1: The Christian World
One of the most encouraging scriptures to me has been Romans 8:1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I have a tendency to be discouraged when I don’t measure up to what I think I ought to be as a Christian man, husband, and father. And when I am down on myself then I have trouble functioning in any capacity. I don’t think I am alone in this condition.In following Jesus and serving in different ministering capacities I have observed this common thread among other earnest believers. Our Achilles heel is condemnation. When we falls short of our lofty aspirations we become downcast. We possess high ideals, and when we don’t live up to our expectations we are vulnerable to discouragement. I have identified three sources of this condemnation. Interestingly enough they are from our three enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. I would like to shine the light of truth on each of these adversaries.
The Christian World. Part 1.
This is in two parts because while I am sure the “world” that John refers to in 1 John 2 affects me more than I know, but I have been mainly discouraged by other believers, as sad as that is to admit. I like to read biographies of outstanding Christian men and women. Then I try to emulate them and do what they did. For example, David Brainerd and John Hyde were great men of prayer and inspired me to spend more time in prayer. After reading their life stories I made long prayer lists and envisioned myself spending hours on my knees. But after the first week or two I discover that I pray more like Peter in the garden, who couldn’t watch with Jesus for even one hour, than David Brainerd who poured out his supplications with tubercular lungs in the snow. As a result I discouragement sets in because I want to be just like these men but instead I fail. The word of God came to my rescue once again in Hebrews chapter 13 and Philippians 2.
Remember them that had the rule over you, men that spoke unto you the word of God; and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 Notice the last part of the verse, “imitate their faith.” It doesn’t say imitate their lifestyle. It is right to want to trust God with the same devotion, but not exactly the same way. And in Philippians 2:12-13 Paul exhorts us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us, both to
will and to work for his good pleasure. Putting these scriptures together I have divided up my two page prayer list into six smaller lists which I assign to a day of the week. My prayer life is much more consistent, I prayer much more for people and places God has placed on my heart, and I am not discouraged. I had to learn to work out my own prayer plan that is consistent with who God has created me to be. Now when I read about or listen to a devoted servant of God, I am inspired and encouraged to imitate their faith, and but am not tempted to mimic their lifestyle.
The Christian World. Part 2.
Because of my math business and speaking opportunities, I attend many homeschool conferences. Many of these begin with a large family, all dressed in similar clothes, with beatific smiles, singing or playing instruments together. I so admired them that after several years of seeing these shining testimonials to what a family could be, I bought 6 recorders and passed them out to my sons and wife thinking we could become the Van Demme Family Recorder Players. I don’t recall how many days our practicing lasted, or how long until my sons made swords of them, but it wasn’t long until the recorders were on the closet shelf and I entered the slough of despond once again. But God was faithfully working in my heart, and just a few years ago I realized I was finally getting the message.
I attended a convention where I was to speak the next morning. The night before, a lovely family with four children, each playing an instrument, performed beautifully. As I sat in the rear of the sanctuary these thoughts went through my mind, “What a wonderful talented family. I rejoice with you. But, my kids can out burp your kids any day of the week!” These thoughts surprised me and I am not sure where they came from. But it was then I realized that
God didn’t want the Demmes to be recorder players or singers or anything except who He created and designed us to be. I am content for who our family is then and how he has developed us. We don’t have to be like any other family. We have our own flavor. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
The Flesh. Sometimes discouragement arises not because the devil is at work, but my own goals are too lofty and unrealistic. Jesus said to come to him for his yoke which is easy (and doable) and his burden which is light (and not overwhelming). I have a tendency to always say yes to requests on my time and energy and so I overextend myself. As a result I get worn down. I had to learn long ago to heed the advice of Nancy Reagan and “Just say No” even
to worthwhile activities. Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. I am learning that when life seems too tough and the burdens appear too heavy, to examine what I am doing in light of Matthew 11:28-30 and with the help of my wife identify which burdens are His and which are the ones I have added which are making my life seem overwhelming.
The devil. He is described as the accuser of the brethren in Revelation 12:10 “who accuses them before our God day and night.” He is quick to tell us what failures we are and how we will never measure up. His whole ministry is hopelessness, despair, and condemnation. He is a liar and the father of lies. Thank God that we know Jesus, who is the truth. And thank God we have His word to clear the air and redirect our attention to the truth. There is no
condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is conviction, yes, but no condemnation. None. Zero. And there is plenty of confirmation and assurance. God really does love us. Even when we were sinners he died for us. I hope the following account will help you to comprehend the reality of this truth in a fresh way.
I had the opportunity to hear a concert by Sam Rottman. He is a wonderful pianist who has performed all over the world. He shared with us that only one person has ever attended all of his concerts. Jesus. He related that Jesus always sits in the front row and thoroughly enjoys each concert as if it were the first one he’d ever attended. As he shared this precious insight with us, my heart was melted in meditating on this truth. God loves us. And God likes us. He really does. And God is with us. This may be difficult to grasp, but it is absolutely true.
May God enable us to forsake the debilitating condemnation which seeps from the pit and embrace the living stream of hope and assurance that flows from God’s throne.
When you are tempted to be discouraged, remember, Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. 1 John 4:4
Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through steadfastness and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.