Fighting Discouragement

Yesterday I fought against discouragement–for no apparent reason. Except perhaps that I was over-tired. In fact, I’m starting to notice a pattern, and although I usually keep my “down days” to myself, I wondered if perhaps I wasn’t not alone. And I believe the Christian life is meant to be lived out loud so that we can learn, encourage, and strengthen one another. So, I’m sharing my discouragement with you. Aren’t you lucky?

Most days I’m pretty happy, but every once in a while when my energy level wears thin or my to-do-list  balloons–BAM!–discouragement hits me square in the nose. Not a fun feeling, but honestly, I should have seen it coming.

I’ve been on overdrive since June, and it appears I’ve finally hit the crash and burn stage. Certainly didn’t help matters that, after pushing myself a bit harder than I should have, I stayed up late reading. So, I woke up behind and tired. Not a good combination. Yep, I asked for a gloomy day.

I’m working on a tween devo project with another writer and just happened to be on the story of Elijah. Funny how God does that. Fighting against my own discouragement, I found the account in 1 Kings 19 very comforting! Although, unlike me, Elijah actually had a right to be discouraged! Well, kind of, minus the fact that his discouragement rode on the heels of some pretty amazing miracles. In chapter seventeen, God fed him through ravens. Then God used him to feed a widow’s family, then raise her son from the dead. In chapter eighteen, through Elijah, God made a mockery of the prophets of Baal and Asherah when flames consumed his water-drenched offering. Shortly thereafter, God sent rain, then gave Elijah special strength, allowing him to run ahead of King Ahab’s chariot.

But when we get to chapter nineteen, Elijah learns Jezebel wants to kill him. He fled and it wasn’t long before his energy drained. Spent and discouraged, he collapsed beneath a tree and begged God to take his life.

Now that’s discouraged.

But notice what God does in verses 5-9 (NIV)

5Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

   All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.

God fed him and gave Elijah time to rest. Then, do you notice what Elijah did? He went to the mountain of God–he spent time with God, to be strengthened and encouraged by His Creator.

So how’d I handle my burgeoning discouragement yesterday? I let God love it away. Instead of allowing discouragement to steal my joy, I 1) took time to rest, 2) took care of my physical needs by eating nourishing food 3) spent time with my Heavenly Father and 4) remembered all  the great things He has done.

And hopefully, the next time a wave of discouragement comes, before I allow the gloom to settle, I’ll step back, evaluate the situation and my state of mind, remembering Elijah and what God did to pull Elijah back on his feet.

I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite verses–one I hold tight to.

James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Draw near to God today and tuck this promise in your heart, knowing God is there, surrounding you in His unfailing love. He is inviting you in His throne room, to sit at His feet and to rest. To be refreshed and made new. To be loved unconditionally, completely.

What about you? How do you handle those moments of discouragement?

You’re Not Alone by William Ramirez

I’m a loner by nature. Give me a task and leave me alone, and I’m good to go. I am learning, slowly, of my need to rely on others, to work in community. I loved William’s devo because it spoke to the Lone Ranger in me, and reminded me that I was never meant to go it alone. As you read today’s devo, ask God to reveal your “Lone Ranger” tendencies. Then, ask Him to show you who He’s already prepared to walk beside you. Chances are, that brother or sister in Christ is already on their way to meet you. I am reminded of what God said to Moses in Exodus 4:14 “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you.”

Aaron was already on his way. Love that! William’s devo first appeared on Rejoice Evermore on December 1, 2010.

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Sometimes God calls us to stand alone, but even then we are not alone. Elijah thought he was the only one taking a stand for the Lord and he found out later on there were 700 others who were faithfully following the Lord.

In my Bible reading right now, I’m in Numbers. In Chapter 2 and 3 of Numbers, the Lord outlines the places where each tribe was to march and camp, as well as the various duties of the Levites in assisting Aaron. It’s not exactly an exciting read, but one thing stood out to me as I went through it the last few days. Each tribe or family had distinct tasks God gave them to do, yet no one did those tasks alone. While Judah’s standard led the march and was the symbol which stood high in the east side of Israel’s camp, it was not Judah alone that did so. They were joined by Issachar and Zebulun. Even though Aaron and his sons led in the ministry of the Tabernacle, each of the three families of Levi were responsible for making the ministry work properly.

In our walk with the Lord and however we might be called to serve Him, the Lord didn’t design us to be alone. I am so grateful for the friends that God has placed into my life who love me, challenge me, rebuke me, cry with me, and comfort me. And ultimately, I am thankful for my Jesus, the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

Have you thanked the Lord lately for the friends God has brought into your life and for the friendship of His own dear Son?

William Ramirez lives in Central Florida with his beautiful bride Beverly and four wonderful children. He’s been the senior pastor at Calvary Chapel Lighthouse in Longwood, FL for the last 14 years. He also enjoys writing, both fiction and non-fiction, that encourages believers in their walk with Jesus.

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As always, if you loved, loved, loved today’s devo, “like” it, fb share it, tweet it, or leave a comment and at the end of the month, I’ll tally everything up and post the top three devos of 2010!

 

Walking With Intentional Blinders On

I’m not sure when this started or where it came from, but somehow, over the years, my view of obedience has become tainted. I’ve heard so much about open and closed doors and letting go and letting God that I’ve developed this idea that obedience is going to be easy. And successful. But when I read the Bible, that’s not what I see. Look at how many doors Moses had slammed in his face. His own people opposed him, Pharaoh ridiculed him, and the harder Moses pushed, the worse things became. At least initially. And what about Joshua and his encounter with Jericho? He didn’t just have a closed door. He had an entire, seemingly impenetrable, wall standing in his way. Then there’s the prophet Elijah. His life wasn’t exactly a bed of roses. At times, he even thought his work was pointless. But he kept on. As did Isaiah, John the Baptist, Stephen, and Paul, just to name a few.

Paul has become the super hero of Christianity. We like to talk about all the great things he did for Christ, about all the churches he planted, and how faithfully he suffered for God. But if we really stop and study his life, we won’t see very many open doors. That’s not to say his work didn’t produce amazing results. What I’m saying is his road to obedience wasn’t this peaceful, well-paved, flower-lined path we’d like to see in our own lives. It was fraught with intense, life-threatening obstacles at every turn. Hop on over to Acts and tell me you don’t see all the heavily fastened dead bolts–prison, beating, slander, ridicule. (Pay special attention to Acts 20:22-28) Paul didn’t wait for a nice, wide, open door. He looked for those tiny cracks then worked, with God’s leading, to wiggle himself in. Not because he was forging his own way with single-minded stubbornness, but because he knew-knew-knew God’s will and focused on obedience with unwavering determination. Walking with intentional blinders on, he kept his eyes on his Savior and not the obstacles all around him.

About ten years ago the church my husband and I belonged to held a vision summit and I was invited. I don’t remember what it was called, but basically, it was a time to listen to God, determine your unique calling, and zero in on the barriers you allowed to get in the way of obedience. The seminar’s focus Bible passage was the story of Joshua and Jericho. The question they asked: What is your Jericho?

It was an amazing experience! And while I was there, I grew increasingly excited about the idea of doing a community Easter event. It struck me as odd that we had a halloween event (as a community outreach) but did nothing community oriented for the biggest holiday in the Christian faith–the one time of year where people actually expect to hear the gospel. So I went to the children’s staff bubbling with excitement. And I had a plan. A big plan, but a plan. What if we had an Easter egg hunt, along with a drama, at a local park.

Slam went the door. “No, that won’t work. We’ve never done that before.”

Woah, wait a minute. You just invited me to an event focused on identifying my Jericho, and you’re adding another brick to the wall?

So I kept talking, and nudging, and praying. (I was way too spiritually immature to see the initial no as a closed door. grin.)

The result? That first year, we had our Easter party at one of the busiest parks in Rancho Cucamonga, California. If I remember correctly, 150 children participated, and many more meandered towards the side-lines. Other adults sat along the outer edges of the stage area to watch the youth perform a drama then later, listen to an easter bunny tell the gospel. And I was swamped with help. We had a craft team, a game team, live music and oodles of bright-eyed, giggling children connecting the name Jesus with love, fun, and community. It was so successful, we did it again the following year.

I’m not saying that closed doors don’t exist or that we shouldn’t pause for re-evaluation every once in awhile. What I am saying is if you know in your heart of hearts God is calling you to do something, don’t let anything get in they way. And don’t expect the obedience journey to be easy. When doubts and obstacles arise, put your blinders on and withdraw within, closing off everything else until that still, small voice shines through. Then, once God has confirmed or perhaps reaffirmed your route, walk forward in confidence.

Some questions to ponder:

1) What’s your Jericho?

2) How determined are you to fulfilling God’s plan for your life?

3) When in the past have you been quick to jump on the “closed door” bandwagon and what was the result?

And now listen to this song and remember, God’s not asking you to change the world. He’s just asking you to obey. The results are up to Him.

Ginny Owens–I am (By the way, Ginny Owens is blind. Imagine all the obstacles and closed doors she had to overcome through out her life to create this beautiful song.)