Encouragement For Troubled Times

Every day we need to have encouragement for what God is doing during these last days of time. The world is so bad, so evil, so angry, so apathetic, so unreasonable, so false, so greedy, so painful, so ridiculous, so corrupt, so deceived … so troubled. It is so very hard to stay focused and encouraged, but we need to take comfort in what God is doing.

READ: 2 Timothy 1:9 – God has known you since before the world began. He knew what generation you would be born in, why He needs you in this time and dispensation, and where He has called you. He saved you; He called you.

Neither the saving nor the calling was based on our works. The saving was based on the blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the calling was based on the fact that God placed us into Christ (Ephesians 2:10) when we received Him (John 1:12-13). See also Ephesians 1:4.

His purpose was to adopt individuals (Ephesians 1:5) as sons which He had NOT done for 4,000 years (Genesis 1 – Acts 2), and His grace was to give the undeserving sinner a chance to get to Heaven by accepting a free gift (Romans 6:23).

READ: Hebrews 4:3 – He knew what He was going to do with this world, and His works also included YOU.

There are many evil groups in the world today, but God is using those people to accomplish His will.

READ: Isaiah 10:5 – the Assyrians were the rod of God’s anger. God used those evil people to accomplish a work in the hearts of the Israelites, because of sin.

READ: Isaiah 14:25 – He would then break the Assyrian. Vengeance is His, and He never lets anyone get away with anything.

READ: Jeremiah 27:6 – Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant. Look how evil that man was, but God used him for a purpose (see also Ezekiel 30:24-25).

A letter was received from a missionary who said that he could have worked for years and years in the place he was sent, and would have maybe seen one convert during that time. But, when some evil groups had risen up in the local area, only then did scores of Muslims come to faith in Christ.

God uses evil groups to accomplish the purpose He has in mind, which is only for good (Romans 8:28), and for coming against evil.

READ: Romans 13:1 – there is so much corruption in governments and political circles, but God uses even our leaders to accomplish His purpose. So how should the Christian respond to authority?

  1. A Christian should do what the government tells him to do.
  2. When it comes to questionable areas, a Christian should try to go along with the government as far as they can without compromising truth or right (Luke 20:22–24). The tribute money had been made by Rome and was required by Rome for payment. If Rome made it, then Rome could have it back.
  3. But if the government commands the Christian to do something contrary to the expressed will of God as revealed in the Scriptures, then the rule is given by Peter in Acts 5:29. That is such a common sense statement that the first time Peter brings up the subject he leaves it up to the judgment of a bunch of unsaved, self-righteous men to come to the same conclusion (Acts 4:19-20).

READ: Psalms 110:1 and Luke 20:42-43 – let us remember that at some point, the enemies will be under the feet of Jesus (see Isaiah 14:25). In God’s timing for His purpose, one day ALL evil forces will be under His feet!

It will be good then, and it is even good now. Why? Because everything that is happening today in this dark world is God’s will for it to all happen this way.

And don’t forget, His holy calling is on YOUR life to live right now in this generation, exactly for what He has called you to do.

READ: Psalms 95:8-11 and Hebrews 3:16-19 – the Israelites could not enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief.

But WE believe God when He says that these things that are happening in the world today are in His control, and He has shown them to us in His word. We can rest in this.

We must NOT stop praying and serving the Lord; putting our best effort into it. But we can rest KNOWING that God has it all under control. One day, we will know as He knows, but until then, let us thank Him now by faith.

He is using YOU right where you are, right now.

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A Christian and Doubt

READ: Matthew 2:17-18 with Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 16:13-16 with Jeremiah 27:3-10

Christians can have (and suffer from) hard times, doubts, difficulties, despair, and spiritual darkness. It is not easy being a saved believer. The same ‘feelings’ were true about Jeremiah too, and also John the Baptist.

READ: Mat. 11:2-3; Luke 7:18-23.

They had times of confusion, personal pain, and despair, but they were very aware of their great tasks from God too.

READ: Matthew 16:14.

People saw Jesus as another lonely prophet, but a man ready to suffer for his faith too.

  • Do YOU suffer for your faith?
  • Are you READY to suffer for Christ?
  • Are you willing to take RISKS for Him?

They only saw part of the truth. Jesus is God’ only begotten Son, and through His mercy and grace He had stepped into time to help His creation with their great needs. He came to die on the cross. He came to save us all from the results our sins.

At that time, they could not know or understand the full purpose of Christ’s task on earth, but they did recognise that He was a prophet. And although He had always had the relationship with the Father in Heaven, Jesus knew moments of ‘darkness’ in his life.

READ: Psalms 69 – for a glimpse of the childhood of Jesus.

Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41-46) – Jesus knew the awful type of death that he would have to endure, and the physical pain that would come with it. But even worse would be that He would have to become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21 – for the whole world past, present, and future).

  • Why would YOU have never been able to endure this?

On the cross (Mark 15:34) – Jesus cried out in terrible pain, and more so because God the Father could not look upon Him when He became sin for us.

  • How do YOU feel when you fear that God was no longer near you?

The Old Testament saints had doubts

Jeremiah was just one of many. His messages had special value in two ways.

  1. He understood how great God is, and his messages to the people showed this.
  2. His personal life of prayer – the ‘Confessions of Jeremiah’.

READ: Jeremiah 11:18-23; 12:1-6; 15:10-21; 17:9-10, 14-18; 18:18-23 and 20:7-18.

Jeremiah was not in front of the people; he was on his knees in front of God, crying out in pain and despair. He could not understand his suffering, and thought his messages were a failure. Then, he thought that God himself did not care about him.

In these verses, Jeremiah seems very real. They show a loyal man of God in a powerful struggle with his enemies, both inside and outside himself. When he had talked with God, he could speak to the people, and give strong messages from God, without fear.

God called him to a very difficult task. He had a hard message to give to the people, and he had to declare it very clearly. He must tell his people that punishment would come soon (Jeremiah 1:14-17). Because of his type of character, and that he allowed things to affect him with his strong imagination, he realised just how awful that punishment would be (Jeremiah 4:19-31).

  • What similarities do YOU see today with regards to the Christian message to the lost world?

‘Jeremiah’s’ message was not popular. The society that he gave it to was content, and were happy with things as they were. They felt that their religion made them safe, and that was what made his task much harder.

There were many false prophets at that time, and the people liked them. Why? Because false prophets say that there is nothing wrong, and there is no reason to be anxious for anything; everything is all fine!

READ: Jeremiah 5:11-14, 30-31 and 6:13-14.

God’s people tried to make themselves feel better too. Ceremonies of their religion made them feel safe, but if there is no true love for God and truth, then ceremonies have no meaning (Jeremiah 7:5-6).

  • What similarities do YOU see today with regards to so-called ‘Christian’ worship and ceremonies?

So, Jeremiah had a very hard task, and he did not want to do it (Jeremiah 1:6-8; 20:7-10). And Jeremiah suffered at times with the problem of doubt.

Jeremiah suffered pain and despair

He never doubted that God was real, but at times he seemed to doubt the sovereignty of God.

Meaning: ‘sovereignty’ is God’s absolute right to rule everything in the way that he chooses. He always does things that fit with who He is, and He will never act in any other way; so, we can trust his sovereignty completely.

Jeremiah was called into His service, and at times, he seemed to feel that God was unfair in calling him into service (Jeremiah 20:7-8). A few times, Jeremiah wished that he had never come into the world (Jeremiah 15:10; 20:14-18). This showed that he did not understand how God rules over people.

God’s rule involves practical things, an it also has spiritual importance. At times, Jeremiah had a glimpse of these great truths – one was in Jeremiah 17:12 when he speaks about God’s throne (king’s special chair).

Someone may doubt that God exists, because they may have doubts about what God is like or how He acts. The person may have asked, ‘Why does this trouble happen to me?’, which is a natural question, but it can lead him to doubt God’s sovereignty.

We must turn to the Bible for immediate help, as it will stop doubt when it begins. If we fail to do this, the devil will use our lack of certainty, to take away ALL our certainties. We will doubt God’s sovereignty, and perhaps may even doubt that God exists – “Perhaps God does not really care. Perhaps God is not really there”.

So, we must put our confidence in God’s word. Our God rules and is All-Powerful (Revelation 19:6). This is a wonderful fact, which never changes. It remains true whatever happens, and whatever feelings we may have.

  • What happened the last time you allowed YOUR ‘feelings’ to control your life?

Doubt is often not the only problem

We must be honest about this. Doubt often comes when we have let other matters control our lives. This means that we have lost our trust in God’s sovereignty. So, the difficulties in life seem to be very great, and then we begin to doubt God’s love.

This happened in Jeremiah’s life. At the beginning of his work for God, he was very brave. He accused the people of turning away from God, then he was feeling full of despair. He cried to God in Jeremiah 15:18. Maybe there were some serious weaknesses in the prophet’s spiritual life. These things would allow doubts to enter his mind, which would lead to a lack of certainty.

He felt disappointed

His work for God seemed to be a complete failure (Jeremiah 7:25-28 and 13:15-17). He would have been so happy if people had returned to the Lord, but this did not happen.

There is an important lesson for us here. God may give us some work to do for Him, and we must be loyal and continue the work whatever happens (like the preachers on the streets who no one listens to). This is more important than success – when results are more important to us, we are in danger, as we can stop wanting to bring honour to God, and start trying to prove our own worth instead.

He felt bitter

This often follows on from disappointment. God has not worked in the way that we hoped or planned. Jeremiah felt like this in Jeremiah 20:7-8.

He felt pity for himself

This was the next wrong thing. Jeremiah felt very miserable, and nobody seemed to know or care about his feelings. He was very, very lonely (Jeremiah 15:17-18; 16:2-9), and he suffered more stress than most of us will ever have. Perhaps this stress caused his character to become weaker.

It was a terrible time for Jeremiah, but he went back to have true faith in God. He realised that God could supply all his needs, and his experience can help us. We may have doubts too, and we might have a similar difficulty, but there are things that we can do.

Allow God to examine and show us all parts of our lives

READ: Jeremiah 12:3; 15:19 and 17:9-10 are important here.

All Jeremiah’s thoughts were about the nation. He was concentrating on the people’s ‘return’ to God, but God said to him that if he returned, then he could serve him. Jeremiah was full of pain and despair, and God came to him and reminded him about his job. He had to help people to change, and NOT change himself and become like the people (Jeremiah 15:19).

Remember God’s great promises in the past

READ: Jeremiah 15:20 with 1:18, 19.

God had spoken some great words to Jeremiah at the beginning of his work. Jeremiah’s job was going to be very hard, but God encouraged him. Later, Jeremiah had doubts, and he was suffering very much. Then God spoke the same words to him again.

You may have forgotten a great promise of God, which helped you in the past. So, listen to the same Bible words again, and trust His great promises. He will give you strength and protection, and best of all, God himself will always be with you.

Trust God completely, whatever our feelings

We may feel that God has gone away from us. At first, this is a matter of discipline (Jeremiah 17:5-13). Jeremiah realises and sees that it is foolish to go to anyone else for help.

Do not let your heart go away from the Lord. This is how Jeremiah would say it. You might feel that God has left you, but He has not. Let your hope be in the Lord (Jeremiah 17:7). Your life may be hard, but look to Him (Jeremiah 17:8), and trust in His promises as they do not change.

READ: 1 Peter 1:4; Joshua 21:45; 23:14; 1 Kings 8:56 and Numbers 23:19.

Recognise again the sovereignty of God

READ: Jeremiah 17:12.

Perhaps your life is not what you wanted it to be, but what God wants is always best – remember Romans 8:28. Something happens when we recognise His sovereignty; we are sure about God again (Jeremiah 17:13). Jeremiah had stopped believing and trusting God, and then he started to trust God again. The Lord really is like ‘a supply of fresh water’ (Jeremiah 15:18 and 2:13).

Continue to pray

You must do this even when you do not feel like it. You may not be sure that prayer is worthwhile, but you must still pray.

This was the great thing about Jeremiah. Even at his worst times, he continued to pray. Sometimes it seemed that he only complained to God, but he continued to pray. Nothing stopped him.

READ: Jeremiah 12:1-3; 15:15; 17:14 and 20:7-12.

Jeremiah prayed clearly and in an honest way. Often, we are sad about our difficulties, problems and doubts; do not keep your feelings out of your prayers. Someone well said, “To deal with doubt you must let it get out!”

BELIEVE that a better time will come! And until that time, prove the worth of the faith that you once had. We can all know that God will never leave us.

For Group/Family Discussion


Believers might be having hard times, and are not sure that they can rely on God now, or trust Him. How would you begin to encourage and to support a believer who is like that?


Jeremiah did not want to be a prophet. He obeyed God, but he was not successful. A believer might feel sad like Jeremiah felt sad, and it might seem that he or she had failed. How would you explain a similar result today?


Jeremiah was a very sensitive man. God could have chosen someone who was tougher, stronger, and healthier – Amos was one example of someone like that (Amos 7:10-17.) Why do you think that God gave such a difficult mission to Jeremiah?


The Bible records many of Jeremiah’s personal and private prayers.

READ: Jeremiah 10:23-25; 12:1-6; 15:10-21; 17:12-18; 20:7-18 and 32:16-25).

Why do you think that these prayers are in the Bible for us? Do they give a message to a believer who is having hard times? If yes, what is it?


You might meet a Christian worker who is feeling sad. Perhaps there is not much encouragement or success in their work. How might you use Jeremiah’s story to remind them about the things that matter most?

Further Study


God said that he would be Jeremiah’s strong protection (Jeremiah 1:18-19; 15:20), but this sensitive man knew that there were plots to kill him (Jeremiah 11:18-1), and many other bad things happened to him:His enemies opposed him in a fierce way (Jeremiah 18:18).

– They beat him and they locked his hands and his feet in large blocks of wood (Jeremiah 20:1-2).
– They laughed at him (Jeremiah 20:7-10).
– They threatened to kill him (Jeremiah 26:1-24).
– They put him in prison (Jeremiah 37:16).
– They threw him into a deep, muddy pit (Jeremiah 38: 1-13). God had given him a wonderful promise (Jeremiah 15:20). So why did he have such terrible experiences?


The people trusted in visible signs of their faith (Jeremiah 3:16; 7:1-6, 21-23; 8:8-9 and 9:25-26). The signs should point to the meaning of certain things, so why do people rely on the signs instead of on their meaning?For example, in some societies people turn to religion on special occasions – births, marriages, death. But they do not think about religion or about God for the rest of life. How can we explain that? There is a desire for the things of God at these special times, but we want people to have something that is more significant, and something that will last. So how can we use these desires in the best way?


Jeremiah expressed his anger in some of his prayers (Jeremiah 18:19-23 for example). Perhaps it was only on rare occasions, and we can understand it completely. People treated him very badly. They rejected him, and he was very lonely for many years. But why is the story of such terrible pain still there for us to read? What can we learn from prayers that are like this, and how might Jesus want us to think and to pray in a different way?

READ: Luke 6:27-28; 23:34; Acts 7:60; Romans 12:14 and 1 Peter 2:23).


 

A Christian and Depression

Depression is probably the most common human problem, but the Bible does not leave us without help. Many people in OT times felt miserable and depressed, and the prophet Elijah was one of them. He was just like us – James 5:17. His experiences were the same as ours. He had difficulties, tests, and he knew what depression was like.

READ: 1 Kings 18-19.

Our enemy, the devil, uses depression

If the devil gets us depressed, he makes us less able than we usually are; he wins a major success. The devil can use all sorts of tests and troubles to make us feel depressed.

READ: 1 Peter 1:6 – they are called manifold temptations.

Our tests are of various kinds and ‘shades’, but they will encourage us.

READ: 1 Peter 4:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9 – But there is also manifold grace of God, and God’s grace is always sufficient.

Notice 3 things about depression. It often comes:

1. When we feel extremely tired

READ: 1 Kings 18:46.

The devil knows the right time to attack us with depression. We are especially weak when our bodies feel very tired. It was certainly like this for Elijah. He sat down under a tree and wanted to die, as he had no physical energy at the time.

First, he had run nearly 20 miles to a place called Jezreel. Then he heard bad news in the city. So, he ran for more than another 80 miles.

This may be the main cause for your depression. How much do you do during a day? Too much perhaps? Do you take care of your body? Remember, your body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20).

Do not be careless about your physical needs as it brings dishonour to God:

  • Get rest and sleep.
  • Eat properly and enough – check your meal times!
  • Relax with some activity.

All these things have spiritual as well as physical importance. There are times when it is easier to become depressed, and the devil will try to use them. These times are when our health is weak.

2. When we have had great spiritual benefits

READ: 1 Kings 18:16-39.

Elijah had had a great experience on the mountain, and it was a great success. God had showed his power and greatness, and Elijah must have felt great excitement. But then came the depression.

It often happens like that in our lives. There is no natural reason for it. God has just given us a great benefit, but the devil wants to steal it from us. He wants to take away our joy and peace in God; to make us feel depressed is the easiest way to do it. The devil can use just a minor event in our lives or bring to our memory an event, or feeling, or fear from the past. If we forget about God, and we become very depressed.

3. When we least expect it

This is the time when the devil comes to attack us – then cometh the devil (Luke 8:12), with ‘the darts of depression’.

Elijah left the place where he had been successful, and had astonished all the people, rushing off to Jezreel. He was going to tell people about God’s great success, but he was soon a very different man; afraid and depressed.

READ: 1 Corinthians 10:12 – depression often just appears in our lives, and we must remember to take heed.

Depression does something bad to us

Depression robs us of many good qualities that God has given us – courage, strength, discernment, etc.

READ: 1 Kings 17:1-16.

Elijah was usually a brave man. His desire was that his nation would return to God, and he was ready to die with them. He marched into Ahab’s palace and announced that God’s punishment was coming, then God told him that he would provide for his needs.

All that time, Ahab was hunting Elijah (1 Kings 18:10). Soldiers were searching for him, and they would kill him if they found him. It was at this time that God sent him to Sidon, which was the country of Jezebel, the wicked queen. Then he went to speak to Ahab, the evil king (1 Kings 18:15-18.), whilst the soldiers were hunting him.

So much happened at Carmel too. Elijah needed to be brave (1 Kings 18:19-40) and strong. After all this though, Elijah felt great physical weakness, and then depression followed. He had none of his former strength. He ran to save his life.

Maybe Elijah let a little pride affect his spiritual life?

READ: 1 Kings 18:36-37.

We cannot be sure about this; but perhaps there were two prayers here. The first had ‘I’ in it, then, the reason for his prayer changes in the next verse. Remember that Elijah was
a man subject to like passions as we are. Maybe he had the problem of pride too?

There may be another sign of this in 1 Kings 19:4 – O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. Nobody said that he was! God did give him a special job to do, and he knew that God was using him, so maybe this gave him a feeling of spiritual importance? One cannot prove this of course.

But one thing is certain, depression often comes to those who only think about themselves. We want life to go completely our own way, not God’s way.

Depression always makes us unable to see the facts as they are

There is humour in 1 Kings 19:4. Elijah asks the Lord to take away his life, but if this was really what he wanted then he should have stayed where he was. He need not have had such a long, tiring journey; Jezebel promised to kill him in the next 24 hours. But poor Elijah did not look at the true situation. Perhaps we are all like that too sometimes.

A lesson here is to avoid making important decisions when you feel depressed. You are not seeing things as they really are. There will be a day when you will feel much happier, and that would be a better time to make a decision.

READ: 1 Kings 19:10, 14.

Notice something else about Elijah. His wrong opinion of the situation appears again. Like our own sad accounts of trouble, it went on and on. He repeated the same thing, and it was not even an accurate! God says that there are 7,000 people who love him (1 Kings 19:18).

There are physical reasons for much depression

We have already mentioned this. But 1 Kings 19 reminds us about its importance. Notice 19:5-7. We read about the first things that God did for Elijah. They were things that he should have done for himself. God made him sleep. God gave him food.

The same thing happens today. There are good, sincere Christian workers, and many of them suffer from depression at times, because they too neglect these two essential things in life. God gave Elijah two long periods of good sleep, and He also gave him two meals. THEN, He allowed Elijah to continue his journey.

In depression, find some quiet place, and prepare yourself to meet with God

God knew where Elijah was going (1 Kings 19:7). It was the place where God gave the Law to Moses. Elijah feared that people no longer appreciated God’s law, so it was natural for him to go there. It was also the place where God talked to Moses. (Exodus 34:29). There God showed what He wanted for his people (Deuteronomy 5). Perhaps Elijah hoped that God would talk to him too, and that is exactly what happened.

In your depression, God will do the same for you. Find some quiet place to meet with Him. Your mind may be full of doubts, and you may even feel that it will be of no practical use, but just do it. Go to Him and be still.

We can discover again what is most important

We do this when we meet with God.

He comes to us when all is quiet

READ: 1 Kings 19:11-12 – it speaks about a still small voice.

We must all learn to be completely quiet at times (Psalms 46:10; Isaiah 30:15).

He gives us something new to do

READ: 1 Kings 19:15-17.

So much depression comes from only thinking about ourselves. This type of attitude is not healthy. Service for other people can be God’s way for us to escape.

He helps us to see our life as it really is

READ: 1 Kings 19:18.

There needs to be communication with God. Then we will be free from our wrong ideas, which just make us more and more depressed.

He provides the help and friendship of other Christians

Elisha is an example of this.

READ: 1 Kings 19:19-21.

God gave him to Elijah. Later, there is a beautiful description of him. He which poured water on the hands of Elijah (2 Kings 3:11) – that he served Elijah.

God is very good to us too. He usually sends someone into our lives. He or she will help and encourage us. When this happens to you, avoid giving another account of your troubles! Ask God for His help to start life again. He is sufficient, whatever your needs may be you will have His strength and peace in your time of depression.

What you have leaned now may help other people later. Their need may be even greater than yours is now (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

For Group/Family Discussion


Sometimes when people’s bodies are very tired this may cause depression. The Bible says that believers’ bodies are like ‘temples’ for the Holy Spirit. READ: 1 Cor. 6:19. So, believers must not use their bodies in a way that would harm them. How can busy people organize their daily life so that this does not happen?


What can busy people do to provide good opportunities for necessary quiet time with the Lord?


Perhaps Elijah suffered from depression because he was lonely. The Bible teaches us that Christians should be like the parts of a body. The success of each part depends on the other parts. READ: Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-31; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Pet. 4:8-11). How can each believer best contribute to the lives of other believers?


God gave His servant, Elijah, a way to escape from his depression. He provided him with a reliable partner, Elisha, who helped him. What do you think that meant to Elijah? What does it mean for us, when we give support to other believers?


Can a Christian do anything to avoid or reduce periods of doubt and depression?

Further Study


Look carefully at what God said to Jeremiah (Jer. 15:15-21) during one experience of depression. (Note that it was not the only time of depression in Jeremiah’s life.) The honest account is there in the Bible, and it is there to ‘teach’ and ‘encourage’ us. What do you think that the passage is saying to believers today?


John the Baptist said (twice) that Jesus was the Lamb of God, which taketh away4 the sin of the world (John 1:29, 35). But later, while he was in prison, he showed a little doubt and depression, but Jesus knew everything about John feelings, and said that John was one of the greatest men who had ever lived. Jesus chose not to consider John’s doubt and depression. He chose to think about greater parts of John’s life (Mat. 11:7-19). We might know a believer who has doubts and who has depression, and we want to help them. How might Jesus’ opinion about John help us?


An important teaching in the Bible is on ‘Meditating’. This is when we think much about the meaning and the message of words from the Bible, and we study the passage(s). Read Jos. 1:8; Ps. 1:2, 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99 and 148. These passages also explain what meditation means. What do you think this includes?


Some well-known Christian speakers of old like John Bunyan and C.H. Spurgeon had times of serious depression that lasted a long time. Then they found that it was difficult just to read the Bible. How would you try to help someone who felt like that?


 

Put On Your Armour

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; – Ephesians 6:10-18

There are two primary errors when it comes to spiritual warfare:

  1. OVER-emphasis – some blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on “demons that need to be cast out”.
  2. UNDER-emphasis – others completely ignore the spiritual realm and the fact that the Bible tells us our battle is against spiritual powers.

The key to successful spiritual warfare is finding the Biblical balance.

Jesus sometimes cast out devils from people, and at other times He healed the people, with no mention of a devil. In Romans 6, as a Christian you are instructed to ‘wage war’ against the sin within you; to stand against the wiles of the devil.

READ: Ephesians 6:10-12 – a few crucial truths:

  • You can only stand strong in the Lord’s power
  • It is God’s armour that protects you
  • Your battle is ultimately against spiritual forces of evil in the world

READ: Ephesians 6:13-18 – a description of the spiritual armour God gives us.

What do these pieces of spiritual armour represent in spiritual warfare?

  • You are to KNOW the truth, BELIEVE the truth, and SPEAK the truth.
  • You are to rest in the fact that you are declared righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice for you.
  • You are to proclaim the gospel no matter how much resistance you face.
  • You are not to waver in your faith; trusting God’s promises no matter how strongly you are attacked.
  • Your ultimate defence is the assurance you have of your salvation; an assurance that no spiritual force can take away.
  • Your offensive weapon is the word of God, not your own opinions and feelings.
  • You are to pray in the power and will of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is our ultimate example of resisting temptation in spiritual warfare.

READ: Matthew 4:1-11 – observe how Jesus handled direct attacks from Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness. Each temptation was combatted with the words it is written.

The word of the living God is the most powerful weapon against the temptations of the devil. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. – Psalms 119:11.

Caution!

Nowhere in the word of God are we instructed to cast out devils or even to speak to them. The name of Jesus is not a magic incantation that causes devils to flee from before us.

READ: Acts 19:13-16 – the seven sons of Sceva are an example of what can happen when people presume an authority they have not been given.

READ: Jude 9 – even Michael did not rebuke Satan in his own power.

If you start talking to the devil, you run the risk of being led astray as Eve was (Genesis 3:1-7). Your focus should be on God, not devils; speak to Him, not them.

Summary

What are some keys to success in spiritual warfare?

  • Rely on God’s power, not your own.
  • Put on the whole armour of God.
  • Draw on the power of Scripture—the word of God is the Spirit’s sword.
  • Pray in perseverance and holiness, making our appeal to God.
  • Stand firm; submit to God; resist the devil’s work knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ is your protector.

He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved – Psalms 62:2

Are You Living a Self-Life?

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalms 139:23-24

Everyone has selfish attitudes at times; it’s in the very nature of man. All we can do is to try our best to limit the amount of selfishness we show to God, to ourselves, and to others. The aim is to have as little of our self in us as possible, and more of the Holy Spirit of God.

READ: John 3:30; Ephesians 5:18.

Think about your life during the last month. Tick the boxes of those things that you felt, actioned, said, thought, etc. Be honest!

Did you have a secret spirit of pride or an exalted feeling of yourself in view of your success or position?

  • I took pride in my training, appearance, or my natural gifts and abilities.
  • I entertained a self-reliant, independent spirit.

READ: Proverbs 16:18, 20:6; Romans 12:3; James 4:6-8.

Did you love receiving praise from others?

  • I had a secret fondness and desire to be noticed.
  • I enjoyed drawing attention to myself in conversation, appearance, or conduct.

READ: John 5:44, 12:42-43; 1 Corinthians 13:4.

Did anger or impatience at others stir within you?

  • I had a touchy, sensitive spirit, and desired to throw sharp, heated remarks.
  • I resented and retaliated when disapproved of, corrected, or contradicted.
  • I had a defensive, vindictive, critical spirit.

READ: Psalms 37:8; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Luke 21:19; James 1:19; Romans 5:3.

Were you more interested in your self-will?

  • I was stubborn, and had an unteachable spirit.
  • I argued, and had a talkative spirit.
  • I was harsh, and used sarcastic expressions.
  • I refused to believe I was wrong.
  • I criticised and picked flaws at others.

READ: Deuteronomy 1:43; Malachi 2:2; James 3:17; 2 Peter 2:10.

Were you afraid of man and the world?

  • I feared man.
  • I feared losing worldly, carnal things.
  • I had a secret fear of speaking for or being associated with Christ and His word.
  • I shrunk from doing my whole duty to those of wealth or position or poor and needy.
  • I had a fear of offending someone and driving them away.
  • I had a compromising spirit.

READ: 1 Samuel 15:24; Proverbs 29:25; Galatians 2:12; 1 John 4:18.

Did you have a jealous disposition?

  • I had secret envy in my heart.
  • I had an unpleasant sensation when I heard the prosperity and success of others.
  • I spoke of the faults and failings rather that the gifts and virtues of those more talented and appreciated than myself.

READ: Genesis 26:12-16; 1 Samuel 18:8-9; Proverbs 6:34, Proverbs 14:30; Matthew 21:15; Romans 12:9-10.

Did you have a dishonest and deceitful disposition?

  • I evaded and covered the truth.
  • I covered up my real faults and left a better impression of myself than is true.
  • I had false humility.
  • I exaggerated and strained the truth.
  • I blamed others alone when I knew that I too was to blame.

READ: Psalms 15:2-3; Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 23:28; Luke 22:48; Acts 5:2-3; 1 Timothy 4:2.

Did you have unbelief?

  • I had a spirit of discouragement in times of pressure and opposition.
  • I lacked quietness and confidence in God.
  • I lacked faith and trust in God.
  • I had a disposition to worry and complain in the midst of pain, poverty, or at the dispensations of divine Providence.
  • I had an overanxious feeling whether everything would turn out right.

READ: Isaiah 7:9; Luke 12:28-30; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 5:6; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 5:7.

Were you formal and dead?

  • I lacked compassion and concern for lost souls.
  • I felt dry and indifferent.
  • I lacked zeal and power with God.

READ: Matthew 15:14; 2 Timothy 3:5; Revelation 2:4, 3:1.

Were you selfish?

  • I loved ease.
  • I loved money.
  • I loved my own time.
  • I valued myself above others.
  • I had a secret desire for worldly things and ways.

READ: Luke 12:19-21; 1 Timothy 6:10-11; Amos 6:1-6.

A Quick Look at the Seven Mysteries

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

When it comes to the mysteries of God, there are seven mysteries that have been entrusted to the Body of Christ:

Mystery of Godliness

1 Timothy 3:16 deals with the person of Christ, His unique birth, nature, and death. God manifest in the flesh. See also: Acts 20:28.

Mystery of Christ in You

Colossians 1:27 deals with the mutual indwelling of Christ and the believer. Christ inside a saved person. No person in the Old Testament had Jesus Christ dwelling inside them. They had the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11), but this Spirit gave them no knowledge of a risen Saviour indwelling them permanently (see John 14:16), for no Saviour had yet appeared, no one had died, no one had risen, and no Holy Spirit had been sent for permanent indwelling.

Mystery of Christ and the Church

Ephesians 5:32 deals with the body of Christ; the Church. How two individuals, hundreds of miles apart (or billions of miles apart), can both share the same ‘flesh and bones’.

Mystery of Israel

Romans 11:25 deals with the restoration of Israel and future events.

  1. Israel is blind, spiritually, as a nation, but only partly. There are still Jews receiving Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, as their Saviour.
  2. The fulness of the Gentiles is about to come to an end. The Rapture will fulfil the Body of Christ, and then, Jews and Gentiles will be saved separately.
  3. At the end of the Tribulation, when Jesus Christ returns, all the surviving Jews will look on the glorified body of their Messiah and accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour (vs. 26).
  4. God will then establish a new covenant with the nation of Israel (vs. 27 cf. Hebrews 8:8–12).

Mystery of Babylon the Great

Revelation 17:5 deals with the Roman, Babylonian empire, which will be revived.

Mystery of Iniquity

2 Thessalonians 2:7 deals with the nature and character of Satan and the Beast.

Mystery of the Rapture

1 Corinthians 15:51-55 deals with the ‘catching up’ of the believer before the Tribulation period.

If you have a firm grasp of these mysteries, you have equipped yourself with the basic truths needed to be an effective minister of God’s word.

A Christian and Being Wordly

There was a time of confusion and trouble when judges ruled the Jews. They were army leaders with authority and control, but not leaders of the nation like the kings that followed.

Judges is a sad record. People were greedy for material things; proud and trusted in themselves. As a result, their enemies defeated them. They were afraid and turned from their sin to God multiple times. God is good and always rescued them, but then they went straight back into sin again.

Samson had the possibility of being a great leader, but he failed.

READ: Judges 13-16.

Warning for all believers to not be worldly; to NOT live as the unsaved live. Eternal, spiritual things should always come first. Realise a plain fact that God gave everything for you, and now He invites you to give everything to Him. You can be close to God, and you can delight in the things of the world, but you cannot do them both at the same time.

What ‘being worldly’ means

Simply put, it is ‘living as the unbeliever lives’.

READ: 1 John 2:15-17.

  1. You want things to please you
  2. You want the things that you see
  3. You are too proud of the things you have

READ: 1 Timothy 6:6; Philippians 4:11 and Hebrews 13:5 – the complete opposite is mentioned.

Samson lived in this way. His desire was to please himself, and this controlled his life.

READ: Judges 14:10, 17 – He spent his time at parties, with people who did not know God.

READ: Judges 14:2 – He wanted what he saw.

The whole story of his life showed his proud attitudes. They controlled him, and he thought that nobody could overcome him.

READ: Judges 14:12-18 – he used tough questions for fun.

READ: Judges 16:4-16 – he played with the enemy.

Then there was something even worse. He had awful spiritual pride. He thought that he would just escape things as he had always done, but then we read that the LORD departed from him (Judges 16:17-20).

That is what ‘being worldly’ means. Samson became very ‘worldly’ in his attitudes and behaviour.

Samson had many spiritual advantages

Think about them, and take notice of the clear warning.

He came from a good home

His parents loved and obeyed God. They wanted to know God’s plan for their son’s life. Before he was born, they prayed about him (13:8-12). Wonderful parents, but this did not prevent him from being worldly later.

He had an attractive nature

His name means ‘sunlight’. There are only a few words about his childhood (13:24) – God did good things for him (13:25).

There was no doubt that Samson was attractive. He could have been of great use to God, but his nature became a danger to him. He loved to be popular, and this ruined him in the end.

He had a good religious tradition

Its rules should have been a help to him. Samson made some special promises to God.

READ: Judges 13:3-5 and Numbers 6:2-8 – he should have remembered them, as he was responsible to God.

There is a clear warning here. Religious tradition is no good if we do not love and obey God. It was easy for Samson not to keep his promises to God, because he was being worldly.

He had true experiences of the Holy Spirit’s power in his life

READ: Judges 14:6, 19 and 15:14 – but he continued to be worldly.

He had some experiences of answers to his prayers

READ: Judges 15:18-19.

They should have encouraged him to stay close to God. There was a time of weakness and danger in his life, and he cried to God for help, who provided for his immediate need.

These things encouraged him, and there were clear signs that God was with him too, but he still lived in a selfish way. He was being worldly all the time.

These things should teach you something, as there are many serious dangers for you too. You might think that you would never be like Samson, but the Bible warns us to be careful, as we could easily fail too.

READ: 1 Corinthians 10:12 and Romans 11:20.

The direct cause of Samson’s failure

Samson became so proud and worldly, and caused so much pain and despair. It affected his family, his nation, and himself. Three things affected Samson:

He did not obey God’s word

The special promises that he made meant that he was a Nazirite (meaning ‘to separate from’). There were 3 rules that he promised to obey;

  1. He must not drink alcohol (Numbers 6:1-8). This rule was a sign as God’s people are travellers, and not people who ‘plant vineyards and stay put’. Samson did not think that this promise was important. He went to parties where there would be alcohol, and most probably, he was drinking it too. READ: Judges 14:10, 11, 17, 18.
  2. A Nazirite must not touch dead bodies, but Samson was often in quarrels and fights, and these fights ended in the murder of many people. Samson knew about the demands of being a Nazirite.
  3. He must not cut his hair (16:17). He told Delilah about this third rule. He knew the rules, but he refused their discipline.

There was another way in which he did not obey God. It could be even more serious. God clearly told his people not to marry people from other nations. Samson refused to obey God in this matter.

READ: Judges 14:1-3; Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3 and Joshua 23:12-13.

This is where being worldly begins. We refuse to accept the control of God’s word. We will not follow its directions.

He did not love God’s people

Samson insists that he will marry a woman from the enemy nation. This clearly shows his failure to love God’s own people, and their friendship was not important to him. He did not really care about them. If he did, he would not want to hurt them by his marriage. His father appealed to him, as he wanted Samson to marry one of his own people, but Samson would not listen (14:3).

There is an important lesson for believers here:

  • Do you feel comfortable with the people of this world?
  • Are you more comfortable with them than with other believers?

If yes, then you are in danger of being worldly.

He did not give honour to God

God had a purpose for Samson. He wanted Samson to rescue his people (13:5), but Samson became a complete failure. He should have brought honour to a holy God. Instead, his evil life brought dishonour for his nation’s God; to the true living God. Look what the enemy even said in Judges 16:23!

Hundreds of years later, Paul wrote about this same subject. He was sad about the dishonour to God. This was because of the behaviour of first century Jews; their morals were bad; their religion was just words; it had no meaning in their lives.

READ: Romans 2:24.

The word ‘Jew’ had become a bad word. People thought of words like ‘wicked’, ‘selfish’, ‘greedy’ to describe a Jew.

You should have one great ambition in life, and it should be to please God. He loves you. He saved you. So, you should want your life to show everybody how great he is. Then they will want to know him too.

Samson realised his awful mistake in the end

This only happened when he was a prisoner. He now had no eyes, so all was dark. All day, and every day, he had to work for his enemies. He made flour from grain (16:21). Samson spoiled his life. He brought dishonour to God. He did this by being worldly in thought and in life. Something was true about Samson. The same thing is true about everyone like Samson, and it is this. God’s desire is that each one should begin again.

Let us think about how Samson defeated his enemies in the end.

He overcame by grace

This is goodness and kindness to one who does not deserve it. Hear again those wonderful words of hope.

READ: Judges 16:22 – nobody has to feel despair. God gives yet another opportunity; His grace is so great.

He overcame by prayer (16:28)

When you realise your mistake, you should pray immediately. God has promised that he will help you.

He overcame by his death

By his own death, he overcame his enemies. There is something similar for the Christian, and it is probably the only way to escape from being worldly.

READ: Mark 8:34-37.

God heard Samson’s prayer. Samson gave his life. He helped to achieve God’s purposes. He brought honour to God.

FOR GROUP/FAMILY DISCUSSION


Samson’s parents made a special promise for him (Num. 6:1-21). It was usually for a particular purpose and for a certain time (Num. 6:13). It was not usually for a person’s whole life. Why do you think that Samson wanted to continue to keep the promise? Yet it seemed that he just kept his hair long. And he ignored the other demands of the promise. Why was that?


Probably, Samson was sincere when he first made the special promise. So, what turned him away from the standards that it demanded?


We all fail God. How do we know that this makes Him sad (Judg. 10:6-16)?


We read about some serious personal failures in the Book of Judges (Judg. 8:22-27; 11:30-40; 16:16-21). Why do you think that such sad stories are in the Bible?  1 Cor. 10:6-13 helps us to understand. And the passage gives illustrations too.

FURTHER STUDY


Why do people forget how good God was to them in earlier times (Judg. 8:33-35)?


Samson’s victory by his death is like a parable. Jesus said that we must die too. Then we can live. What did Jesus mean? (Mark.8: 34-38 and John 12:24-26).


Look again at Judg. 16:22. Think about other people in the Bible whom God forgave after serious failure. How did they say that they were truly sorry? And how did they show that they were truly sorry?