Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
One of the pictures I have in a shoebox somewhere is of me and the neighborhood kids posing by the outline of a fort we made out of Fall leaves. We were so proud of it that we had my mom take a photo of it. We spent a lot of time making that thing, but our efforts were wasted by the first strong wind to blow through. Those leaves kicked up and scattered all over the yard again. We might have rebuilt the thing once or twice more before we gave up realizing that it wasn’t going to last.
Sometimes we can feel that our work for the Lord is like that leaf fort. It feels like our efforts are wasted and unappreciated. Nothing we do seems to last, and we get discouraged. I know what it’s like to invest in someone only to watch the winds of change undo all of the progress. It’s frustrating to watch hours, and dollars appear to go to waste when something we’ve done for the Lord is destroyed or brought to nothing. All of us go through those times where we wonder, “Is this even worth it?”
Paul must have experienced some of those feelings as well. He knew that if he felt that way, others did too. He wanted to encourage those of us who feel that way. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, he wrote, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (NLT). He wanted to remind us to keep going and that the work we do for God matters.
Whether you teach Sunday School class with kids who don’t appear to be paying attention, lead a small group that has inconsistent members, work the parking lot at church where no one follows your direction, or any other number of unappreciated jobs around the church, keep working enthusiastically. Your labor is not in vain. Keep scattering seeds. The Lord prepares hearts and causes those seeds to grow in due season. Don’t give up. Be strong and immovable because nothing you do for God is useless.
Photo by photo-nic.co.uk nic on Unsplash
One of the words God uses over and over in the Bible is courage. He wants us to be courageous when doing what He asks. One of my favorite passages is in Joshua 1. Verse 7 says, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do” (NLT). Success starts with being strong and courageous, but what does it mean to have courage?
The simple definition is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s the ability to keep going when things aren’t going the way you thought they should. It’s the most difficult thing to have when you need it the most. If you’ve lived life at all, you’ve been discouraged. You’ve lost battles you thought you should have won. You’ve suffered defeat after defeat and wondered where the strength comes from to keep going. How do you find courage in those times?
In those moments, I simply prayed that God would just help me to take the first step, which was survival. We often think of courage as this great thing, but I believe it’s found in facing a new day, taking one more step or breathing one more time. It says, “I’m not going down. I’m not giving up!” Where do we get that courage from in those moments? As I’ve said, I found it in prayer and through God’s help.
Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, O Lord, are always my shield from danger; you give me victory and restore my courage” (GNT). God will restore your lost courage and give you the victory when you ask. Quit worrying about trying to win the war, and focus on getting courage from God to win today’s battle. Keep God’s Word in your heart, and be careful to obey it. Then, as Joshua 1:7 says, you will have success and victory.
Photo by Josh Adamski on Unsplash
Getting discouraged is something we all face in life over and over again. It can come from not getting the job we wanted, being rejected by someone, unanswered prayers or unmet expectations. It’s a mind game really. Our thoughts after a disappointment determine how we feel and how we feel determines how we behave. The more we behave in a disappointed manor, the more our thoughts takes us down the hole towards depression. Those thoughts lead to worse feelings which translate into worse behavior. It’s a downward spiral that’s hard to get out of. I’ve been caught in it before and here’s how I found my way out.
The first thing is to recognize the negative thoughts when they come in and to stop them. II Corinthians 10:5 tell us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. The Message says, “Fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the life shaped by Christ.” We can’t let destructive thinking roam free in our minds. We have to capture those thoughts, emotions and impulses that affect how we feel and bring them into captivity. To overcome discouragement, we have to quit dwelling on those thoughts and replace them with the promises of God.
The next thing we need to do is refocus our attention on God. David felt very discouraged after having been anointed king of Israel because instead of taking the throne, he was hiding in caves being pursued by the man he was replacing. He spent a lot of lonely nights wondering where God was and why He wasn’t fulfilling His promise. David called out to his inner man and challenged himself. In Psalm 43:5 he said, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again!” You choose where to put your hope. If it’s in yourself or someone else, you’ll be disappointed. If it’s in God, you will not be.
Finally, surround yourself with people who will lift your spirits and stay away from those who will take you further down the hole. In II Corinthians 7, Paul was being persecuted and was feeling discouraged. He was going down the depression hole when God sent him Titus. In verse 7 he wrote, “But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.” To me, nothing helps pull me out of the darkness of discouragement that fellow believers bearing light. We are meant to help each other by bearing each other’s burdens. If you can’t find someone in your circle who can bring that light, pray that the God who encourages the discouraged would send someone your way to encourage you.
It’s Free Friday! Today is the day you let go of the things in your life that keep you down or hold you back. To celebrate, I’m giving away “The Favor of God: Embrace All God Has Prepared For You” by Jerry Savelle. Keep reading to find out how to enter.
My plan today was to write about getting free of discouragement, but an accident blocked the freeway and ate up all the time I had to write. I began to get discouraged just sitting there thinking that I wouldn’t be able to write today. I didn’t think of the people who were in the accident having a much worse day. I imagine they must be a lot more discouraged than I was. What about the other people who were in traffic who may lost their job because they’re showing up an hour late? None of us got off to the morning we thought we’d have when we woke up. None of us got to do the things we thought we were going to get done this morning.
The difference in a believer’s life is that we don’t have to stay discouraged when circumstances alter our plans. We don’t have to crumble when life throws a curve ball. It’s human and natural to get discouraged in bad situations. It’s the Holy Spirit living in us that reminds us where our hope is. My hope is not in man’s ability. My hope is not in the plans I have made. My hope is in The Lord. The way this morning started off was no surprise to God. He knew my plans would be thrown out of the window before I did. He knew that I would face set backs. He knew that things would happen in my life that were beyond my control.
What He wants me to know is that He’s in control. He’s my source of hope, my source of strength and my provider. He alone is the one who can bring encouragement when I can’t seem to find any hope. I just have to remember to look for Him when things aren’t going right. I have to remember that circumstances can’t affect my praise. I have to quit focusing on the negative outcomes of my situation and focus on the One who can turn it into a positive. I have to remember the one who has carved out my path, drew out the blueprint for my life and orders my steps. He is where I find my hope and encouragement on days like this.
I leave you with what David wrote when his circumstances changed his plans and life. He said, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you. (Psalms 42:5, 6 NLT)” Even the psalmist, the guy after God’s own heart, the man who constantly praised had times of discouragement. He told us what he did in those times. He remembered the God he served. We can do the same.
If you would like to win the “The Favor of God” by Jerry Savelle, all you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (February 22, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already liked my page and enjoy reading these daily devotionals, you are already entered. Please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.
Gideon has always been one of my favorite people in the Bible. He was able to do so many great things, but he was a lot like you and me. He dealt with fear and doubt constantly. He never wanted to act on something unless he was sure it was from God. He didn’t think of himself as a person who could do great things, but because he was willing to be used, God was able to do mighty acts through him. I see a lot of parallels between who he was and who many of us are.
When the angel of God first visited him, he was hiding in a wine press threshing grain. He was afraid the Midianites would see him, so he did his work out of sight. Even though he was out of sight of his enemies, he wasn’t out of God’s sight. He knew right where to find him and met him there. God does the same for us. He knows we deal with fear and try to run and hide from the things that overwhelm us. He sees us where we are and will come meet us in that place.
The next thing that happen shows just who God is. The angel seeing him hiding calls out to him in Judges 6:12, “The Lord is with you, mighty man of fearless courage (AMP).” Ha! Here’s a guy hiding from his problems and God doesn’t call him out on it. Instead He calls out what is inside. In other versions, the angel calls him “mighty hero” (NLT), “mighty warrior” (NCV) and “mighty man of valor” (KJV). God calls out what is on the inside, not what can be seen on the outside.
God knows that you and I are weak in our own strength. We are timid and afraid when circumstances roar like a lion and try to devour us. We hide from our problems, drown our problems and keep quiet about them. I’ve tried all three to get rid of them, but none of them worked. It took God calling out who He created me to be to come out, face them and to fight them. He did the same with Gideon.
After the angel visited Gideon, the Midianites moved closer to him and threatened him. In verse 34, it says, “The Spirit of The Lord clothed Gideon with Himself. (AMP)” God took off the clothing of fear and wrapped him in Himself. Suddenly Gideon was no longer afraid because he now knew who he was in God. He had boldness to go out and fight. He blew a trumpet and gathered an army together. Even then, he had doubt. God came and assured him that He was with him. He won an impossible battle because he trusted God.
Don’t be defined by your fear today. Be defined by who God sees in you. Let Him wrap you up in Himself and give you the courage to be the hero and mighty warrior that you need to be in order to face whatever your enemy is. God isn’t asking you to face it or fight it in your own strength. He’s asking if you’re willing to step on the battlefield and to allow Him to fight for you. Don’t be held captive by fear and allow it to keep you in hiding. Trust who God says you are, stand up and face that enemy. God will do the rest.
Going through trials is difficult. It’s part of life and especially part of the Christian life. Jesus told us we would have them. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer, take courage, be confident, certain and undaunted for I have overcome the world.” He knew we were going to face difficult times. He faced difficult times Himself. He didn’t want us to be defeated by our problems.
He told us that we should take courage because He overcame. If He was able to, we are able to because His spirit lives within us. We forget that sometimes, especially when we’re in a trial or in distress. We don’t rely on the power that is inside of us to overcome. We worry about the problem instead of focusing on the One who gives us strength to overcome.
I heard it said before that a butterfly won’t be able to fly unless it has that struggle with the cocoon. The difficult battle that it has to emerge from the problem that is wrapped around it is the very thing that will help it to survive once it is free. It can choose to give up in that struggle or it can get gain its strength needed in that struggle. We all have that choice.
We shouldn’t be surprised that life doesn’t always go as planned. We shouldn’t be caught off guard that a person does us wrong. Bad things happen to everyone. We can take courage in our frustrations. We can be confident in our ability to overcome. We can remain undaunted in our mission even though obstacles stand in the way. We can have peace in the storms of life.
Our ability to stand firm in tribulation and to weather the storms of life does not lie in our own strength. If you are trying to stand in your own strength, you will grow tired and weary from the struggle. Zechariah 4:6,7 says, “It’s not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says The Lord of hosts. For who are you, O great mountain of human obstacles?” It goes on to say that The Lord will turn that mountain into a plain.
Whatever mountain, struggle, trial, frustration, distress or tribulation you are facing today, The Lord knows about it. He is building strength in you during this time. Don’t give up or quit. You have supernatural power inside of you to overcome. You have the ability to persevere in this time and overcome because He has and He lives in you. Speak to your mountain today. Ask God to make it a plain in front of you. Keep moving forward in His strength today.
I had a conversation last night with a friend who is going through a difficult situation. They tried to give me all the religious answers they thought I wanted to hear. I finally stopped them. I said, “I don’t want to hear what you think I want to hear. I know what you’re going through. It’s ok to be angry right now.” Silence. “You’re right. I am angry right now,” the voice on the other end finally said.
I directed them to the scripture in Ephesians 4:26 that says, “Go ahead and be angry. You to well to be angry – but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge.” It’s not a sin to be angry and upset. It’s ok especially when you have a right to be upset. God just doesn’t want us to use that anger against the person who wronged us. I shared with them how angry I was and the things I had wanted to do.
Thank God I never acted on the thoughts that entered my mind while I was hurt and angry. If I had acted on them, I would have missed out on the blessings I now enjoy. When you’re going through a difficult time where you’ve lost everything, you think you have nothing to lose because you don’t have anything. That’s a dangerous place to be.
It’s important to pay attention to the thoughts that enter your mind when you’re upset. It’s easy to entertain them. It’s easy to slip off into a fantasy world where you are deceived into believing you can get away with anything. The enemy sends thoughts into your head in a Trojan Horse. They start off harmless and end up with you really contemplating going through with them.
Scripture is clear when it comes to thoughts like that. II Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “We use God’s mighty weapons , not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning… We capture rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” When we entertain those thoughts that would take us from being angry to sinning, we allow them to take root in our minds and to build strongholds. We are to take those thoughts instead and teach them to obey Christ.
I know that’s easier said than done. It’s easy to entertain the thoughts that let you do what your flesh wants to do. It takes God’s weapons to break them down and teach them to obey Christ. It takes discipline. Usually you are missing those things when you’re hurt and angry. I want to encourage you today if you are hurt, angry or discouraged to know it’s ok to feel that way.
Emotions are given to us by God. He knows we need to vent at times. He knows we want to curl up in bed, pull the covers over our heads and pretend that today doesn’t exist. That’s why he said, “Go ahead and be angry.” He just doesn’t want you to do something stupid with that anger that would stint the future He has for you. Don’t limit what He can do through you because you are hurt and feel you have nothing to lose. This too will pass. You will survive. I’m proof of it. It just takes time. God still has a future for you even when you can’t see it.