Depression & The Believer

Depression is a terrible spirit that ruins the lives of too many believers.  To be depressed means to deviate from our God-given personality and spiral downward in despair and hopelessness.  Occasional, temporary depression tries to attack all of us.  Moses got discouraged and asked God to kill him (Numbers 11:14-15), he said, “The burden is too heavy for me.” Elijah had a pity party under the juniper tree; he too asked God to kill him: “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life.” (I Kings 19:4).  Jonah too said, “It is better for me to die than to live,” as he sat under a gourd (Jonah 4:8).  These were all mighty prophets of God, but still human as we are.  I would say that asking God to kill you was an attack of depression, wouldn’t you?

Have you ever felt that the burden was too heavy, or that you had indeed had enough and couldn’t take anymore, or that it was better for you to die than to live?  These three men of God all made it through their temporary depression, though we’re not quite sure what ultimately happened to Jonah.   Depression causes you to see things differently from what they really are. It causes you to see everything in a negative light, adding with it the emotions of despair.  And while this type of depression tries to attack all of us at times, there are some who constantly live under the dark cloud of hopelessness and despair.  For them depression is a way of life.

It is easy to understand how an unbeliever can suffer from depression, for there is no hope without Christ. Yet as the examples of Moses, Elijah and Jonah showed us, it can happen to children of God as well.  While theirs was temporary, many others do not resist the devil, and allow depression to become a way of life. They accept depression as if it is a natural and normal part of their lives. It is neither natural nor normal. The Bible identifies it as a spirit! Isaiah 61:3   calls it a “spirit of heaviness. “

It is evident that one’s status in life has no bearing upon this terrible condition.  Many who are rich and famous suffer terribly from depression.  All of the material things that we think will make us happy only further the emptiness that is already within.  Proverbs 14:12-13 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow. “

I can personally identify with these verses.  Before I came to Christ, I sought happiness through drugs and alcohol.  I would smile and laugh like everyone else at the parties, but inside, my heart was sorrowful.  I took the drugs to escape my depression, but they only brought me to a further depressed state. Thoughts of suicide constantly barraged me. I felt there was no reason to live. My depression caused me to hate myself.  I felt like I was in a black hole and there was no way of escape. When Christ saved me, I was at the end of my rope. Praise God! He filled me with His love!  For the first time in my life I felt peace, love and joy! I have much sympathy for those who are in a depressed state.  I know what it feels like, but like me, you can be free!

I would like to be able to say that I have never had another depressing moment, but that would be lying. I am still human, and as a preacher I too, like Elijah, have went and sat under my juniper tree and had a pity party. However, when you experientially know the truth (John 8:32), it will prevail against the darkness trying to beset you!

There is such a thing as a demon of self-pity. This demon carries a message of self-preservation. Christ said “lose yourself,” this spirit says, “save yourself.” It was this type of demon that had been assigned to stop Jesus from going to Calvary and dying. This demon of self-pity even used one of Jesus’ disciples to try to stop him:

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not-happen to you [Greek:   "Pity yourself"]!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.

Matthew 16:22-23

Jesus was rebuking Satan himself, not Peter.  The devil was trying to get Jesus to pity himself and not go to the cross. Jesus immediately recognized this attack and put Satan to flight. Self-pity is never mindful of the things of God, it caters to the flesh and self. Those who entertain the demon of self-pity never do anything for God, they are too busy trying to find it in their hearts to “forgive God” for the bad deal He has given them. Their life revolves around themselves; therefore, there is no time to help others and serve God. In verse 24 Jesus gave the cure for self-pity:

  1. Let him deny himself…
  2. And take up his cross…
  3. And follow Me.

Unto the end, Satan was trying to get Jesus to reject the Father’s will of dying on the cross. Even while on the cross, Satan was screaming “Save Yourself! (Matt. 27:40). Jesus rejected the demon of self-pity at every turn.  Jesus came not to save himself but to save the world.  But for Him to save you, you first must lose yourself. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).

Depression, self-pity and heaviness are spirits; to deal with them in the natural is to ignore the root.  Isaiah 61:3 tells us what to do with the spirit of heaviness; it tells us to “put on the garment of praise” in its place! The garment of praise is something that must be “put on.” God is not going to do it for you.  A depressed person might say. “I don’t feel like praising the Lord.” That is why he stays depressed; he is ruled entirely by his feelings.  As long as the spirit of depression is tolerated, it will remain. Some are what is called manic depressive.  When they are up, they are all the way up. But when they are down, they are all the way down.  I have witnessed many Christians in this place of defeat.  For these people, praise must become a lifestyle.  Depression and praise cannot co-exist together.

With depression, a person is still at a level where he can free himself up through the power of praise.  One thing that depression has been designed for is to steal the praise that belongs to God.  Deep within, our spirit longs to praise God and fellowship with Him.  Depression clouds out the wonderful things God has done for us and casts despair over our lives.  Without a Praise Oriented Life, a person is prey to the spirit of depression.  Hebrews 13:15 says to offer up the “sacrifice of praise.” It must begin as an act of faith, for with depression, trusting God is a major factor.  At the core of a Christian’s depression is his inability to trust God. We know what Romans 8:28 says in our head, but it must get into the heart. God will work all things together for our good!

People in depression often enter a shut-down mode where they cease to care about anything.  Their family, their career, even their relationship with God – they are all casualties of depression. This high level of depression is an open door for further demonic activity in an individual, for our passivity is all the devil needs to begin to oppress.

Lying spirits operate strongly in the area of depression.  Revelation 12:10 calls Satan “the accuser of the brethren.” Remember, the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44). The only way he can defeat a Christian is through lies. What did he do with Eve? Deceive. What did he do with Job? Accuse. The devil lies to convince the child of God that God doesn’t love him and that the Word won’t work for him. Revelation 12:11 tells us how to overcome the accuser. It gives us three steps that I believe will also break the spirit of depression off a Christian’s life:

  1. Overcome by the blood of the Lamb. The blood of Jesus is given as protection and deliverance for you.  Plead the blood whenever attacked with depression, command it to leave!
  2. By the word of their testimony.  You’ve got to begin to change your confession from negative to positive, from the lies of Satan to the Word of God. The Word is the sword of the Spirit when spoken from the spirit out of the mouth!
  3. By loving not their lives to the death. This is the part most people leave out when quoting this verse. You’ve got to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Self-pity is self-destructive, it never accomplishes any good for the Kingdom of God.

Right now, put on the garment of praise and begin to rejoice before God and watch sorrow and depression flee away!

 

Note: the author acknowledges that there are chemical imbalances that contribute to depression.  This teaching is designed to address the spiritual component of depression, which is the most important.  God’s healing is available for people with chemical imbalances and the principles outlined above still hold true for those individuals. 

My Spiritual Birthday

Paul on the road to Damascus

 

Just looked at the calendar and realized that today, May 10th, is my spiritual birthday. On May 10, 1983 God delivered me from a life of drugs, alcohol, criminal activity and depression. It was about 2 in the morning and I was getting high at a friend’s house. I had stitches between my eyes and inside my lip and two black eyes from a bar fight two nights earlier. As I sat there, completely, unprovoked by me, the presence of God stood in front of me. It was as if I was picked up by my shirt collar and lifted into eternity. I know what Paul must have felt like on the road to Damascus when God struck him down. I left that house and began walking down the street crying out for God to forgive me and for Jesus to come into my heart. He did! It really did feel like a thousand pounds had been lifted off of my back. I was instantly delivered from all of my addictions and depression. Praise God! All these years later, I can tell you that God has been faithful to me, even when I made the wrong decisions or went the wrong way. He has kept me and I love Him. Thank You Lord for all that You have done for me.

Promised Land Captives, part 2

This is part 2 of 2 on our lesson: Promised Land Captives.

Numbers 33:52-53
Then shall ye drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: And you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.

God’s people were to destroy and/or pluck down:

  1. All their pictures
  2. All their images
  3. All their high places

If these influences were to remain, it would not be long before the Israelites were worshipping idol gods. This is exactly what happened; they did not deal with them as God instructed. Thorns in their flesh they were until they were brought into captivity. Over and over, Israel went through seven cycles of idolatry bondage and deliverance during the period of the judges.

There are ungodly pictures and images in the minds of some of God’s people. If they are not destroyed, the effects will be no less devastating then they were for Israel. As children growing up in a godless society, we often absorb the environment around us. Concepts and limitations are built into us, infused into our thought patterns.  Images of failure, pictures of abuse, all being used to form a distorted personality.

Childhood tragedy is a reason for future failure, not an excuse! Some cling to their past, refusing to step out of the bondage that their predecessors put them in. If you are willing, God is able to set you free.  Some will be all at once; some will be little by little. The disobedient congregation in the wilderness spoke over their children that they would be victims (Num. 14:3). However, God had something to say about that. You don’t have to stay a victim! You can be a Victor!

Numbers 14:31
But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.

Religion can’t pull down these strongholds. In fact, religion itself can be a stronghold. The Pharisees were the most religious people at the time of Christ. This is what Jesus said about them: “You are of your father the devil and the lusts of your father you want to do” (John 8:44). Jesus told them in another place that their traditions were making the Word of God of no effect (Mark 7:13).

God once used a brazen serpent on a pole to bring healing to His people (Numbers   21). It was symbolic of looking to Christ (John 3:14).  However, over the course of time Israel began to look to this bronze snake as a god. If God uses something in your life, don’t let it take your eyes off of Jesus. That is idolatry. King Hezekiah finally tore down the monument (II Kings 18:4), just like we need to tear down our religious traditions and formulas.  Charismatics may have more sacred cows than anyone.

High places were places of immorality and idolatry set up on the hillsides of Israel. The Scriptures say that many kings “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but did not tear down the high places.” A Christian can outwardly do all the right things, yet inwardly be bound. The high places of the mind – the strongholds – must be torn down!  Many people seemingly had it all together only to meet with disastrous fate. The moral failure of preachers can be identified with this root. Jimmy Swaggart was one of the mightiest evangelists in history; millions were saved under his preaching.  Outwardly, he was on top of it all. What went wrong? What would drive a man to lose in twenty minutes what took him twenty years to build?  Indications go back to the problem with pornography in his youth that were never dealt with. The stronghold of lust was never torn down.  It is not enough to be outwardly conformed to God’s will; we need to be free from the inside out!

It takes the supernatural power of God to pull down a stronghold. Weapons of natural wisdom and self-help will not bring lasting freedom.  It is also to be noted that you can’t cast the stronghold out. We’re not dealing with demon possession here, but controlling habits and compulsive behavior that stem from the battle for the mind.  Jesus said in John 8:32, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  It is not the truth that sets us free, but rather the truth that we know.  Dig into the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit begin to renew your mind and tear down all of the external patterns that don’t come from within.

Promised Land Captives, part 1

Romans 12:2 tells us that God wants us to stop being conformed to the world, but instead to be transformed by the renewing of our minds to the Word of God.  The word in the Greek for “conformed” means external patterns that don’t come from within.  When God delivered the children of Israel from Egypt, He did so in order for them to be free, not just physically, but spiritually and mentally as well.  However, Israel didn’t follow the Lord’s ways, but instead was conformed to the external patterns around them.  They never enjoyed the lasting freedom that God wanted for them as His people.  If we don’t deal with the external patterns in our lives, we will become just like the Israelites – Promised Land captives.  When God told Israel to go in and possess the land, He also told them to drive out the inhabitants and destroy their idols and images. The names of the seven enemy nations listed in Joshua 3:10, are very telling when the definition of each name is looked up:

Joshua 3:10
And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites:

  1. Canaanite: “To press down”
  2. Hittite: “Fear or terror”
  3. Hivite: “Compromise”
  4. Perizzite: “Lack of commitment”
  5. Girgashite: “Strangers”
  6. Amorite: “Word of murmurers”
  7. Jebusite: “Heaviness”

Do you recognize any of the enemies in your life? Are you in heaviness? Is fear controlling your life? Are you compromising with sin? It is time to face the enemy and drive out him out! God has promised victory, you don’t have to live in defeat!

God didn’t tell Israel that they would overcome all their enemies at once, but “little by little” (Exodus 23:30). God did not want any traces of these heathen idolaters left for the Israelites to emulate. God told them to destroy all of their heathen paraphernalia:

Numbers 33:52-53
Then shall ye drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: And you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.

God’s people were to destroy and/or pluck down:

  1. All their pictures
  2. All their images
  3. All their high places

If these influences were to remain, it would not be long before the Israelites were worshipping idol gods. This is exactly what happened; they did not deal with them as God instructed. Thorns in their flesh they were until they were brought into captivity. Over and over, Israel went through seven cycles of idolatry bondage and deliverance during the period of the judges.

 

We will continue with our study tomorrow.

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