobey the Lord. Samuel was heartbroken over Saul, but the Lord advised Samuel what to do next (1 Sam. 16:1). I think we can learn some things from what God told Samuel when we become discouraged over the disobedience of others.
We Must Overcome The Disappointment
The Lord began by asking Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” Samuel needed to quit dwelling on what had happened with Saul and get on with things. It is nature for us to become discouraged when others fail to obey God. Micah did (Mic. 7:2-4). Elijah did (1 Kgs. 19:1,2,4,10). But we have to learn how to put it behind us. Brethren are sometimes going to disappoint us (cf. 1 Tim. 4:9-11,16), but we must not dwell on it when it happens. Instead, we have to pick ourselves up and go onward.
We Must Be About God’s Work
The Lord instructed Samuel that instead of feeling discouraged, he needed to get to work. He was told, “Fill up your horn with oil and go.” We cannot let the disappointment that we may feel over the disobedience of a brother detract or deter us from getting on with the work that is before us. We have a task before us to take the gospel to others and build up the cause of Christ. We have work to do (1 Cor. 15:58). We cannot let the disappointment caused by some brethren so engulf us that we just sit around mourning and never recover. There comes a time when we must fill up our horns and go.
We Must Realize That The Lord Will Find Those Who Will Obey
Samuel was told that while Saul had disobeyed and the kingdom had been taken away from him, the kingdom would still have a ruler. The Lord said, “I have provided Myself a king.” Even though Saul had disappointed Samuel, he could take heart, realizing that the Lord had found one who would do what Saul failed to do. As we know Samuel went out and anointed David, “a man after God’s own heart” to be king over Israel. We need to realize that for every brother that disappoints us, there is another who is standing with the Lord and we must stand with Him also and get on with the task before us. When Elijah became discouraged, the Lord reminded him that there were seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed to Baal (1 Kgs. 19:18).
So when we become discouraged over the disobedience of others, let’s look to the advice given Samuel. Let’s stop dwelling on it and instead get to work along with others who are doing all they can to be faithful and serve God.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 13, p. 399
July 3, 1986