Straw for Bricks – a note on discouragement

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you – 1 Peter 5:7

I’ve been reading in the book of Exodus lately, and my oh my, I thought I had heard the stories a million times, but it’s true that you get something different every time you read the Bible. Perhaps God shows us different things, or opens our eyes to see different things exactly when we need it, or perhaps when we are ready for it. Either way, I am a strong believer that when you’re reading the Bible, it’s not just you reading, but the Holy Spirit is there guiding you and illuminating things. He did this exact thing to me recently. How many of you have read the book of Exodus??? Ok! Probably most of you. You know that the Israelites were living in Egypt and Pharaoh turned them into slaves and they were working hard day in and day out. Then Pharaoh made a decree that all of the Israelite boys should be killed, but miraculously Moses was saved after his sister sends him floating downstream, and of all people the Pharaoh’s daughter actually adopts him…well fast forward 40 years and Moses is now a prince of Egypt. Ok, well that’s all good and dandy until he has to flee into the desert because he murders an Egyptian for beating an Israelite. SOOOOO now we have a burning bush, watching sheep, etc, etc. and Moses is back in front of Pharaoh demanding that Pharaoh allow the Israelites to be set free. Of course, Pharaoh laughs at Moses’ request. After all, he is getting free labor to build all of his fancy-smancy pyramids, so why on earth would he let all of those Jews go, right? I mean from a ruler’s point of view, that’s just not a wise idea. Unless God himself sends a messenger warning that if he doesn’t let the people go, He is going to send plagues to ruin the Egyptian countryside. Yeah, Pharaoh that’s when you sit up and listen! I mean you threaten me with turning water to blood, swarms of flies, locusts, darkness, and boils, and I’ll give you whatever you want. Forget the Pyramids! They were a nice idea while they lasted. God had His hand in Pharaoh’s heart though and God hardened it. Every time Moses went to Pharaoh and demanded that he let the people of Israel go, Pharaoh ordered the slave drivers to push the Israelites harder. He even took away their straw for making bricks! Pharaoh actually accused the people of being lazy as the reason for them wanting freedom. Pharaoh’s hardness and stubbornness got him his sentence, but what completely throws me is the Israelites throughout all of this. Despite the epic display of God’s majesty through all of His dealings with Pharaoh and Moses, they really just did not get what was going on. They were so bogged down from their discouragement that they didn’t see the big picture. They didn’t see they were going to be rescued by God. Instead all they saw was that they didn’t have any straw for bricks.

In Exodus 6, God gives a word to Moses for the people of Israel to encourage them that they would make it out of these difficult times.

Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.” – Exodus 6:6-8

I don’t know what you think about that, but that’s a pretty clear and pretty direct statement. I mean God basically said, “Hey don’t worry, I’ve got all of this covered, you’re going to be set free and BONUS you get all of your own land back, BINGO!”

Now, I would hope when Moses came and delivered this message to me direct from God that I would start jumping up and down rejoicing and singing songs! I mean can you imagine? You’ve been a slave, your whole life and all of a sudden God sends a message through Moses not to worry you’re going to get to go free AND go home! I mean what more could anyone ask for…

But the Israelites didn’t get it!

Moses reported this to the Isarelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage – Exodus 6:9

 

They didn’t listen to Moses because of their discouragement.

Discouragement.

God had just given them a promise of deliverance and freedom, but they didn’t get it because they were discouraged!

How many of you are discouraged?

How many of you are so overwhelmed by what’s going on right at this moment in your life that you are not possibly able to look at the bigger picture?

Because of this one thing in your life, you are not able to see anything else. Your life seems to be surrounded by this one problem, this one thing and it has you so wound up and so blind to life that you seem to be forgetting God’s ultimate promise to you. Once discouragement takes hold, its hard to shake. Discouragement limits your vision. Discouragement prevents you from seeing God’s ultimate plan of deliverance. The Israelites were so discouraged that they failed to even listen to God’s promise of deliverance.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? – Matthew 6:26-30

So my advice to you, stop looking at the lack of straw in your hands and instead look at the big picture. God has His hands over your life. God has a purpose and plan for each and every one of our lives. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. Sometimes it does seem like we will be searching for straw to make bricks to build someone else’s pyramids for the rest of our lives, but that’s the mindset of us who are only looking at what we are capable of. We are completely ruling out the power of God, and we are completely ruling out His divine control when we have a mindset like that. Today may be your day to makes bricks, but don’t focus on that, focus on the ultimate overall plan God has for your life. When we only look at the little picture, we are limiting ourselves from God’s picture.

Discouragement is a disease. Allowing it to take over one hour of your life can lead you to not doing anything beyond the necessity for weeks on end. Have you ever noticed that the successful people in life are REALLY successful? I mean the people who manage to work full time jobs, write novels, appear on television shows, travel around the world, and still have a family at home, and almost all of these people hang out with one another? That’s because like discouragement, inspiration, dedication, and hard work is contagious. Once you allow one to set in it spreads throughout your whole world. That’s why we have to be very careful what we allow ourselves to be infected by.

So don’t be like the Israelites and let the attitude of discouragement overtake you even when there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Just like God gave them the promise that He would deliver them, God also gave us the promise that He would never leave us .That’s the attitude we need to let permeate our lives: not an attitude of straw and bricks, but an attitude that God is in control and that His promises are just as good as they were back in the days of Moses.

 

No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. – Joshua 1:5

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