Where to Look When I Feel Discouraged in My Progress in Holiness

5 Mins read

There are times in the lives of many Christians when they can become discouraged. They can become discouraged with life, discouraged with death, discouraged with the ways of the world and the direction of the culture, and finally, they can become discouraged by the war that rages on within.

On that last point (the war that rages on within), such discouragement can make many people feel hopeless that they will ever be any better than they are today. Noticing the failures in one’s life seems all too easy as it compares to noticing any growth that has ever taken place. Oh, how nice it would be to even take two steps forward and one step backward. The failures, the sin, the faults, the memories – all seem to eclipse what may very well be a life that is undergoing sanctification.

As a true born-again believer is encountering himself and the depths of his sin problem, his sin can begin to weigh him down. Day in and day out, he desires to be near the Lord and to know Him better. He desires somewhere in his heart to glorify God in his life. Yet, it seems as though he does not have the strength to carry it out. He finds himself somewhat like Paul.

But when he looks at Paul, he thinks there is no way that Paul could ever have been as bad as he. Yet, he cries out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). Growth seems impossible. The besetting sin, that sin that so easily entangles, always seems there and looming for its next attack.

But can the Christian really ever hope for growth? Can hope be restored? Surely it can! The Christian must realign himself each day with the truth of God’s Word. God will work the miracle in due time. Never cease from striving. Bear fruit as you keep with repentance. Peter gives the reader a wonderful and short explanation of the way that someone can grow up into maturity in Christ.

Grow in Christ by being disciplined

First of all, Peter sets the tone by highlighting some of those things (but not all) that will keep the believer stuck. Scripture says, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Pet. 2:1). Prior to this point, Peter has made clear that he is addressing believers.

Peter starts this verse by using the word “wherefore.” This word points back to the prior verse that speaks of the “good news.” Shortly before that, Peter says, “being born again.” Thus, Peter affirms his audience’s faith in Christ and moves on past the initial point of salvation into their present condition: sanctification, also known as growing in Christ.

It is interesting that Peter does not assume that they are perfect people. He does not speak of their perfected state but rather helps them to become who Christ desires them to be. These people were malicious hypocrites who envied others and made a practice of slandering others. But they were Christians! Granted, they would not have been the most spiritual Christians there ever were, but they were Christians nonetheless.

In the book of Hebrews, we can see a helpful parallel. In Hebrews 12:1-2, the author gives another short and simple explanation of how to grow in Christ. He tells us that what must be done is the believer must, “…lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). In both 1 Peter 2:1 and Hebrews 12:1, the wording “lay aside” is used concerning sin. There must be a diligent, ongoing approach to laying aside sin in one’s life. To put it simply, the believer must grow in living a disciplined lifestyle.

The author of Hebrews brings up one more point that is worthy of mention. He tells his readers to be “patient” as they are running this race. Elsewhere, James tells his readers of the way that a farmer is patient for seed to produce a harvest. In context, this refers to the second coming of Christ, but the illustration itself is also applicable to the fruit bearing that is to take place in the life of the Christian.

Grow in Christ by being nourished

But it is on this single point that the Christian can become discouraged. As he sees that he must put off sin or lay aside sin (depending on the wording that you are familiar with), he can begin to notice that there is a mountain in front of him. The work that needs to be done is too heavy. It is too much of a load. There can be no way for him to overcome such great odds. His spirit indeed is willing, but he finds himself falling asleep on the job because his flesh is weak.

A tragedy often prevails in the lives of many Christians that will, in fact, leave them stuck. A heightened awareness of personal sin can be a blessing from God that can often turn south placed into the hands of a believer. What is meant is this: A believer must not be consumed with his own sin to the point of it becoming his focus. If all he ever looks at is his sin, then he will not grow because his mind is not fixed on that which is good.

It is much like the guy who swerves out of control in his car. A large pole is steadily approaching as he seeks to gain control of his car. However, the man does not take his eyes off the pole, and in the end, he hits the very thing that he fixed his eyes on. Scripture says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). The Word will, in fact, produce growth. As the believer fixes his attention on the Word, it will produce the very thing that it has set out to accomplish.

The author of Hebrews says it slightly differently. Scripture says, “Looking unto Jesus…” (Heb. 12:2). The psalmist tells his reader, “…in his law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season…” (Ps. 1:2-3). When a believer focuses his energies on Christ and His Word, the very thing that he is struggling to produce will, in turn, get produced in him.

Grow in Christ by being satisfied

Peter concludes by saying, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2:3). This final point is at the heart of sanctification. The “tastes” of sin plague many Christians. The reason people sin is because they enjoy the taste. Sadly enough, the reason people sin is because they enjoy the taste of sin better than what they perceive God to taste like. The problem with this is that when someone truly tastes God, it will be a greater taste than the sins of the world.

This point is important because, in the life of every believer, there are competing desires that are waging war for control in his heart. Scripture will at times call it the spirit and the flesh, or the sin that dwells within and the new nature. Either way, the more satisfied a Christian is in Christ, the more he will forsake his sin.

This point seems to be Peter’s recalling the attention of believers to a taste that they have had in the past. Have you tasted of the Lord yet? Have you experienced His intimate presence and joy? If so, you can and will experience it again. You can be satisfied in the Lord. Do not be deceived. He is yours for the taking. Taste and see again this day, and God will once again become your chief desire. He will be the only taste that will truly satisfy.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for the ways that You help me to stay on track. It is a hard road, but I thank You that Christ walked it before me. Help me to trust in Christ this day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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