DIS … COURAGE.
Dis = to undo or remove. Courage = bravery or boldness.
Hence the dictionary definition of discouragement is “to deprive of courage, confidence or energy.”
We’ve all been there. Someone or something robs you of your confidence; saps you of all your relish for the task at hand. Something takes the heart, the spirit out of you.
Have you ever heard someone who just received some discouraging news that they weren’t expecting, and they say, “It just knocked the wind out of me.” That phrase is actually very appropriate. A number of references in the Old Testament tell us that man has a spirit:
“The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, But who can bear a broken spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14)
The Hebrew word is “ruach”. That’s the same word used to speak of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the Divine Ruach. The word means “wind” or “breath”.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and the RUACH (the Spirit of God) moved upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)
This wind, this breath, hovering over the creation, was none other than God Himself – the Holy Spirit.
Then over in the next chapter,
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)
There is a breath that God has imparted to man.
The word here in Genesis 2:7 is not “ruach”, it’s another Hebrew word for wind (n’shamah). That’s very important, because it shows us a distinction between the Spirit of God and the human spirit which He gave to man. Without that distinction at this point it might have been confusing. It might have led us to think that we were ourselves Divine Spirit. That we are deity. But that’s NOT the case; we are created beings – body, soul and spirit.
So, God made us in His own image. He gave us a spirit. We are distinct from the other animals in this respect.
And when a person becomes discouraged, they’ll use that language. “I had the wind knocked out of me.” That’s how it feels. If you want a picture of the word “discouragement”, think of a rubber balloon. Someone comes along and pierces it with a pin, and all the air leaks out of it. It’s deflated. That’s a picture of discouragement.
Not to suggest that your spirit has left your body. That’s not possible; you’d be dead. But the human spirit is emotionally deflated. And the feeling can be one of no strength.
Keeping that image in your mind, come over to the Book of Nehemiah.
The story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, gives us powerful insights into the way that the enemy goes about discouraging God’s people. Attempting to deflate them.
Sanballat was a real man who lived at the time of Nehemiah; a Samaritan leader who opposed the rebuilding work. But the Bible clearly paints him as a figure of Satan, who is always out to oppose whatever vision the people of God undertake.
In Nehemiah chapter 4 we see him beginning his opposition by taunting the Jews working at the wall.
“… and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, (Sanballat) said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble — burned as they are?” (Nehemiah 4:3 – NIV)
Sanballat defiantly asks five questions. Five questions from hell, that YOU will face as you seek to do God’s will for your life. Five questions designed to discourage you so that you will give up.
“What are those feeble Jews doing?”
The enemy plays on our personal insecurities. (“Who do you think you are?”)
“Will they restore their wall?”
The enemy plays on our past defeats and disappointments. (“It was destroyed before. What will be different this time?”)
“Will they offer sacrifices?”
The enemy plays on our doubts about God’s presence. (Literally in Hebrew, “Are these fanatics going to pray the wall up?” Implying in mock terms that they are all alone, and no God in heaven is listening to them.)
“Will they finish in a day?”
The enemy plays on the length of the task. (“Do you have any idea how long this could take?”)
“Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble – burned as they are?”
The enemy exaggerates the enormity of the task (“Do you have any idea how impossible this task is?”)
Despite all these taunts of the enemy, Nehemiah led God’s people to rebuild the walls. They shut up their ears to the enemy’s lies and they completed the task.
In the end, because Nehemiah refused to allow himself or the people to succumb to discouragement, the task was completed in just 52 days. A miraculous feat!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia,
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)
Whatever the enemy throws at you today, to discourage you, be EN-couraged! All the enemies lies are idle threats, and they are empty for those who stay the course with their eyes on Jesus.
This Sunday I’m continuing our teaching series: “Down”. Last week we began by looking at Dealing With Disappointment. This week we turn our attention to Coming Back From Discouragement.