I have not written in recent weeks because I just didn't feel like I had anything worth saying. To be honest, I've been discouraged. I've seen the evidence of the enemy's attacks in what seems like every direction I turn. I've stood at the graveside of young parents who had to bury a child that didn't live long enough to see the light of day. I've looked into the eyes of a wife who has been abandoned by her husband... I've seen the same look of pain in the eyes of a husband whose love has been repeated rejected by his wife. Our church had an intruder who broke in and stole instruments and equipment used by those who help lead worship on Sunday mornings. People I've discipled have walked away from the church and the list goes on and on. And then I turn on the TV and listen to Carl Sagan's mentor speak of the spiritual connection he feels with science in knowing that all living things are connected in a great web of life that originated for the spontaneous evolution of a single life giving cell. I see a Russian tyrant have his way in the world because everyone else is too impotent or too apathetic to do anything about it. It's discouraging! It's discouraging because it's times like these that it "feels like" the enemy is winning. Like he's gaining ground and we are losing hope. Now, intellectually I know that's not true. I'm a pastor for goodness sake and so I know all the right answers. But I'm also a human being and sometimes it just "feels like" the prince of this world is advancing at a greater rate than the kingdom of God.
And then God spoke to my heart as I prepared another sermon in our study of Nehemiah. Here you have a remnant of Jews, who are in the midst of a spiritual revival, trying to take steps of faith as they re-build the wall their enemies have destroyed. They are good people trying to do a good work for God. And yet, what does the enemy do? He shows up to mock the Jews and their miserable conditions. He belittles the work they are doing and threatens to terminate their progress by taking their life. As a result, the workers begin to crumble under the pressure. "The strength of the workers is failing and there is too much work to do. We are convinced that we will never be able to finish the wall."
I look at those workers and I see myself. I too easily listen to the lies of the enemy and start to believe they are true. After most Sundays, I go through a mild to moderate depression as the enemy whispers in my ear, "Boy, that was a lot of work but I'm not sure anyone was listening. Did you notice that person nodding off? Is what you have to say really making a difference? The church sure had a lot of empty seats. Maybe your mission is failing."
The enemy knows where it hurts and that's where he attacks. Like we see in Nehemiah, his goal is to discourage you enough that you will lost hope and quit. He speaks lies into those areas in your life where you struggle and doubt. It's like a person who stands over a piano and sings a note. Without touching the piano at all, the string that matches the note that is sung will begin to resonate. In the same way, Satan will speak a lie that will resonate in the areas where you struggle. For me, he tells me that I'm failing. That what I am doing is not making a difference. And if I'm not careful, I begin to believe this is true. I start to lose hope. And so as Nehemiah taught the Jews, I go to the Lord in prayer. I speak honestly about what is on my heart and I let the truth of His word speak louder in my life than any lie of the enemy. I crawl under the shelter of my God and know that He has gone before me. This battle belongs to Him. His is the victor, and when I belong to Him, His victory is my reward. I am more than a conqueror in Christ who saved me and set me free. I am an ambassador for Christ, a minister of reconciliation, and I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. That truth of the gospel is what informs every aspect of my life. For what Christ accomplished on the cross has not only transformed my life but it has given me a new and everlasting hope. And the hope of God does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. I will take up the full armor of God so that I will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Because greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. I cling to this truth, because He alone is my rock and my salvation. In Him I will not be greatly shaken!