Resist Discouragement

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

Discouragement is a temptation, a common one. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind” (NIV)   If we linger in discouragement it can be costly. It can sap us of our energy and dreams, and it can consume a lot of time. It can keep us from doing what we need to do because we don’t want to face it.  

The book of Nehemiah illustrates how the enemy can discourage us, and how we should respond to discouragement in a way that prevents more damage and that moves toward healing our wounds.

Nehemiah was the man that God raised up to accomplish an important task – to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Despite all their efforts, however, they faced plenty of opposition from their hostile neighbors. Essentially they were saying that Jews were totally incapable of building the wall of Jerusalem when the Jews were working so hard every day under the blazing sun. Nehemiah’s response as given in vs.4-5: “Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! Do not ignore their guilt. Do not blot out their sins, for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.” These words were spoken to God, and not to those who had spoken against the Jews.

Nehemiah did not react at all to their criticism. He did not retaliate against the enemies with equal actions or words. Neither should you react when you receive criticism from others. You will also notice that Nehemiah pours out his feelings to God frankly and honestly, and then just rests his case with Him. Be content to know that God will deal appropriately with the ones who have criticized you unjustly in His own good time.  

When you are discouraged, remember God’s promises. Nehemiah 4:15 says, “When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall.” Psalm 34:19-20 says, “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!”

The main application for you is to press on with whatever God directs you to do in your journey of life. Whatever difficulties you face, you must keep your morale high, because God is with you every step of the way. You can only accomplish so much on your own, but you can “…do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Have you ever become discouraged in some aspect of your life and thought about quitting? Think back on what made it so discouraging and how you dealt with it at the time.
  2. How can the story of Nehemiah help you deal with discouragement this week? 

Ever Feel Like Giving Up?

“But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.” – 2 Chronicles 36:16.

Ever feel like giving up? Ever feel like quitting? Ever feel like your situation is so hopeless that the only thing you can possibly do is leave? Just walk away, head out the door and never look back? Or do you quit too soon rather than pressing on and pressing through the circumstances in your life thinking you want to make it stop, even when it is too soon? 

In Joshua 6, we read about God’s unconventional plan for the battle of Jericho. God told Joshua to have the armed men march around the city once each day, for six days. The priests were to carry the ark, blowing trumpets, but the soldiers were to keep silent. On the seventh day, the assembly marched around the walls of Jericho seven times. The plan was very unusual if not strange.

God’s infinite ways often don’t make sense in our finite minds. Sometimes you have to be willing to do the unconventional when fulfilling whatever dream God has given you.  But it is difficult to know if you give up too soon. 

Joshua 6:1 tells us that Jericho was “tightly shut.” Sometimes it can feel like our circumstances are “tightly shut” as well stopping us from moving forward and progressing in our dream. In Joshua 6:2 God says, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors.” God did not say, “I will deliver Jericho into your hands.” He said, “I have given you Jericho.”  It was done. All the Israelites had to do was follow the instructions. But here’s the challenge: What do you do when you see a big wall standing between your promise and your present situation?

There will be times when you’re doing everything you know to do, and you still don’t see any movement. The Israelites walked around Jericho for six days, and as far as they could tell, nothing happened. Not one brick fell. The Bible does not tell us this but you have to imagine that some people wanted to stop walking around Jericho because they didn’t see any progress. I’m sure they wanted to see a few bricks fall so they knew they were headed in the right direction. Just because you don’t see God working does not mean He isn’t. Jesus said, “…“My Father is always working, and so am I.” (John 5:17) The writer of Hebrews says: “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

There will be times when you are on lap number 7  on something in your life and wondering if it is time to stop. Every circumstance is different, but the next lap may be the one that results in a blessing from God. Trust God and don’t give up too soon.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you ever get tired of working on your goal? Maybe you’re trying to lose weight. Or you’re trying to start a new business. Or maybe you’re trying to write a book or start a new habit. How do you keep from giving up?
  2. Life is full of challenges that distract our focus away from God. How do you keep focused on God daily?

How Do We Handle Naysayers?

“Whatever you do you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there will always be someone to tell you that you are wrong.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Naysayers are everywhere. Sometimes they are in your home, they show up at work, they hide among your friends and they are usually in your family. They come in all sizes and all shapes. It is our job to notice it for what it is and remain committed to our dreams.

Nehemiah had been charged with the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He knew the task was not going to be easy. He was appointed by God for the challenge and started gathering the right people, placing them in strategic positions to rebuild the wall which would guard the unprotected city. The challenging task of rebuilding the wall takes form as each person is dedicated to a portion of the wall in a beautiful lesson of organized engineering design. Everything is running like a clock. Yet, when we turn to chapter 4, we find Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite angrily trying to discourage Nehemiah and his workmen from finishing their God-given task.

 Nehemiah 4:2-4 says, “…“What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”

They tried everything they could to get Nehemiah and his workers distracted. “The wall is weak!” “You are weak!” “It will take too long!” “Who do you think you are?” They went on and on, arguing against building the wall. If we took the time to reflect back on our life we could probably remember situation after situation when people tried to discourage us to do what needed to be done to fulfill God’s direction for our lives. Had we listened to naysayers along the way we may not be doing what God wants us to do. Likewise, had Nehemiah and his workmen listened to the naysayers, the work would have stopped and God’s task would not have been completed.  

There will always be opposition when we take a step of faith or run after a new challenge.  But the key to remember is this: Don’t let your critics distract you from God’s call. Don’t let yourself get lost in bitterness or resentment. Don’t let envy and jealousy of others keep you stuck.  Simply continue to move forward, remembering that when God puts you before a challenge – that challenge becomes God’s. God simply asks that you show up and trust Him – no matter how loudly the critics shout.  Move forward in faith and watch with amazement as God helps you overcome “even the most convincing naysayer.”

Has God given you a dream? Even if it looks impossible and some people in your life are saying you are nuts for doing it – do as Nehemiah and his workers did: keep on working until you finish the task.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Naysayers are a test: agree or disagree and why? 
  2. Why do you think people might want you to fail?  Share a time when someone predicted your failure and how you responded. 
  3. Read Nehemiah 4:4-5: How does Nehemiah’s prayer in these verses influence you? Why should praying be the first step when you experience ridicule, insults, or pain?