The Sin of Discouraging Our Brethren
Numbers 32:6-15
And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brothers go to war, and shall you sit here?…

The children of God are very prone to be discouraged. The truth is, that their path through the wilderness is not an easy one. The danger of discouragement being so very great, it is the duty of Christians to encourage each other, to exhort one another in words of kindness, cheerfulness, and love, to hold on their way. How beautiful is the example of Jesus, in the tender. ness of the sympathy wherewith lie encouraged the weak. But Christians are too often unlike their Master, wanting in that gentle and encouraging sympathy. It may be well to note more carefully some of the ways in which Christians most frequently discourage each other's hearts.

1. First, then, we may mention an inconsistent life. There is nothing so beautiful on earth as a consistent life, a life entirely consecrated to God — devoted to one great object, and guided by one great principle. Such a life makes people feel that there is something from God in true religion; and it greatly encourages those who are seeking Christ. On the contrary, the inconsistent lives of Christians are the greatest possible hindrance to the world, and to those who are weak in faith. There was great apparent inconsistency in the request of the Reubenites. They ought to have valued God's promise, and have wished to settle within the limits of the Promised Land; but the rich pastures of the territories already won, and situated without its boundaries, were a temptation to them. And Moses saw at once the effect that this example would have upon the hearts of their brethren. It would discourage them. It is just so with those who ought to live for heaven, who profess to be looking for it, and yet set their affections on things below — on the creature, or the world, or on money. This contrariety between the profession and the life cannot be otherwise than a stumbling block to the world, and a great discouragement to those who are weak in faith. Some it hardens in their unbelief; others are led by it into painful doubt and perplexity. It is no small sin to discourage our brethren.

2. But again, the natural heart is very prone to think that religion is a gloomy thing, a system of sacrifices; and this we cannot wonder at, as it only sees what must be given up, but cannot perceive what is gained. It cannot understand that excellency of the knowledge of Christ which makes sacrifices easy and delightful, and renders things impossible to flesh and blood altogether possible. Now, when Christians are gloomy and desponding, when their look is melancholy and their language dissatisfied, it tends to confirm the notion that true religion does not make the heart happy, does not give it rest; and so the wanderer, discouraged at the outset, seeks cheerfulness and pleasure elsewhere, and not in Christ. Now, why should Christians ever give such an impression of religion? Surely it must be of all things the most blessed to be reconciled to God, to have the forgiveness of all sins. It is true that the Christian has many trials which are unknown to the world, fightings within, as well as fears without. But his fightings are not hopeless struggles. They are the precursors of victory; for, says St. Paul, we are made more than conquerors through Him that loved us.

3. Another way of discouraging our brethren is by showing want of sympathy in their difficulties. Hardness and want of sympathy have much to do with making the world as full of misery as it is.

4. Another case of discouragement to others is our shrinking, or appearing to shrink, from difficulties. Moses evidently thought that this was the motive of the request of the Reubenites. They wished to settle down in a land already won, instead of sharing the danger of war with their brethren. "Shall your brethren go to war, and ye sit here?" The event proved that happily this was not the case. Moses was mistaken in his suspicions. But it is quite clear, that had this been the case scarcely anything could have discouraged the rest of the Israelites more completely. Now this, we fear, is not a very uncommon cause of discouragements. There are too many Christians who shrink from difficulties. They prefer some smooth and easy course, the pastures of Jazer and Gilead to the warfare and conflicts of Canaan. If some easy work is proposed to them, which is accompanied by no great difficulties, and which involves no real self-denial, they may be ready for it. But they do not like to take up the cross, and especially a daily cross — one that lasts long. We ought not to shrink from difficulties in doing the will of God. It is usually God's way to surround His own work with difficulties, and often with such difficulties as His own hand alone can remove. And this He does to try His people's faith, not to discourage them. Viewed at a distance, like the wall of some great fortress, they appear very formidable, but when grappled with in faith, one after another they fall away. There are beautiful promises to encourage us under difficulties (Isaiah 41:14, 16; Zechariah 4:7). Let us then settle it well in our hearts that we must have difficulties in doing the work of God; but let not these dismay our hearts or lead us to discourage our brethren.

(G. Wagner.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?

WEB: Moses said to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, "Shall your brothers go to the war, and shall you sit here?

The Faithful Rebuke of Moses
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