18 Jan 2014 by Tony Dibble –
Spiritual Discouragement–its roots and remedies
We live in the world. We may not be aware that our spiritual walk with Christ could have slowed down. We may be grieving the Holy Spirit through sin. We may not be alert enough to pray. We may fail to glorify GOD in all that we do. We may yield to temptation and fail to confess our sin. In such circumstances, we are walking in our own self-spirit. This eventually leads to spiritual discouragement. If prolonged, it could lead to spiritual depression.
None are Exempt from Discouragement
No one is exempt from spiritual discouragement. Great men of the Bible have been subjected to its attacks. Elijah serves as an example. After a victory over 450 false prophets who were destroyed, Elijah lived in fear of a 24-hour death sentence that Jezebel pronounced over him (1 Kings 19:1-4). Even great preachers, such as Charles Spurgeon, have been subjected to such attacks.
Christ was not exempt from attacks of spiritual discouragement either. But He knew how to prevent the consequences. He was despised and rejected by men and He was not highly regarded by the people of His day. He was a man of sorrows and was acquainted with grief (Isa 53:3).He was saddened by the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 23:37-39).
However, Christ was insulated from the consequences of spiritual discouragement. He did two things.
Firstly, He ensured that whilst on earth, His will remained the will of the Father. That will was for Him to die on the Cross (John 3:17; 6:38-40; Heb 9:26).It was a test and He stood all the way with it, though it had its testing moments (Luke 22:42).
Secondly, Christ always resorted to prayer. He frequently withdrew from crowds in order to sustain himself through prayer (Matt 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; Heb 5:7).
We do not fight flesh and blood. Our attacks and battles are in the spiritual world (Eph 6:12). Our enemies are the powers of hell and we should not attack our personal enemies. We have to pray for our enemies (Matt 5:44). We must have this correct spiritual orientation. Once we realise this, then the biggest hurdle is overcome. Threatening circumstances and “enemies” should be spiritually assessed. Christ is then to be called upon to comfort us confidently.
Spiritual discouragement arises also because GOD wants to teach us to depend on Him more and to get closer to Him but we fail to measure up to Him. We resort to ourselves instead. Oswald Chambers said that we are our own worst enemy.
With the loss of one’s assets, family and health, we sometimes cannot find solace from friends either. Only answers from GOD can help us to think correctly(Job 38-41).We cannot depend on flesh because it is powerless to sustain us (Jer 17:5; Ps 118:8-9;Gal 5:17).
The danger is to be a Performance-Based Christian (PBC). This happens because pride sustains itself on our activities, achievements and acquisitions. The “self” has actually “invaded” our spiritual life and gained a foothold. The love of GOD then is eased aside from our life. Once this pattern gets into us, our spiritual relationship with Christ begins to decline.
Soon, unconfessed sin resides. Bitterness also develops. This obstructs the love of GOD (Lev 19:18; Matt 6:14-15; Mark 11:25; Heb 12:15).Family members, associates, neighbours and employers are the ones we become bitter with. In the worst instances, we develop ethnic prejudice and resent other social groups. Jealousy and covetousness (unquenchable desire for the things others possess) also arise and eat into our spirit.
Burdens of Self-Righteousness
The PBC syndrome also gives rise to a sense of self-righteousness. We consider ourselves true Christians and regard others not as spiritual as we are. We then find that we carry our own burdens and guilt. The weight of this soon overtakes us. The discouragement increases when we naturally cannot meet our own “standards”. The way out is to cast all our burdens to Christ and not to bear them ourselves (Ps 55:22; Matt 11:28-30; Heb 12:1; 1 Pet 3:18; 1 Pet 5:6-7).
Our relationship with Christ must be grounded in a personal loving relationship. We cannot afford to look at it primarily from a benefits basis. Benefits are secondary matters.
Neither should we confine our life in Christ to selective matters and keep other issues away from Him. Our surrender to Christ must be total. All our concerns should be with Christ. They should be placed before Him always and not just when trouble starts.
Similarly, when we are not given the answers or results we seek from Christ, we should respond in humility to Him. Recognise that His will prevails, and do this with thanksgiving.
We may not be growing in our walk with the LORD. We may have neglected to cultivate Him as much as we could. We should step up the relationship as Christ is our complete life. He always intercedes for us in everything and He is everything in us (1 Cor 30; Heb 7:25).
Remedies for Spiritual Discouragement
The steps we can take to limit discouragement are as follows:
a) Develop a greater prayer life in the Holy Spirit who helps us pray (Rom 8:26);
b) Step up the relationship in Christ completely as He alone is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption;
c) Demand GOD to make His will ours and stick to it unashamedly and with no wavering;
d) Make time to seriously meditate on the word of GOD
e) Start from a zero-base and forget the past, confess our sin and walk wholly in Christ, straight away, with no reservations or postponement; renounce hidden sin and get rid of overburdened self-righteousness;
f) Avoid being fascinated with the things that others have, no matter how innocently they attempt to impress us.
References for pictures