November 22, 2015
In this issue: Discouragement: Satan's Greatest Weapon by Jon Mitchell | What Might Have Been by Barney L. Keith
by Jon Mitchell
I read a story once that says Satan once held a sale and offered all the tools of his trade to anyone who would pay the price. They were spread out on the table and each one was labeled – hatred, malice, envy, gossip, lust – all the weapons that everyone knows so well. However, off to one side lay a harmless looking instrument labeled DISCOURAGEMENT. It was old and worn looking but was priced far above the rest. When Satan was asked why this was, he replied, “Because I can use this one so much more easily than the others. No one knows that it belongs to me, so with it I can open doors that are bolted tightly against the others. Once I get inside, I can use any tool that suits me best.”
I wonder what heroic and inspiring accounts were never written because Satan effectively used his tool of discouragement? The Bible records many sad stories of people who lost heart and gave up. When Moses sent the spies into the Promised Land, all but Caleb and Joshua came back with discouraging news. The fearful saw the size and strength of their opponents rather than remembering the signs and strength of their God (Num. 13-14). Elijah did great things for God which resulted in the conversion of thousands of Israelites (1 Kings 18:1-40; 19:18); yet, he had become so discouraged when Jezebel threatened his life that he deceived himself into thinking that he was the only servant of God left (1 Kings 19:1-18). After Peter promised that he’d never leave Jesus’ side, he ran with the rest when the Lord was arrested, and a few minutes later became so afraid that he denied even knowing Christ (Matt. 26:31-75). He did so because he was discouraged after seeing the apparent lost cause his Lord’s ways had become upon his arrest.
We become discouraged when we make the same mistake that these guys made and start paying more attention to the obstacles than the opportunities. We become discouraged when we start believing Satan, “the father of lies” (John 8:44), instead of the Father “who cannot lie” (Tit. 1:2). And what has the God who cannot lie promised us? He has promised us that our work is not meaningless, so be steadfast and immovable (1 Cor. 15:58). He has promised us that our trials and hardships make us stronger if we allow them (James 1:2-4; Rom. 5:3-5). He has promised us that the hardships we endure seem painful right now, but they cause us to become more righteous later if we allow ourselves to be trained by them (Heb. 12:1-11). Do we believe his promises? Do we? Our actions always prove how strong our faith really is (James 2:14-26).
God can do great things with a heart that is his and a mind that believes it. Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who refused to be discouraged, went on to do great things for God and his people for years afterward. Elijah recovered from his discouragement and went on serving God, and as a result God brought him directly into heaven rather than allowing him to die. Fifty days after a discouraged Peter denied Christ, he converted thousands of people through courageous, strong preaching. All of these men faced what they thought were impossible situations. They had seen no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope whatsoever…but it turns out that they were wrong. Why? Because they forgot that God was with them (Phil. 4:13). Once they remembered that, look at the heights to which they climbed!
What heights can you reach with the help of God? What can God do with you? Does he have your heart and mind? Or is the devil having his way with you?
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Don’t allow Satan to discourage you, friends. “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (Heb. 12:12-13). ~
Barney L. Keith
How painful is the thought expressed by one of the great poets, John Greenleaf Whittier:
"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"
Many a person has thrown away his life in drug addiction, (including alcohol). Numerous are those who have thrown away their marriages by becoming involved with others. Parents have often lost their children by neglecting them, or even granting them excessive freedom. Many are those who have thrown away a good name by some ungodly behavior. Do you not suppose that a vast majority of these later in life have shed tears of bitter remorse as they have thought of "what might have been"? It is too late, however, for all has been lost.
This bitter lament is found also in the Bible. It was expressed by the "weeping prophet," Jeremiah (8:20) as he sadly exclaimed, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." God had given His people ample time to repent and turn from their idolatrous, immoral ways. They had not shown any inclination to respond appropriately to His offers of mercy. When God was no longer willing to tolerate their wickedness, the Babylonian captivity became His means of teaching them a 70-year lesson. No doubt there were times in Babylon when they mourned and wept over "what might have been" if they had only listened to the voices of the prophets who had warned them.
Such lessons ought not to fall on deaf ears today. That individual who has stopped serving the Lord faithfully will one day realize what he has given up. It may be too late then to do anything about it. My dear wayward brother or sister, before the "harvest is past" and the "summer is ended," you ought to take advantage of a merciful God's offer of pardon by repentance, confession and prayer. Better that, by far, than to stand condemned in the judgment and have to think of "what might have been."
That individual, too, who has never obeyed the gospel should ponder seriously what hell is like (according to God's word) and submit himself to the rule of Christ in faith, repentance, confession and baptism before it is too late to do so. Far better this than to be separated eternally from God and think of "what might have been." ~
In Gospel Power, Anderson, Alabama, 5/16/99.