Don't Lose Heart
by pastor Lee

A man saw a poster in the post office which read, "One day I shall burst my buds of calm and blossom fully into complete and total hysteria."

This is from Jody Capehart of Dallas, TX, in Today's Christian Woman, "I frequently use 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to encourage the children I teach to Ďpray without ceasing.í One day after chapel, a young boy said, ĎMrs. Capehart, I am sorry I sneezed during your prayer today.í I assured him sneezing was no problem but I appreciated his apology. He responded, ĎWell, I know you like us to pray without sneezing.í"

As we continue in Paulís epistle to the Ephesian church we come to verse 13.

Ephesians 3:13 (NKJV)
"Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory."

Paul has revealed a lot of truth in this Epistle so far, and I will not go back over the lessons we have learned so far. But, in this 13th verse, Paul begins with Therefore. When you see THEREFORE in Scripture, stop and look and see what it is there for. Paul talked about his commission to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. After revealing the mystery of salvation in Christ and the mercy and grace of God at his calling, then he says, "therefore".

Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart. If the enemy can't puff you up with pride, he will try to dampen your spirit by discouragement. It's one of his best tools! Just imagine the congregation of any church if their pastor was thrown in jail for preaching the truth from the Bible. Now, I am not talking about those pastors caught in immorality. That has to be devastating. I am talking about pastors being thrown in jail for preaching Godís truth. There is before the congress of the United States a bill that would give special rights to homosexuals. Included in that bill is what is called a provision to jail those convicted of "hate speech." Hate speech is defined as making adverse comments about homosexuality. You and I know that the Bible teaches against homosexual behavior. Organizations such as Focus on the Family, and others warn about several things. The bill could just require churches to hire "out of the closet" homosexuals. The bill could easily be used to silence evangelicals who preach against sin. So, possibly, your pastor could be hauled off to jail.

Now get this scenario, it Sunday morning. There is in the congregation several new people which have been kind of stand offish. Your service begins as usual, the welcome and announcements, the opening hymn, the invocation. So far everything seems to be OK. The songs of worship are sung and the offering taken. Then your pastor stands and begins to preach. He take a strong stand against sin and two men you have never seen before stand up, walk to the front of the church, step up on the platform and announce that the pastor is under arrest for "hate speech." And they cart him off to jail.

How would that make you feel? Some Christians would be fighting mad. Some would shout hallelujah, joyful that the church would now be cleansed. And some would become despondent. Now Paul was hauled off to jail because of the things he preached to the gentiles. That could cause a congregation to become discouraged, to lose heart, to faint. Paul is expressing a wish, a desire, or a prayer that the Ephesian church would not become disheartened at his imprisonment. Paul says, I ask that you do not lose heart. Was this simply a desire or was it a prayer?

As I look at the various readings of this passage, I see quite a bit of interpretation. The reading from the New King James says this:

Ephesians 3:13 (NKJV)
Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart

The reading from the King James says:

Ephesians 3:13 (KJV)
Wherefore I desire that ye faint not

The New International says:

Ephesians 3:13 (NIV)
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged

The New Century says:

Ephesians 3:13 (NCV)
So I ask you not to become discouraged

As you can see, every version pretty much agree that Paul is asking the Ephesian church not to be discouraged. But, as I interpret the Greek text I find a more appropriate interpretation

Varyís Version says:

Ephesians 3:13 (VV)
Therefore I ask God that you do not become discouraged

Why do I interpret the verse this way? First the Greek text is just a little ambiguous. The word translated ask in most of these versions is a word that means to ask. However, the form of the word is in the middle voice. The middle voice in the Greek is reflective back to the speaker, I myself. And so, rightly, the translation should be, "Therefore I ask, in my own interest, that you do not become discouraged". I believe that Paul, who we know to be a praying man, is telling the Ephesian church that he is praying that they would not become discouraged because it would cause him distress to know that his situation was causing the Ephesian church to become discouraged. Just look down one verse and you will see that Paul has prayer and worship in mind.

Ephesians 3:14 (NKJV)
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

As we continue in this verse we see something else.

Ephesians 3:13 (NKJV)
Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

The Amplified New Testament renders this 13th verse like this:

Ephesians 3:13 (Amplified V)
So I ask you not to lose heart, not to become despondent or faint through fear, at what I am suffering in your behalf. Rather glory in it, for it is an honor to you.

Paul says that his tribulation was for the Ephesian church, probably more accurately, for the gentile Christians. Paul says I pray that you will not become discouraged, despondent, faith hearted at my situation, glory in it. If Satan is not on the attack, the church must not be doing anything right, it is as simple as that. When the church is doing something right, Satan will initiate the attack. So, if you and/or your church is under attack, having a difficult time of it, then you must be doing something right.

You must be doing something right! Glory in it!! Keep on doing it!! Paul was jailed, he was doing something right, it was for their honor. If your pastor does not get jailed for preaching against sin, it doesnít mean that he or the church is not doing something right. It may simply mean that Satan hasnít gotten around to you yet. But, if your pastor is jailed for preaching against sin, donít become discouraged, glory in it! But while we are on the subject of not fainting, not becoming discouraged, lets turn to Luke 18:1 - 8.

Luke 18:1-8 (NKJV)
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, {2} saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. {3} "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' {4} "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, {5} 'yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'" {6} Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said. {7} "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? {8} "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"

The very first thing we should take note of is that this passage follows one concerning the second coming of Christ. Many Christian people today are looking at the skies saying, "the Lord is coming, the Lord is coming." Over the centuries Christians have been saying the same thing, "the Lord is coming, the Lord is coming." We look around us and things seem to be getting worse and worse and many canít help wondering, "is the Lord coming? Is the Lord coming." I have been putting stories from the magazine, "The Voice of the Martyrs" and today, many Christians are under severe persecution, we have not experienced this kind of persecution in this country and we complain and cry because things are not as nice as we would like.

Could we tend to become discouraged that our world is not perfect? We could, if we let ourselves. I remember the church we attended with my Uncle John in Gun Barrel City, Texas, now some 22 years ago, the preacher there had interpreted the idea of vain repetition in prayer as mentioning a request more than once. But, I believe Jesus lesson in the Luke passage we just read was to keep on praying about something until we get an answer. Pastor Donís grandmother prayed for the salvation of her husband for over 50 years. He came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in his late 80's. But, lived as a Christian witness for 5 years before he died. We started praying for a Spanish speaking evangelist, what, 10 years ago? Have you given up on that? I havenít. As the Lord brings that need to mind, I pray. I believe that the Lord will answer that prayer. Not according to my schedule, but, according to His schedule. Donít give up.

This an illustration from Charles H. Spurgeon, "Prayer pulls the rope below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly. Others give but an occasional pluck at the rope. But he who wins with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously, with all his might."

Bill Hybels, in his article, "God's Attitude Toward Prayer," in Preaching Today, wrote, "You don't have to pester God to get his attention. You don't have to grovel. You don't have to flail yourself. You don't have to bite your lip and groan and moan and all of these kinds of things people do to show God they really mean business. If one of my kids ever called me and said, ĎDaddy, please, please, please, I beg of you, I petition you, I'm pleading with you to listen to my need.í I'd say, ĎTime out. I don't like the underlying assumption here. You don't have to go through all those gymnastics. What can I do for you? Nothing in my life is more important than you.í What gives me greater pleasure in life than meeting the needs of my children? What?"

God has chosen to be our heavenly Father, in Matthew 6:32-34 concerning the things of this world Jesus says,

Matthew 6:32-34 (NKJV)
"For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. {33} "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. {34} "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Quite frankly, I much prefer the King James rendition of that 34th verse.

Matthew 6:34 (KJV)
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

What did the widow in the parable do? She kept on asking the judge for justice. Eventually the judge gave her justice, not because the judge cared for justice, but because of the womanís persistence. What is the lesson for us? Keep on praying. ...About what ever it is. A Spanish evangelist, a certain individual, whether for salvation or physical healing, or psychological healing, or for a job...

Donít give up.

The latter part of James 5:16 tells us that prayer is powerful.

James 5:16 (NKJV)
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

There are many places in Scripture that tells us not to become discouraged. First donít lose heart and become discouraged because of the trials of the day. Paul was in prison for the gospel he preached to the gentiles. And he is telling the church not to become discouraged because of his imprisonment. He says, this is for your honor, glory in it. There will come a day, and perhaps in the not too distant future, when American Christians will be persecuted like the Vietnamese, the Chinese, and those living in Muslim countries. And Paul tells us, donít lose heart, donít become despondent. Rather glory, because we will be doing something right. Then our Savior teaches us not to become discouraged in prayer. The Lord will answer every legitimate prayer. But it will be in His time. Not according to our schedule, but according to His schedule. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.