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*Frequently asked questions*
The Bible, the written word of God, is our sole authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand. Please read the following with an open heart and a willingness to know God's ways and obey them. - Jacob Ninan
1. Why do you pick up discouragement as a subject?
Discouragement is one of the biggest problems for sincere Christians, along with its companions hopelessness, depression, gloom. This is one of the weapons Satan has found to be very effective in stopping Christians from running their race as well as in getting them to sin. Discouragement comes if we have fallen into sin and we don't seem to be in sight of victory at all, when we think we have done some gross sin such as the sin against the Holy Spirit, when we feel that we are of no use to God, etc. If we are discouraged we have no joy, and then we have no strength to resist the next temptation (Ne.8:10). And every sin leads us deeper into depression, because we really don't want to sin. Every one of us Christians has to learn how to face and overcome discouragement if we are to be able to complete our race and accomplish God's purposes for our lives. (If you are not yet a Christian, please go to FAQ on salvation first. First you have to get a living relationship with God, before you can effectively deal with discouragement. There are many techniques being offered by people without any reference to God. They offer, at best, only temporary and superficial relief.)
2. I love Jesus and I want to live wholly for Him. Why do I get discouraged?
The simple answer is that you don't know God well enough and that you have not learned to trust His promises. Please don't get me wrong. I am not implying that you don't know God at all. But when you get to know God intimately and understand how loving, gracious, kind, merciful, understanding, sympathetic, patient and large hearted He is (while also being perfectly holy, righteous and hating sin), you would be strengthened in your faith to overcome discouragement. Let me suggest that it is this lack of intimate knowledge of God that makes it difficult for you to believe some of the most fantastic promises He has given to His children.
3. I have tried again and again to hold on to God's promises that He will give me victory. But I still keep falling.
Just like a baby falls when he is learning to walk, we Christians also fall sometimes in the process of learning how to walk with Jesus. Even a grown up man may sometimes fall as he is walking because he trips on something or does not look where he is going. That is natural, and every single believer will admit that he or she has fallen after becoming a Christian. But the more closely we walk with Jesus and the more we learn to listen to Him, the less and less we will fall. We will find that the things that used to make us fall earlier don't bother us now, even though there are new things we have understood now where we are finding the battle tough. Don't give up. Confess your sins to God (1Jn.1:9) and press on. God will complete what He has begun in you (Php.1:6).
4. I am just about to give up. I think victory is possible maybe for some others. But I am a hopeless case.
Actually we are all hopeless cases, not just you. That is why Jesus had to come down to earth and die for us. If we human beings were able to save ourselves, all God had to do was to give us more instructions. But Jesus has died for us and 'completed' everything that needs to be done for our salvation (Jn.19:13;2Pe.1:3). Now He is able to save completely everyone who goes to Him (He.7:5). That is what gives us hope. Our hope is not in ourselves but in Jesus our Saviour. Jesus will not push away anyone who goes to Him (Jn.6:37). We can go to Him boldly and ask for mercy and grace (He.4:15,16).
5. I feel quite useless and worthless. I am of no use to God or man.
If God thought you were worthless, would He have sent His Son to die for you? Your worth is not measured in millions of dollars, but by the preciousness of the blood of Jesus which was shed for the forgiveness of your sins (1Pe.1:18,19). It is the devil who makes you think you are useless because he doesn't want you to become useful to God! Just thank God for what He has done for you, and give yourself to Him in thankfulness. He will make you a blessing to His name (Zec.8:13).
6. I think I have sinned too much. I don't think God can forgive me.
This is what many sincere people believe, and as a result they waste days, months or years of their lives in misery - not wanting to leave God, wanting to go back to God, but not being sure that God would receive them back. The devil becomes very active at this point, because he has got one of his earlier subjects almost back in his hands again. He beats them down with Bible verses, showing the severity of God, and tries to hide from them verses that might give them hope.
It is by faith in God and by the blood of the Lamb that we can overcome the accuser (Re.12:11). By faith in God we mean trust in God's large heart, the riches of His mercy, His patience and longsuffering, His love for sinners demonstrated by the death of His Son, etc. By the blood of the Lamb we mean the price that has already been paid for the sins of the whole world (Jn.1:9;1Jn.:2:2). Our sins have been already paid for. If we have repented and we confess our sins to God, He will surely forgive us, according to His 'blanket' promise (1Jn.1:9).
Actually the whole Bible abounds with instances of God calling out to people to turn to Him in repentance so that He can forgive them and give them life. A large part of the Bible (the prophetic part of the Old Testament) is taken up with calling His backslidden people to repentance. "He longs to be gracious to you. And He waits on high to have compassion on you" (Is.30:18). If only we can read His word and get to know His heart, we will realise that He is willing to forgive the darkest of sins, rebellion and backsliding. The most difficult thing is to humble ourselves and admit our sins. He says, "Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God" (Je.3:18). Once we do that, we will find the riches of His mercy and forgiveness.
Let me give you a few outstanding examples for your encouragement.
* The Book of Isaiah begins with a picture of the people of Judah as a man who is covered from head to foot with wounds - from the stripes he has received from the Lord as a part of God's chastening (Is.1:5,6). They wouldn't repent even after all that. But what does God tell them? That their sins which are red like crimson can be still washed and made white like snow if they would repent. They can still eat the best of the land if they repent (v.16-20).
* God gives a beautiful picture in Ezek.16 of how He picks us up from our sin and shame, takes care of us in a wonderful way and finally betroths us to Jesus. Then He says how we betray His trust, turn back to sin and fall deeper and deeper into sin. God tells the story of two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, representing the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to illustrate the same lesson (Ezek.23). Oholah played the harlot and went astray again and again in spite of all that God had done for her. Her sister Oholibah did not learn any lesson from her sister's folly and its result, but went into greater harlotry herself. This is what God thought of the condition of Israel and Judah. God would take them through severe chastening. But what is His final message for them? That He will wash their sins and make a new covenant with them (Ezek.36:16-38)! Isn't this a message of hope for God's people who have backslidden, if they repent? Surely God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but He longs that they would turn back from their sins and live (Ezek.18:23). Read the Book of Hosea to see this more clearly.
* When David, the man of God who had written many psalms (parts of the inspired word of God), killed Goliath and saved Israel from the Philistines and led Israel to many victories as their king, sinned terribly - committed adultery with a woman and got her husband killed in order to cover up his sin - and repented, God chastised him severely but forgave him and restored him to fellowship. This story is well known. Did you know that when God refers to David in the New Testament he is called a man after God's own heart (Ac.13:22)? He certainly didn't behave like one when he sinned. But this illustrates how much a man can be restored if he repents.
* We know the story of how Peter betrayed Jesus three times, even with swearing and curses, and yet was restored to fellowship with Jesus when he repented, and became a mighty apostle. Paul tells us how God took him who had been a persecutor and a blasphemer just to encourage people by showing the depth of God's mercy on sinners (1Ti.1:12-16).
Certainly God's mercy is not to be taken cheaply, or as a license to sin. All who sin have to bear the consequences also - the chastening, eternal loss of what they could have received from God, the bad reputation they have to live down, etc. (Ga.6:7). But at the same time we must know that God's heart is open to anyone who turns to Him in repentance. Even a thief who had spent all his life in sin could receive forgiveness at the last moment when he acknowledged his sins and that he deserved his punishment (Lk.23:39-43).
Finally it must be remembered that Jesus will never turn away anyone who goes to Him (Jn.6:37).
7. I try to repent. But I am scared by some warnings in the New Testament which tell me that I may have no hope.
It is a fact that there are some severe warnings in the New Testament against people who backslide. It is also true that if we go on and on in sin, neglecting the warnings of God, a time will come when our heart will be so hardened that we lose our salvation. (Read the FAQ on the security of the believer). But it is also a fact that the devil scares many sincere believers by accusing and condemning them falsely. We need to see what these warnings really mean with respect to sincere people who repent and who want to turn back to God.
He.6:4-8;He.10:26-31;He.12:15-17. These are serious warnings which should put a healthy fear of God into our heart. But notice exactly who they are referring to.
The first passage mentions those who have fallen away from God. Obviously they have no repentance. They don't feel any sorrow about what they have done or how they have grieved God. Of course this does not apply to those who fell into sin, and who perhaps even went away from God for a while, but who have turned back to God in repentance. They have not fallen away.
He.10:26 refers to those who are going on sinning. In other words, there is no stop, and there is no repentance. This does not refer to those who backslid and went on sinning for a time, but who now have repented and turned back to God.
The third passage is most frightening if we don't understand it correctly. It seems to say that Esau found no place for repentance though he sought for it with tears (NASB). But read it carefully again. The whole meaning depends on what 'it' (which Esau sought for) stands for. This is a typical example of how we have to use Scripture to understand Scripture. See what Esau was actually seeking for in Ge.27:38. What he was seeking for with tears was a blessing, and not repentance. We do not see here or later in Esau's life that he ever repented of despising his birthright. He never admitted that it was his own fault that Jacob had got the blessing. If he had, he could have been forgiven.
It all goes to show that anyone who goes to Jesus in true repentance will never be turned away.
8. I backslid and dishonoured the Lord greatly by my sins. Now I think God has put me on the shelf and cannot entrust any ministry to me because I have not been faithful to Him (1Ti.1:12).
Sometimes failures in our younger days have a purpose in breaking our pride so that we can be useful to God later on. Even later on failures can be a part of God's chastening to turn us back from going astray in pride.
9. I am very much discouraged because my sincere prayers are not getting answered.
You know, this is a subject that has bothered many people all these centuries. We don't understand many things about prayer. But we must believe that even if our prayers are not answered, our Heavenly Father listens to every one of them. He is a great Father. He knows what is good for us, His children, and He knows what is not good. But we don't know those things very well. We many times may ask for things without knowing that they are bad for us, and then our Father doesn't give them to us, just as good parents also do for their children. Sometimes He delays an answer, so that our faith can become stronger.
The only way to walk steadfastly in the Christian faith is by faith. By faith we know that God loves us, He is in control of everything, He knows everything about us and what is happening to us, He knows exactly what is the best for us, and He is able to do whatever He wants. When we know this and believe this, we can rest in Him and overcome our discouragement.
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