When You Doubt Yourself
Your greatest enemy, in all probability, is within. It’s the nagging doubt, the belief that you just don’t have what it takes to live the Christian life. Most of the time, we can keep the voices quiet but, especially when we are tired or discouraged or afraid, they invade our minds. Writer and speaker Elisabeth Elliott used to say, “Our enemy delights in disquieting us. Our Savior, our Helper, delights in quieting us.” The Bible says that our enemy “…the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Maybe you don’t have to be convinced that He is the enemy of your soul, yet quite often we don’t fully understand how he often defeats us by influencing our thinking.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians he talked about Satan’s schemes. He used a word from which we get the English word methods. Simply put, Paul is striving to put us on guard, letting us know that Satan has had a lot of experience, and we are comparative beginners, lacking a lot of spiritual savvy and wisdom.
How does this happen? Let’s get specific and consider several dangerous thoughts that he might plant in your mind to defeat you.
Dangerous thought #1: “I’m not good enough, so there is no need to try!” If you believe that, you are seriously wounded. The Christian life is not about your goodness, but about Christ’s! When you believe in Him, God takes the righteousness of His Son and puts it in your spiritual bank account. You were spiritually broke—absolutely without a dollar of redemption before you met Christ. God knew that, and that was why He sent His Son on the mission of redemption.
Dangerous Thought #2: “How can I thrive spiritually when others stronger than I couldn’t make it? This is the idea of someone who stands looking at Mt. Everest, thinking, “If climbers who have trained and climbed for years can’t make it to the top, what makes me think I can?” Maybe you think about the moral failures of some pretty high-profile people, and then feel that it just isn’t worth trying. There are times when Christian leaders, even spiritual giants, do fail. Why? Perhaps they became confident in themselves. Perhaps they were burned out. Perhaps the image they projected in public wasn’t the same as that observed in private, but someone else’s failure has nothing to do with your living the kind of a life that glorifies God.
Here’s another spiritual torpedo that often causes discouragement. Dangerous Thought #3 says God expects more than I can deliver. What you have forgotten is the spiritual enabling that comes through the Holy Spirit in response to your cry, “Lord, help me. Give me the strength I need today to do what You want me to do.” Faith takes you above what you can do and connects you with His power, His enabling.
Dangerous Thought #4: This one time won’t matter. Vast numbers of people have been brought down by this one, thinking just one time won’t matter, whether a flirtatious conversation or “just one” of any number of things.
But here is perhaps the deadliest of them all. Dangerous Thought #3 says this: It couldn’t happen to me. The area in which you think you are most impervious to temptation is your area of greatest danger. No one can presume on God’s mercy, His protection, or His grace. That’s why you need to stay close to Him, communicate with Him daily, and allow His Word to penetrate your life and thoughts. You, believer in Jesus, “are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you” (Romans 8:9 NLT).