If you sometimes wonder why you even continue to try to live as a Christian, you are not alone. If you occasionally feel that you are not making much progress in your spiritual growth, you are not alone. If you often think that no one else seems to be struggling with problems as you are, you are not alone. If you are tempted to give up, you are not alone. Many Christians sometimes feel much the same way.
There are many things which discourage Christians. Sometimes we are "shaken by afflictions" (to borrow the language of Paul - 1 Thes. 3:3) in the form of persecution. Our own failures can serve to discourage us. The enormity of some of the moral or spiritual challenges that we face can be overwhelming to us. Occasionally Christians are simply "worn down" by the difficulties of life which even people of the world face. Some are discouraged when they are rebuked by others, even when the rebuke is warranted. The sins of other Christians, especially hypocrisy, can cause us to be discouraged.
We need to keep several facts in mind, lest we be discouraged The apostle Peter indicated to his readers that they should not "think it strange concerning the fiery trial" which they were to experience (1 Pet. 4:12). Indeed, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). The afflictions are still real and often difficult, but should not be unexpected and we have the example of Jesus to encourage us (Heb. 12:2,3).
Those who struggle with personal problems or character weaknesses often think that no one else has similar struggles. They look to other brethren and see the calm exterior, but not the struggles within. We cannot excuse our own weaknesses by the weaknesses of others, but we must also recognize that others are fighting the same battle against the flesh that we are.
Regardless of what kind of temptation we face, it is not unique to us (1 Cor. 10:12). Do we understand the wisdom of James' exhortation to "confess your trespasses to one another" (5:16) Not only can we pray on behalf of one another, but we are also made aware of our common struggle against the evil one.
We should remember that God has promised to enable us through His Word, to equip us with all that we need for every good work (2 Tim. 3;16,17). He has given us brethren, although imperfect, to encourage us (Acts 28:15; Heb. 10:24,25).
Finally, we should take courage from the fact that God does not abandon His children. The same lives that prompted the Father to send His Son to die on the Roman cross is even more certain to continue to sanctify and justify those who have responded to His offer of grace (Rom. 5:5-10). David faced Goliath with courage even though the young shepherd carried only a sling and five smooth stones because he knew that his God was with him. You are not alone!
By Allen Dvorak in News and Notes, Oct. 31, 2004.
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