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Discouragement: Our Biggest Rival
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This is the time of year in the city where I live when you have to choose sides. Two of our local high school football teams play in their annual rivalry game to claim the city championship. Regardless of the records of the teams, the game usually attracts thousands of fans for that game. In fact, it was recently listed as one of the nation’s top ten high school football rivalries. Although these two teams face other opponents throughout the season, they both know this is one game they know all too well. Generations have been a part of this game. There’s a certainty in the way the winning and losing teams are viewed regardless of what happens the rest of the season. For both teams it’s their biggest rivalry.
As a Christian we all face trials and temptations along the way. We shouldn’t think that is strange. Some of these troubles are more difficult than others. In all of the things we face, there is one common rival we all face:
Discouragement in itself is not a sin but it can lead to sin, easily affect our moods and impact our attitudes in every other aspect of our Christian life. It can make things so much more difficult. Discouragement is a bitter rival to the Christian. There is not one Christian that can honestly say they haven’t battled discouragement at one time or another. While there are some who may struggle with different things, discouragement is a common opponent to us all and one we must deal with.
Even the most mature Christian will face bouts of discouragement. In fact, I have encountered this old familiar foe many times in my own life. Each time I face it, I know it won’t be the last but I do know that if it is fed it will only grow and make life miserable. If there’s one thing that doesn’t need to be fed, it’s discouragement.
Let’s be honest about this - we all need encouragement. For me, I would like to be appreciated for me; not what I can do for my local church. I tend to have frequent issues with that very thing. Yes, I know we expect leaders to be above needing encouragement but it isn’t realistic. We are still human and we still need it regardless of what capacity we serve. However, the danger we face is that we don’t need to rely upon the encouragement of others totally to be the barometer of our Christian life. We can’t base our worth upon the encouragement or lack of encouragement by the people around us. Even if no one offers a word of encouragement, we must do as David said that he had to encourage himself. (1 Samuel 30:6) There are many times we have to do just that. We can’t wait around for someone else to do it. We need to shake ourselves and climb out of the discouragement.
Too many times we let discouragement last too long and we get frustrated with others and ourselves. It can also lead to depression as well. Once it gets to the depression stage, it becomes more and more difficult to deal with and to overcome. A depressed person opens themselves up to oppression by the enemy. That’s exactly where the enemy wants to get us. He wants to get us separated and thinking negative about everything and everyone.
Oddly enough, there are times when discouragement comes right after a spiritual victory or success in our lives. Now, that’s pretty strange isn’t it? Elijah had just accomplished a great victory in the confrontation with Baal’s prophets yet when he heard that Jezebel threatened to kill him, he went into the desert and found himself discouraged. He felt as if he had been abandoned and had no one with him in his fight. Even people of great faith and courage have moments when they feel discouraged. After this awesome experience on Mount Carmel, it would seem that Elijah’s emotions fell. He was not perfect and he had human weaknesses just like we do. Doesn’t this sound familiar? When we get discouraged what is the first thing we want to do? We stop going to church and we stop praying. We don’t want to be around other Christians. We start being critical of religious activity and cynical about the whole church situation. We also develop an attitude. That’s where the enemy wants us to be. Alone, frustrated and sporting an attitude about it all. Jesus won’t hear prayers with an attitude. As difficult as that may sound, we have to humble ourselves and lose the attitude if we expect Him to raise us out of our pits of discouragement.
So how did Elijah get encouraged again? He got to a place where he felt God’s presence again. He was reminded that God doesn’t leave us alone. He spoke to Elijah in a still small voice in a cave. When you and I get in the point of our discouragement, we need to get away from everyone and everything that is putting demands upon us and have time alone with God. We don’t have to rattle off our petitions to Him, we just need to spend time with Him. Time spent with God will calm us and help us to regroup spiritually. I have often had to regroup.
Discouragement is our bitter rival but we can overcome it. We aren’t promised that we won’t be discouraged; but we are promised eternal life if we believe in Christ. He’s the source of our encouragement. When discouragement comes, draw close to Him.
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