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Friday, June 30, 2023

Three Ways to Overcome Discouragement

In Nehemiah 4:14 it says, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious.” (NLT)

How can I defeat discouragement in my life? By following Nehemiah’s example.

In Nehemiah 4, there are three things I can do to resist discouragement.

Reinforce weak areas. Make an honest assessment of where I am most spiritually vulnerable (anger, lust, pride, or something else)? What are my weak areas?

When Nehemiah heard that his enemies wanted to attack the Jews who were helping to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem, he “stationed people behind the lowest sections of the wall, at the vulnerable areas. [He] stationed them by families with their swords, spears, and bows” (Nehemiah 4:13 CSB). Nehemiah did his homework. He knew where the city’s most vulnerable spots were, and he developed a plan. What are areas in my life that also need some reinforcement? 

To resist discouragement, we’ll need to reorganize and reorder a few things. For example, if in debt, reorganize your budget. Out of shape? Reorder your lifestyle. Don’t give up, instead reinforce them.

Refocus on God. We can overcome discouragement when we stop focusing on what we don’t want to happen and start focusing on God’s promises. Often we are as discouraged as we want to be or as happy as we want to be. Nobody is forcing us to be discouraged.

When Nehemiah became aware of the people’s anxiety, he stood up and said, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious” (Nehemiah 4:14 NLT). He reminded them of God’s goodness and power.

Don’t re-play discouraging images in your mind. Instead, choose to think about God. Jonah 2:7 says, “When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord” (TLB).

Fight back. We are all engaged in a spiritual battle? The Bible says, “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him” (1 Peter 5:8-9 ESV). We won’t be able to resist the enemy with passivity. We have to fight for what we know God wants us to do with our lives.

Nehemiah 4:14 continues, “Fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (NLT) And do you know what happened next? “When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall” (Nehemiah 4:15 NLT). God strengthened them to continue the work.

When we reinforce weak areas, refocus on God, and learn to fight back, we’ll be better equipped to resist discouragement. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Why Do We Get Discouraged?

In Psalm 25:16 it says, “Come, Lord, and show me your mercy, for I am helpless, overwhelmed, in deep distress.” (TLB)

It seems that discouragement sets in at the midpoint of almost anything we do? It’s true in parenting, marriage, school, and in careers. But God has called us to finish the race he has prepared for usand to finish it well.

When God put it on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild Jerusalem after the Israelites’ returned from captivity, they began the work of rebuilding the city’s walls. But when “the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city” (Nehemiah 4:6 NLT), the people became discouraged.

The story of Nehemiah describes four common reasons people get discouraged

The first cause of discouragement is fatigue. Nehemiah 4:10 says, “Then the people of Judah began to complain, ‘The workers are getting tired’” (NLT). Rebuilding anything, of course, is exhausting. They had worked hard on the first half of the project, but they soon grew weary and worn down. They were more vulnerable to attacks from their enemies, physically and spiritually.

Nehemiah’s workers offer an important lesson for us today: Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is go to bed. Why? Because discouragement is often the result of being tired. Circumstances always look better after you’ve had a good night’s sleep. When you’ve had plenty of rest, you’re less vulnerable to self-pity, temptation, and attack from others.

The second cause of discouragement is frustration. Not only were the Israelites fatigued; they were frustrated: “There is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves” (Nehemiah 4:10 NLT). The project was more complex than they thought it was going to be. The ruin and rubble of their destroyed city was almost too much to handle.

What’s the rubble in our lives? It’s whatever we keep tripping over. It’s not just physical rubble. It could be emotional, relational, or financial rubble. Or maybe it’s rubble from making bad decisions.

The thing about rubble is we will always have it in our lives. We live on a broken planet, so there’s no way to avoid it. But we can learn how to manage rubble to minimize frustration. How? By continually cleaning it out. Start by praying Psalm 25:16: “Come, Lord, and show me your mercy, for I am helpless, overwhelmed, in deep distress” (TLB).

God doesn’t want us to get discouraged and quit at the halfway point of life. He wants you and me to make it to the finish line. He’s called us to look up, not give up.

Psalm 142:3 says, “When I am ready to give up, he knows what I should do” (GNT).

The third cause of discouragement is failure. When the Israelites got to the halfway point in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, they wondered if they were going to succeed: “Will we ever finish this wall?” (Nehemiah 4:10 CEV). It was taking longer than expected, and they felt defeated and discouraged.

The truth is, nobody succeeds at first. The only way we succeed in life is by failing and learning what doesn’t work. Failure is the stepping stone to success. The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is this: Successful people see failure as a temporary setback. Unsuccessful people see it as a mark on their character. Proverbs 24:16 says, “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again” (NLT).

The fourth cause of discouragement is fear. Not only did Israel’s enemies ridicule the rebuilding efforts, but they also made threats: “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work” (Nehemiah 4:11 NLT). Hearing your enemies talk like that is a legitimate reason to be discouraged!

The next verse says, “The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, ‘They will come from all directions and attack us!’” (Nehemiah 4:12 NLT) Those who lived closest to the enemy were most fearful. Why? Because they were constantly surrounded by extreme negativity.

If fear is discouraging you right now, surround yourself with good things and positive voices. Don’t pay attention to negative media. Turn it off, or you’ll only become a more frightened, paranoid, and worried person.

What is discouraging you today? Fatigue, frustrations, failure, or fear? Whatever it is, give it to God and “run with endurance the race God has set before [you]” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT). 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Blessing Comes From Doing

In John 13:17 It says, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (NIV)

The uncontrollable winds of liferelational winds, financial winds, and spiritual windscan overwhelm us and throw us off course. But God’s Word is filled with principles to help us withstand even the toughest winds.

Putting into practice everything you learn is an antidote for uncontrollable winds. God doesn’t just want us just to hear his Word. He wants you and I to do it—to obey it, to practice it.

The Bible says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25 NIV).

Notice the three things that happen in a storm. The rain comes down, attacking the roof of life. The streams rise, flooding the foundation of life. And the winds blow, beating against the walls of life. We’re getting it from the top, the bottom, and the side. And we have no control over any of it.

So what should we do with the uncontrollable things of life—that diagnosis you can’t control, a child you can’t control, or financial hardship you can’t control? You put into practice everything you have learned in Scripture. And when you do, you won’t fall down because the foundation of your house is built on the rock.

What’s the rock? The rock is the Word of God. And the more we build our life on it, the more solid we’re going to be. The wind can come and cause enormous problems, but it won’t devastate life when you’re doing what God says.

John 13:17 says, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (NIV).

This verse doesn’t say you’ll be blessed if you know these things. It says you’ll be blessed if you do them.

Maybe you’re coming out of a stormy season right now—or maybe you’re about to go through one. Regardless, we need to build our lives on the unshakeable Word of God. It’s the only foundation that can be trusted.

In this chapter, Jesus didn't wash his disciples' feet just to get them to be nice to each other. His far greater goal was to extend his mission on earth after he was gone. These men were to move into the world serving God, serving each other, and serving all to whom they took the message of salvation.

In summary, now that I know these things, I will be blessed if I do them. I am to move into the world serving; God and others who I take the message of salvation to. The ultimate goal is for God to use his Word to change my life. I become mature by intentionally and constantly applying what I'm learning. I put my knowledge into practice. It's also time to start teaching others. If I do these things, Jesus' promises will become true for me. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Real Change Requires Faith

In Ephesians 3:20 I read, “Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” (TLB)

Real change in life requires knowing God’s truth, cleaning your spiritual house, and honest community. And, like anything to do with spiritual growth, real change requires faith.

In other words, I have to believe that I can change, with God’s help.

How does God help us to change? There are two primary ways. He can transform us by his Spirit living in us and with his Word, the Bible.

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (TLB).

So the biggest thing we’d ever want to change in life, is not too big for God.

We’ve likely tried and failed to make the change on our own. This is because we never were meant to change alone. We change with God’s power. And how do we get God’s power? Through faith. God supplies his power in response to our faith in him.

Philippians 4:13 is a familiar verse, but the Amplified Bible says it in a way we may not have heard before: “I can do all things [which he has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything . . . through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]

With the power of Jesus Christ, I can do anything God has called me to do. His power was infused in me when I became his follower.

So, to obtain a change, we need a can-do attitudenot a big ego about what we can do but a big faith in what God is able to accomplish in and through us.

Jesus said in Matthew 9:29, “According to your faith let it be done to you” (NIV).

We get to choose how much we change. I get to choose how much God blesses my life. I get to believe in faith that God can help me make the hard changes.

In all of this, the glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in me. By this power he can do infinitely more than I could ever ask or imagine. Faith starts with stretching my imagination. It begins with a concept, vision or a mental picture. It always starts with an idea. As an example, God gave Abraham a picture. Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Abraham had something he could visualize. God will grow my faith by stretching my imagination, by giving me a dream. What I can dream and believe in faith, I can achieve.