Posts Tagged ‘Discouragement’

Four times those words of encouragement were given to Joshua—three times by God and once by the men serving under him. (Joshua 1)*

And that encouragement is relevant to us today.

For forty years God had been preparing Joshua for leadership by having him serve as Moses’ assistant and military strategist. When Moses died, God appointed Joshua to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land and establish a homeland for Israel.

His primary task was to lead more than two million people into Canaan, defeat the armies of the nations that occupied the land, wipe out those nations because of their wickedness, and divide the land between the twelve tribes of Israel.

It would involve years of protracted warfare against thirty-one kings and their armies, destruction of their cities, and putting to death millions of their inhabitants.

It was a daunting task, and God knew that there would be many times that Joshua would feel overwhelmed, even afraid. So, to assure and strengthen him, God said:

“…I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1:5)

“Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors.” (Joshua 1:6) Joshua would succeed because God would fulfill his promise made to their ancestors.

“Be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:7-8) This time God outlined for Joshua how to be strong, courageous, and successful—by obeying the laws that Moses gave him; and by studying and meditating on Scripture at all times.

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged.” (Joshua 1:9) This third encouragement came with the assurance, “For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The twenty-four chapters of the book of Joshua provide a fascinating account of how Joshua, with God’s help, succeeded in establishing a homeland in Canaan for the Israelites.

Although we are not called to lead millions of people into battle, we face a different kind of battle—living life and meeting challenges of every-day living that sometimes cause us to be afraid and discouraged.

Whether it is the loss of a job, taking on a new job and new responsibilities, financial problems, declining health, broken relationships, the loss of loved ones, uncertain tomorrows, or a host of other challenges, each of us experiences times of fear and discouragement.

And there will be mornings when, for unknown reasons, we will wake up afraid to face the day.

To us, God says, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged!”

How can we be strong and courageous?

Believe and trust in God’s words of encouragement:

“I will be with you…I will not fail you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1: 5 & 9)

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you. I will hold you up in my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Believe and trust in the words of Jesus Christ as he encouraged his followers:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me.” (John 14:1)

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift that the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

And take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul who suffered many things in his ministry, but always found strength and encouragement to press on in the task that God had given him in service to Jesus Christ:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

I pray that whatever you’re facing in life at this moment, you’ll put your trust in God, spend time alone with him as you meditate on his holy Word, and seek his guidance, strength, comfort, and direction.

May the words and music of Maurette Brown Clark inspire you to find your comfort and strength in God for the task ahead of you. I encourage you to listen to it in its entirety.

*All Scripture passages quoted above are from the New Living Translation © 2007

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I was reading Numbers 13-14—the story of the twelve scouts whom Moses sent into Canaan to explore the land that God promised to give the nation of Israel—when I wondered, “Would I be among the ten scouts who came back fearful to occupy Canaan because they saw themselves like grasshoppers next to giants?”

That image of themselves as grasshoppers next to giants led ten of the twelve scouts to incite rebellion among the Israelites who were persuaded that it was too dangerous to try to conquer Canaan.

As a result, countless numbers of Israelites lost the opportunity to settle in Canaan, and, instead, spent the next 40 years wandering the desert until they all died.

Only two scouts—Joshua and Caleb—along with every youth age 19 and under would live to enter Canaan after the forty years were up.

Would I—and would you—have been among those ten scouts going against Joshua, Caleb, and God?

It might be easy for each of us to quickly reply, “No way would I be among the ten scouts! I would be on the side of Joshua and Caleb!”

But let’s ask ourselves the following. When making decisions with others in our jobs, organizations, businesses, churches, ministries, corporate boards, or in our families, do we tend to:

• be overly cautious; always avoid risks; want guarantees; take a wait-and-see approach…
• be skeptical; criticize; resist new ideas and approaches…
• discourage others; or cause dissent when things don’t go our way?

If we find ourselves doing any of those things or having similar attitudes, we might have been among the ten if we lived back then.

It was understandable that the scouts were afraid to go ahead with a highly risky and dangerous war against the Canaanites. After all, the Israelites were average height men who were dwarfed by powerful nine-feet-tall giants living in large fortified towns and cities.

And common sense would insist there was no way that a rag-tag army with no previous war experience had a chance of conquering the Canaanites in their highly fortified cities.

But the ten scouts were wrong when they spread bad and discouraging reports among the Israelites and stirred up dissent and rebellion against Moses and God.

And, most significant, they were wrong in not trusting God that he would give them the victory over the Canaanites, for it was only three years before that they saw how God:

• dealt with the mighty Pharaoh and led them out of slavery from Egypt
• held back the waters of the Red Sea
• led them to safety to the opposite shore
• destroyed the Egyptian army and charioteers with the collapsing walls of water, and
• provided food and water for them during those three years in the desert

The tragic failure of the ten scouts was that despite all of God’s evidence that he was capable of giving them the victory, they did not trust their future to him, and they incited rebellion against him. As a result, they were struck dead with a plague. (Numbers 14:36-37)

To make matters worse, when the rebellious followers heard how and why the scouts died, they tried to appease God by invading Canaan without God being with them. The giants slaughtered every single one of them! (Numbers 14:39-45)

So as we face the coming months in 2012, a year in which we will undoubtedly face giants of our own, how is our faith? How is our trust in God?

Some of us will be facing giant challenges of unemployment, illness, cancer, financial failure, broken relationships, betrayal, loss of loved ones, and more. Will our faith and trust in God be strong enough to sustain us through those ordeals and leave us stronger and loving him more deeply—no matter the outcome?

Others of us will be facing major opportunities that involve gigantic challenges, great risks, enormous potential rewards, but offer no guarantees of success. Will we be overly cautious? Timid? Afraid to move ahead?

Most important, will God be with us in those opportunities? And if God is not with us, will we still move ahead in our own strength and abilities?

From where we now stand in early 2012, we don’t know how we will react to those giants. But here are two things for us to consider and guide us:

First, “Is this opportunity from the Lord?”

Unless the Lord builds a house,
the work of the builders is useless.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
guarding it with sentries will do no good.
(Psalm 127:1, New Living Translation, NLT)

Second, “Do I believe in the Lord enough to trust him?”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT)

The Israelites believed in God, but they didn’t trust him to lead them to victory in Canaan. They were depending on their own understanding of the situation, an understanding that failed to trust God’s promises and capabilities!

Many of us believe in God, but do we trust him when we face our giants?

Will we rely on our own understanding and insist on doing things our own way, or will we seek God’s will in all we do, trusting that he will direct our paths and see us through our challenges?

Remember—if we are in God’s will, we will be able to do everything with the help of Christ who gives us the strength we need, for God promises to supply all our needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus! (Philippians 4:13, 19)

The good news is that when we grasshoppers entrust our lives to God’s care and commit to fulfill his will and purpose—giants fall!


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It was 5 a.m. and dark outside when I left home for my daily walk one morning. It was cold and windy, but I was clothed warmly for the five-mile trek along a route that included a steep stretch of road into the hills above our neighborhood of Granada Hills, one of the towns in the San Fernando Valley, just outside Los Angeles.

I was eager to walk that morning, for I was deeply troubled about my life and needed to work off a lot of pent-up frustration. But even more importantly, I needed the time of solitude and privacy along those deserted and darkened roads to pray and seek God’s help and direction.

As I walked I poured out my frustrations to God. I told him how burdened and beaten down I felt, and how I had lost the passion, dream, and direction for my life.

Then somewhere along the walk, amidst my tears, weariness, self-pity, and complaints, the Lord reminded me of some verses from Isaiah 40, the words seemingly rushing back into my consciousness with each step that I took:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall fall exhausted,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:27-31, New King James Version—NKJV)

I mulled those words over in my mind, especially, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

A scene from the past flashed in my mind, one that I had seen many times from our church which sits atop one of the ridges of the Santa Monica Mountains, overlooking the San Fernando Valley.

It was a scene of a high-flying bird—sometimes an eagle, sometimes a hawk—hovering or slowly gliding majestically above the slopes. Its wings would always be spread wide, almost motionless, as it circled above unhurriedly under the California sun, as if waiting patiently for something. Inevitably it would connect with that something—an unseen thermal draft—its outstretched wings catching the full force of the swift-rising column of hot air that would send it soaring effortlessly to greater heights with hardly a flap of its wings and no wasted energy.

As I walked up the steep hill in the dark that morning, I closed my eyes, spread out my arms eagle-like, and tried to imagine what it would be like to wait for those thermal drafts and soar like an eagle. The cold wind blew steadily on my face, chest, and outstretched arms, and I began to feel as if I were being lifted gently off the ground and borne aloft by the wind.

Though my feet continued to pound the ground in a steady walk up the hill, my imagination took me to another realm where I seemingly experienced the sensation of flying like an eagle high above the San Fernando Valley, with the city lights shimmering and sparkling below and the dawn’s faint light gently washing the eastern sky. I felt as if I were hovering in the wind, gliding, waiting, and then soaring as a thermal draft swept me upwards and effortlessly to higher levels of flight above the valley.

The sensation of flight was wonderful and thrilling, sending shivers through my body. But an even deeper sensation followed—an overwhelming sense of God’s presence and a feeling of total well-being. This was God’s touch of grace, his moment of blessing for one who was poor in spirit, and one who mourned (Matthew 5:3-4).

Later that day and in the following days as I thought about that transcendent experience, God communicated clearly and profoundly through various scripture passages how to reinvigorate our lives as Christian believers:

· Never give up and quit.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed or broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, New Living Translation—NLT)

· Wait patiently for God and he will restore our flagging strength and spirit.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. (Psalm 37:7, NLT)

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3, NLT)

· Trust God completely to do what he promises in his Word.

…those who trust the Lord will possess the land. (Psalm 37:9b, NLT)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NLT)

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. (I Peter 5:6-7, NLT)

· Rest quietly in him.

The Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, “Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15, NLT)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)

· The Holy Spirit’s presence and will are to us what the thermal air currents are to the eagle or hawk.

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV)

I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your law is written on my heart. (Psalm 40:8, NLT)

Always be joyful. Keep praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, NLT)

I’ve never been able to recapture that sensation of flying, but the lessons learned through that experience and those scripture passages have stayed with me, especially whenever I see one of those majestic creatures soaring over the slopes of our San Fernando Valley.


Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, sometimes we find ourselves tired, discouraged, and utterly burnt out on life. Thank you for assuring us through your holy Word that if we wait patiently on you and seek your guidance, you will renew our strength, reinvigorate our flagging spirits, restore us to our rightful minds, and empower us to soar to greater heights of living and serving. Teach us to wait patiently, for it is in quiet waiting that we experience you in your fullness and transforming power. Amen.

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