In the book of 1 Samuel, we learn that when David and his men returned to the town of Ziklag, where they had been staying, a tragic sight met their eyes. Amalekites had burned the town with fire and had taken captive the women, the children, and all the others who were in that town, intending to sell them as slaves. David and his men were so grief stricken that they wept until they could weep no more. Eventually, the grief of the men turned to resentment toward David. After all, if he hadn’t asked them to accompany him in a certain military campaign, they would have remained behind at Ziklag and would have been able to protect their wives and children from being taken captive. In their minds, this entire tragedy was David’s fault, so the men spoke of stoning him. Needless to say, David was greatly distressed. Not only was he grieving for the loss of his own two wives, but now the men were ready to kill him.
One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible can be found in this story, in which we read as follows: "David was greatly distressed, for the men spoke of stoning him because the souls of them all were bitterly grieved...But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God." [1 Sa 30:6].
David was able to rise above every dark storm or gloomy time in his life because he learned the secret of encouraging himself in the Lord. I am convinced that as we mature in our walk with the Lord, this capacity is something that all of us must eventually cultivate in our own lives as well. Whether we like it or not, our friends and loved ones are not omnipresent; they simply cannot be there for us all of the time, especially when we’re going through a difficult or discouraging time. In my own life I have found that even when people are there, it isn’t always enough. There are times when God is doing such a deep work in my heart or spirit, that no flesh can help me get through it. It’s a spiritual need, not a human need; therefore only the Spirit can take me through it.
How do we encourage ourselves in the Lord? What exactly does it entail? This is completely up to each individual, for each of us has our own preference. The way I encourage myself in the Lord may not be your way, and vice versa. David wrote Psalms for the Lord. He prayed and meditated on God’s Word. He played music before the Lord. That was his way.
When I need to encourage and strengthen myself in the Lord, I pick up my Bible and a hymnal and go off to a quiet room. As I read the Bible, I meditate on the things which I read. What is God saying to me? Are there areas in my life that need to be changed in the light of what I am reading? I then pray to the Lord by incorporating the things which I read in the Bible into my prayers. I will then open up my hymnal, find a song, and then read, meditate, and reflect on the words of that song. Read? Reading the words to a song? Yes! I have found that when I attempt to sing the song, I lose sight of the words because I’m so focused on my voice or getting the tune right. But by reading the words of the song (slowly and thoughtfully), I’m able to focus on the message of the hymn. When I do these things, I find myself entering another realm - a heavenly realm, and this does unbelievable things for my spirit. When I ‘return to earth,’ I’m a different person.
If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself, and see where God’s Spirit will take you! Is the stress of the Christmas season getting you down? Go off to a quiet place and meditate on the words to Silent Night! Holy Night! Completely lose yourself in those words and see how fast you’ll get the Christmas spirit back in your life.
Again, I share with you the things that work for me. This is how I encourage and strengthen myself in the Lord. Your way may be completely different.
One of the problems in our society is that we don’t give ourselves the quiet time so desperately needed in order to encourage and strengthen ourselves in the Lord. But without this necessary quiet time, we’ll never learn the secret of David’s strength.
I have found that when I do the things which strengthen and encourage me in my faith, I then have the joy, enthusiasm, zeal, inspiration, and desire to reach out to others and help them. A minute ago, it was I who needed the comfort. But when I encouraged myself in the Lord, the Lord was able to use me to comfort and minister to others instead. Many of my teachings are the result of this very principle.
One of the fruits of spiritual maturity is the ability to encourage ourselves in the Lord, but in order to do this, we must discover the method that works for us. If we don’t learn this vital secret, we’ll find ourselves on a collision course with discouragement.
When I was younger, I often fell into Satan’s trap by allowing myself to become angry or discouraged because people never seemed to be there for me. If I went to my mailbox and saw that it was empty, I would say to myself, "I’ve sent so many encouraging notes, letters, and cards to others; is there no one to think of me when I could use an encouraging word myself?" Tragically, this anger and discouragement often caused me to stop serving others for a season, because I would say to myself, "Why bother, since it’s never reciprocated?" The road to repentance on this issue was long, difficult, and painful, but by the grace of God, I learned how to overcome because I discovered David’s secret. I learned how to encourage myself in the Lord.
As we mature in our walk with Christ, we will find ourselves depending more and more on God and less and less on man. Because I’ve learned how to encourage myself in the Lord, I no longer depend on man to do it. If I have man’s encouragement, this is good. But if not, I’m still able to go on because I’ve learned how to draw from another Well - a Heavenly Well - that is not of this world. God and God alone has truly become the sole Source of my strength, and for this, I give Him praise.
May God teach all of us how to encourage and strengthen ourselves in Him, just as David did long, long ago. May He show us the method that works for us, that we may find our strength in Him...
...and only Him.
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