Some years ago I read a story that has stayed with me through the years. Recently it appeared again in one of the publications I receive, and it prompted this article. The story tells of rummage sale being held by the devil. The devil of course is our adversary. He is described as “a roaring lion walk(ing) about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8) So all the items for sale were the various tools he uses to entice people to follow him instead of the Lord.
In the story a person comes by and begins to browse through the items for sale. As he passes from item to item, the browser notices that each device was indeed a clever device to snare people. There were such gimmicks as fame, fortune, pride of life, fleshly lusts of all sorts, and many other devilish instruments. All of them had been useful over the years to turn people away from God, and were still being used for that purpose. Of all the tools in the sale, the browser noticed that one tool was priced much higher than all the rest. The shopper asked why it was priced so much higher. The devil explained to him the tool was called “discouragement” and it was priced so high because it was one of his most effective tools in reclaiming Christians.
When one thinks about it, this is probably so. All people become discouraged at times, even the preacher. But some seem to be more easily discouraged than others. Discouragement is a very effective tool to keep people from ever becoming a Christian. Oft times when a person begins to think about becoming a Christian, the devil discourages the person by telling him it is useless to become a Christian since he will not be able to live the life of a Christian anyway.
If the devil loses the first battle he doesn't give up. After all, the devil knows that just because one has become a Christian, all is not lost. There is still a chance to draw him back into his kingdom, the world. He will do anything necessary to regain the soul of a Christian. He will use the hypocrisy of others, deceptive teachers, difficulties of life, worldly attractions, etc to cause one to become discouraged, give up and return to the world.. He knows if members are not kept stiffed up to a fever pitch, some will become discouraged and give up. Others begin to see the attendance and contribution fall, and enthusiasm fading, and they decide to call it quits. Some see members move to other locations, and decide the church isn't going to make it, so they also leave.
But if he cannot persuade a person to openly quit, he will use discouragement to render a person worthless to the Lord and His church. Let me give some examples. Teachers in the Bible classes plan and prepare their lessons, and week after week, they teach the scheduled classes. But, those who need it the most fail to show up, or don't seem to care about their lessons if they are present. Others who should be teaching won't do it. So few respond and improve their lives. That makes it easy for teachers to become discouraged.
When the saints assemble for worship, there are those who will not help sing, especially if the songs are pitched a little low, or too high, or unfamiliar. This discourages the best of song leaders. What do you suppose it does to those who are trying to learn? One tries to improve his talent in public and he makes a mistake. This is when they need some understanding and encouragement. But some just criticize instead. No wonder that some never attempt to develop their talents. They have let others discourage them.
People sometimes become a source of discouragement by not saying or doing anything at all. How long has it been since you complimented the teacher of your children? When was the last time you told the song leader or the one leading prayer you appreciated the efforts put forth? What about the one who keeps the books, making sure the bills are paid on time? What of the ones who clean the building, prepare the communion trays? When was the last time you called and/or visited a member who is weak in the faith? Do you suppose he/she can use some kind, encouraging words? What about the one who is sick in body? Does he/she know you care? Sometimes one becomes a source of discouragement simply be ignoring what needs to be done. What if the situation was reversed, and you were the one who needed some kind word or deed?
It is not easy to reason out every source of discouragement. As a preacher I can not always understand why one, while admitting his/her soul is lost, will not respond to the gospel call. It is not easy to figure out why some who have been attending services for years, and should know better, suddenly quit. But they do. So often, the only time the preacher gets to hear from someone is when there are complaints or criticisms. When that happens, it is easy to become discouraged. What we need to do is make sure we are not the source of discouragement. Read 1 Thes. 5:12-15; Gal. 6:9-10