The church abounds with people who are "discouraged because of the way." Their souls are faint in them, and their religious lives are full of defeat and misery. There is nothing that so paralyzes the Christian walk then discouragement.
However, the Bible declares from beginning to end that faith is the law of the spiritual life, and that according to our faith it always shall be and always will be unto us. Because faith and discouragement cannot exist together, it should become perfectly clear that discouragement must be an absolute barrier to faith. So if we allow discouragement to rule, it shall then be to us, not according to our faith, but according to our discouragement. Ouch!
In fact, just as courage is faith in good, so discouragement is faith in evil; and, while courage opens the door to good, discouragement opens it to evil.
This is why Satan and his allies are always trying to discourage us. Discouragement comes in many subtle forms, and attacks us in many disguises.
For some Satan gets them to look at their WEAKNESS instead of God's strength. The children of Israel can give us a big warning lesson here. After the Lord had delivered them out of Egypt, and had brought them to the borders of the Promised Land, Moses urged them to go up and possess it. "Behold the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee; go out and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged." But the circumstances were so discouraging, and they felt themselves to be so helpless, that they could not believe God would really do all He had said; and they murmured in their tents, and declared that it must be because the Lord hated them that He had brought them out of Egypt in order to deliver them into the hands of their enemies. "And they said, the people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there... And all the men that we saw in it are men of a great stature."
Nothing could have seemed humbler than for them to look upon themselves as poor, good-for-nothing grasshoppers; and true humility would have seemed to teach that it would be the height of presumption for grasshoppers to try to conquer Giants. We also often feel ourselves to be but grasshoppers in the face of the Giants that assail us, and we think ourselves justified in being discouraged. But the question is not, whether we are grasshoppers, but whether God is; for it is not we who have to fight the Giants, but God!
Another very subtle cause for discouragement is to be found in what is called the FEAR of MAN. There seems to exist in this world a company of beings called "they" who like to rule over our lives with an iron hand of control. What will "they" say? What will "they" think? What will "they" do? Are among the most frequent questions that assail many of our souls when we seek to work especially for the Lord. At every turn this omnipotent and ubiquitous "they" stands in our way to discourage us and make us afraid. This form of discouragement is apt to come under the subtle disguise of a due consideration for the opinion of others; but it is especially dangerous, because it exalts this "they" into the place of God, and esteems "their" opinions above His promises. The only remedy here, as in all other forms of discouragement, is simply the reiteration of the fact that God is with us. "Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord." "For He hath said, I will never leave thee nor for sake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." How can you or I, regardless of our personality, inabilities or past performance dare to indulge in discouragement in the face of such biblical promises as these?
There is also another sort of discouragement that is very common, and it seems as if it must be right and that is the discouragement that arises from our OWN FAILURES. Discouragement and despair would seem the only proper and safe condition after a defeat. But the proper thing to do after any failure is not to abandon ourselves to utter discouragement, humble as this may appear; but at once to face the evil, get rid of it, and immediately to consecrate ourselves again to the Lord. This is always God's command. To lie down and be discouraged is always the Devils temptation.
Discouragement, from whatever source it may come, produces many sad results. One of its very worst is that it leads us to "murmur," and to "speak against God." When the children of Israel were "discouraged because of the way," we are told that they "spake against God," and asked all sorts of God-dishonoring questions. The truth is that discouragement is really, in its essence, a "speaking against God," for it necessarily implies some sort of a failure on His part to come up to that which His promises have led us to expect of Him. Why, because they reveal the sad fact that we "believe not in Him, and trust not in His salvation."
Another grievous quality in discouragement is it's contagiousness. Nothing is more catching than discouragement. When the spies sent out by Moses brought up and "evil report of the promised land," and told of the Giants there, they so "discouraged the hearts of their brethren," that the people "lifted up their voices and cried," and utterly refused to go into the very land which the Lord had given them.
The "evil report" that so many Christians bring concerning the church, other ministries, their own doubts and despairs have little idea of the harm they are doing. Discouraged people, if they must be discouraged, ought at least to keep the discouragement to themselves, hidden away in the privacy of their own bosoms lest they should discourage the hearts of their brethren. We know that courage is contagious, and that one really brave soul in moments of danger can save a crowd from a panic. But we too often fail to remember that the opposite of this is true, and that one fainthearted man or woman can infect the whole crowd with fear.
If you had been an Israelite which would you rather have been, the spies who brought an evil report of the land, and so discouraged the hearts of their brethren as to bring upon them the dreary 40 years of wilderness wandering, or Caleb and Joshua, who "stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once and possess the land; for we are well able to overcome it"?
Which will you now choose to be?
Courage in the Lord,
Jim & Sally