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Overcoming the Ensnaring Sin

By Kevin Nuber
Guest Columnist"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." (Hebrews 12: 1-4)

This portion of scripture reveals a difficulty in the Body of Christ that is more prevalent than we would like to acknowledge. It affects members and leaders, lay people and ministers, the servants and those being served - the workers, the parents, the single, and the married. In short, it touches the least and the greatest in the Kingdom.

This singular challenge is one we all need to recognize and address. This obstacle must be overcome for us to bring God pleasure and fully experience our destiny. This roadblock can derail plans, people and passion if we are not sensitive, and decisively extricate its deadly tentacles from our souls.

I am referring, of course, to recognizing and dealing with what the writer of Hebrews calls "the sin that so easily ensnares and clings to us." Many people believe and teach that this sin is unique to every person - each one's greatest stronghold or area of weakness: lust, greed, envy, gossip, etc. But it is not a peculiar tendency. Clearly, the writer of Hebrews reveals that it is a common and shared sin. When confronting this temptation, its' insidious nature won't allow many people to even acknowledge that it is sin.

But, it is sin. This is a sin with which we all corporately struggle - inherently as humans - and it threatens to affect even our standing as redeemed sons and daughters of God. When we discover what this entangling and clinging sin really is, our nature is to reject the Father's condemnation of it, and justify our reaction. But there is no hiding it any longer - it is the sin of discouragement ("lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls" - vs. 3).

Just so that no one assumes that this is another condemning message about how sinful we all are, be assured that we will instead explore how to overcome the sin of discouragement. It can be overcome! Our Loving Father does not condemn us for yielding to this temptation, but provides the means to overcome and walk free from it!

But first, why would discouragement be considered sin? By the nature of the word, we understand that it implies the stripping away and breaking down of courage. Why would God consider that sin?

Let's think of it this way: courage or boldness is always matched intrinsically with faith in the scripture. The breakdown of courage, boldness, confidence and hope can rob us of faith, and subject us to walking in the flesh - submitted to a life ruled by our emotions and circumstances.

God's Word declares: "Without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6), and "Whatever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). To walk in the Spirit, living in a lifestyle forged by the sacrifice of the cross and Christ's victory over the grave, we walk by faith in courage and boldness. Yielding to discouragement has its roots in fear, and fear will ultimately subvert God's plan for us to live in total dependence upon Him.

Let's expose some essential details about this deadly enemy. Webster defines discouragement as: the state of being discouraged, depressed or weakened in confidence - the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles. Synonyms of discouragement include being brokenhearted, fainthearted, oppressed, distressed or grown weary. It is clearly the opposite of encouraged.

In the original Greek language, the word 'athumeo' is translated discouraged, and it means to be disheartened, dispirited, and broken in spirit. Can we see why this condition is so menacing? Imagine the effectiveness of the Body of Christ if many of us are disheartened, dispirited and broken in spirit!

We said that Webster's definition stated the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles. What kind of obstacles are involved in causing discouragement? Our text in Hebrews 12 mentions weights, encumbrances, impediments, and hindrances. Obstacles generally produce fear, which leads to giving place to weariness, exhaustion, and losing courage.

The reason this sin is so deadly is that the obstacles that can cause discouragement are so common in contemporary life: personal failure, prolonged warfare, continued unanswered prayer, severe emotional strain, lingering physical illness, and satanic attack and harassment.

One or more of these issues, either happening just today or protracted over a period of time, contributes to our emotional stamina and can cause discouragement. Of course, as with most temptations that result in sin, discouragement can progress from feeling a little bummed out to a tangled web of deception that leads to frustration, depression, vain imaginations ("nobody loves me - nobody cares about me"), a critical spirit, resentment and bitterness, and ultimately unbelief.

Is there hope? Is there an answer?

Although simplistic in its presentation, the following steps represent a process of exposing this sin, acknowledging and owning our participation in it, and then defeating its development in our lives:

  • Widen the Circle;

  • Focus on Jesus;

  • Resist in faith; and

  • Run the Race.

Widening the circle means acknowledging and repenting of our discouragement, while involving someone trusted and mature who is able to act in our lives as Barnabas, the Encourager. I John 1:9 - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." James 5:16 - "Confess your faults or trespasses to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed." This is where body ministry is experienced, and small group ministry is absolutely essential! The nature of discouragement manifests like many other forms of sin - that is, the discouraged person tends to isolate and withdraw themselves from fellowship, relationship, prayer and expressions of worship. Widening the circle subverts that tactic of the enemy, and derails the potential for defeat.

Once they widen the circle, the discouraged may need help focusing on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3). Everyone needs support from time to time in carrying on in spiritual disciplines. Prayer, worship, fellowship, studying the Word - all of these and more simple elements of the Christian walk can be challenging to the discouraged. Focusing or fixing our gaze on Jesus, though, is more than what we do - it relates to who we are, and how we interact with Him.

The Body of Christ is called to offer encouragement, comfort, and strengthening. In the New Testament, this encouragement takes the form of consolation and comforting, exhortation, instruction, and admonishment.

Using these methods, the discouraged one is reminded of Jesus' victory, and strengthened for further battle.

"You have not resisted unto bloodshed, striving against sin." (Heb. 12:4) Resisting in faith is not a suggestion, it is a command. James declares, "Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." (4:7) By the practice of resisting and gaining ground, courage and purpose return and faith rises to a new level. To encourage, according to Webster, is to inspire with courage, spirit or hope; to spur on; to give help to; to lift the dispirited and despondent by an infusion of fresh courage and zeal; to fill with strength of purpose and raise confidence.

Finally, run the race. New Testament writers often used analogies to athletic events in their writing. Our Christian walk is not a short-term wind sprint - it is an Olympic marathon. It takes endurance, determination, courage and fortitude. Evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman once said that the Church needs a healthy dose of "sanctified guts" to stay in the fray and prevail to the finish line.

God continued to tell the Israelites as they headed toward their Promised Land, "Fear notbe stronghave courage." As they faced the uncertainties of their new lives in Canaan, they were strengthened and emboldened by God's admonition: "Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9. As the Body of Christ, we are God's instruments of encouragement to one another, as Paul exhorts the Thessalonians: "Therefore encourage each other, and edify one another, just as you also are doing" (5:11).

Let us overcome this persistent and deadly sin by exposing it, repenting of its influence, and helping one another to walk free!

Kevin Nuber has a Master's degree in Organizational Leadership from Regent University, and has been in ministry for more than 20 years. Send him your e-mail comments.

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