And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.
“I’ve been a Christian for twenty-three years,” Cheryl said. “I’m just not getting anywhere. I’m as weak as I was when I first accepted Christ as my Savior. I still fail. I just don’t know if it’s worth it.” Tears streamed down her cheeks as she continued to talk about her failures. “By now I know all the right things to do, but I don’t do them. Sometimes I deliberately do something mean-spirited or unkind. What kind of Christian am I?”
“Probably a growing Christian,” I said.
A startled look appeared on Cheryl’s face. “Growing? Did you hear—?”
“Yes, I heard. But if you weren’t growing, you wouldn’t lament your failures. You’d be satisfied about your spiritual level or tell yourself how good you are.”
“But I’m so discouraged, and I fail God so many times.”
I went on to tell Cheryl she was correct—that she had failed. All of us do at times. None of us is perfect. If we’re not careful, we allow the devil to point to what we haven’t accomplished and where we have been weak. When that happens, it’s easy to feel bad or want to give up.
That’s not the way of the Spirit. No matter how we mess up our lives, God doesn’t give up on us. The Spirit constantly nudges us.
We can allow our thoughts to dwell on what we haven’t done, why we ought to be more spiritual, or how spiritual we ought to be after all these years in our Christian faith. That’s a trick of the devil—to make us think of our defects and shortcomings. If we focus on what we’re not or what we haven’t accomplished, we are allowing the devil to make advances on the battlefield of our minds.
The fact that my troubled friend was upset was a healthy sign, even though she didn’t see it that way. With the Holy Spirit’s help, she can push back the devil. She can regain the territory Satan has stolen from her.
Cheryl seemed to think that holy, victorious living came from one major victory after another. Yes, we do have times when we have great breakthroughs; however, most of our victories come slowly. They come little by little. It’s as if we inch forward. Because we move slowly in our spiritual growth, we are often unaware of how far we have moved. If the devil can make us think that we must have one decisive spiritual victory after another or we’re losers, he has gained an important stronghold.
My advice to Cheryl, and to all Christians who face those dark moments, is to listen to the words of the apostle Paul. He exhorted us not to grow weary, or as another translation says it, “not to lose heart.” He’s saying, “Don’t quit. Keep fighting.”
Life is a struggle, and the devil is determined to defeat and destroy us. We don’t ever reach the place where we never have to fight. But it’s not just our fight. Jesus is not only with us, but He is for us. He’s at our side to strengthen us and to urge us onward.
My friend kept remembering the times she had failed, but I reminded her of the times she had succeeded. “You think the devil is in control, but that’s not true. You have failed, but you have also succeeded. You have stood your ground and you have made progress.”
“Don’t quit. Don’t give up.” That’s the message we need to hear. I think of the words of Isaiah: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you… ; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you” (Isaiah 43:1b–2).
This is God’s promise. He doesn’t promise to take us completely out of troubles or hardships, but He does promise to be with us as we go through them. “Fear not,” He says. That’s the message we need to ponder. We don’t need to fear because God is with us. And when God is with us, what is there to worry about?
God, despite my failures, You are with me, encouraging me not to give up. Please help me to remember that, with Your help, I can win. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.