This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

discouragedA friend of mine is a pastor in a small rural church. While the church has been in existence for over 100 years, it had fallen on some hard times and had even considered closing its doors. My friend was a ‘last hope effort’ to survive.

Chris, as I’ll call him, prayed for months that God would raise up some of the men to become the leaders the church needed to be an effective witness in the community. One day, his prayers seemed to be answered. A man we’ll call Thomas visited the church a couple times and then came up to Chris one Sunday after church and asked if they could have lunch. Later that week as they sat a table in the local café, Thomas shared his testimony of how he’d found Christ. Then he asked Chris the $64,000.00 question: “I have never been disciple and don’t know that much about the Bible. Would you be willing to meet with me to help me learn how to do that?

You can imagine the excitement Chris felt over the next months. Thomas continued to grow in his faith and became more and more involved in ministry both within the church and in the community. Then came the heart attack.

I looked at my friend Pastor Chris as his countenance fell. “It took the wind out of my sails big time”, Chris continued, “the hopes I had for ministry seemed to come to a complete stop. I found myself trying to fill the gaps Thomas had left behind. I told God he could take me out of this ministry anytime. I was finished.”

Chris shared with me how discouraged he had been over the next months. There were some small glimpses of joy in the ministry, but most of it was gone. Looking back he realized he’d built his ministry more on a person than on Jesus.

Discouragement can come to us in many ways, as it did with my friend Pastor Chris. It can sneak up on us completely unaware and knock us off our feet. Many of the things we once hold confidence in lose their allure.

Usually discouragement is completely irrational. For example, you may do a project for school in which 100 kids evaluate you. If you get 99 high grades and 1 low grade it’s easy to focus on the one low grade and not the other 99 high grades. It’s the way we are wired. We tend to see the negative far more easily than we see the positive.

Discouragement happens when we lose confidence in ourselves and our enthusiasm disappears. It can be the result of personal attacks, failures on our part or the death of someone important to us. Whatever the reason, discouragement leaves us disheartened.

Imagine what it must have been like for Joshua. Joshua was a Bible Character and assistant to Moses as Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. As they neared the Promised Land, Moses died and left Joshua in charge.

Imagine how Joshua felt. Moses was the only leader he had ever known. Moses was the one that stood by him, trained him, and encouraged him. Moses made all the difficult decisions. Joshua followed his lead. Now it was his time to lead nearly 1 million people into a land known to be inhabited by fierce and powerful enemies. In the midst of this overwhelming challenge, Joshua receives assurance from God that God would be with him every step of the way.

Discouragement comes when we focus on our own ability and see the solution to our circumstances as being dependent on our own power. When relationships fail we tend to be discouraged because we think we are the only ones at fault when, in fact, relationships can only prosper if all parties are working together.

When we fail because of sin in our lives discouragement sets in because we get the notion that being morally perfect is possible and that God is disappointed in our actions. The fact of the matter is we will never be morally perfect and God is never disappointed or surprised by our actions. He not only knows our weakness, he is ready and willing to forgive us and help us through our weakness and use those weaknesses to make us strong.

We can lose confidence in life situations, or ministry (as Pastor Chris did) or our jobs, or classwork because we’ve neglected to seek God’s help or place too many expectations on ourselves. Confidence is also robbed when we compare ourselves to others rather than reminding ourselves that we are created in God’s image as his masterpiece.

Are you discouraged today? Remember that no matter what you are going through, God knows where you are, how you got there and the best way out.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, right now I find myself in a situation I see no way out of. Please forgive me for not trusting you. Please empower me through your Holy Spirit to see the way you have for my escape. Help me to focus on you rather than my circumstances. In your name I pray, Amen.

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