Tactic #3: Discouragement

Ezra 4:4
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building.  (NAS)

This is one of the most pervasive and hard to detect tactics of the enemy.  In the story of Ezra, the Jews have returned to their land from exile, and want to build a new temple for the worship of God.  But the people living in that land want them to fail.  They delay and frustrate the building process using a variety of methods, from intimidation to bureaucratic inanity (how well we know this one…).  The people get discouraged, and they become afraid.

It was an eye-opening experience the day I learned that discouragement is a sin.  As we saw previously in Deuteronomy and as we see in the famous passage in Joshua 1:8, God commands us not to be discouraged.  It’s a command.  Not a suggestion.  Discouragement is not a psychological ailment that can be whittled away with a prescription.  It is a spiritual attack, specifically designed to keep you from trying to get out of your cycle of despair and start doing something to advance the kingdom of God and His will in your life.

And wallowing in it leads to all kinds of sins and addictions.  Pornography is just one of them, as I’m sure you can imagine.  The enemy tries to make us think we will never win, and so we should just give up.  It sounds similar to the fear of failure tactic we looked at before.  I began this list with fear because ultimately, all of these tactics come back to fear, which is why God had to tell Joshua multiple times to “be strong and courageous.”  God knows that courage–which He supplies in abundance when we walk in His will–is the key to overcoming and defeating the enemy and walking out His purposes for our lives.

When we fail, and later give up, it doesn’t take long before we give in.  Maybe you’re going for a job promotion, or want to get accepted into a new school or program.  Or you want to get a paper published this year, or get a new house and hope your offer beats the others.  Maybe you want your credit approved so you can get a new car.  Dozens of possible scenarios that entail some risk of failure.  Pick any one of these and put yourself in that position.  Someone else gets the job.  You don’t meet the deadline.  The house sells to someone else.  You don’t get approved for the car.  What is your response?  If we are weak in our faith, it is very, very easy to become discouraged in situations like this, especially if there is a lot riding on it.

And it is in that moment you have to decide what you believe about God.  Is He good, and can I trust Him?  Will He carry me through this and provide for my needs?  Or is this one failure too many?  I just can’t take it anymore.  I’m tired of this.  It’s hopeless.  And to alleviate your discouragement, off you go to a strip club you haven’t visited in two years and thought you’d never visit again.  Discouragement is a gateway sin that leads to others many times worse.  That’s why when you get discouraged, and learn to catch it early, you can in that very moment strengthen yourself in the Lord, and He will help you get through.

The story of David in 1 Samuel is filled with one situation after another where David suffers under immense pressure and has nowhere to turn, and God delivers him.  Many times though, you wonder how God will do it, and if we were in those situations, it would be really hard to maintain our faith.  Many of David’s men faltered at times in theirs, but he kept them strong.

Another statement implied in this tactic is, “This is the best you’ll ever have.”  It’s discouraging to think this way when life is at its worst.  What if it never gets better?  What if God is treating me like one of His prophets, who often suffered their whole lives and never saw joy or victory.  What if I’m the new Jeremiah (who, by the way, was told to never get married because of what God knew was coming to the nation)?

When these thoughts bombard you, they aren’t just coming from you.  The enemy is filling your mind with doubt, because he wants you to question God’s goodness, look at the facts that back up your feeling, and then give up.  This porn is the best I’ll ever have.  It’s lousy; it makes me feel bad; I know it’s wrong; but God isn’t doing anything about it and so there’s no reason to hope.

If you have felt this way, then you need to know the truth is actually the reverse of all this.  God wants to save you from this painful discouragement.  Jesus didn’t die just to pay the penalty for sins.  He wants to save us from the power of them as well!  He doesn’t want us mired in depression and sorrow our whole lives.  We get there by not trusting Him, taking the easy choices, and then figuring there’s nothing better.

Proverbs 23:27, 28
For a harlot is a deep pit, and an adulterous woman is a narrow well. Surely she lurks as a robber, and increases the faithless among men.

See, God knows what happens when we become mired in discouragement from sin.  We lose our faith.  Getting lost in sexual sin robs your faith.  No wonder then that it’s so hard to believe God has something better for us if we try to escape!  Down in the pit, it’s pretty hard to see the mountains and forests and abundance that waits above.

If you’re mired in an addiction, God says to you now that this is not the best life can be.  I struggled with that thought for several years.  Once I realized it was there, I prayed against it and found these and other Bible verses that tell the truth, from God’s perspective.  Romans features a series of statements that declare what we have “now” because of what Jesus did.  This is the kind of truth that sets us free.  Keep reading, and later we will do an in-depth study of six decisions you can make each day that lead to freedom in Christ.