One statistic states that approximately 70% of Christians come to church discouraged. While everyone feels down from time to time, seven out of every ten people walking into a worship service each week dealing with discouragement is a big deal! Joshua 1:9 (NKJV) addresses discouragement: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” God doesn’t want us discouraged, but discouragement is a very real problem for most believers.
What is Discouragement?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “discourage” as a verb meaning to deprive of courage or confidence, to hinder by disfavoring, or to dissuade from doing something. Quite simply, someone who is dis-couraged is lacking courage. People and circumstances can encourage or discourage, but courage is something you either have or don’t. If you don’t have courage, you have discouragement, the absence of courage. People may lack courage for various reasons, but this is not God’s plan. He wants us to “be strong and of good courage.”
Why is Discouragement a Problem?
Discouragement is a problem for several reasons. First, discouragement is a thief. Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” The thief of discouragement steals our joy and blessings, kills our dreams, and destroys the abundant life God has for us. God has a plan for your life and Satan’s plan is to resist, obstruct, and delay God’s plan. Satan cannot stop God from doing His part, but he can use discouragement to try to talk you out of doing your part.
Consider the story of Jonah. God sent Jonah to Nineveh, but Jonah tried to run away to Tarshish, ended up in a storm, was thrown overboard, gets swallowed by a fish, and gets spit up on a beach before finally choosing to obey and go to Nineveh to prophesy of the coming judgment. As of all of this wasn’t interesting enough, the big surprise of the story is that the people of Nineveh repent and God spares them. You might reasonably expect Jonah to be very happy that God chose to use him as an instrument of His mercy, but you would be mistaken. Jonah 4:1 tells us that Nineveh’s repentance “displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became very angry.” Jonah 4:3 adds that Jonah wanted God to take his life because he thought it better “to die than to live!” Jonah was discouraged throughout the entire Biblical account of his life and we can see the fruit that discouragement produced in his life.
Discouragement leads to paralysis, disobedience, running, and rebellion. Discouragement paralyzes us when we don’t do what God wants us to. It causes us to disobey by doing what God doesn’t want us to like Adam and Eve or Cain. Discouragement may cause us to run from God like Jonah. Or discouragement may cause us to rebel against God like Jonah when he wanted God to just end his life. Discouragement is a big problem even in small quantities, but when 70% of Christians are discouraged, the Church is being deprived, hindered, and dissuaded from doing the will of God. Discouragement is causing the Church to be paralyzed, disobey, run from God, and rebel against Him. The thief of discouragement is stealing, killing, and destroying our effectiveness for the Kingdom.
Why are People Discouraged?
Everybody experiences disappointments, but everyone isn’t discouraged by them. The difference between disappointment and discouragement is what we allow to take root in our lives. As humans, God has created us with a mental “garden” into which seeds fall regularly. While we want seeds of faith to fall on good ground and produce a harvest of life, we must realize that Satan is trying to get seeds of disappointment to fall on good ground and produce a harvest that steals, kills, and destroys. Little disappointments enter our minds through things we see and hear every day. As we meditate on these disappointments, they take root in the gardens of our minds and once these seeds take root, unless we rip them out, they will produce fruit.
What Can Be Done About Discouragement?
The good news is that we don’t have to accept or tolerate discouragement in our lives. We already have the victory through Jesus! There are some practical steps we can take to keep discouragement out of our lives, though. We must tend the gardens of our minds, do God’s will, and choose joy.
Tend the Garden
Knowing that our minds are gardens, we must guard against those negative seeds which will try to take root there. Proverbs 27:18 (AMP) says that “He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit.” If we extend this to our minds, he who tends the faith tree will eat its fruit, or he who tends the disappointment tree will eat its fruit. We must be mindful of what we cultivate. Which seeds are we fertilizing? In other words, what are we considering or meditating upon? We must feed what we want to grow and starve what we want to die.
Once we remove a seed by casting it on the Lord, it is important to replace it with a good seed. The best way to do this is exercising our spiritual authority over our minds. Stay in the Word and operate in the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Also, heed Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) by meditating on things which are “true, ...noble, ...just, ...pure, ...lovely, ...of good report,” virtuous, or praiseworthy. This will fill our minds with good seeds.
Do the Will of God
Have you considered the example of Jesus when He encountered seeds of disappointment? When Jesus learned His friend and cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded in Matthew 14:13, He went to be alone. However, upon seeing the need of the multitude that followed Him, Matthew 14:14 tells us that Jesus “was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.” He went on to feed 5,000 people and walk on water that same day. Jesus didn’t allow the disappointment seeds to grow into discouragement and make Him ineffective at what the Father had planned for Him. He chose to do God’s work, regardless of how He felt.
To combat discouragement, we must choose joy! Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit is already producing it within us. We don’t need to find it; we just need to choose it when we’re tempted to allow those seeds of disappointment to take root. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This strength propels us to victory and victory renews our courage. When disappointments attempt to discourage you, choose to allow the joy of the Lord to strengthen and encourage you.
The next time you begin to feel discouraged, don’t let Satan take you out of the fight by killing your dreams, stealing your joy, and destroying your peace. Instead, tend the garden of your mind, do the will of God, and choose joy! Be strong, and of good courage!