by C.J. Rapp
I recently spent time with a fellow ministry leader who was clearly in a battle with discouragement. This once vibrant and passionate minister was now in the fight of a lifetime. Weakened by rejection and betrayal and tired of months of fighting, this incredible leader was at a crossroad. Do I give up? Do I stand? How do I find the strength to keep going? How do I overcome the fear that led to feeling discouraged?
At one time or another we will all fight discouragement. Failure in a ministry or program, a team member leaving, the criticism of employees or congregation members, financial challenges, unmet expectations or the loss of a relationship will cause us to question our calling.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)
Discouragement is a choice.
As a coach of influencers, I’m often surprised by the epidemic of discouragement I witness in the lives of far too many kingdom workers and leaders. The more ground we take back for the Kingdom of God, the more we need to be on guard against discouragement.
To defeat discouragement, I lean on the lessons from David’s fight with Goliath. We all know thestory: Israel, God’s chosen people, were in a standoff against their enemy the Philistines when their champion, Goliath, stepped forward to taunt and tempt the army of Israel. The bait was to believe they were small, insignificant, unable, and inept so they would see themselves through their enemy’s eyes and forget whose children they were. The longer all of Israel listened to the giant’s taunts, the more discouraged, dismayed, fearful and weak they became. Discouragement was robbing them of their identity. It’s the same for us. The longer we listen to the taunts of the enemy about our shortcomings and failures, the weaker we become. In a fight like this, our identity is always attacked first. If the enemy can rob us of who God says we are, he can defeat us. A person who is grounded in his identity in Jesus walks in authority and is dangerous to the dominion of darkness. Identity retention is discouragement prevention.
Lesson 1: Don’t forget who you are!
Perhaps the army was at their weakest when David arrived with the supplies. Running to the battle line to meet his brothers, David heard the taunts of the enemy. Instead of retreating in fear, David asked, “What will be done for the man who defeats the giant?” David didn’t see a giant, he saw an opportunity. For the man who defeated Goliath the reward was freedom, riches and the hand of the king’s daughter. God always trades up. With each new battle you face, ask the Lord, “What is the reward for defeating this giant?”
Lesson 2: Expect a reward from the fight!
David’s older brother overheard his conversation and verbally attacked him. “‘Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.’ But David said, ‘What have I done now? Was it not just a question?’ Then he turned away from him to another and said the same thing; and the people answered the same thing as before. (1 Samuel 17:28-30 NASB)”
Eliab called into question David’s heart and motives. There is nothing that fans the flames of discouragement more than being attacked by those closest to you. A brother is supposed to have your back, not betray you. Instead of engaging, 1 Samuel 17:29 tells us David turned away, and asked the same question again. He did not allow his brother’s jealousy or insecurity to affect his faith. David is a great example of how to handle criticism. His situation with Eliab also serves as a reminder of how important it is to speak life to others. We don’t always have insight into the battles others are facing. Our words can strengthen them for the fight or further weaken them. Don’t allow the enemy to use your mouth as a weapon of mass discouragement. Instead, be a battle buddy and speak life!
God always trades up. With each new battle you face, ask the Lord, “What is the reward for defeating this giant?
Lesson 3: Focus on faith, not what people say or think!
Saul soon heard there was a man willing to tackle Goliath and sent for him. Immediately, upon seeing David, he questioned his size, skill, and abilities: ”You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.’ But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.’ And David said, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the LORD be with you. (1 Samuel 17:33–38 NASB)’”
David did not allow Saul’s opinion about his abilities or experience to affect his confidence in God or in the victory he believed God had already given him. He had already defeated a lion and a bear. We can encourage ourselves in the fight against discouragement by remembering what God has helped us overcome and defeat in the past. Remember, each battle strengthens you for the next fight. And each victory proves God’s faithfulness toward you. His presence with you equips you.
Lesson 4: Encourage yourself by sharing the deliverance the Lord has given you in the past!
A big part of fighting discouragement is not coming under the opinions of others. David gained strength from his past victories; but then he had to resist the temptation to fight Goliath Saul’s way.
“Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor. David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ And David took them off. (1 Samuel 17:38–39 NASB).”
Discouragement gains strength when we give in to the temptation to be people-pleasers. We must always choose between pleasing others or following God. Intimacy with Jesus is the antidote to the enslavement of approval addiction. No matter how important or significant someone else is, he or she is not Jesus. His way is always the best way.
Lesson 5: Follow Jesus not People!
As David approached Goliath he faced one final test. Could he stand up to the giant? Goliath was a bigger, better armed bully. David was not moved by his size or his taunts. Instead, David chose to believe God had already given him the battle. Goliath may have been big, but God was bigger. David simply called Goliath what he was–an uncircumcised Philistine! David was in covenant with God. He trusted God. He knew the Lord would give him all he needed to win the fight. He simply had to step out in faith. No matter what has discouraged you, God is bigger and He is your partner in this fight. Do not shrink back; run forward!
Lesson 6: Perspective is every-thing!
Your fight is His fight. Remember, God told Joshua not to be discouraged because the Lord was with him wherever he went. He is with you too. Keep your eyes on Him. He has a plan to help you defeat discouragement and a reward for the fight.
CJ Rapp has been inspiring and equipping women for over a decade. With her southern charm, quick wit, warm heart, and no nonsense attitude she will make you laugh, cry and most of all think.
CJ is the author of 3 books and numerous Bible studies. Her devotional book I AM Says, “You Are…” has sold thousands of copies, touching women’s lives around the globe. Her weekly Chic Chat videos encourage women to keep focused on Jesus in every circumstance.As President of Cherished Inc, CJ connects the addicted, homeless, and the broken with resources and relationships that lead to transformation. CJ also serves on the Carport Community Church pastoral team, caring for the needs of the homeless in Santa Ana, CA.