I've been wanting to write this post since Sunday, but had too much going on and was being pulled in too many directions to pull my thoughts together.
Many of you understand that God gives you just the "right" message when you need it. I am so surprised every time that happens. I shouldn't be. I should always have an expectant attitude knowing that God is going to somehow find a way to get his message through my thick, stubborn skull! Sunday was one of those such days. I went into church that morning with a door slightly open in concerns to some heart issues needing fixed/adjusted and needing to be encouraged. God took that tiny little opening and then rammed right through it and barreled in full speed ahead.
He had already been teaching and reminding me of these same truths when I was reading Lysa Terkeurst's book, but to hear it AGAIN and in a different atmosphere was like God was really saying "open your ears and your heart". I needed to hear the voices of truth again to drown out the lies that Satan tells us.
I have been greatly discouraged lately, but it seems that in every disappointment and discouragement, God has almost immediately sent someone or something to boost me right back up. To those of you that are my rocks and sources of encouragement, THANK YOU! You may not ever know just how truly grateful I am for you literally changing my life for the better. I'm thankful that God doesn't feel as far away as he has in the past, when I need to feel Him close....it's as simple as reaching out. My hands no longer come back feeling empty handed.
Sunday's sermon continued on with our study of Nehemiah. The "stage was set" by describing how the people were feeling when Nehemiah showed up and finally announced his plans to rebuild the city. The citizens initial attitudes were along the lines of thinking "Why have we stayed so long in this city, a community going no where?" What good does it do? What else do we have? What are we missing?----those type feelings. Then the government shows up with it's military and leaders. The first thoughts were probably along the line of concern. What is happening? Are we going to war? Are we going into exile? Will this do any good? What are we in for? No one around knows what the story is. There have been no leaks from the media....their was no inundation of news like we have today.
With the unity of the leaders, Nehemiah finally speaks. He says something along the line of, "We are in a great deal of trouble. Our city is in ruins. However, that NO LONGER has to be our legacy. Let's rebuild it and restore it. We have the blessing of God. Let's let the worst news be no more. We now have joy and hope!" Can't you just feel yourself standing in that crowd. First you are in shock of seeing what is in front of you and worry overtakes. As Nehemiah begins to speak, you at first are in agreement of his assessment of how bad things are. You feel like "doom & gloom" and just KNOW that his next words are going to be of how much worse things are going to get. You heart is dreading his next words because fear and worry have already crept in and taken hold. Then his words are those of healing, hope, and restoration. The fear begins to lift slowly and you can feel it lift from all of those around you. Far in the distance you start to hear a murmur and it continues to grow. Hope is rising and the cheers began to erupt. Life is about to change. The darkness is about to lift.
At that point, I thought God had already spoken his message to me. I was already feeling encouraged and I was so able to identify with the citizens. We've all been in those dark places. I've been in the deepest pit of depression with no hope of escape and then FINALLY felt the fog lift as God pulled me out. I've faced trying times, even VERY recently, that left me feeling like I just could not handle one more single piece of bad news. Some days my shoulders can not handle even a feather of more weight. At this point in the story, I felt encouraged by the reminder that even in our darkest moments, there IS light ahead! I thought that was all God was wanting me to remember!
There was more to the story. Plain and simple....reality! Ben Franklin may have said that only two things in life are certain----death and taxes. Perhaps, a third should be added to that list. NEGATIVE people! It's inevitable. When you set out to do good, EVEN when by following God's leading, you are going to run into such people. For Nehemiah, it was Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab. They scoffed contemptuously, mocked and ridiculed. They were "wet blankets" trying to put out his fire.
When you are trying to do something, ESPECIALLY something for God or driven by God, people ARE going to try and stand in your way. People are going to stand in the way of change. If you let those people control you, change is never going to happen. Denouncers, distractors, dream stealers, and those that try to redirect the attention to themselves are going to step out and try to make you give up on the path of good. I loved how JP described them as "two-legged pests" and that some people believe that their spiritual gift is of discouragement and they love to share it liberally. We ALL have those people in our lives!
What really jumped out at me and has been sinking in deeper each day was the encouragement the message brought. I needed the reminder that just because you ARE in the will of God, it doesn't mean your path with be smooth sailing. He may clear SOME obstacles, but there still may be many more in the way. Many times, the greater God IS leading us, the greater we may find "wet blankets". I read that in Lysa's book, but hearing it again really drove it home. I've been met so greatly with that type of discouragement and I admit that many times I have backed down and listened to their voices. The message encouraged me to get back on track and to move forward. It's time to silence my own doubts and "shut up" the enemy. Nehemiah's response to his "wet blankets" basically said "I will not cave under your pressure". I, too, need to stand up and say the same thing.
No matter how difficult a task or how many times I get discouraged, I am NEVER a failure provided that I get up JUST one more time than I fall down. So today, I'm going to get back up. I'm going to stand back up and face the enemy with a stronger voice than he has. Moses was a felon who murdered, but God called him to do exceedingly great things. Joshua continued on his task despite how many people failed before him. Daniel felt the world was against him when all he wanted to do was pray to God. David was still used by God despite his failures and sins. Discouragement is going to always be a part of us, but it does not have to DEFINE us! (Neither do our failures!) That's some powerful stuff right there!
The message was ended in a way that left me REALLY thinking and I ask you to think of the same questions for yourself. What area is God trying to change in us but the enemy keeps creating obstacles? Is God trying to get your attention in regards to reading scripture more, praying, etc.. Is he trying to save your marriage and make it whole? Is he trying to change your attitude at work? Where is God speaking to you, but Satan keeps throwing more and more at you to divide your attention? Where is God at work but Satan is equally fighting just as hard? I know I can point out things in my life. I can very much see that God is trying to get my attention. Some things I have finally listened to and made changes, others I've not taken that step in faith.
On the flip side, do you think things are wonderful? Do you not feel convicted in areas of needing to change? If you can't feel God pulling you closer to Him and you can't feel Satan battling, then the enemy doesn't see you as a threat anymore. If things are all "great"----Satan has probably already won. He no longer feels the power of God in you. I know that to be true, because I've been there, too! There have been many times in my life that Satan has left me alone, he didn't have to bother with me. He knew I was too weak and too far from God for me to be worth his effort. It's encouraging to know that if Satan is battling you hard, it's because he feels the power of God rising up in you and he's SCARED to death because he knows who has the victory. So, in that I say.....bring it on Satan...my flesh my like it when you are silent, but my spirit knows that when you are battling me it's because you know God is in me! If God is for us, who can stand against?