At times, all of us hear the voices of discouragement. Sometimes they confront us even when we are confident that we are doing what God wants us to do. This blog will unmask three of the common methods Satan uses to discourage us, as well as the two ways in which we can rise above discouragement.
The attempt to discourage a person is clearly seen in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. This man, for whom this book is named, was living in the land of Persia. After years of faithful service to the king as a cupbearer, the Persian monarch sent this Jewish man back to Israel to rebuild the wall and gates around Jerusalem.
The wall around Jerusalem had been pulled down a century earlier by the Babylonian army, removing its defenses from marauders. During that time, two men not of Jewish descent had achieved governmental leadership in the area. Their names were Sanballet and Tobiah. As in any turf war, they viewed Nehemiah as a challenger. They didn’t want to see him succeed in rebuilding the city’s defenses. Let me challenge you to read through the first six chapters of Nehemiah. Here’s where we begin to see how Satan attempts to discourage us, as well.
ATTEMPT ONE: Once Nehemiah had organized the people to begin repairs, he quickly encountered people trying to discourage him. “Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at [Sanballet’s] side, said, ‘What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!’” (Nehemiah 4:3) To us, this mockery repeats over and over in our heads, “What it is that you are trying to accomplish won’t make any difference in the long run.” Have you ever heard that voice and felt like quitting?
ATTEMPT TWO: When that tactic didn’t dissuade Nehemiah, his detractors tried using slander, accusing him of ulterior motives. They asked, “What is this you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” (Nehemiah 2:19) Nehemiah’s accusers questioned his motives. But he hadn’t taken the assignment to receive an award, or to get fame and popularity. He wasn’t motivated by pride. Sometimes the devil tries to get you off track by whispering similar questions in your ears, “What is your real motivation to do this? Are you doing it simply because you want to be in charge or be noticed?”
ATTEMPT THREE: Lastly, we see Sanballet and Tobiah try to discourage Nehemiah through inciting fear among the people. “Also our enemies said, ‘Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.’ Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’” (Nehemiah 4:11–12) Fear is a strong motivation. We hear many people in this pandemic say that they are “afraid to go back to work.” It’s one thing to be wise and cautious, but fear often causes us to do foolish things.
As you read the book, you will find that Nehemiah never gave up and, through his leadership, the rebuilding of the wall was completed. I believe his mindset and one particular activity were the keys to his being able to stay the course without giving in to the discouraging voices around him.
MINDSET: Nehemiah was clear that God had given his assignment to him. When his detractors sought to discourage him, Nehemiah replied to them, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3) For you to stay encouraged in what you are doing, you need to be convinced that God has led you to undertake it. Whether it’s standing behind a pulpit, or going to a mundane job to provide for your family, or caring for your children or an elderly parent, or learning some new skill, or starting a business, don’t give up! “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)
ACTIVITY: As you read through the book of Nehemiah, you will see that from the very beginning until the wall was completed, Nehemiah prayed. “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’” (Nehemiah 6:9) Nehemiah was also practical. “We prayed  to our God and posted a guard  day and night to meet this threat.” (Nehemiah 4:9) With whatever endeavor you undertake, it is always good to ask God for help. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
I hope this helps you to stay encouraged from outside or inside voices that try to intimidate you and make you feel like giving up. “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14)