Casting Out Devils

Speaking Conservative Truth to Evil-Doers

Be Not Discouraged

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It seems so many Christians today are either disgruntled or discouraged, sometimes both. Our church just had a wonderful time of ministry with guest speaker Vivian Boyles. If you missed it, you missed a blessing. Rev. Boyles has a special interest in healing and miracles, and is often used in those gifts. She prayed with each and every one who came forward for prayer, and provided many specific words of comfort and insight. But before she even came, I was struck by a message on miracles that she posted online, and in particular one statement: “People want to believe for a miracle, but fear the disappointment of unanswered prayer.”

I think that is true. Many Christians have been praying for healing and answers for a long time. They have heard a lot of big promises and “pat” answers from faith preachers, and perhaps have been encouraged to “believe for” things that the Lord might not have promised to them. They might in some cases been “sold a bill of goods” by their own wishful thinking. Or they might have taken a sure promise from God and added their own expectations to it, painted it with their own assumptions as to its meaning, its character, and its timing. Or having received a promise, they might simply lack patience to wait upon God.

Many Christians become disappointed in other Christians, or find that they do not feel as happy, excited, or fulfilled as they once were. The circumstances of life and relationships might not have lived up to their expectations. The fact that life is hard, and living a Christian life challenging, is often a disappointment to those with false expectations, especially if needful support systems, like the fellowship of the saints, are lacking.

Discouragement is hardly a new problem. Moses cried out desperately that God show him his glory, or he could not go on. Elijah ran from Jezebel and thought he was alone; but God replied, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal.” Jeremiah said, “I cannot speak: for I am a child,” but God said, “Do not say, I am a child: for you shall go to all whom I shall send you.” Isaiah said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips,” but God sent an angel with a coal from the altar to cleanse his lips. Again and again, God’s people are told to “fear not,” “be strong and of good courage,” “men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Lk 18:1), and “in due season we shall reap, if we do not faint ” (Gal 6:9).

A story going around the Internet, one of those anonymous “forwards,” portrays the devil having a yard sale, at which he is selling many of his used tools. These include hatred, jealously, deceit, lying, and pride. He is asked about a particular tool which is priced very high, and is labeled, “Discouragement.” The devil then explains that it is his most useful tool, because it works on Christians when all the others have failed.

Too true. What do Christians do when they become discouraged? Typically, their work for the Lord slacks off, they no longer read the Bible as they did, their devotional life suffers, prayer and fasting go by the boards, and their church attendance becomes less and less regular, as they isolate themselves from their Christian brethren. In short, they do exactly the opposite of those activities the Lord has provided in order to be instructed, built up, encouraged, comforted, strengthened, empowered, and mutually supported. Like a sheep that wanders from the flock, they become vulnerable to predators. A coal stays red hot only as long as it stays in the fire, but soon cools off when set apart.

Left unchecked, discouragement due to disappointment leads to 1) confusion, wondering if God still cares, and his promises are still true; 2) desperation, feeling compelled by unfulfilled needs and desires to do something drastic; then 3) compromise, as the discouraged person takes action and makes choices based on that desperation, in an attempt to satisfy those needs and desires; and ultimately 4) failure, if not moral, then certainly deviance from the call of God on one’s life, the path to being used by God and blessed. That failure is the path to destruction, which the devil wants, or at least to fruitlessness, for which the devil will gladly settle.

Make no mistake:  choosing to leave God’s path to follow your own is idolatry, as sure as Adam and Eve chose to be like God, “knowing good from evil,” that is, making their own choices.

But there is a path to recovery. Like the Prodigal Son, one must “come to his senses” as soon as possible, and return to the Father. One must begin again to know and believe the Word of God, to “be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17). One must get involved in a supportive fellowship of believers and begin to work for the Lord again. And one must become prayerful once again, seeking the Lord diligently, to receive his power and guidance by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to overcome sin and discouragement. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph 6:13).

© 2012 Paul A. Hughes


Written by biblequestion

March 15, 2012 at 2:32 AM

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