In the New American Standard translation, there are only 3 uses of that exact word, and they all have a nearly identical theme: the use of intimidation and fear to impenetrably, invisibly thwart those who are organized, resolute, and creatively pursuing a God-given goal.
In Numbers 32:9, Moses proclaims to the sons of Gad and Reuben, “For when they (your fathers) went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the sons of Israel so they did not go into the land which the Lord had given them.” (NASB)
Ezra 4:4 records, “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building…” (NASB)
Nehemiah wrote, “For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done…'” (Neh. 6:9b, NASB)
Nehemiah responded to this tactic with both prayer and an amazing question.
First, he looked upward and prayed, “But now, God, strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah was advised that someone was plotting to kill him, and that he should hide in the temple to escape a sure death; but his response was to ask this piercing question: “Should a man like me flee?” (Neh. 6:9c, 6:11, NASB)
That is an excellent, faith-and-character-revealing question: Should a man – or woman – like me…flee?
The answer depends on whose voice we listen to….whose statements we believe about our identity, our purpose, our lives.
To determine this, It seems to me that our daily walk with God and in this world must be actively engaged in “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”
(2 Cor. 10:5, NASB) It is not only God’s Face that we need to see clearly, but also our own. We are, after all, commissioned as His Ambassadors to represent Him with boldness and clarity, “accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15, NASB) That would include the truths that He states about us.
Each time Nehemiah was challenged, he prayed. After praying, he assessed himself through God’s revelations about himself – often spoken to him, personally – regarding his mission, God’s favor upon him, God’s confidence in his ability to fulfill his task, and God’s willing help on Nehemiah’s behalf.
Has God expressed similar statements over us, to us, about us? A resounding yes – many times over!
Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” (Ephesians 1:3, NASB)…”Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it…” (I Cor 12:27, NASB)…”Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, Who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge…” (2 Cor. 21-22, NASB)
Let me stop there for a moment, for I find it interesting that there is no New Testament reference for the word “discouraged,” but several for “losing heart.” Luke recorded that “He (Jesus) was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart…” (Luke 18:1, NASB) To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day…” (2 Cor 4:16, NASB), and “Let us not lose heart in doing good…” (Gal 6:9).
There seems to be a subtle distinction, here, between Nehemiah’s “discouraged” and New Covenant “losing heart.” In the first instance, it is stolen, someone being deprived of what is already possessed – courage, in this case. When something is “lost,” however, it has been voluntarily released.
I propose that, in truth, we who possess the indwelling Christ cannot be “dis-couraged,” because His own courage resides within us….but we can choose to lay it down, release it, walk away from it. Therefore, the attacks that come our way are not able to deprive us of “courage,” but only able to convince us, to make our minds accept a lie – the false premise that we have no prospect of victory in a given situation.
Should a man – or woman – like me, flee?
Not a chance.