Choosing the Power of Christ Over the Emptiness of Defeat

Choosing the Power of Christ Over the Emptiness of Defeat

in Faith

All Christians experience bouts of discouragement that are short-lived and draw attention to a spiritual need. In this way, discouragement serves a purpose and delivers a benefit if you seek God diligently, asking Him to guide in addressing the need. A simple definition of discouragement is the loss of confidence or enthusiasm. And for Christians, the root cause of this is almost always a lack of faith in a given area. Every time you work with God to address the issue your faith grows.

But when we don’t deal with discouragement, choosing to accept it or wallow in it, it burrows more deeply into our souls and leads to larger spiritual problems like a hardened heart that condemns us to a life of spiritual defeat. As discouragement sets in and faith wanes, so does the power of Christ in our lives. As His power ebbs from our souls, the emptiness of defeat filters in and takes over.

Beloved, we have a choice. We can cling to Christ by faith and partner with Him, or we can drift away into the emptiness of powerless Christianity.

Power to Profess

Don’t Lose the Power to Profess Christ

In Hebrews 3, Christians are facing heavy persecution as they attempt to fulfill their “heavenly calling” of professing Christ. They’re only a generation removed from Jesus’ proclamation of the Great Commission, and these believers understood the great honor, burden, and urgent need to spread the gospel of their Savior. It was their primary purpose in life–but it was becoming burdensome.

These Jewish Christians were weary and fearful. Judaism still enjoyed the protection of the Roman government, but Christianity did not. Circumstances were tough with no signs of improvement. Many were considering returning to the ease of a Jewish lifestyle.

Discouragement had set in. Their faith ebbed away as fear grew. Was it really worth it? Perhaps their message, their declaration, wasn’t worth suffering and potentially dying to propagate. Retreating to their Jewish roots may be the wiser, more rational move. Certainly, it would bring much-needed rest.

Hard Hearts Hide the Gospel

Hard Hearts Hide the Gospel

What specific message did they consider dropping in the name of discouragement and fear? It’s the same message Jesus commands us to declare today:

We declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that He died to reconcile men, tasting death for every man, and that He wants to save you from your sins, pardon, and cleanse you.

How did the author of Hebrews address this complex situation of commission and persecution? God gave him words of encouragement to share with his brethren. We belong to Christ…if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Hebrews 3:6 He essentially instructs them to set everything else aside–including their fear and doubt–and cling to Jesus.

And then, he gives a warning: Harden not your hearts... Hebrews 3:8

God wanted them to understand that their lack of faith would lead to a lack of confidence in the gospel of Christ and a lack of enthusiasm for spreading it. And when that fire died, the rest of their Christian life would follow. Powerless living.

Are we different from these Jewish believers? Yes and no. We have, with some exceptions, abandoned the commission to spread the gospel intentionally, but not because of discouragement. We’ve shoved the gospel into a closet because our hearts are hard. We’ve moved from the discouragement phase into a hard-hearted existence.

And when we arrive here, we're not living in the power of Christ but in the emptiness of defeat. And we often don’t realize it.

What is a hard heart?

What Is a Hard Heart and Is It Terminal?

The author of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 95, describing the wilderness generation of Exodus. Many were “believers” who had experienced life-changing faith in God, but this generation is also a prime example of the hardened heart.

What characteristics of this generation is God warning against?

  • Doubt or unbelief
  • Disobedience
  • Ingratitude
  • Complaining

But all of this is contrasted with God’s unwavering grace and faithfulness. Even when He put them to the test, He never failed them: He always had their good in mind. And yet, they chose to draw back from God’s good plan for them. Their lack of trust grieved Him as noted both in Hebrews 3 and Psalm 95. His grief was for the condition of their hearts: …they do always err in their heart…Hebrews 3:10 Despite the direct miracle of the parting of the Red Sea and the miraculous provision in the wilderness, they didn’t trust God. This brought Him sorrow.

Powerless Christianity

The Cost: Powerless Christianity

For the wilderness generation, it all started with this doubt and unbelief that led to disobedience, ingratitude, and complaining. It robbed them of God’s power and kept them from entering into Canaan. If doubt prevented the children of Israel from receiving rest and blessing of the Promised Land, it will keep us from the rest and blessing offered today.

Are we willing to sacrifice God’s purpose, plan, and power in our lives for a path of greater ease? A hard heart of unbelief that doubts the power of God will lead us into disobedience that robs us of the joy that comes from living in the power of Christ.

But today, how are we unbelieving? How are we doubtful? While we may avoid the “thou shalt nots,” how are we doing with the “thou shalts”? Obedience is more than not doing what God forbids: it’s also fulfilling His calling and commands to act on His behalf in the world.

Are our hearts tender toward our lost communities? Are we compassionate toward the poor, hurting, and lowly? Are we “going” to meet their needs as Jesus commanded us? Are we nurturing our church family through prayer, encouragement, and practical help? Are we acting as the body and bride of Christ?

Or are we hardened, satisfied with our comforts?

Is there hope for our hard hearts? Always. We can confess, turn from our doubt, desire greater faith, and pray for God to restore our souls through His love and grace. If you desire Him, He will soften your heart.

But the warning of Hebrews is don’t let your heart get hard in the first place. Many believers never come back from this sad state.

Sharing in the Power of Christ

Sharing in the Power of Christ

Rather than discouraged and hardened hearts, Jesus asks us to have enough faith to take His hand and partner with Him. If we’re faithful to Him and His commands, we will see His faithfulness, victories, and blessings. If we keep our hearts tender (by exercising faith), we’ll hear His voice as He guides us.

As we share in His calling to know Christ and profess Him, we also share in His blessings, enjoying His fellowship and comfort. This is what it means to be “partakers” with Him in the fullest sense. We partner with Him on His mission and enjoy all His benefits, spiritual and otherwise, along the way.

What Will You Choose?

What Will You Choose?

Let’s be honest. Most of what we see in Christianity today is lukewarm as John prophesied in Revelation 3:16. We can do all the “right things” and still be a passionless wet blanket when it comes to our spiritual lives and Christ’s commission to make Him known in the world.

Are we satisfied with this? Are you? Am I? Is your church satisfied to be lukewarm? Is mine?

We must first answer this question for ourselves. Am I okay living without the power of Christ in my life? Is mediocrity all I want?

Or, if we search our hearts, is there a small voice crying that He is worth more than my half-hearted pursuit of Him?

If we are going to make an impact for Christ in these last days, we must have men, women, families, and whole churches that choose to sacrifice and live in the power of Christ rather than the emptiness of defeat.

We must do it for the sake of individual souls and our Master. Do we want Him to be grieved or pleased when we see Him?

We have a choice–we can live a life of barrenness in the wilderness, or live a life of power and victory through communion with Christ where we are making Him known in the world.

What will you choose?

May God help us.

Feeling uncertain about your relationship with God? Watch this video.

Adapted from Pastor James Wooten's 3.10.24 sermon, “The Barren Wasteland of a Hardened Heart".

Watch the sermon.

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