I read two—but only needed to read one—books by Frank Peretti. One was plenty. I mean this in a good sense.
In his book This Present Darkness, he gave a great picture of demonic oppression. He personalized how certain demons plague the people of God. The idea was clear in the first book. I do not suppose that he was all right. But he certainly was not all wrong.
Discouragement is a demon. It sits on your shoulder. It bores into your brain. It steals your energy.
At least three staff issues need to be addressed in my congregation. I have addressed none of them well. During the past week, two somewhat glaring mistakes I would have caught if I had proofread more carefully got out into the public. While they were relatively small items in the scheme of things, they were the worst kind of mistakes: unnecessary. One of the books I am reading makes me wonder if about half of what I have going on in the congregation is in error. Add this in: the couple I am counseling whose marriage is getting no better, the Catechism students who seem oblivious to the import of what we are doing, the adults in the congregation who behave like children. And to top it all off, I get too great of a dose of talk radio through the week.
Depressed? No. Not at all.
Kids not showing up at a youth event. Counseling a marriage problem that sees no improvement. A classroom that seems little influenced by Jesus’ love. Church meetings that take forever and go nowhere. Constant changes due to Covid-19 and no end in sight for the pandemic.
Of course, discouragement means “to lose heart.”
As a church worker, expect there to be times when one of Satan’s demons strikes at the core of your courage. Just when you need energy, conviction, and joy to move forward on something, you will meet discouragement.
Meet it. But do not give into it. Understand it to be what it is: a stinking gift from the bowels of hell. Return it to the hellish fiend who sent it … unopened. Mark it: return to sender.
Dwelling in discouragement is one of the more disastrous things a church worker can do. It can develop into substance abuse, family disruption, binge spending, and general grouchy Christianity.
1 Samuel 7:12–14 talks about an “Ebenezer Stone.” It is a stone of remembrance designed to forestall discouragement.
Because you can anticipate times of discouragement to come, place certain “Ebenezer Stones” in your mind and your life. I turn to these two passages to strengthen my heart and shore up my courage:
“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:5–6).
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:17–19).
Yes, now and then. But never for long! Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world! Jesus’ love restores our heart and keeps our feet firm on the path toward significance.
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