This week, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Spiritual Roadblocks.” It’s construction season once again in the great state of Pennsylvania. Although none of us like road construction, we all like cruising down a smooth, freshly paved and painted highway at full speed. It gives us a sense of freedom and adventure like anything is possible. We may not like construction, but we sure do love the benefits of when the job is complete!
This is much like our spiritual lives. We love to quote about the full and abundant life that Jesus promises us. We love the freedom that He grants us. We love the invincible feeling of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. We love cooperating with God as He blesses us and does the miraculous in and through our lives.
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When God decides that it’s time to do some construction in our lives, we’re not so thrilled about cooperating with Him. We don’t want to slow down or even worse, stop altogether. We’d rather be over in that other lane that is flying right on by us.
Together, we’re going to learn about some dangers that commonly exist in our lives that require God to do a little construction work in us. God desires to take care of them before these small roadblocks grow into destructive hazards. We’ll trust that just like road construction, the end result will be well worth a short season of waiting and working.
So far, we’ve learned about the spiritual roadblocks of the love of the world and cravings. This week, we’re going to tackle the spiritual roadblock that we all deal with from time-to-time of discouragement. When we think of the ways and the tools of the devil, we usually think of cunningness and deceit. Rarely do we think of discouragement as a weapon formed against us. However, if our enemy can discourage us, he can stop us from moving forward into all that God has planned, purposed, and promised to us! It can cause us to simply give up in bitterness.
Most all of us are aware of the story of Jonah. Although he was given many chances to cooperate with God bringing an entire nation to repentance and launching a wave of revival to Nineveh, his heart was hard. God still used him to do just that, but in the end, Jonah thought more highly of himself and of his comfort than he did for an entire nation of people who had just been radically transformed by the power of God.
Jonah’s story ended with him wanting to die, angry with God’s compassion toward others, and overwhelmed with discouragement.
I don’t believe that this was how God wanted His prophet’s story to end by any means! Don’t be like Jonah! Don’t give up and end God’s ability to write miraculous testimonies in and through your life all because we experienced discouragement!
After all, discouraging situations are the some of the most fertile atmospheres for God’s miraculous provision to come our way!
Unfortunately, discouragement often causes us to stop believing God’s promises. It causes us to stop in our tracks and question God. It causes God’s good news to sound like old news. God informed Moses:
6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.
God just shared the best news that the Israelites had heard in nearly 400 years. However, because of their discouragement, they wouldn’t even listen to it.
God just promised to free you, redeem you, and take you into all of His promises and you rolled your eyes and ignored it continuing on in your slavery.
You’ve heard it all before. They’re merely words. Your dad and your dad’s dad and even his dad talked all about God’s coming deliverance and they all died believing those words. How were these same promises coming from Moses going to be any different?
It’s unfortunately easy for us to become hardened by life like this as well. Our perspectives become darkened by difficult life circumstances. We desperately need the light of Jesus to burst forth into our lives and His hope to be our anchor.
God never promised us a life of luxury free from troubles. However, when God speaks, we can trust what He says. Though deliverance may linger, it will certainly come. Though sorrow may last for the night, joy comes with the morning. Though salvation may be a yearning for years, it tastes that much sweeter when it arrives. God always proves Himself faithful to those who hear His words, then stand firmly on them in faith.
True blessings come to those who obediently follow Jesus through the good and the bad; believing that He will work it all out together for good. We may not understand why we were handed this ugly and difficult piece of our lives, but if we leave it in God’s hands, we can trust that it will fit together like a puzzle to form something incredible.
God came through with His word and miraculously delivered Israel from slavery. He provided for them over and over again in brand new and incredible ways. Yet even then, God’s people still found reason to grumble and complain. 3,500 years later, mankind hasn’t changed too much. It still seems far easier for us to focus on what is going wrong in life than how incredibly blessed we truly are.
Misery loves company, too. Most of the conversation around us consists of complaining about problems. Health problems, money problems, marriage problems, kid problems, job problems, the list goes on and on… There’s no shortages of problems that we face in this life.
Although there is nothing wrong with sharing our burdens with one another, those conversations ought to end with the hope found in Jesus. Those conversations ought to be brought back around to a promise of God or advice found in the wisdom of His word. Instead, we often simply relate problem to problem and sometimes even begin competing to see whose problems are worse!
Eventually, God’s people arrived at His promised land. They literally were standing on the threshold looking at the reality of God’s promise. Of course, humans being humans, they didn’t continue to proceed forward and take it. Nope. Instead, they stood back on the edge of it, poked it with a stick, and tried to figure out if it was really as good as God said that it was. They sent out twelve spies to scout the land and report back to them.
27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people
Fear of man will prove to be a share, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
1 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? (Discouragement caused them to believe a LIE about the Lord!) Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Moses begged the Lord to forgive them and God did, however, consequences were still put in place.
20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.
Discouragement is a self-fulfilling prophecy. God’s plan was to bring an entire nation into a rich and abundant blessing. His plans were still fulfilled, but many missed out on it. God may have promised it to us and it may have been accurately prophesied for us, but we can only receive and walk into them through obedience. God is always faithful on His part, but we must be careful not to disobey and test the Lord and treat Him with contempt. Discouragement causes us to do exactly these things and because it derails us from God’s plans, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Discouragement creates within us a divided mind. We know God, we know His promises, we know the awesome things that He has done for us in the past. However, we feel that somehow this time is different. Perhaps we hear testimonies of what God has done for others, but we are left waiting for God to do the same for us. We begin to consider lies like God is punishing us or that we’re forgotten or that God doesn’t really care. Discouragement divides our mind into simultaneous areas of faith and doubt, creating an atmosphere for discouragement to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Joshua and Caleb followed the Lord wholeheartedly and their spirits were not discouraged. They were fully convinced in their minds that God was able. Yes, they saw the impossibility, but they believed God to be greater than any enemy that they could face. They didn’t only believe God at His word, but they boldly lead the next generation to receive the very blessing their ancestors were denied.
I believe that the time has come for us to shake off discouragement and begin believing again just as Joshua and Caleb did. The time has come for us to come eager and expectant before God again. The time has come for us to stand firmly on God’s promises and actively engaging in bringing them to pass once again.
Discouragement believes a lie about God and it often believes a lie about who we are as well. Think about this fact: twelve men all shared the same experience. Ten of them grumbled and complained and put fear into the rest of the people. Two of them said that they certainly could receive God’s promises. They all shared the same experience, but it created night and day results in the people.
Joshua and Caleb saw that the land did match God’s word and therefore, they believed that God would also fulfill His promise to give it to them. The other ten saw the same truth that the land matched God’s word, but they focused on and amplified their problems instead of their God.
Which crowd do we fall into? What do we glorify? Will we exalt our problems and boast in how great they are? Or will we exalt our God and how mighty and able He is? Will we share our testimony-in-the-making and eagerly cling to hope in what God is going to do?
Next week, we’ll continue and learn how we can transform discouragement into encouragement! Right now, we’re going to give God some praise and exalt Him. We’re going to shake off our discouragement and praise God, who is our provider and who holds the solution to every problem that we can ever face.