For me, it’s been a week. Have you ever had one of those?
A week when discouragement drains the energy out of you. A week when you find yourself thinking “what’s the use.” A week where you wonder if your labor is in vain.
And then, when you pull back and take a look at what’s happening in our world, it’s hard to find much in this moment that sparks joy. Or hope. It’s easy for your shoulders to sag and to want to grab the remote and a pint (or two) or Haagen Dazs.
You’ve had weeks like that. For some of you, discouragement has had you pinned down for a lot longer than a week. Your personal circumstances seem unrelenting. The pandemic obviously hasn’t helped. Neither has the polarization that has us divided and angry at one another.
The story is told that one day the devil was auctioning off his tools. He had many – doubt, pride, greed, envy, and jealousy. But he announced that one tool in his toolkit was not for sale. Discouragement. Someone asked “Why is that tool not for sale?” Satan responded, “I can’t afford to get rid of it. I can use it to pry open any heart. And once I’m inside, I can do whatever I want!”
Jon Bloom notes that we have to be on guard against the fiery darts of discouragement. We can’t let them take us out. “If we linger in discouragement it can be costly,” he writes. “Its sense of defeat and hopelessness saps us of energy and vision. It can consume a lot of time. It can keep us from doing what we need to do because we don’t want to face it. And it can even be contagious, weakening others’ faith.”
To be discouraged is to be fearful. That’s what the word means. When we are discouraged, our courage is removed. Fear sets in.
So when I have a week, or a season, of discouragement – when the flaming arrows are coming at me, how do I raise the shield of faith to extinguish them? How do I keep from being wounded?
Here are some of the things I choose to do in weeks like this.
1. I choose to believe that the God who is in control of all things is the God who, for His own purposes, lifts up some and brings down others (Psalm 75:7). What God requires of me is not success or achievement, but faithfulness and obedience to His word.
2. I remind myself that trials and challenges have a divine purpose in my life. By faith, I count it all joy (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:1-5).
3. I redouble my efforts to serve others. I trust that the Lord will keep His promise that in due time, I will reap if I do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
4. By faith, I rejoice. I pray. And I give thanks. This is God’s will for me (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Choosing gratitude and to reflect on all of the blessings of God is a powerful way to kindle fresh faith and to fight discouragement.
5. I think for a while about Joshua. When Moses died and the task of leading God’s people into the promised land fell to him, he knew the task in front of him was formidable. He wondered if he was up to it. Humanly, it looked like an impossible challenge.
That’s why God spoke to Joshua and told him not to be discouraged. “Only be strong and very courageous,” God told him. “Be careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7–9).
For me, discouragement doesn’t miraculously vanish. It ebbs. It is beaten back over time.
To find my way out of what John Bunyan called “the slough of despond” I remember what the author of the book of Hebrews tells me to do. I lay aside what is weighing me down. I keep running, with endurance. And I keep my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus as I run.
In the midst of a discouraging week, I received this note from Henry Lian. Many of you know that we support Henry and his work in Myanmar through Little Door International.
Henry’s note prompted me to pray for our brothers and sisters living in that country. I hope it will prompt you to do the same:
Just wanted to give a brief update about our country.
As you are aware, the situation is Myanmar is worsening each day. The military junta has imposed martial law in several townships of Yangon and Mandalay. Death toll is rising everyday and almost 200 dead in total so far. Yesterday, 4 people were shot to death in Kalaymyo. Brutal ways of persecution, arresting and murdering are also happening in all states by armed forces. More than 2000 people are arrested, and many are missing. People are helpless and restless. Peaceful protesters are beaten, shot and killed everyday. This isn’t a civil war yet but many cities in Myanmar have now turned into a war zone.
As of tomorrow (March 18) onward, all the broadband internet will be shut down. The mobile data has been shut down 3 days ago. Many people and families fled Yangon during these days.
Banks are being closed and financial sectors have stopped functioning. There is inflation and commodity prices are also increased by 20 to 35%. Sometimes people don’t even have a chance to buy things outside due to the frequent patrolling of armed forces.
Without having the internet, it might be very difficult to know what is really happening on the ground from now on. The military regime wants to lie to the world by cutting the communication system. That infuses fear in the people of Myanmar, not knowing what the junta will do in a world isolated and disconnected to the world. Roads in Myanmar are flooded with blood and we are experiencing a doomed day. Myanmar’s darkest days are ahead!
Continue to pray for our people and nation; we need your fervent prayer. Myanmar needs your help more than ever. Help us in prayer and action to stop this awful manners of military coup. We’ve experienced enough fear and persecution in our lifetime; None of us wants to raise our children under such brutal, inhuman dictators. Right now, the bright future of our children is uncertain with a little or no hope. We all want to live a life free from fear; we are indeed fighting for our future and freedom!
I invite you to stand with us and fight along with us in our battle against dictators and for justice, peace, and democracy.
We love you all and God bless you!
Last year, in the early weeks of the COVID pandemic, we gathered for Good Friday and Easter Sunday virtually. It was an odd moment, to say the least.
I’m grateful that this year, we’re able to take precautions and be together. I hope you are planning to be with us for our Good Friday service on April 2 at 7:00 pm. That service always helps put me in the right frame of mind for the celebration that comes on Sunday – the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
MEMBERSHIP class | Saturday, April 10 | 9:00am
Many of you have started attending Redeemer during the past year. And some have wondered about membership. So we’ve made plans to hold a new members class right after Easter to tell you more about who we are as a church and to explain how you can make Redeemer your church home and become part of the family.
There is some reading and on-line viewing we ask you to do in advance of getting together at 9:00 am on Saturday, April 10. If you’d like to find out more about the new members class, email Pastor Matt and let him know you’re interested. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
In warfare, there is a time to resist and a time to fight back. This Sunday, we’ll talk about when and how we are to take up what the Apostle Paul calls the sword of the Spirit.
See you (in person or on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!