By Maria Fontaine
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Sometimes we can each be hit very hard with condemnation and feeling that we’ve failed in some major way—when things are difficult in your work or personal life, or when you’re in a downward spiral and you just can’t seem to pull out of it, or when you feel you’re not making progress toward your life goals. Some have said that the Devil’s favorite tactic with Christians is discouragement—and I would add that condemnation follows close behind.
“Condemn” in the Bible is based on a Greek word that means, among other things, “to know something against.” When you feel condemned, it’s often because you know something against yourself; you feel bad, guilty, or remorseful because you did something wrong, or at least think you did. Often the problem is in the “thinking,” because the more you dwell on it, the worse it gets, leading to intense discouragement and despair.
When we yield to condemnation, this effectively cancels out our faith to ask the Lord for victory, because we feel we don’t deserve it and thus have no right to ask for it. When we give in to discouragement and condemnation, we are in effect relinquishing our power to fight for victory. Once you’re in the pits of condemnation, it’s very hard to climb out, because the Enemy tries to convince you that that’s right where you belong.
We can also feel the pressure of wanting to do everything the Lord may be asking of us and the feeling of failure that we weren’t able to do it, as well as feeling that we are disappointing the Lord and others in not being able to measure up. We’re supposed to “pray without ceasing.”1 We’re supposed to praise constantly.2 We’re supposed to give thanks in all things.3 We’re supposed to be unselfish and love our neighbors as ourselves.4 We’re supposed to be a light on a hill and the salt of the earth.5 We’re supposed to be generous and hospitable, to give to everyone that asks us, to turn the other cheek when we are wronged.6 Of course we’re not going to be successful in every respect all the time. We all fall far, far short of that. So how do we change our mindset in this?
We have such a wonderful God. He knows us so well and loves us unconditionally. He isn’t there with a measuring stick and a clipboard, charting our progress; rather, He rejoices each time we make a step to follow Him, and He loves our love for Him—plain and simple. So if you’ve been struggling with condemnation or feelings of failure, don’t worry! The Lord knows that we can’t be perfect, and we never will be perfect.
This reminds me of the story of the Sultan and Satan. When Satan came to wake up the Sultan for his prayers, it surprised the Sultan that the Devil would want him to pray. When he asked Satan why he was waking him to pray, the Devil gave him all sorts of phony excuses at first. When the Sultan persisted, the Devil finally explained that if the Sultan accidentally overslept one day and missed his prayers, he would be penitent and humble, and thus even closer to the Lord. But if he was perfect in every area of his prayer life and never missed a day, he would become proud and self-righteous and would be the worse for it. So we can thank the Lord that we’re not perfect! It keeps us humble and desperate with Jesus, and reminds us constantly how much we need Him.
He knows we’ll slip and fall, make mistakes and fail sometimes. But He uses such experiences as steppingstones that draw us closer to Him, enabling His strength to be made perfect in our weakness. He looks at our hearts, and when He sees that we’re sincerely trying to please Him, He rewards and blesses us accordingly, despite any stumbles and falls. So may the Lord help us all to continually remember how weak and incapable we are, and that it just has to be the Lord in us. It’s all got to be a miracle of the grace of God. Even our obedience to Him is a miracle, for which we have to give Him all the glory. Praise the Lord!
So remember, the Lord knows that you’re not perfect. You’re never going to be able to completely fulfill His commandments in the Word in every instance, in every area of your life. He gives us goals to shoot for, but He knows that we’re not going to attain to the standard of the Word in every area all the time.
The goals that He’s given us are heavenly goals—and we’re still human, and will make mistakes and fall short. If you can learn to handle your mistakes the right way—by asking the Lord about them, letting them humble you and bring you even closer to the Lord—then even your mistakes work for you, and will make you humbler, wiser, more desperate, and thus more useful to the Lord.
Whatever you do, don’t yield to condemnation! Jesus doesn’t condemn you, so don’t let the Enemy condemn you. Simply refuse to accept it. As long as you keep going and committing your ways to the Lord, you’re not a failure. As long as you keep fighting, you’re making progress. You can trust that you’re making progress as you do your best to follow Jesus, because step by step the Lord will continue to lead you along the path of His will.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”—Romans 8:1–27
Victory over condemnation
“It’s not My will for you to feel condemned. It’s as simple as that. I don’t condemn you. I don’t look at your faults and shortcomings.
“In some cases when you feel under condemnation, it’s because you know there is something you could do better. It’s true that you’re not perfect. You make mistakes. But I love you anyway, and I’m willing to help you in any area you need, and to overlook your faults when I see that you’re sincerely trying to please Me.
“If you feel that you’re not doing what you can, or that there are many areas where you really need to do better, then determine to do better and start taking steps in the right direction. Surrender to Me whatever area you feel you need to grow in. Bring it before Me, receive My words of counsel and instruction, and then do your best to put them into practice. It’s not My will for you to feel condemned. Can you believe that? In believing My words you will find the victory over condemnation.”
“Most people feel inferior. Most people feel like they don’t measure up and that they’re failing, and their fear of failure is the worst fear of all. Most people need to know that, although they’re earthen vessels, they have the power of the universe within themselves—the Holy Spirit—and because of this, they can be powerhouses!
“I don’t look at your lacks and failures; I look at the progress you’re making. I look at the ground you’ve gained. The gains are what count; the losses are negligible. It’s a good way to keep score, isn’t it? But this is very hard for people to believe. When you keep score, you look primarily at how many mistakes you’ve made, and this causes you to be too hard on yourself. You must remember that when I put forth these challenges to you, they’re goals. I don’t expect you to instantly reach the goals that I put forth. I just expect you to start trying, to start praying and putting your energy toward reaching those goals.
“What I see when I look at you is your great love and your desire to do the right thing for Me. I judge you by your heart and by your love for Me and others—not by perfection or achievements.”
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”—Romans 8:31–348
Originally published January 2000. Adapted and republished May 2014.
Read by Irene Quiti Vera.
1 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
2 Psalm 34:1.
3 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
4 James 2:8.
5 Matthew 5:13–14.
6 1 Peter 4:9–10; Matthew 5:42, 39.