Sermon delivered January 30, 1999

by Pastor Kent Crutcher, Youth Pastor

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Bible quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Always a Way

In an industrial town, many years ago, a new smokestack was being built for a factory. Smokestacks were some of the tallest structures of the day and required specialized design and construction. That is where John comes in. John was the foremost smokestack engineer in the country. His design and construction of smokestacks was considered the best. When a tall smokestack was required, John was called. He traveled with his family from job to job.

On this particular job, this was one of his tallest projects ever. It took months to complete to complete the smokestack. The elaborate scaffolding required to do the job was a work of art in itself. John wasn't the kind that sat in an office and gave directions, he was a hands on kind of man. He trusted only himself to do the job right. He was on the site day after day. As the smokestack went up and the scaffolding went up beside it, he directed in everything that was done.

The smokestack was completed. There it was standing proudly in the sky, but it was still surrounded by all that elaborate scaffolding. The scaffolding had to be removed. Of course, John, being the kind of man that he was, saying, "I can do it. I'm the only one that knows how." He oversaw the entire project, including the removal of the scaffolding on the last day of the job. To supervise this task required him to stand on top of the smokestack and give orders through a megaphone to his crew. This was a critical procedure because the scaffolding had to be removed in a balanced way or else the whole thing would collapse, killing workers and damaging the smokestack. The job would take a complete day. At the end of the day, as it was getting dark, John would go around to the back side of the smokestack, tie a rope around himself and be lowered to the ground by use of a pulley and strong workers at the bottom. The rope would be drawn through the pulleys and the job would be done.

On this particular job, everything had gone according to plan, and he had been feeling proud of himself as he looked and the scaffolding was down and he saw the sights. He could even see the home where his family was staying for this particular job, smoke coming from their chimney, for it was winter. He shivered a little bit and was looking forward to coming down, and as he walked around to the back side of the smokestack, he stopped. He stared in disbelief. The rope had slithered through the pulley, unbeknown to anyone, and was piled up on the ground. John s brilliant mind raced through all of the options. He found none. This was in the days before helicopters, no ladder was even close to being tall enough, the scaffolding would take days to rebuild, and it was winter and night was near. John s heart experienced utter despair! He had no doubt that he would die. He resigned himself to that fact. He was a very factual person. "I am dead," he said to himself because it would take weeks for them to rebuild the scaffolding: a lot long to put it up than to take it down. It was winter, and it was night. No possible chance of rescue. Options ran through his mind, but there was only one logical conclusion. "I might as well get it over with. Before my family finds out I'm stuck up here and comes running, I might as well jump and be done. I can't do it with them watching. I might as well commit suicide. He thought about his wife and family who lived in a house which he could see. He knew that he would never be able to see them again. He saw no reason to prolong the inevitable and decided that the best thing to do was to jump before his family arrived on the scene so that they would not witness his suicide. Total despair and discouragement had taken hold of John s life.

Discouragement is Satan's secret weapon!

Once upon a time 'tis stated, Satan publicly announced 
That he was going out of business, all the past he had renounced;
And at one great public auction, he would sell his stock of tools.
Some, no doubt, would buy them gladly, for this world has many fools. 

On the evening of the auction, people came and saw displayed
Many vices we could mention, all the devil's stock and trade.
There was malice, there was envy, jealousy and hatred, too;
Sensuality and anger and other vices, not a few.

But apart from all the others lay a large wedge-shaped device
And a placard stating plainly what seemed a most outrageous price.
"This wedge is called Discouragement," said Satan with a bow;
"'Tis worth more than all else I have; I hate to sell it now."
"I use it more than all the rest.  It is well worn, you see,
and few there are who really know that this thing belongs to me.
Can I but enter this great wedge within the consciousness of man,
'Twill drive him to these other things and frustrate His Maker's plan."

The devil never sold his wedge.
The price was far too high!
He kept it, and is using it,
As the centuries roll by.

The list goes on and on. But when we think of discouragement, one man seems to really stand out from the rest Job. If we combined all the trials and problems that each of us has had in our lifetime, they probably would not add up to what Job went through in a very short period of time! Just listen to a few of the words from this faithful but discouraged man of God:

"Let the day perish wherein I was born."..."O that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!"..."I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."..."O that I might have my request. Even that it would please God to destroy me. Then should I have comfort."

Not exactly the words of a happy individual. Job was a man in total discouragement. And these are just a few words from chapter after chapter of this type of saying.

On the topic of Job, Prophets and Kings by EG White reads: "Into the experience of all there come times of keen disappointment and utter discouragement days when sorrow is the portion, and it is hard to believe that God is still the kind benefactor of His earth- born children; days when troubles harass the soul, till death seems preferable to life. It is then that many lose their hold on God and are brought into the slavery of doubt, the bondage of unbelief...

"Could we at such times discern with spiritual insight the meaning of God's providences we should see angels seeking to save us from ourselves, striving to plant our feet upon a foundation more firm than the everlasting hills, and new faith, new life, would spring into being."

Though weary of life, Job was not allowed to die. To him were pointed out the possibilities of the future, and there was given to him the message of hope. This message was not only meant for Job. It is meant for each of us! It is found in Job 11:15-19 starting half way through verse. 15. These are words from Zophar, one of his counselors. then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor.

Job had a hard time believing that. That anything could make him feel better after all of this happened to him. But from the depths of discouragement, Job rose to the heights of implicit trust in the mercy and saving power of God. Triumphantly, he was later able to declare: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. He also shall be my salvation." "I know my Savior liveth!" I can't believe those words. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!"

It reminds me of a dog I used to have. Her name was Sally. Sally was an interesting dog, very loyal, a mutt, Heinz Fifty-seven, and a stray dog that we took in. Sally would lay down her life at your command. If I picked up a hoe when I was working in the garden and raised it above my head at the dog, the dog would not run away from me in fear. She would simply lie down on the ground and expose her neck. That brought tears to my eyes, because I didn't mean it. I would never hurt her. Can we trust God so much as that dog trusted me with her life? "Though you slay me, yet will I trust you." Quite a reversal of Job for what had been a seemingly impossible situation!

There are different types of discouragement. Job seemed to have had experience with most of them. Three types seem to assail us most often: Physical, Temporal, and Spiritual. And what a discouraging rainy day! Did you know that people get discouraged more this time of year than any other? Have you tried to find a parking place at one of the local hospitals lately? The other day in the afternoon I was at Memorial Hospital. Usually I just pull in and get a spot. No problem. But this day I drove around and around and around for forty-five minutes waiting to find one parking place. I wasn't the only one. There were twenty something other cars driving around with me. Waiting for a spot. People are discouraged this time of the year. There are more people in the hospitals than ever at this time of year. Well, just look at our prayer list, how long it was this morning. This time of year seems to bring trials like none other. It's easy to become discouraged.

When I was in the Seminary, this is the time of year that people dropped out. This is the time of year that people that were making A's began making C's and people that made C's, well, they just didn't want to tell you what they were making. Grades fall. I'm sure that can be attested to right near here at Southern Adventist University. People are struggling to make good grades. It's hard to think clearly when one is discouraged.

Physical and Temporal and Spiritual. Three types of discouragement:

If you'll remember, Job had his share of physical problems. Not only the physical problem of losing his family, but Satan's last attack was covering Job himself with boils from head to toe! I've seen a person with just one boil. They were utterly miserable with just one. Job was covered from the top of his head to the soles of his feet with these boils. The very God that healed and comforted Job was the same God that walked on this earth and healed and comforted the multitudes and is the same God that can take care of you and me!

Many blame God for the things that happen to them. I was reminded this week of a verse that says: "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father." When Jesus walked this earth, he spent His time healing the results of sin, the true cause of our problems. He was a reflection of the Father. What are often called "acts of God", are acts of the evil one. God is the healer! He is the answer for our discouragements.

Another type of discouragement is called Temporal. We have all experienced this. It comes from having too much to do and too little time to do it.

Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought about all that needed to be accomplished that day. Sometimes it can be so discouraging that you feel like staying in bed with the hope hat it will all just go away like a bad dream. There's no way it can all be done.

It's times like this that we can claim some of the promises in scripture like Matthew 11:28-30 which to me is one of the most refreshing and encouraging texts of Scripture: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. That's more than just a Sabbath day's rest that we experience today. "I will give you rest." Have you ever claimed this promise? In the midst of a I-don't-know-what-I'm-going-to-do kind of day? I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." I love the idea of rest, and I'm so grateful for Sabbath. Something that every week reminds us that we can turn everything over to God.

Now look with me at another promise found in Isaiah 41:10 and 13. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ... For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear; I will help you." And that means me, and that means you. Each one of you. "I will help you no matter what the problem is."

When we need help, God is the one we should rely on, NOT OURSELVES! Often we rely upon ourselves like John was relying on himself to get the job done but he found himself in an impossible situation.

A textile factory with complicated machinery posted these instructions: "If your threads get tangled, call the foreman!" A man was working at a machine in which his treads became tangled. He tried and tried to fix the mess, but everything he did made matters worse. The foreman noticed the situation and sighed his frustration as he tried to untangle the mess the worker had made. The worker answered the unspoken rebuke by saying: "I did my best." The foreman replied: "Remember this, doing your best means sending for me!" The best that we can do is hand our tangled lives over to the Creator! We can do nothing on our own but make it worse.

The same goes for when we become spiritually discouraged. Satan has brought down the mightiest of prophets with this type of discouragement. Remember the discouragement that Elijah suffered while fleeing from an infuriated woman? This came after one of the greatest spiritual victories of all time. But, like Job, Elijah just wanted to die.

Satan uses spiritual discouragement on you and me, showing us pictures of ourselves and telling us that we are not good enough for God. That's when we need to remember that Jesus stands in our place and we claim Psalm 46:1 and 2, which says: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

When we become discouraged, Satan has no mercy on us. He tries to pull us deeper and deeper into despair. But, no matter how discouraged we may become, no matter how bleak the outlook is, no matter how impossible the situation seems, there is always a way out! There is always a reason to hold on to what is dear. So many want to give up the fort just before help arrives. So many do not see the beacons burning that herald the soon coming King. So many need to know that there is always a way. Where we see no way, Jesus sees ten thousand ways that we never thought of! He begs us to place our lives into His hands and be content with a peace that passes understanding. Then, situations which once seemed impossible, will become possible.

At the beginning, I was telling you about John standing in utter despair on top of the smokestack. The rope was gone. His only hope of rescue was non-existent. People were gathering below as they always will at such times. They saw the hopeless situation and feared that John would end it all. They knew John. He was a thinker. He would see that there was no possible way down. Someone, in despair, ran up the street, banged on the door of John's home. Quickly the situation was described to John's wife and she ran to the scene. When John saw her, he knew that he could no longer jump. There she was, he couldn't do it in front of her. He still had no hope of survival.

John's wife took a megaphone and began speaking to her husband. "John, don't you even think it." He used the megaphone that he had been using to instruct his workers on removing the scaffolding. "What hope do I have?" She ignored him and asked, "What are you wearing?" His mind tried to understand why his wife would ask such a question at such a time. "What do you mean, what am I wearing? What does it matter what I'm wearing?" "Shut up and tell me what you're wearing." He answered, "I'm wearing the sweater that you knit for me last Christmas." "Take it off," she yelled. "What??" "Take it off!" It's cold." "Take it off." He still had no clue why his wife was asking these things of him but he obeyed. He had nothing better to do, so he removed the bulky sweater. And then she yelled up at him, "Unravel it." This time he argued, "But you made it!" "Do as I say, unravel it!" So he clipped a thread and began to unravel it. As he did,, it began to dawn on him what his wife had in mind. And as it dawned on him, he started to unraveling that wonderful sweater. He loved that sweater now. The yarn was piling up beside him. When it was completely unraveled, he tied a piece of brick to the end of the yarn and lowered it down. It reached all the way to bottom of the smokestack. A man quickly tied a piece of twine to the yarn, which he pulled up and passed through the pulley. When the twine passed on down to the bottom, they hauled up the rope that had fallen. One minute he had been contemplating suicide, in a few minutes later he was in the arms of his family. Where there seemed no possible way out, there was a way! There is always a way!

Where we see no possible way out, Jesus sees ten thousand ways if we will only trust Him. There may be times when you sink into discouragement. But there is a thread of divine love that comes from the throne of Heaven. Seize that thread. It may seem small at times, but it is golden and will lift you away from this world and into the arms of the One you love the most! This peace is possible for your life and is only a prayer away.

Opening Hymn: 525, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less
Scripture: Psalm 46:1,2

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