It’s often easy to trace discouragement back to its apparent cause, such as a criticism at work or a relationship issue. But there can be subtle, less obvious factors that are valuable to understand. So let’s look at some spiritual components.
Satan. The enemy is a primary instigator. His purpose is to have us lose heart, think poorly of ourselves, and focus only on the negative.
An area of weakness. When the devil has a stronghold in our life, such as a tenacious habit, he can use it to discourage us. This can be especially disheartening because it feels as if we can’t escape his grip, no matter what we do.
Unanswered prayer. When a prayer is answered “no” or “not now,” we can lose hope. Sadly, some people quit praying altogether.
Prayerlessness. Failing to understand God’s sovereignty and timing can lead to this tragic result. When He answers prayer in an unexpected way, some believers are so taken aback or irritated that they give up on praying altogether. However, cutting off communication with the Lord is a sure way to move into deeper discouragement.
The sense you can’t please God. This is a tragic consequence of a works-based faith, wherein we believe God’s favor is tied to our good works. What a misguided error! Our Father’s love is based on His own grace, not our deeds.
It can be surprising to realize spiritual factors may be adding to our discouragement and further draining our joy and energy. Identifying these causes is crucial, even if the process is painful. Once we clearly see the problems, we can begin to learn how to avoid or correct these trouble areas.
Bible in One Year: Proverbs 26-28
Read: 1 Samuel 17:8, 32–37, 48–50
Bible in a Year: Psalms 13–15; Acts 19:21–41
The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and . . . the bear will rescue me.—1 Samuel 17:37
I worked at a fast-food restaurant for over two years in high school. Some aspects of the job were difficult. Customers verbalized their anger while I apologized for the unwanted slice of cheese on the sandwich I didn’t make. Soon after I left, I applied for a computer job at my university. The employers were more interested in my fast-food experience than my computer skills. They wanted to know that I knew how to deal with people. My experience in unpleasant circumstances prepared me for a better job!
Young David persevered through an experience we might well call unpleasant. When Israel was challenged to send someone to fight Goliath, no one was brave enough to step up to the task. No one but David. King Saul was reluctant to send him to fight, but David explained that as a shepherd he had fought and killed a lion and a bear for the sake of the sheep (1 Sam. 17:34-36). Confidently he stated, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and . . . the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (v. 37).
Being a shepherd didn’t earn David much respect, but it prepared him to fight Goliath and eventually become Israel’s greatest king. We may be in difficult circumstances, but through them God might be preparing us for something greater! —Julie Schwab
Lord, help me to hold on during the unpleasant times in my life knowing that You may be preparing me for something greater.
God uses present circumstances to prepare us for the future.
INSIGHT: When you reflect on experiences in your life, can you identify any that God used to minister to others or to further His kingdom? Are you in a difficult situation right now? Ask God to help you learn from it and to trust Him for your future. J.R. Hudberg
When we are facing a tough, extreme, or tragic situation, our faith is either strengthened or destroyed. Consider the intensity of a fire. Most things can’t withstand its heat, as it can consume entire forests and neighborhoods in a matter of days. But the same fire doesn’t burn up gold. Instead, it purifies it.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced the furnace, they confirmed they would praise only the living God. It was a death sentence. They could have decided to save themselves by doing what the king wanted, but their faith would have been unreliable—burned up in the midst of danger. Instead they went against the king by keeping their loyalty to the Lord. Their faith was purified. Whether God saved them or decided not to, their faith didn’t waver because the holy object of their faith never wavers. (And God did save them in the most dramatic way: after they were thrown into the fire, they walked out unharmed!)
In an impossible situation, faith recognizes that the only hope is in God. If you are facing a desperate time, remember that your faith is being purified. If you don’t know all the answers, your faith is being developed. You may be overwhelmed by uncertainty and doubt, but your faith is being strengthened.
Dear Lord, Because you are trustworthy, I have faith in you. When I am desperate, I will turn to you. Amen.
For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God].—Hebrews 12:11
We should look to the future, determine what we want to see happen, and then discipline ourselves in order that we may have it. We must not buy into the lie that we should only live for the moment or that the present is all we have. We also have a future to consider, and we need to begin to live with an eye toward “afterward,” toward the “later on” times. We have to begin to care just as much or more about later on than we care about right now.
If you want to be thinner when the time comes to wear your swimsuit in June, you need to start eating healthily and exercising before summer arrives. If you want to be able to afford a new car next year, you need to work toward getting out of debt right now. If you dream of living in a nice, clean, orderly home, you have to clear out the clutter and clean it up!
Discipline may not be pleasant for your flesh while you’re doing it, but it will give you a tremendous sense of satisfaction in your soul—the satisfaction that comes from knowing you are making good choices. If you will pay the price to be disciplined now, you will enjoy rewards later. If you don’t pay the price now to do what is right, then you’ll suffer the consequences of an undisciplined life later.
“Remember, the Lord will pay you for each good thing you do, whether you are slave or free” (Ephesians 6:8).
When I proposed to Vonette I told her that I loved her dearly, and I wanted her to be my wife. I promised to do everything I could to make her happy and that she would always be the most important person in my life. But I further explained that my first allegiance was to the Lord, for I had already made that commitment to Him and could not and would not violate that promise to follow Him whatever the cost. She agreed, and we were married on those conditions.
My love for Vonette is far greater today because Jesus Christ is first in my life, and her love for me is far greater because He is first in her life. Our relationship is infinitely richer and more meaningful than it would have been had she been master of her life, and I the lord of my life, or if we had made each other first in our lives and the Lord Jesus Christ second.
The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is affirming the promise of our Lord recorded in Matthew 6:32-33, “Your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well what you need and He will give it to you if you give Him first place in your life and live as He wants you to.”
In the context of this verse in Ephesians, Paul is dealing with family relationships – authority within the family. If we can grasp the concept of God as our paymaster, it will make a vast difference in the way we respond to the authority of men.
Christ knows everything you endure. He gives you your full portion of all that He owns. He is really the one for whom you are working. Wherever you are working, you may have assignments and responsibilities which you do not enjoy. But if Christ is truly the one for whom you work, then you will undertake His assignments cheerfully.
If we choose to be rebellious, we face the danger of a reward from our paymaster that might not be at all to our liking. Let us be about our Father’s business – willingly, joyfully, enthusiastically.
Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:1-7
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Though I may have a boss or leader who tells me what to do, and when to do it, I will always remember that my first allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ, and by putting Him first, even above my loved ones who surround me, I can serve others with greater joy, confidence and enthusiasm.
“And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Several years ago, Eunice went on a mission team to the island of Antigua. The missionary whom Eunice and her friends were helping had a radio ministry. One afternoon the missionary took the team out to a field where there were some parts of a radio tower lying on the ground. He asked them to help him lift the pieces of tower off the ground and slide cement blocks under them so that the parts would not rust on the damp ground.
For a while, Eunice and the other girls stood around and watched the guys grunting and sweating as they hefted the heavy tower parts up onto the blocks. Then someone had the idea that maybe the girls could help too, if four or five of them were to lift a tower piece together. Eunice and a few other girls found a tower piece and decided to give it a try. With all of them lifting together, they still couldn’t even budge it! The girls were willing, but they were just too weak. There was no way they could lift that heavy tower part without the help of someone stronger than they were.
Sometimes God allows circumstances in our lives to show us just how weak we really are. He may allow us to have an illness or a disability. He may give us a job to do that we do not have the skills, time, or strength to accomplish on our own. He may even allow us to struggle with a certain sin. He always allows these things for a purpose. He wants us to turn to Him and seek His help. And that is when we become strong – because His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Has God shown you your weakness in a certain area? Thank Him for humbling you. Seek His strength. He will not fail to give you the power that you need to be His obedient child.
God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.
» Am I seeking God’s strength to help me in my areas of weakness?
» Have I thanked Him for allowing me to be humbled?
Read 1 CHRONICLES 13
Sixty years ago people often dressed for church in their “Sunday best.” Men wore a jacket and tie or a suit. Women wore a dress and sometimes gloves and a hat. Today in most churches casual dress is the norm. Does this say anything about our view of what it means to come into the presence of God?
David learned a hard lesson about God’s holiness when he determined to move the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem. David’s initial attempt to move the ark ended in tragedy when Uzzah was struck down for touching it. The judgment may seem harsh, but those who transported the ark failed to obey the regulations outlined in Scripture (Ex. 25:12–15; Num. 4:5–15). Because the ark represented God’s presence, it had to be treated as a sacred object.
“The fate of Uzzah is a fearful warning against over-familiarity with God,” commentator Michael Wilcock says. “His attitude toward the thing should have been as reverent as his attitude toward the person.” Reverence for God is important—it is the focus of the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9). God can be our friend, but He is not a buddy.
Uzzah’s tragic death was intended to make an important point. God’s holiness is not to be trifled with. Similar to other instances of divine judgment, like the destruction of Achan’s household or the death of Ananias and Sapphira, it drove home a forceful truth to the whole community (see Joshua 7; Acts 5:1–11). God’s aim was not to drive His people away. This is evident from the subsequent blessing that came upon Obed-Edom the Gittite when the ark remained with him for the next three months. If Uzzah’s death was a warning, Obed-Edom’s blessing was an invitation.
APPLY THE WORD
True holiness is not a matter of wearing a suit or a tie but of being “clothed” with righteousness. This is only possible if we clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Christ. Hebrews 10:19 tells us that we can come into God’s presence with confidence if we draw near “by the blood of Jesus.” Have you drawn near? You can do so now by faith.