Winning Ways - from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas 
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A February-March Sermon Series
(Sundays @ 10)
Hillcrest Baptist Church

Our Enemy's Most Effective Tool
by Tom Goodman
March 14, 2012

When the Hayden Planetarium in New York City issued an invitation to join the crew on the first journey to another planet, eighteen thousand people applied.

A panel of psychologists found that the majority of applicants were disappointed with their lives here and hoped they could find a new life somewhere else.

Ah, Discouragement.

There's an old fable that says the Devil once held a sale and spread out the tools of his trade on the table.  Hatred, envy, lust -- all the weapons that everyone knows so well.  But off to one side lay a harmless looking odd-shaped instrument marked "discouragement."  It was old and worn looking, but it was priced far above all the rest.  When asked the reason why, the Devil replied, "Because I can use this one so much more easily than the others.  No one knows that it belongs to me, so with it I can open doors that are tightly bolted against the others.  Once I get inside I can use any tool that suits me best."

That's why the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians is one of my favorites.  It both begins and ends with a rejection of discouragement.  In verse 1 Paul wrote, "Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart."  And then as if once was not enough, he says it again in verse 16 before closing the chapter, "Therefore we do not lose heart."

What's remarkable is what's in between this opening and closing line.  Paul says he and his co-workers were "hard-pressed on every side," "perplexed," "persecuted," and "struck down."  But they didn't lose heart:  He wrote that though they were hard-pressed, they were "not crushed."  Though they were perplexed, they were "not in despair.  Though they were persecuted, they were "not abandoned."  And though they were struck down, they were "not destroyed" (verses 9-10).

Someone once said, "You can define the greatness of a man by what it takes to discourage him."  If that's the case, I'm afraid I don't have a lot of greatness, because sometimes the things that send me reeling are so petty.

What about you?  Do you need to find your heart for life again?  Join is this Sunday @ 10 for an encouraging look at 2 Corinthians 4.  It's another installment in our series, "Growing Pains of the Soul."


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