Are You Discouraged?
Are you discouraged? Feeling down and out? Wondering why you should even bother trying to live the Christian life anymore, especially since you seem such a failure? Who hasn't felt worthless at times? Who hasn't grown impatient with themselves and felt sick over their lack of spiritual progress? (Lk. 8:15). YOU'RE NOT ALONE! We all go through those valleys of the shadow of death. But take courage: the way must lead up again soon! "Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God" (Ps. 42:11).
Who would encourage you to quit? Would Christ want you to give up? The one who DIED for you? Would God pressure you to surrender? Too many have never realized what a vicious beast and enemy we must face! Even those who haven't rejected the devil as a superstition haven't grasped how dangerous he really is to our health and well-being. God picks up the pieces of lives that have been savagely torn and ripped apart and left for dead by sin (Isa. 49:24-25; Amos 3:12).
Satan's foaming at the mouth against our incredible human potential and wants to take us out like a sniper - one at a time. He hates all mankind with a jealous rage (because we're created after the Godkind), but he's especially targeted the brethren (1 Pet. 5:8-11). The Devil can take some things that are true about you and twist them, taking them out of context, and blow them all out of proportion to DESTROY your will to survive! He never stops bad-mouthing us because he's a MURDEROUS CHARACTER ASSASSIN AND LIAR! (Jn. 8:44; Rev. 12:10) But don't let the powers of darkness overcome your will to live in the light! Don't accept Satan's depressed mind! Don't fall prey to his hopeless attitude of defeat! He has no right to condemn (Rom. 8:1,33).
King David would get discouraged, but he'd end his prayers on a positive note, showing the healing effect of God's Spirit upon our minds while we're engaged in HEARTFELT PRAYER. "I had fainted, unless I had BELIEVED to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD" (Ps. 27:13-14). David believed in God's goodness, hoped in His mercy, and waited for His sufficient grace - whether grace to pardon or empower (2 Cor. 12:9).
God will give us grace to bear up under life's many burdens (Heb. 4:16). His Holy Spirit enables us to be graceful - full of grace - even in adverse circumstances. We LIVE AND LEARN through a variety of situations to be gracious in word and deed, attitude and action. David knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that: "The LORD will give strength to His people: the LORD will bless His people with strength" (Ps. 29:11). So "Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD"(Ps. 31:24).
Even if you've gotten carried away, your sins have taken you far from God, and Satan holds you captive ( 2 Tim. 2:26; I Cor. 5:5), remember God and He'll remember you! Not that He's ever forgotten you: "But Zion said, The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yes, they may forget, yet will I not forget you. Behold, I've graven you upon the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me" (Isa. 49:14-16). God's love for us goes far beyond our love for Him. He proved this when Jesus' palms had stakes driven through them (Zech. 13:6).
Some have been foolishly deceived by sin and have become carelessly entangled again - trapped in a danger zone - but as long as they don't give up they CAN overcome what has presently overcome them! (Heb. 3:13; 2 Pet. 2:20). It's only those who've completely turned their backs on God, who refuse to get back up when knocked down in the ring, that will forfeit victory.
"And yet for all this (in spite of ourselves), when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God" (Lev. 26:44). God promises to release, regather and restore. He'll free us from those sins that have cruelly held our time and attention, regather our spiritual senses (since Satan's psychological warfare had left us a basket-case and scatter-brained [Lk. 22:31-32; Deut. 28:66-67]), and restore us to sanity and a right relationship with Him (where we belong), even "If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee"(Deut. 30:3-4). No matter how far you've strayed, God hasn't lost sight of you. "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" (Ps. 139:7).
If you begin to cry out to God for help, even if it's only a whimper because you're so weak, He'll see and hear and respond. "The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit... none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate" (Ps. 34:18,22). "For I will not contend forever, neither will I always be wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made... I have seen his ways and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners" (Isa. 57:15-18).
God sees what trouble we've gotten into and where our relapse into sin has dangerously misled and stranded us, bringing us almost to the point of no return, but NOTHING can separate you from God's love unless you let it! (Rom 8:35-39). As long as there's a spark of God's Spirit, God can renew our minds and transform our lives! (Ps. 51:10). God will finish what He's started in our lives (Philip. 1:6; Isa. 66:9). Never forget that we worship a MIRACLE-WORKING GOD!
Remember the prodigal son was still distant from his father, their relationship estranged, but when he "came to himself" and headed home - even when he he was yet a GREAT way off - "his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him"(Lk. 15:17, 20). God knows where you're at and what direction you're headed in your heart and mind even if your actions haven't caught up yet with your attitude! God knows they will, with time. "For He remembers our frame [make-up]; He remembers we are but dust" (Ps.103:14). God wants to encourage us to change, not discourage us from even trying (2 Cor. 2:7).
Constructive criticism, not destructive. Judgment with mercy. God helps but Satan hinders progress, but we CONQUER BY CONTINUING, one step at a time (I Thes. 2:18; 2 Pet. 3:18). God gave David the Kingdom, but he had to fight for it! So do we! (Matt. 11:12; I Tim. 6:12). Otherwise we'd take it for granted. Keep up the struggle (Lk. 13:24). All the things you believe in are worth fighting for. Growth comes in stages. We must patiently let our trials run their course and create God's character within us (Heb. 12:11; Jas. 1:4).
Satan wants to extinguish your light (I Tim. 4:16). He hates the sacred embers of God's Spirit, Light and Truth we maintain and represent, as a royal priesthood (I Pet. 2:9; Jn. 17:17; Ex. 27:20). God doesn't kick us when we're down and out, but encourages us to GET UP AND GET OVER IT and get on with His Work! (Ps. 37:24; Philip. 3:13). When your faith falters and your confidence is shakey, Christ won't snuff you out but will ADD MORE OIL so we can rise and shine! (Isa. 42:3). "For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to OBTAIN SALVATION... Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as you also do" (I Thes. 5:9-11).
"For God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us...For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life...by whom we have received the atonement" (Rom. 8-11). If God can express such love for us when we weren't even trying to lead a Christian life pleasing to Him, how much more now that we're trying - however imperfectly? Don't we suffer because we hunger and thirst for righteousness?
Brethren appreciate your HOLY SUFFERING! It's working out a PURPOSE in your life that will last throughout eternity! Growing pains hurt.
We ought to love God all the more when we glimpse His mercy and patience towards us. His goodness ought to stir us to want to get closer to Him and do what we can to show how much we appreciate His tender love (Rom. 2:4; Lk. 7:47). Nothing should get between our relationship with our Creator God! If God would rescue our forefathers time and again, when they cried out to Him, HOW MUCH MORE will He save us from the Lake of Fire? (Jude 23, 24). God can save us out of sinful situations and restore His Priesthood Promise to us (Zech. 3). We can be "a brand plucked out of the fire," saved from "the furnace of affliction" (Isa. 48:10). God can forcibly remind us the hard way that He's what we really want, His fulfilling Kingdom and righteousness, not the shallow things that couldn't possibly fill the void in life (Ps. 106:15; 107:9).
We must keep UPPERMOST in mind the meaning and purpose of life: to develop God's holy, righteous character in joyful anticipation of God's Kingdom. This will help us to confront every challenge that life affords us in this process of purification that we call conversion. We must remember: "There has no temptation taken you but such as is common [not unusual] to man: but GOD IS FAITHFUL, who will not permit you to be tempted above your tolerance level; but will provide with every temptation a way out, so that you can handle it" (I Cor. 10:13 paraphrased).
And realize "...that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the GLORY which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18) because Christ will soon return and every practicing Christian will be made perfect! Then we'll assist our Savior in preparing the way for our Father's awesome arrival with NEW JERUSALEM! (Rev. 21:3).
God's Kingdom is closer with each day, so we should hold our heads up and not stay discouraged, but permit ourselves to BE ENCOURAGED to carry on (Isa. 35:3; Lk. 21:28). All stumble, but don't wallow (Ps. 37:24). Let your attitude be; "I shall NOT die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has chastened me sore: but He has not given me over to death"(Ps. 118:17-18). Hallelujah!
God's forgiveness and Christ's cleansing power remain in effect (Isa. 18). God knows what we've been through and has gone through it with us, in the thick of it, bearing His Crown of Thorns (Isa. 63:9; Gen. 22:13; Ex. 3:2). God couldn't get much closer (Jer. 23:23). The bottom line is: have HOPE and not despair; FAITH and not fear! After all, "...it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" (Lk. 12:32).
About the Author: David Ben-Ariel, an American author who has travelled widely and who has lived throughout Israel, shares a special focus on the Middle East and great interest in Jerusalem, reflected in hard-hitting articles that help others improve their understanding of that troubled region. Check out http://www.benariel.com