Some of us might not be jumping into the new year with all the muster and excitement that others seem to be. Maybe you aren’t looking forward to 2018 because 2017 is still a mess. Did the hopes and dreams of last year fail you? Maybe your finances or relationships aren’t where they should be. Maybe your home is upside down. Maybe you lost someone. Maybe you struggled with anxiety, depression, or fear. For many of us, what lies ahead seems only to make worse what we left behind.
The enemy has a lot of tools in his tool chest. But the one he wields with the sharpest, finest point, is discouragement. With merely the scratch of the blade, often painless, it goes unrecognized until it festers. Until it infects and spreads.
Discouragement is an unwanted guest. It creeps in. Finds the back door. Does not introduce itself loudly, but blends in with the furniture so well, it is never asked to leave. Never barely noticed. But it is not dormant. It is active and alive, feasting on our fears and our doubts.
A wise friend once told me, and I have never forgotten it, that in truth the enemy cannot steal the heart of God from us. He cannot take away the hope and the future we have in Him. He cannot dismantle the plans and the path God has set before us. Nor thwart the ministry and the calling God has placed on our lives. But the enemy can wield the blade of discouragement. And when he does, when it has its victory, we offer those things up willingly. We give in. We give away. We open our hands and let go of the treasures we value most. Just like that. Without a fight.
Be wary of discouragement today, my friend. I cannot tell you what it wears when it comes to your door. For only you know when you have let it in. But I can tell you that it is a liar and a thief. It comes bearing gifts of comfort and solace. Of wallowing in our own rights or our own resentments. Of feeling good about feeling bad. It plays the old songs of failures and disappointments. The ruts that tell half-truths of who we were or who we aren’t or who we’ll never be. But it purposely forgets to remind us the truth of who we are.
Discouragement is a crafty guest who will not leave on its own accord. Watch for it… for our struggle, our true struggle, is not against flesh and blood. It’s not our husband or our wife. It’s not our kids or our co-worker. It’s not even life’s expectations that have failed us. It’s the thief that came in the back door and found a home in our hearts. Watch out for him.
And in watching, don’t forget that you are not left unarmed when the thief comes. You are not defenseless to protect yourself. But rather, my friend, you have the might of heaven behind you! So, put on the full armor of God.
The belt that fastens around our waist—the belt of truth. The part that holds all the other pieces in place. Pay attention to what stories you are telling yourself. The stories about yourself, about others, and about God. Are they true? Do they line up with who you are in Christ? “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). Discouragement says you are worthless, hopeless, without a future. Truth says you have been set free from the power of sin and death. You are a new creation. The old is past, the new has come.
The breastplate of righteousness- The guardian of our heart and soul. For out of it flows the well-springs of life. As the Lord wraps around you the gift of His own righteousness, press into Him. Press close, for He is “a stronghold in the day of trouble.” (Nahum 1:7).
The shoes ready with the gospel of peace. Ready. Prepared. That means kick off those slippers and lace up the Reeboks. The enemy will put obstacles in your path to bring you down. To alter your course for the Lord. May His word be a light to your path. May your feet be ready to go where He leads. And remember, Discouragement is the great stealer of peace, so do not pack him for your journey. “May the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
The shield of faith- The most powerful defense you have to extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy is your faith. The question of faith is a question of trust. Whatever measure of faith you have today, build it, develop it until it becomes a shield. “We do not lose heart when we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:8-18).
The helmet of salvation- The helmet protects the seat of our thoughts. Most assuredly, the greatest battleground we will ever know. And it is here that discouragement festers. When we have knowledge of who we are and who we belong to, we cannot be shaken by the enemy’s deception. Remember who you are. And who the Lord is. You are His. Has the small stuff become too big and the big stuff too small? “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
And the sword of the Spirit—the weapon in our hand—His word. “…Living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).
Have you picked up your sword today? I dare say, I may have forgotten. And I may have left the back door open.
Put on His armor. Put it on and stand! Because, dear friend, we will not fight this battle lying down.