In 1954, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached on a subject that few other preachers cover: sermons on spiritual depression. Dr. Lloyd-Jones veered from his customary practice of preaching through books of the Bible verse by verse …
This sermon is for the Christian who is unhappy, feels heavy burdens weighing them down, and cannot escape feelings of despair. In this sermon on Psalm 42:5 titled “General Consideration,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones shows how God’s word addresses depression. A depressed Christian is not a contradiction of terms; it is a reality the church must learn to address with the hope-filled truth of Scripture. Dr. Lloyd-Jones addresses the extrovert and introvert, both with their tendency to overanalyze one’s self which leads to weariness and dejection. His challenge is to “get to know yourself” and understand personal triggers. Physical conditions also play a part in spiritual depression, says Dr. Lloyd-Jones. The Christian must be aware of this so as to readily push back against the devil. The enemy cannot control the Christian, but he can and will use exaggerated circumstances to further discourage. The psalmist in turn encourages two things: first, speak the word to oneself instead of allowing the mind as it wander into despair. Second, remind oneself of God and His love. He encourages the Christian to defy themselves and the world by putting hope in God.
Mind; Heart and Will
Christians can become spiritually depressed, perhaps not experiencing the joy of their salvation. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains that they often do not realize the greatness of the gospel. In this sermon on Romans 6:17 titled “Mind, Heart, and Will,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones shows that the Christian message involves the whole person, and the whole person is to be affected by it. Christians cannot rejoice in the gospel if their doctrine is unbalanced or lopsided. Some Christians emphasize merely the morality of the Christian message. Others believe Christianity is only about forgiveness of sins. This is due to the fact that many preachers embrace doctrine that lacks balance. Converts often look like the people God used in their conversion, picking up their characteristics. Thus, for many, their understanding of the Christian message is lacking. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones argues that the gospel transforms the whole person, not simply part of them. A Christian is one who knows why they are what they are. A Christian must be ready to give a reason for the hope within. As a Christian battles spiritual depression, it is imperative that they know the whole gospel and have been affected by it. In this way, one may, once again, experience the joy of their salvation.
That One Sin
Sincere Christians face real problems in life. The idea that someone might become a Christian and never deal with doubt, discouragement, depression, and suffering is unbiblical. It’s possible for genuine Christians to be miserable. While Satan cannot rob Christians of their salvation, he can make them miserable Christians. In this sermon on 1 Timothy 1:16, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones examines one particular strategy which Satan may use in depressing Christians: reminding them of past sin. Something one did, or said – “that one sin” – can haunt them years later. While this Christian certainly believes God saves sinners, they feel that that sin is in a different category; that the gravity or volume of past sin places them outside of God’s grace. Listen in as the Doctor explains that depression caused by looking at past sin stems from a poor understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not die for a certain kind of sinner–He died for the greatest of sinners. The grace required to save the most respectable person in society is the same grace which saves the least. As Satan tempts to despair, God’s chosen must look to the cross of Jesus Christ and see He who died for all of our sin.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones believes that meditating upon past failures is a waste of time. “If you can't do anything about a thing,” he argues, “stop thinking about it.” The Apostle Paul was a man whose past was filled with sin and his energies were devoted to harm and destroy the Christian message. Yet, with all of his past sin, Paul does not find misery in the present. His past does not affect his new identity in Jesus Christ. In this sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:8–10, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wants Christians to know that they certainly were what they once were, but now they are what they are now. The Christian must study Scripture, know who they are, and be prepared for these spiritual attacks, knowing that bemoaning the past can cripple in the present. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones encourages Christians to ruthlessly fight against this condition so that they do not behave like a fool. The fool focuses on self and seeks to change what he cannot control. The Godly man, on the other hand, is more interested in Christ, and less interested in the self.
Fear of the Future
It is possible to be so gripped by fears of the future that the Christian becomes ineffective in the present. In this sermon on 2 Timothy 1:7, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones addresses fear of the future as a contributor to depression. Satan’s primary goal is to discredit Christ, and therefore, he attacks Christians. To do so, he tempts us to dwell on the future and then fear of the unknown becomes paralyzing and the result is depression in the present time. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that one’s natural temperament, characteristics, and make up can contribute to depression as inclinations do not disappear once a person becomes a Christian. Therefore, the Christian must recognize personal fears and tendencies, and strive to deal with them. For all who are gripped by this fear of the future, they must fight as a new creature, filled with new life. God has not given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. The future may indeed be filled with sorrow, challenges, and suffering, yet the Christian should trust the Lord and boldly step into the unknown with confidence placed in Christ.
In one’s fight against depression, a person must deal with an incredible power: their feelings. In this sermon on 2 Timothy 1:6 titled “Feelings,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones deals with the problem of feelings in the Christian life. Everybody wants to be happy. The problem is that no one can make themselves happy. The human is not a master of self and cannot produce feeling. Try as hard as one might, a person cannot generate true emotions. One’s feelings are dependent on factors seemingly outside of one’s control. As a matter of fact, feelings seek to control the person. The world refers to this as a mood. A person controlled by their feelings may be referred to as a “moody” individual. Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that the Christian need not be controlled by their feelings. While feelings come and go, there is a great difference between rejoicing and feeling happy. Dr. Lloyd-Jones calls his listener to seek not happiness, but righteousness. The person seeking happiness will never find it. However, seeking after righteousness, the believer often discovers they are happy. The listener is encouraged to discover that Christians are called to seek Jesus Christ above all, and in Him is found lasting joy.
Labourers in The Vineyard
If Christians tend to grumble, commiserate, and feel sorry for themselves, is it because they’ve forgotten grace? Murmuring stems from a belief that one deserves something more. As a result, they’re never happy and become a complaining people. In this sermon on the parable of the workers in the vineyard from Matthew 20:1–16, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains that the murmuring person has forgotten that everything is grace. To illustrate this point, Jesus gives us the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. This sermon highlights the grumbling of those who have been in the faith for a long time. They are complainers; they feel they deserve more than the others. They started out well, but got into trouble later on. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones applies this parable to the human condition today. Christians have the gospel of Jesus Christ, but if they do not continue in it, they get into the same trouble. They become entitled and believe they deserve more. What they forget is this: it’s all grace. It’s always been grace. In the Christian life, all is grace, from the beginning to the end. Christians are called to do all things without murmuring. What a tragedy when Christian people become miserable. What a tragedy when they murmur. The same grace that saved them keeps them. Listen and rejoice––it is all of grace.
Where is Your Faith?
When a Christian thinks all things seem against them, and they’re blinded by despair, they are called to have faith in Jesus Christ. Often, the storms of life lead to feelings of hopelessness. A person is scared and believes they are lost, not knowing if they can survive this next storm. They may even be afraid that God does not care. In this sermon, "Where is Your Faith?" from Luke 8:22–25, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones continues to tackle this issue of spiritual depression through an examination of the disciples’ own fear. As a storm at sea threatens their lives, Jesus rebukes first the storm, and then the disciples––they lack faith. The lesson is simple: Christians should never live in a state of terror. Yet, too often, they do. Today’s Christian’s problem is no different than these disciples’ as they question Jesus’s commitment to them. The call is the same. Christians must not question God’s goodness, but trust Him. They must have full confidence in Jesus. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains the nature and character of faith. Faith is not an automatic response in the believer, but something one must exercise. Does Jesus care about His people? Yes, He does. He will always receive them, bless them, and give them peace. Trust the God who calms the storm.
Looking at the Waves
“I’m a Christian, why am I depressed?” Too often, Christians believe that becoming a Christian eliminates all temptation toward despair and depression. While regeneration transforms the inner person, it doesn’t necessarily change personality or temperament. The Christian should not continue in depression, yet the Christian often does battle depression. Sanctification is not automatic––one must strive toward living a life of faith. In this sermon on Matthew 14:22–23 titled “Looking at the Waves,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones examines the personality of Peter, a disciple of Jesus, and his unstable faith which leads to despair. Peter’s initial faith in Jesus led him onto the stormy waters. Yet something changed. Circumstances didn’t change; the waves were not new. What changed was Peter’s faith. Instead of focusing on Jesus, Peter focused on his circumstances. Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that this focus on circumstances leads to doubt, which leads to despair. While the circumstances of one’s life are enough to drive them to depression, the Christian has a savior in the midst of the storm. The Christian must not rely on past experiences of faith––they must practice faith now, as the waves crash around them.
The Spirit of Bondage
The Christian may feel the Christian life is filled with burdensome tasks, an endless to-do list. When living in an antagonistic world, the tendency is to turn the faith into nothing more than a higher law. Holiness becomes nothing more than an occupation. To what does this lead? It leads to a wrongful fear of God; a tormented view, seeing God as merely a distant law-giver. This doesn’t lead to a life of joy, but rather a spirit of bondage. In this sermon on spiritual bondage from Romans 8:15–17 titled “The Spirit of Bondage,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones addresses this issue through examining the doctrine of adoption. The Christian is invited to call God “abba.” A slave cannot call their taskmaster “father”––only a child can do this. Adoption means that God is not a distant law-giver, but a father who is near. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that desire to live a holy life must not come not from an attempt to appease God. On the contrary, that desire to live a holy life is because He is the father and Christians are His children. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. The moment this is realized, everything begins to change.
That Your Joy may be Full
While the Christian life is to be one of joy, it is common for Christians to feel depressed. Why is this? In this sermon “That Your Joy May Be Full” from Ephesians 3:14–21, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones continues exploring the reasons for spiritual depression. One reason many fall into spiritual depression is that they fail to realize what they were meant to be, what is available for them, and what God intends. Relying on initial experiences of forgiveness, this person fails to go on in their faith and grow in their knowledge and understanding. This leads the individual to their biggest problem: they don’t really know the love of God. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains God’s intention for the Christian and how one might receive what intended for them. This should not leave the believer with a feeling of hopelessness, but rather an eagerness and joy as they see what they can become. When they understand the truth that Christ dwells in them, they are ravished by Him and love Him. What is the Christian destiny and where are they heading? The Christian will spend eternity enjoying God. Today, the downcast soul must fight spiritual depression through regaining this robust view of who they are and where they are heading.
Dead to Sin
Should the Christian continue in sin so that grace may abound? God forbid. Aided by their natural minds, some in Paul’s day made it a habit of using grace as a cloak for sin. Paul argues against this mindset as he refutes those who charged him with preaching antinomianism—the belief that the gospel absolves any obligation to keep moral law. In this sermon on Romans 6:1–2 titled “Dead to Sin,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones contends that anyone who lives according to that belief has not yet begun to understand basic biblical doctrines. Instead of rightly living by grace, there were some in Rome who lived in depression as they sulked in their continual failures. Dr. Lloyd-Jones applies the timeless text in Romans to the many Christians who suffer from a sin-laden depression today. In this Palm Sunday sermon, he shows that the beautiful remedy for such a miserable depression is a true understanding of the cross of Christ and the union of the believer with Christ. Everyone is either in Christ or they are not. They have either been crucified with Christ and died to sin, or stand condemned in their sin.
Alive unto God
What fear should the Christian have? In what ways ought the believer be gripped with worry or anxiety? Unruly fears, anxieties, and worries lead the believer to spiritual depression. This need not be. In this sermon on Romans 6:5–8 titled “Alive Unto God,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones declares the believer’s sure hope: they are raised with Christ. What one believes must be driven by facts. The fact is that Jesus was raised from the dead, and all who have died with Him have the confidence that they are raised with Him. In the face of temptations, these facts lead the Christian to an unshakable certainty: death has no power over them. As the believer is dead to sin and alive to Christ, Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that their future is absolutely certain. They cannot continue in sin, and will never again submit to the slavery of sin and death. Worry, fear, and anxiety are wrapped up in death. Death is rooted in sin. If Jesus has dealt with sin, He’s dealt with death. If death is no more, everything changes. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones leads to the truth that calms all fear: Christ has been raised from the dead, and the Christian life is hid in Christ with God.
The Danger of Error
What robs a Christian of joy? In this sermon on Colossians 2:8 titled “The Danger of Error,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones highlights error and heresy as contributors to a joyless life. These thieves demand knowledge beyond what God has revealed, and leave the Christian feeling empty and hollow. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones explores the ancient heresy known as Gnosticism, relating it and applying it today. This counterfeit religion must be fought against, and error must be avoided. Dr. Lloyd-Jones provides practical advice on how to avoid such heresy and, in doing so, highlights heresies of his own day. Certain characteristics are woven throughout religious falsehoods which, when understood, alert Christians of their error. Countering these hollow philosophies, the believer must beware of the lust of the mind and be content with what God has revealed in His word. Anything that goes beyond the Scriptures simply puffs up one’s mind instead of exalting Christ. While there is certainly an initial thrill, heresy and error leave the person joyless and empty. Joy comes not from philosophy, but from Christ. The fight for joy is therefore a fight to exalt Christ. Christ is supreme and true.
Why is it that some Christians experience spiritual depression? In this sermon on Romans 6:14 titled “Spiritual Depression,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones maintains that spiritual depression occurs wherever there is an ignorance of the Scriptures. He preaches this sermon, rooted in the apostle Paul’s text, to sum up a couple of his former sermons covering the Christian’s death to sin in Christ, as well as the Christian’s new life in Christ. Dr. Lloyd-Jones then expounds upon Paul’s application. If the Christian wants to live and enjoy the Christian life in victory, they have to realize the truths of their union with Christ. They are not commanded to act like it is true. They are told to realize, reckon, and regard that it is true. They are to be certain of victory over sin. The greatest comfort Christians can have in their spiritual depression is to know that because of the victory they have in Christ, sin no longer has dominion. Dr. Lloyd-Jones emphasizes that this can only be because of God’s grace. The law condemns, but God’s grace delivers. Under grace, Christians are brought more and more into God’s glory, so that they yield to sin less and less until they are completely delivered.
Be Strong in The Lord
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones admits that the problem of spiritual depression is so widespread that he could spend all of his time counseling depressed Christians. In this sermon on Ephesians 6:10–11 titled “Be Strong in the Lord,” he seeks to address the cause of spiritual depression. While the counselor should take strides to ease the immediate pain of depression, the problem lies deeper than the pain itself. The problem is spiritual. Living in a materialistic world, Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that one forgets that the spiritual world exists. The tendency is to treat everything as physical. For some, this means arguing that all depression is the result of personal sin. For others, this means arguing that all depression is the result of the body or brain. These answers, however, do not go deep enough and leave the individual in their depression. The problem is that Satan wars against humanity. These depressed thoughts come from the devil himself. In fighting spiritual depression, Christians must engage in a spiritual battle. Dr. Lloyd-Jones examines the whole armor of God and calls Christians to put on this armor. This is their fight against spiritual depression: to take up this armor and fight against the devil. Listen and be encouraged that Christ has triumphed, He has defeated the devil. In Christ, His people will prevail.
The Whole Armor of God
How can a Christian be victorious over Satan in spiritual warfare? In this sermon on the whole armor of God from Ephesians 6:13-15, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones asserts that it is only in the strength of the Lord and His might. The apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus that they must put on the whole armor of God. The strength that the Lord provides for His people is putting on the armor of God, piece by piece with prayer. We need every piece of armor God provides for us beginning with the integument. We start with a foundation of the revealed truth of God—the girdle. We need the doctrines of the Bible set securely at the base of our protection. Secondly, we put on a righteousness capable of being judged at every angle—the breastplate. The devil aims to fuel our doubts by bringing up past sins and present iniquities. Christians must apply the breastplate of righteousness and protect themselves at every angle by looking to Jesus Christ on the cross. And thirdly, the Christian puts on the preparation of the Gospel of peace—the sandals. As quick as the enemy is, we must be quicker and more agile, prepared in the assurance of our salvation. Will you begin to apply this panoply?
The Shield; Helmet and Sword
What does it mean to put on the whole armor of God? In this sermon on Ephesians 6:16–17 titled “The Shield, Helmet, and Sword,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones continues his exploration of what the apostle Paul calls the armor of God. Scripture tells the Christian to be strong in the Lord, and Dr. Lloyd-Jones maintains that the strength the Lord provides for His people is in putting on the armor of God, piece by piece with prayer. Christians need every piece of armor God provides, beginning with the integument and continuing with further protection. Christians add faith to their defense so as to quench the enflaming thoughts and ideas of the enemy—the shield. This is the capacity to take particular truths from God’s word and apply them appropriately. Then they think on their final salvation and deliverance from sin—the helmet. This is the Christian’s blessed hope and certainty in complete victory. Finally, they take up the ultimate defensive protection in the Spirit—the sword. God provides His word to defend against spiritual warfare in hand-to-hand combat. If it comes to such a point, they lean upon the phrase, “the Bible tells me so.” This completes the full armor of God.
What role does prayer play in spiritual warfare? In this conclusion of his sermons on spiritual depression, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones declares the prominent role prayer must have in a Christian’s life. In this sermon on Ephesians 6:18 titled “Praying Always,” he expounds upon the words of the apostle Paul, who told the church in Ephesus to pray at all times with all prayer and supplication. Dr. Lloyd-Jones tells why Christians pray and to whom they pray. He asserts that prayer is a test for all that they claim to believe. The high road of prayer is self-examination—that Christians would discover how weak and ignorant they are so as to drive them to God. Prayer is vital, essential, and necessary because Christians have a capable enemy in the devil; thus they continually need the armor and power of God to do battle. Jesus and the many saints that have come before proved that prayer is the supreme achievement of the soul. Dr. Lloyd-Jones encourages to “keep your armor bright!” Prayer leads to knowledge of God, which leads to love of God, which defeats the enemy.
Praying in The Spirit (Spiritual Depression)
Who can talk to God? Who can boldly enter His presence and communicate with Him in prayer? In this sermon on praying in the Spirit from Ephesians 6:18, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones guides the listener through this careful study of how Christians are to pray. The blood of Jesus, His death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives His people unhindered access to the Father. But that open access to God in prayer is not an invitation to be casual, flippant, or fill prayers with meaningless repetition. Christians need the Holy Spirit's guidance to teach them how to pray. The spiritual battles of life, the weakness of the flesh, and the need for intercession requires careful attention to one’s communication with their king. Prayer that glorifies God and maximizes the spiritual life is prayer that is filled with reverence and respect for the Father who loves and is always ready to hear the voice of His children.