But God

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One voice of encouragement can change your life.

It’s amazing how one voice can inspire you, lift you, move you forward in life… It’s also amazing how all it sometimes takes is one voice to hurt you, wound you, drag you down and change the trajectory of your entire life.

Encouragement is what oxygen is to your body or gasoline is to your car. It enables people to try harder, reach farther, dig deeper and hold on longer than they thought possible.

I’ve never heard of anyone quitting because they were OVER-ENCOURAGED. But all kinds of people throw in the towel and quit because they lacked encouragement — because discouragement knocked them out of the game.

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Truett Cathy once asked a rhetorical question: “How do you know if a man or woman needs encouragement?” His response: “If they’re breathing.”

We all need ENCOURAGERS in our lives.

Have you ever been so discouraged you felt like quitting? Have you ever been faced with so many problems — coming at you from every direction — that all you wanted to do was to throw up your hands and say, “I’m out… I’m finished. It’s over. I’m done?”

Maybe it involves a relationship? Maybe it involves a marriage? Maybe it involves your health? Maybe it involves your job or career? Ministry? Finances? The pursuit of a dream?

When that kind of stuff hits, one voice of encouragement — just ONE — can change everything!

In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul, the guy who launched missionary movements, wrote approximately half the new Testament, planted scores of churches and was known to be as tough as nails was facing one of the most discouraging moments of his life. He describes it like this in Verse 5.

When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us.

In other words, “We couldn’t relax. Not for a moment. We didn’t get any rest.”  Why?

We faced conflict from every direction,  

In other words, “We were getting hit on all sides. The pressure was relentless. It didn’t stop.”

We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.

Paul said, “There were battles on the outside…” So, everywhere Paul went he faced opposition. If the opposition didn’t come from the religious community, it came from Rome. But, the pressure was nonstop.

On top of the opposition, like most of us, Paul also struggled with fear. In 2 Corinthians 7:6, one of the toughest dudes who has ever walked the planet admitted that he struggled with fear, anxiety, insecurities and self-doubt.

When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, (v.6)

That phrase is critical! “But God…”

Paul said, “I was being pounded by conflict from every direction. There was opposition from the outside and fears and anxiety from the inside. It felt like I was going down for the count… But God…”

Most of us sabotage our own lives by following up statements about our hopes, dreams and goals, with that little three letter word: “but.”

“I would like to go back to school, BUT I don’t know if I have what it takes…”

“I know I need to eat healthy, work out, get in shape, BUT I don’t have any self-control…”

“I want to begin honoring God with His tithe and my offering, BUT I just don’t feel like I have the margin…”

“I want to stop yelling at my kids, BUT I get so frustrated and angry…”

“I’m believing God for healing, BUT I’m not sure it’s His will…”

The next time you’re tempted to talk yourself out of one of the hopes, dreams and goals God has placed in you with a big “BUT I” kind of statement, I want you to drop your “big but” and replace it with an even BIGGER BUT…

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart… —Psalm 73:26 NLT

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) —Ephesians 2:4-5 NLT

Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 7:5-6:

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When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.  But God…

But God…

But God…

But God…

…who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy! —2 Corinthians 7:5-7 NLT

Paul’s life was changed and because Paul’s life was changed, our life was changed -- because God used one man to breath encouragement, grace and renewed strength, confidence and hope into him.

It’s critical that we go to God first for encouragement.  God has to be our source. If we live on the compliments and praise of people, we’ll also die by their criticism and disapproval.  So, stay connected to the source!

But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us… —2 Cor 7:6a NLT

This is God’s pattern all throughout the Bible…

Noah got drunk… But God said, “You’re not finished yet, because I’m not finished yet!"

Abraham lied to protect himself, while jeopardizing his own wife — not once, but twice. But God said, “You’re not finished yet, because I’m not finished yet!”

Sarah actually laughed at the promise of God… But God still said, “You’re not finished yet, because I’m not finished yet!”

Leah was so desperate for love that she took her own sister’s husband and even paid her sister off for a few hours with that husband… But God said, “You’re not finished yet, because I’m not finished yet!”

Joseph was arrogant when he was a teenager. He was abused, mistreated and forgotten by family and friends… But God said, “You’re not finished yet, because I’m not finished yet!”

David had a moral failure, was a pretty terrible husband and a train wreck as a father. He even conspired to get a guy killed. But God said, “You’re not finished yet, because I’m not finished yet!”

Lazarus was dead. But God said, “You’re not finished yet, because I’m not finished yet!” 

I don’t care what you’re going through… you may feel like it’s over, you’re done, there’s no reason to go on… but listen:

You’re not finished yet, because God is not finished yet!

God is a God of process. He’s a God or redemption and restoration. He’s the God of second chances, third chances, fourth chances and “seven-times-seventy” chances! 

Despite your failures and your fears, your battles and anxieties; God is working IN you, ON you and THROUGH you to create in you Christ-like character, God-sized faith, world-changing courage and to bring great glory to Himself!