• Matt Beaney

#520 (7/1/22) OVERCOMING SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION THROUGH FRIENDSHIP



On Sunday, we saw how Elijah, a great man of God, got so spiritually depressed that he didn’t want to go on living! This is included in the Bible so as to encourage us as we, and most of us do to different degrees, go through such dark times.


Elijah was isolated and felt alone. He said,

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:10)

Spiritual health requires a church community. Spiritual health and growth is a community project. Do you realise that the term ‘one another’ is used on 59 occasions in the New Testament? Like geese that, by God’s design, fly in formation and in so doing they can fly 70% further, so too, by God’s design, we need to be in close Christian community. Spiritual depression can result from a lack of encouraging friendships. We are created for community. When God created man, He said,

‘The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”’ (Genesis 2:18)

This, of course, includes marriage, however, Whilst we are single, it’s not good for us to be alone. All of us need close Christian friendships. In the church, we should experience something of the fulfilment of this text. As an aside, I say to those who are married, let’s be proactive in including single people in our lives. In Ecclesiastes, we read,

‘Two are better than one… If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up…Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’ (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 extracts)

We read in proverbs about the good effect of friendship,

‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ (Proverbs 27:17)

Without brothers and sisters to challenge and encourage us, we will be blunt. Do you feel blunted? Or Do you feel sharp to God’s voice and ready to serve Him? We see a great example of this in the life of David. He was discouraged, and Jonathan ‘helped him to find strength in God’.

‘While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.’ (1 Samuel 23:16)

A true friend helps us to ‘find strength in God’. (As an aside, if you are single and are looking for a spouse, if they help you to find strength in God, that’s a great attribute!) Listening well, giving biblical counsel and inspiration, and praying together are some ways of imparting strength to someone. Christopher Ash in his book, ‘Zeal Without Burnout’ wrote about this,

‘One of the best things I did during my year of nervous exhaustion was to restart a prayer triplet with two other men. I should have done this years before, but somehow it had been postponed until the crisis came.’

Friends support us in dark times and, likewise, we can support them when they have periods of spiritual depression. Perhaps starting a Running Partners group (2 or 3 people getting together regularly to pray and encourage one another) might be a good application for all of us! Proverbs tells us,

“Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6)

We all let people down and fail to have our expectations met. Seasons of spiritual depression can make us vulnerable to bitterness at our lack of true friendship. The devil is also at work to bring division. However hard it seems, you must reach out for help if no one is reaching out to you.


RUNNING PARTNERS

Why not think about starting a Running Partners group? Click the link for more information.

https://www.communitychurchputney.com/post/running-partners


Paul Tripp in his book Lead, speaks of building a healthy church that’s built on the gospel. He points to the danger of building a consumerist culture rather than a culture of love and service. Consumers don’t see the need for community unless it meets their needs. Disciples are devoted to community because church is who they are and love (sacrifice for others) is what they do. Tripp writes of the difference between consumers and disciples,

‘The church is not a vital part of their lives, like an organ or a limb of one’s physical body. Instead, the church is just an event they attend, stepping out of their lives to do church stuff and then stepping back into their lives when the event is over. A disciple has no such separation in his thinking. For him, being part of the body of Christ is an identity that doesn’t just define a set of gatherings he attends but redefines everything in his life. Everything about him—his relationships, his work, his time, his money—is being transformed because he is part of the transformational community of disciples called “the church.”

OVER TO YOU - PRAY AND WORSHIP OUT OF THE BIBLE

I’ve made a few comments. However, it’s more important that you engage with the text yourself. Take a moment to pray and listen to God’s voice out of today’s text.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ (Proverbs 27:17)

I find it helpful to use the following questions which are based upon The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13).


1. Praise - What does this text teach me about God? What can I praise Him for?

2. Petitions - What does this teach me about His will for me and others? What could I pray for from this text? This is a good time to pray for our non-believing. friends. It’s good to ask, Is the Holy Spirit leading me in any specific response?

3. Peace-making - Is the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin for which I need forgiveness? Do I need to forgive others?

4. Protection - Ask for God’s protection generally and for any specific areas of vulnerability. Am I believing lies regarding the truths in this text?

 

COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY

1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

Important - this Sunday, our service is both live in the building and on Zoom from 10:30. Please go to the website for the Zoom link.

 

2. Icebreaker

What have been your high's and low's over the last few weeks?

Secondly, do you have anything encouraging to share on how God spoken to you from the Bible recently?

 

3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group


On Sunday, we saw how Elijah, a great man of God, got so spiritually depressed that he didn’t want to go on living! This is included in the Bible so as to encourage us as we, and most of us do to different degrees, go through such dark times.


Elijah had just had an amazing, miraculous victory. He had seen fire fall from heaven and had defeated the prophets of Baal. He should be on top of the world. Instead, Elijah was in despair. We read,

‘Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.’ (1 Kings 19:1-5)

God wants to renew and revive us. Elijah is illustrative of this. We read,

‘Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.’ (1 Kings 19:5-8)

MEAN S OF SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

God keeps and renews us from spiritual depression in many ways. Here are some examples:

i) Eat and drink what is good - Do we eat and drink in ways that promote health?

ii) Eat and drink spiritually - Elijah's story of illustrative of how we need to feed on Jesus by the word and prayer. He tell us,

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35)

iii) Rest - Sleep and rest are God's gifts for our physical and spiritual health.

iv) Resting in Christ (resting in grace) - Knowing that our salvation (justification) is a gift through faith alone. Knowing that our fruitfulness rests on the Spirit rather than our overworking.

v) Friendship - We need friends who will strengthen us in God. Christopher Ash in his book, ‘Zeal Without Burnout’ wrote about this,

‘One of the best things I did during my year of nervous exhaustion was to restart a prayer triplet with two other men. I should have done this years before, but somehow it had been postponed until the crisis came.’

Discussion questions

i) Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?

ii) Out of 10 (0 being really bad) how spiritually excited are you and what are the reasons for your answer?

iii) Out of the 5 means of spiritual renewal that I've included above, what do you most need to work on and how could you do that?







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