As a high schooler growing up in New Mexico, our former editor, Sam E. Stone, who died Jan. 25 at age 84, wrote to Christian Standard to take issue with people using the Old English forms “Thee” and “Thou” when praying in church services. That letter was published in a 1954 issue of the magazine (more on that in “Throwback Thursday” in two weeks).
But this week we feature Sam’s first published article in the magazine, which appeared in 1958, shortly after Sam graduated from Ozark Bible College and only weeks after he married Gwen (Gardner). As evidenced in this article, Sam was a great encourager from a young age.
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God’s Answers to Discouragement
July 12, 1958; p. 8
By SAM STONE, JR.
Our problems are not new ones. The people of Bible times had similar troubles. God’s answers to them—whether by example or exhortation—should prove helpful for twentieth century Christians. So, when you feel discouraged, remember these things:
If attendance at church grows smaller suddenly, imagine how Jesus felt when He had several thousand ardent followers one day and only twelve the next (John 6)! Success in the Lord’s business is not based solely on numbers.
When you feel that your testimony is being wasted and that your influence has little effect, think of Stephen (Acts 7:54 ff.). When he died, he could not imagine the effect which his example would have on one who watched him. Paul, who then fought Christianity, later became its greatest defender.
At times even your family may misunderstand you. When they do, recall that Christ’s earthly parents and friends were long in realizing His mission (see Luke 23:48-51; Matthew 12:46-50; John 7:3-9). Once they even tried to get Him to stop His ministry because they thought He was “working too hard”!
You may be convinced that the church does not pay the minister a sufficient salary—and that conceivably could be true! Use your influence to correct such a situation, but remember that Paul worked willingly to support himself when necessary. There is danger in one’s becoming solely interested in material provisions, too (see Matthew 6:25-34; 19:27-30).
Perhaps you have had a “falling-out” with a preacher or some other Christian. You are not the first one. Paul and Barnabas did not always see eye to eye (Acts 15:37-41). Many present-day disagreements would be far less harmful if folk would remember that though Paul and Barnabas parted company with one another, they did not “split-up” with God. The important necessity in such troubles is for each Christian to remain faithful to the Lord!
In your congregation there may be only one or two young people who seem to take Christianity seriously. Do not let that discourage you: Remember Timothy. Paul felt that this one young man was worth two long letters and much patient training. Time spent in training a young person is never wasted (Proverbs 22:6).
If folk who worship with you say they do not like singing and even complain about the pews, remind them of Paul and Silas who sang in jail while in a very uncomfortable position (Acts 16:23-25)!
When physical illness or financial reverses cause you to question the goodness of God, find inspiration in the faith of Job (Job 13:15). For one to question God’s goodness is to indulge in worldly argument (Romans 3:5). God can work all things for good within His will (see 2 Corinthians 12:7 ff.; Romans 8:28).
Most Christians who work regularly in personal evangelism have some discouraging times. It is good to remember that the master Evangelist did not have complete success, either. One prospect with whom He worked three years betrayed Him (Luke 22:47-48). He spent an entire evening teaching Nicodemus of the new birth, yet by the time of Jesus’ death Nicodemus remained a “secret disciple” (John 19:38-39). Our job in speaking for Jesus is not to “give the increase” but to plant and water the gospel seed (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
When you become discouraged, remember the lesson which Elijah learned—you are not alone (1 Kings 19:18). If the temptations seem too great, think of Christ’s example (Hebrews 4:15). Rest upon God’s promise for help (1 Corinthians 10:13). For every discouragement that may come to a Christian, our good Lord has provided counsel and strength within His Word (2 Peter 1:3).