‘And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to go round the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became impatient because of the journey (their soul was much discouraged because of the way)’ (Nu 21:4)
After many years of walking thru the wilderness, the people of God came close to the Promised Land. The country of Edom was the last hindrance for them to conquer. They were finally ready to possess their possessions. Moses sent a message to the king of Edom. He asked for a passage thru their territory. Moses promised that they will only walk on the ‘King’s highway’. They will not damage Edom’s fields and vineyards; they will eat their own food and pay for the water they shall drink along the way. The people of Edom were the descendants of Esau, their far relatives. The request seems reasonable. But to their surprise, Edom refused them the passage. Across the fields of Edom, they could see the Promised Land but they could not enter in. The heavenly cloud (re-)directed them to withdraw and to change direction. They have ‘to go round’ Edom to enter the Land of Promise thru the land of Moab and thru the River Jordan. This means a longer journey… They have to postpone their joy of entering their inheritance… This was hard for the people of God. Their souls became discouraged ‘because of the way’.
In Hebrew, the word ‘discouraged’ means to cut down to size, to diminish hope or to reduce your dreams. Essentially, discouragement is a loss of confidence in God. This feeling cripples faith and leads to sin. This is a warning to all believers and especially to the pastors who try to encourage discouraged people daily. We see discouragement as just a harmless weakness. We often try to encourage people with simple words: ‘Don’t worry… it will be better…’ But most of us don’t realize just how dangerous discouragement is. Discouragement is a spiritual virus!!! It leads to impatience, ingratitude, doubt, unbelief, selfishness (pity party), sins of the tongue (careless speech), distraction, blindness to temptation, anger, giving up (you lose spiritual strength, you become weak and lazy. A discouraged person retreats from the race. You say: ‘why should I bother to be a champion, a leader, a mentor? No need to fight… You are on your way back to the world. You become a discourager tempting others in the church to backslide! You choose to live your life in spiritual passivity, regrets, fault finding, resignation, bitterness or self-pity. God forbid! I hate that way!
How do I know that discouragement is a sin? Because God punished them with death! ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Rom 6:23). Discouragement made them to dishonor God. They complained about the longer way to enter the Promised Land. They spoke against God and their leader, Moses. God takes it personally when you insult His servant. This is rebellion. Complaining is rebellion!!! They started to doubt God’s salvation and God’s purpose. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ They complained against Mana, which represents the Word of God. Discouraged people hate the Bible! They cannot enjoy the Christian life. They want to backslide. They blame everything and everybody. They drag many on the road back to the world. But they soon discover the discipline of God! The serpents bit them and many of them died!
Listen to these wise words: “Discouragement makes the hard path—much harder; and the heavy load—much heavier. Discouragement is a slow but methodical killer that feeds upon the unresolved disappointments of your life. It is a predator of the human spirit, dragging its prey, over muffled pleas, to the dark cellar of broken dreams” (J R Miller)
What is the cure for discouragement? God told Moses to make a serpent of brass and to lift it on a pole. Anybody who was biting by a fiery serpent and who looked at the brass serpent, that one shall live! Jesus said that the brass serpent represents Himself, the Savior who died for our sins (Jn 3:14, 15). What about us today? We too must look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb 12:1-3).
This is my testimony: that by the grace of God I have fought and defeated the demon of discouragement!!! That is why I enjoy my work as a pastor. I made up my mind that I will obey God’s Word and leading Spirit. If the road is long or short, if the road is crooked or straight, if it passed thru valleys of across the mountains, in the midst or good people or bad, I must follow Jesus. I am not saved just to enter my ‘Promised Land’. I am saved not only to enjoy the promised blessings of God. I thank God for the blessings, gifts and rewards promised to me in Christ. But I know that I am saved primarily to give glory to God by becoming more and more like His Son Jesus Christ. You may be surprised that I say this: my destination is not heaven. My destination and destiny is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And because Jesus lives in heaven, I too will go there. My holy priority is to maintain and mature my relationship with Christ. My desire is to walk with Him daily. My passion is to be filled and led by the Holy Spirit. For me life is simple because God made it simple: Jesus Leads and I follow. The length and the narrowness of the road do not matter. Sooner or later I will have my testimony, that I have entered my Promised Land. I refuse to be discouraged by anything and anybody, man, angel or demon. I live free and happy to serve my Lord! This is the truth! May this be your portion too! In Jesus name, amen! Glory to God!