05/21/16 Discouragement and Faith

READING: Ezra 4-6 

It’s one of Satan’s primary strategies against the leaders of God’s people. You might think it’s lust, or power, or prestige, or money. All of these are real issues, but another strategy may grip more people simply because it’s less noticeable and more pervasive. That strategy is discouragement, and it’s not a new strategy. 

When the people of God set about rebuilding the Temple, “the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building” (Ezra 4:4). The enemies would not win, but their opposition would continue for about 20 years through local officials who hindered the work. Delay surely caused dismay. 

Consider how the enemy seeks to discourage us today:

  • We lead churches that struggle for years to grow.
  • We pray for wayward children to return, but we become defeated when those prayers aren’t answered immediately. 
  • Sometimes local governments get in the way of church building plans. 
  • Our prayers for God to release us from long patterns of sin seem to go unanswered. 
  • Etc., etc., etc. — the enemy knows how to get us. 

Discouragement is one of those reactions that begins small, grows little by little, and at some point consumes us before we know what’s happened. The feelings overwhelm us. Darkness seems to deepen every day — and we fail to trust the God who is bigger than any enemy we face. Thus, we give up in defeat. 

That’s when God sends us a prophet like Haggai or Zechariah to impress on us the importance of continued faithfulness. The prophets encouraged the people to keep building, and those same prophets “were with them, supporting them” (Ezra 5:2b). If you’re allowing the enemy’s discouragement to defeat you today, ask God to send you a brother or sister in Christ to encourage you and provoke you to faithfulness. 

Or, let this devotion speak to you today. Just as God gave His people the faith stamina to press on, He can do the same for you. 

ACTION STEPS: 

  • Make a list of the things that tend to discourage you. Be honest. 
  • Then turn them over to God in prayer.   

PRAYER: God, thank You that Your eyes rest on me even when life is difficult. Be my strength and encouragement today.”  

TOMORROW¹S READING:  Ezra 7-10