Discouraged or Encouraged?

Discouraged or Encouraged?

There is a lot that can discourage us while we are isolated because of the coronavirus. We can’t do a lot of the things we are accustomed to doing, especially gathering together as members of the Lord’s body to worship and study together. It has been a little over a week and I can feel the difference. I miss each and every one of you. You all are in my thoughts and prayers daily. In addition, every day that we turn on the news, we are bombarded with doom and gloom (I will give a little credit here – some news outlets are trying to find a silver lining and give some positive reports as well). It can be very easy to be discouraged!

Make no mistake that our adversary, the devil, is using this time to weaken your faith, erode your will, and convince you to give in to temptations to doubt and sin. This is one of those occasions, like Jesus after fasting in the wilderness, when Satan thinks it is the perfect opportunity to tempt you. Heed the words of Peter:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6–11)

We need to recognize several important points Peter is making:

  1. If you will humble yourselves before God (which includes submitting to His will), you will find comfort. You will be able to cast your anxieties on Him. He does not get tired of hearing our troubles. He cares for us and wants us to rely on Him.
  2. We need to recognize that Satan is always watching. He is looking for an opening in your spiritual armor so he can attack you (Ephesians 6:16). If you are not equipping yourself with the help from God that He offers, then you are opening yourself up to attack. Without the full armor of God equipped, that attack will get through.
  3. We must be on our guard, fully equipped with that armor of God, but we must also provide resistance. No soldier puts on their equipment for battle and then sits down on the battlefield to do nothing or merely to watch! A soldier is expected to resist the enemy and follow the lead of their generals. Fight back! We are at war every single day, coronavirus or not!
  4. If you will resist, Satan will flee (James 4:7). Satan is patient. When he encounters resistance, then he will retreat and wait for another opportunity to present itself. This emphasizes that we need to always be on guard, but also that we cannot rest (spiritually) just because the current battle is over. If we do this, then we merely hasten the next attack.
  5. You aren’t the only person experiencing these issues, whether it be the isolation or it is some temptation or situation that you endure. Every one of us is in a battle for their souls. That means there is strength we can gain from each other but it also means that it is extremely likely that whatever you face today, one of your brethren has already faced in their past. Seek wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14).
  6. God’s grace is all we need. He will take care of us. The goal of every Christian is to go home.

It is your choice how you react to the present distress. You can be discouraged or you can find encouragement through the scriptures and the promises God has made to us. He cannot lie, and He has proven Himself faithful. Let us choose to be encouraged!

Where do you want to go?

Where do you want to go?

There is a story about a Finnish atheist who stated in his will that he wanted to leave his farm to the devil. Finally, after weeks of deliberation, the court decided that the best way to carry out the farmers wishes was to permit the weeds and briars to take over the farm land, to allow the house and barn to remain unpainted and eventually rot, and to let the soil erode and wash away. The court declared in its ruling, “the best way to let the devil have possession of anything is to do nothing.”[1]

Do you have a clear sense of where you want to go? The best way that to allow Satan to destroy your goals and dreams, is to do nothing. If we have no action plan, you will never achieve those goals. The same is true of “upkeep”. Just like that farm that would become dilapidated and begin to fall apart, our faith and love toward God will diminish if we stop tending to it. Such is the nature of this world — if something isn’t growing, it’s dying.

There are some common objections people make in regard to working toward their goals. First of these is a fear of failure. They begin to think of the negative possibilities. What if I fail? What if I make a fool of myself? Where do those thoughts come from? They didn’t come from God! They didn’t come from your brethren! God and your brethren want you to succeed in your spiritual goals! Support in working toward those goals is available to all who will ask, and who will share what their goals are. You could have a cheering section beside you the whole way! The second is, “I don’t have enough time.” Well, we have time for what we choose to have time for. Yes, there are some things beyond our control, but for the most part, we make the choices about how to spend our time. Throw that excuse out the window.

There are four questions that we need to ask:

  1. What do I want? (identify your goals). Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” If your goals line up with God’s will, then they are not out of reach.
  2. How badly do you want it? (set priorities) Stephen Covey has written many times on priorities and has rightly observed, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
  3. How do I get there? We have to put together a plan of action. Setting the goals is not enough — we have to decide what actions will take us toward the fulfillment of that goal. We have to be engaged in prayer concerning this plan. “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23) If you are not certain how to achieve the goals you are setting, it is time to sit down with someone of maturity and ask for assistance.
  4. Develop the discipline to accomplish the goals. Just like the resolutions people make at the new year, plans fail because they do not exercise the discipline necessary in order to succeed. “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” (Proverbs 12:24) Make the tough choices and don’t give up!

Set your goals on the fruit of the Christian life, as Paul once said, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24) It will take goals, priorities, following God’s plan, and discipline.

[1] The Solomon Secrets: 10 Keys to Extraordinary Success from Proverbs by Robert Jeffries