These are notes on the sermon, Win Over Discouragement, Depression And Burnout, preached by Pastor Joseph Prince on Sunday, 19 March 2017, at The Star Performing Arts Centre, Singapore. We hope these sermon notes will be an encouragement to you!
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The Lord is your good Shepherd. He cares for you. He is intimately aware of the struggles that you go through, struggles with negative thoughts, struggles that cause you to feel depressed and discouraged. He knows about the struggles that you don’t even share with the people closest to you.
God wants you to rest in His presence as you allow Him to serve you and give to you. Let Him serve you first. You cannot serve Him well unless you first receive from Him.
Whether you’re listening to this message months or years later, know that the anointing of God is timeless. God can still heal and minister to you right now whenever and wherever you are tuning in from.
Today, the subtle weapons of the enemy against the church are the weapons of discouragement and depression. They affect everyone, from leaders and pastors to those of us who have been waiting for results in a certain area of our lives, but are now wondering, “How long more, Lord?” or “When is my turn, Lord?”
These thoughts can even become thoughts of bitterness toward God. But God knows exactly what you are going through and He isn’t shocked by the thoughts that you have. He loves you and this is a word that will help you and set you free in times of discouragement and depression.
We see this in the story of the prophet Elijah:
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”
— James 5:17–18 NKJV
“a nature like ours” — Here, we see that Elijah was a man who prayed powerful prayers with supernatural results, and yet he was also a man with a nature like ours. He felt what we felt, and he had the same struggles we do.
Many of us have this false impression that when we are depressed or discouraged, God doesn’t hear our prayers. That cannot be further from the truth. The story of Elijah shows us that God cares about and can even use a man who is depressed.
If that’s what you are feeling today, it is not the end. God has a bright future for you.
Elijah’s story began at a time when Israel had been divided into two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Israel in the north and the Kingdom of Judah in the south. King Ahab, who was the king of the northern kingdom, was a wicked king. Under his rule, many renounced God and instead worshipped idols. His wife, Jezebel, promoted the worship of Baal, the god of thunder and rain, which demanded many immoral sacrifices. She also destroyed many of the true prophets of the Lord. In the midst of this dark scene, Elijah appeared before King Ahab:
“And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”
— 1 Kings 17:1 NKJV
“before whom I stand” — Elijah was conscious of the Lord’s presence with him even when he stood before a king.
Elijah pronounced the start of the famine over the kingdom of Israel and it lasted for three and a half years. While the famine was part of God’s judgment of the immoralities that were happening in the kingdom of Israel, God’s heart was not for judgment. It never is. As a righteous judge over the earth, He has to judge but even as He is judging, His heart is still full of love and mercy.
Throughout the Bible, we don’t see the phrase “God, rich in wrath” but we see “God, rich in mercy” (e.g. Eph. 2:4). God has wrath but He is not rich in it. He is rich in love, and He is rich with mercy. We are not focused on His wrath today because grace has come. Put your focus on His grace that is extended to us, not on the judgment that has passed.
“Then the word of the Lord came to him saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it shall be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.””
— 1 Kings 17:2–4 NKJV
“feed you there” — In the midst of the famine, God took care of Elijah by leading him to a place where there was still enough food and water for him. Oftentimes, we want God to work “here,” right now, but God wants to bring us to a “there,” a better place, where He has provided for us.
“The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.”
— 1 Kings 17:6–7 NKJV
“the brook dried up” — Just because the place where you are currently in seems like it has dried up or there are no visible fruits doesn’t mean that God didn’t call you there at first. There are seasons and timings to the things that God calls us to. Sometimes, God can also dry something up in order to redirect our paths or to show us something better (this does not apply to marriage).
“Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”
— 1 Kings 17:8–9 NKJV
“there to provide for you” — After the brook had dried up, God provided Elijah with a new “there” for him to go to, where God had commanded a widow to provide food and drink for him.
“So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.”
— 1 Kings 17:15–16 NKJV
“she and he and her household ate for many days” — Even though the widow only had enough left for one meal, when she gave it to Elijah, God made sure she received much more in return. You never lose out when you give to the Lord. God sent Elijah there because He wanted to bless the widow as well.
God doesn’t just bless us, but He causes us to be a blessing to others as well. The widow, in turn, received provision from the Lord through Elijah.
When the time came for the famine to end, God in His mercy sent Elijah back to King Ahab, that he might command rain to come over the earth.
“And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.”
— 1 Kings 18:1 NKJV
At the same time, Elijah issued a challenge to the prophets of Baal to call for their god to answer by fire. The prophets of Baal cried out to Baal from morning till noon, even resorting to cutting themselves (1 Kings 18:26–29) but they received no answer. On the other hand, Elijah’s prayer was less than 25 seconds long and God answered him. Sometimes the most powerful prayers are the shortest ones.
“And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your Word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that Your are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”
— 1 Kings 18:36–37 NKJV
Elijah’s prayer had the elements of an answered prayer:
You don’t lose out when you choose to give God the glory. In the Scriptures, we see that whenever God is glorified, people are blessed. The Lord’s glory is always healing; you never see someone being stricken with illness when God gets the glory.
It’s good to just come into the Lord’s presence and to enjoy Him before we even start praying. Rather than rushing through or not praying at all, take time to think about all that He is and who we are to Him today. From that revelation, pray and talk with Him.
“Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!””
— 1 Kings 18:38–39 NKJV
“the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice” — Judgment must fall because of sin. But the fire either falls on the guilty ones or it falls on the sacrifice.
When the fire of God fell on the altar Elijah made, it was consumed because God’s judgment was greater than the sacrifice. The sacrifice could not withstand the judgment. But many years later, there would be another sacrifice. This time, the sacrifice would be on the hill of Calvary, and His name would be Jesus Christ.
When the fire of God’s judgment fell upon Jesus, Jesus consumed all the judgment on our behalf. God’s judgment was completely spent on Jesus’ sacrifice and yet Jesus was not consumed. Here, we see that the sacrifice was greater than the judgment.
Jesus, our perfect sacrifice, endured the judgment. He absorbed it and He exhausted it until it was all gone before He said, “It is finished!” This time, the fire was gone, but the sacrifice remained.
“Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.””
— 1 Kings 18:41 NKJV
After the judgment, there’s always the blessing. Today, we are blessed because the judgment has come upon our perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ.
“there is the sound of abundance of rain” — For Elijah, he heard the sound of rain in the spirit and yet still he prayed for it. He chose to align himself with what God was doing and prayed for the rain that he knew God was sending.
“Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!””
— 1 Kings 18:44 NKJV
Even though Elijah heard in the spirit that the rain was coming, he still prayed seven times before the rain actually came. Sometimes we are to pray by faith but sometimes God wants us to pray persevering prayers.
“as small as a man’s hand” — Never despise the days of small beginnings. Never despise the little you have. A boy’s lunch, when given to Jesus, could feed more than 5,000 people with leftovers. One cloud, the size of a man’s fist, would water the entire land.
“And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.”
— 1 Kings 19:1–3 NKJV
Pastor Prince is speaking to not just believers but to leaders who feel like their best years are behind them. After a great victory and a great demonstration of the power of God, Elijah became discouraged because he saw that things went back to normal, as if he had made no mark or difference at all.
“when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life” — Elijah, the man who was full of faith, who was conscious of the invisible and invincible God, started to go by sight and not by faith.
And He forgot the God of resurrection, the God of provision. All of us, like Elijah, can so easily go from walking by faith to walking by sight.
“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”
— Hebrews 11:27 NKJV
“he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” — This verse is about Moses and reveals his secret to never growing old and weak. The word “endured” appears only once in the New Testament. This was Moses’ secret to not growing old: He saw the invisible God.
So often, we see the things happening around us and we get discouraged. We are snared by the visible. The devil uses the visible to snare us. When we become so obsessed with what we see, we lose sight of what God is doing behind the scenes. When Elijah saw what was happening, he forgot the God who first led him to Cherith, he forgot how God sent ravens to feed him day and night, he forgot the God who answers by fire and the rain that followed.
Even if we walked by the greatest faith yesterday, we can so easily go back to walking by sight again. No man is spared from this, even the greatest men of faith are subject to this.
When Peter saw the wind, he lost sight of the living God who was calling him out to walk on the waters.
Walking by sight will cause the greatest of disciples to sink and the greatest of prophets to fail.
This is when we so often find ourselves struggling: when we take our eyes off the invisible and put our focus on the visible. And so we get discouraged.
“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!””
— 1 Kings 19:4 NKJV
In the past, Elijah prayed for God to lead him and he followed wherever the Lord was leading him to. Here, Elijah got discouraged, and he ran for his life because of fear of Jezebel. The moment we take our eyes off the Lord, we start making decisions out of fear.
In contrast, when we take our eyes off ourselves, we see more of the Lord and what He is doing.
Elijah prayed to die, and God answered him by making sure he never died! God brought him up bodily to heaven without him dying. Till this day, Elijah has never died. Elijah thought he was going to die in the wilderness because he looked at what was happening all around him, but God brought him up to heaven instead. The Lord is so kind and gracious.
Have you been at a place where after you’ve seen all the great works of the Lord, it seems like it all came to nothing? It seems like you failed?
Don’t be discouraged. The Lord is still working behind the scenes. The story is not over yet.
Sometimes it can be so refreshing to take our eyes off the servant, Elijah, and onto the perfect Master, our Lord Jesus.
In Matthew 11, after Jesus performed many acts of grace and love to the people, His people rejected Him. In the midst of this seeming failure, Jesus praised the Father and still chose to give thanks to the Father.
Leaders might fail us, great men of God might fail us, but the Lord will never fail us. Put your eyes on Him and be encouraged. It’s who you put your faith in that is most important. Don’t put your faith in man, put your faith in the Lord.
Pastor Prince shares how in the past, he used to have the impression that when he was discouraged or questioning God, God would leave him alone to deal with his discouragement before He chose to answer. Some of us believe this about God too—that He doesn’t enjoy being around people who are discouraged or depressed. But that cannot be further from the truth! And we see this in Elijah’s story.
“Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.”
— 1 Kings 19:5–8 NKJV
“lay and slept” — All of us are subject to bouts of depression. Sometimes what the Lord does for us in these moments is to give us sleep. God gives His beloved sleep (Psalm 127:2).
“Arise and eat” — Then, God gave Elijah food (physical food for him to eat). The “angel of the Lord” that is mentioned in the Old Testament always refers to the pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.
We see a parallel of Jesus bringing food to those in discouragement in the New Testament too. In John 21, Jesus came to His disciples who had been fishing all night but caught nothing, and He had prepared breakfast for them.
Some of you have worked so hard only to find that all your work seems to have gone to waste; the fruits don’t reflect the work you’ve put in. Pastor Prince prophesies that for those of us who have been experiencing lack or struggling in the area of finances or provision, we shall see a breakthrough in this area. Just like the disciples saw provision after Jesus came to them.
When the disciples went out to fish and caught nothing, they came back to shore to see warm coals and the resurrected Christ cooking breakfast for them.
The Lord cared for them in a practical way. Jesus built a fire and He made breakfast for them to eat after a long night of fishing. The Lord cared for His disciples in a practical way and today, He cares for you in a practical way too.
“Arise and eat, because the journey is too great” — God knows what you are going through. He knows when you look ahead and see only difficulty before you. He knows the journey is too great for you, but He wants you to know that He has provided you with food for the journey.
“he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights” — Keep listening to the Word of God. One word from Him can give you strength to carry on. You have food that comes straight from heaven. The Word of God will give you strength for the journey.
“Horeb” — Another name for Mount Sinai, where God gave the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel. God didn’t ask Elijah to go back to Horeb. When Elijah went there because he was depressed, he didn’t know that God was already preparing a chariot of fire to bring him to heaven to be close to Him. God would not allow His servant to die in the wilderness.
“And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.””
— 1 Kings 19:9–10 NKJV
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” — For God to say “here” means that God was right there with Elijah. The Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. Even though the journey you took was a result of your own mistake or your own choice, the Lord will not forsake you. God Himself will go with you and be with you.
“I alone am left” — Sometimes we look at the things happening around us and we get discouraged because we start to feel like we’re the only ones left, we’re the only ones struggling and going through what we’re going through. That’s how Elijah felt. Yet the truth was that God had still reserved 7000 in Israel, whose knees had not bowed to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). Just because we don’t see what God is doing doesn’t mean He’s not doing anything.
Elijah was more conscious of what God was doing in judgment (through the fire that consumed the sacrifice and altar) but he could not discern what God was doing in grace.
“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”
— 1 Kings 19:11–12 NKJV
“earth . . . wind . . . fire” — These are all visible signs yet it says that the Lord wasn’t found in these signs. He was found in a “still small voice,” which in Hebrew literally means “a calm whisper of gentleness.” This is God’s ministry of grace that doesn’t shout judgment but speaks of God’s grace.
Elijah had a ministry of fire and he thought the whole nation would turn around at the sight of God’s judgment. But we people’s hearts are not won with judgment, they are only won with the beauty of the grace of God.
We are drawn in by His love, not His judgment. Fear might be the reason people come to God but it is His love that causes them to stay.
The Lord is not like a master who throws you aside after He has made full use of you. The world and the devil discard you when you have exhausted your use. But even when you’re old and not as productive as before, the Lord doesn’t discard you and throw you to the side. He cares for you and takes care of you. Even when you’re growing old, you will always be a child in His eyes. He never stops taking care of you.
Sometimes, like Elijah, we are not led but we walk into the valley of the shadow of death. Yet even then, the Lord is with you. He goes into the valley with you.
Pastor Prince prays for those who are discouraged and those who are experiencing depression:
There’s an anointing that is releasing people from depression, from self-pity, from discouragement, and from anger. Prison doors that are being flung open, locks that are being unlocked. People are being set free from years of depression, discouragement, a life of self-pity, and anger. This is your jubilee.
Even when you walk into the valley of the shadow of death by your own will, the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you.
If you are on medication for your condition, do not throw your medicine away but even as you are taking the medication, remember that the Lord is with you and He loves you. Even in those moments of darkness, talk to your Savior. Give Him your cares and let Him minister His love and healing to you personally. The Lord wants to take all your cares for and from you.
When you are down, tell Him. When you are discouraged, tell Him. Let Him be the friend that sticks closer than a brother.
“This coming week, the Lord bless you and the Lord keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance on you and grant you shalom-peace. In Jesus’ name and all the people say, Amen.”
We hope these sermon notes blessed you! If they did, we encourage you to get the sermon and allow the Lord to speak to you personally as you watch or listen to it.
© Copyright JosephPrince.com 2017
These sermon notes were taken by volunteers during the service. They are not a verbatim representation of the sermon.
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