By: Norm Rasmussen
Discouragement is one of life’s most difficult challenges, and we must constantly work at not letting discouragement get a foothold in our lives. Discouragement can become a deadly spiritual virus to the born again believer, if not attacked aggressively.
Discouragement falls under the category of “the cares of this world” that God warns believers to stay free from as much as possible:
“And the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” -- Mark 4:19
Though God is primarily addressing the three broad areas in Mark 4:19 that Satan constantly focuses his efforts on to keep a person from surrendering all of themselves to God and His will for their lives . . . to those of you who are battling great, great discouragement, we feel the Holy Spirit wants us to apply the word “choke” in a little different context. In so doing, our trust is that God will impart some encouragement to you so you can conquer your discouragement, instead of it conquering you.
Imagine a legion of demons standing all around you, their arms and hands extended, each of them trying to get a firm grip on your throat … to strangle your faith. Why? Because that is exactly what they are trying to do to you! They are constantly trying to strangle your faith-relationship with God!
We feel to exhort you to not let this image fade away into the fog of life from this moment on. Ask God to help you capture and retain this image in your mind’s eye, as the battle between good and evil intensifies, as God’s Word tells us it will right up until the return of Jesus Christ. If you are serious about obeying God in accordance with God’s Word, you - above all other human beings - are the one the devil wants to discourage the greatest on this planet. You already know why, of course. Those sold out to Jesus Christ are the devil’s greatest threat on this planet, especially those who are dedicating their efforts to help others come to salvation in Jesus Christ and become enlisted themselves in the Lord’s Army to help win other lost souls.
To repeat, Satan is constantly trying to “strangle” your faith -- your very faith in God and your faith in His Word. As Satan’s demons unceasingly labor to strangle your faith, your joy diminishes, your zeal to help advance the Kingdom of God diminishes … and for certain, your confident, meaningful communication with God in prayer diminishes.
Satan wants to strangle faith in your prayer life, dear one. He has everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing so. Accurate prayers prayed in faith releases the power of God and the will of God in the lives of other people, as well as your own. We have no power that can harm the devil, in and of ourselves. Only God’s power can thwart Satan’s will and power.
God has ordained the Body of Christ to be vessels to release His power and will upon this earth. Satan does not want us coming to the full realization of this fact. Satan wants us believing the grand lie that God is going to do what God wants to do and it will happen whether a Christian believer prays it or not. If the devil can get us believing that lie, we will have very little confidence in our prayers – very little faith when we pray – and in fact, will end up praying a lot less than what is good for us.
If you are vacillating in faith in your prayer life, remind yourself of this very important fact. As a born again believer, you are not only a sinner saved by grace, but you are a Saint, who occasionally sins. (Hopefully less and less). As a Saint, you will one day in the future co-reign with Jesus Christ. (See: Romans 8:17; Revelation 20:7). The apostle Paul, having visited the third heaven, heard things about the future glory of born again believers that he was not allowed to share fully about. But Romans 8:18 allows us to catch a small glimpse of what is waiting for born again believers:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Furthermore, God tells born again believers that they will actually play a part in judging angels (See: 1 Cor. 6:3). To the full extent of what that means, how many of us actually know? I mention this only because I believe God desires our prayers for others far greater than what we may fully realize, which I believe is the greatest reason why Satan is constantly trying to choke out our faith.
Some believers are fully persuaded that angels may not get dispatched by God to do God’s will unless Christians first pray and believe God to move on behalf of their prayers. How sobering it might be to find out one day in glory all that our prayers could have accomplished … if we would have just kept persistently praying, trusting and believing that God was not only hearing our prayers, but using our prayers, to bring about the change He desires, and we desire.
Persistence and Patience: Two of the greatest weapons we have to fight the devil back with as he relentlessly tries to choke out our faith. As we apply persistence and patience to our prayers, we become a lot less discouraged not only in our prayer life, but in ministry as well, not to mention God’s increased favor in all that our lives are about. In the Luke 18:14-15 account of the parable of the sower, it reads in the New King James translation:
“And the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the words with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
This is almost too obvious, but it bears saying: The strategy the devil uses to counter our patience and persistence is impatience. He uses mostly lies to get us to be impatient. He constantly tries to persuade us to believe that God either didn’t hear our prayers, or said “No” to them, when we aren’t quickly seeing any positive results from our prayers. In the fast-paced life we live in, especially for those of us who live in the U.S., we are dragging our “rush-rush” way of living life into our relationship with God. If God doesn’t “rush-rush” answers to our prayers, we can give up too quickly if we’re not patiently wise.
Any successful salesman will tell you the number one secret to being a successful salesman is patience and persistence. Most successful businesses are not built in short time spans, but with much patience and persistence. Most marriages need a lot of patience and persistence to survive the storms that seek to weaken and even destroy them. Great financial wealth is lost for impatient investors. Patience and persistence are two weapons the devil wants to steal from you while you are napping. Don’t let him! You need those two weapons to run the race God has set before you. They are crucial to your prayer life.
Jesus makes a very sobering statement about patience and persistence (and/or the lack thereof, being impatient and lack of persistence) to born again believers in Luke 18:1-8:
"Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city, and she came to him, saying, ‘Avenge me of my adversary.’
And he would not for awhile; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me."
Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?"
I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith (persistence and patient faith; emphasis ours) on the earth?”
Don’t forget the image, Saints. Legions of demons are available to Satan to try to choke your faith . . . choke your patience . . . persistence (endurance) in spiritual matters. They never rest; they never take a vacation; they never quit … seeking always to control what you believe about praying and about patiently and persistently trusting God to do in the lives of others, not to mention in your own life.
Can you feel Satan’s hands around your neck this very moment – seeking to choke your priceless words of prayer to the God who can do the impossible … for those who believe, and persist in believing? “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23.
Satan has another tactic to rob confidence of our faith in God as we pray. It is motivating us to pray selfish prayers. Most selfish prayers, God says “No” to. Every prayer that lines up with God’s will, He will say “Yes” to. The secret to a prosperous prayer life is to take time to seek out God’s will first about a given matter before we just go to God and ask and trust Him to do what we request. God wants each of us to have prosperous prayer lives – prayers backed by confident trust in God to answer them, and the key to have that unfold in our lives is learning what God’s will is first before we start releasing our trust in God to answer our prayers. The more confidence we have in our prayer lives, the more difficult it is for the devil to hinder our relationship with God. This is what we have been learning through trial and error in our own lives and we hope this has encouraged you in some way for your own life.
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