Some Christians say that we should not perform our duties to the Lord if we are discouraged for to do so would be disingenuous, that is, we should not perform spiritual disciplines and duties if our heart is not in it. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until we feel like doing right? After all, God wants our hearts, first, right?
Well, yes, this is true in one sense. Surely God wants our hearts to be fully engaged in our service to Him. After all, Jesus harshly rebuked the Pharisees because their hearts were far from God while they religiously carried out their duties, though self-defined they often were. However, we live in a post-Genesis 3 world. There are times of discouragement in our service to the Lord (if in doubt, read 2 Corinthians). So what do we do in those times?
The answer is that we press on in our weakness; we persevere in our duties; we plod through times of deep discouragement knowing the Lord is the one who sees and knows all and will one day reward our service. In short, we find our joy in Him, rather than in what we do for Him, though when you are doing what He called you to do the two are very much enjoined.
In the eighth chapter of The Bruised Reed, Puritan Richard Sibbes addresses the reality of discouragement and its power to draw us away from our duty to the Lord, and he calls us to remain diligent in our duties even “when our hearts are altogether averse to them.” To convince us of this importance, one simple thing Sibbes does is remind us of the Trinitarian God’s love for us and His tender care for His bruised reeds. Discouragements are not from God, he says.
- Discouragements are not from the Father, for he has bound himself in covenant to pity us as a father pities his children (Psalm 103:13) and to accept as a father our weak endeavours [sic].
- Discouragements are not from Christ, for he by office will not quench the smoking flax. We see how Christ bestows the best fruits of his love on persons who are mean in condition, weak in abilities, and offensive for infirmities, nay, for grossest falls.
- Discouragements are not from the Spirit. He helps our infirmities, and by office is a comforter (Rom. 8:26; John 14:16). If he convinces of sin, and so humbles us, it is that he may make way for his office of comforting us.
“Discouragements, then, must come from ourselves and from Satan, who labours to fasten on us a loathing of duty.”
When overtaken by discouragements, we must rest in the Lord’s unfailing love, turn the eyes of our hearts to our tender Savior who does not break the reed that is already bruised, and be sustained by the strength of the indwelling Spirit.