ENCOURAGE YOURSELF!

And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.  (1 Samuel 30:6; KJV)

Are you feeling discouraged, depressed, defeated, perplexed or fearful?  It may stem from circumstances you are facing or are about to face.  It may also be simply from the normal wear and tear of living in this world that has gradually sapped your energy, your hope and your sense of purpose.  For some, it may not be traceable to any particular circumstances or conditions they face.  It just seems like, for some unaccountable reason, the joy has gone out of living.  What can be done about this?  For an answer, let’s turn to the example here of David.

David had been running from King Saul for years before this time, barely escaping death on numerous occasions.  He could not go home, he became separated from his wife and he had to live in the wilderness of Judea, in caves and camps.  In fact, he sometimes couldn’t even live in his own country but had to cross borders into the lands of nearby enemy nations and there beg for asylum.  When this event happened, David was once more a fugitive in the land of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines.  In fact, he was nominally in league with them and had just offered to accompany them in a battle against Israel – an offer which they rejected and which he knew they would reject, fearing he might turn tables on them and join forces with Israel. He felt, however, that he had to make an attempt to join the battle or the Philistine king who was harboring him would suspect he was disloyal. What he did not realize, however, was that final victory was now nearer to him than ever.  Soon Saul and his sons would die in battle, leaving the way clear for David to become king as God had long before promised.

But David did not know this.  Instead, as he and his men returned from their rendezvous with the Philistine army from which they were rejected, they found that the Amalekites had raided their camp and taken everything of value to them, including their wives and children.  David’s men were furious with him. They blamed him for taking them away from their families in a fruitless gesture to ingratiate themselves with the Philistines. In fact, they were getting ready to put him to death.  This was the lowest point in David’s life up until that time.  He had nowhere to turn but to the Lord – and this he did.  The Bible says “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”  How did David do this?

This is important to know because many of us feel completely helpless at times. We cry out to the Lord for help but it seems not to come.  We wonder why we still feel discouraged, fearful, hopeless and at a loss of what to do.  We expect God to change our feelings or change our circumstances and when He doesn’t do either of these we think we have been abandoned by Him.  Such is not the case but that is the conclusion we draw.  What we fail to realize is that God has already come to our aid and He is waiting for us to take hold of the help He has provided.  That is the help David laid hold of when his whole world seemed to be crashing down around him.

David didn’t just sit there in dejection and defeat, waiting for his men to take him out to be stoned.  Instead, he encouraged himself in the Lord.  The Hebrew here is literally, “he strengthened his hand” in the Lord.  Hand here represents one’s ability to act, to take charge and change one’s position from weakness to strength.  We see David doing this in the Psalms, over and over again.  He remembers God’s promises, reviews God’s faithfulness in the past, reminds himself of the truth, and revels in the goodness of God.  As He does this, his heart is encouraged.  Not only that, but he begins to see what he must do.  In this instance, he calls for the ephod to be brought to him.  This was a special garment, normally worn by the high priest, upon which were sacred stones containing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Somehow it was used to enquire of God.  Using the ephod, David received the assurance from God that he and his men could overtake the Amalekites and retrieve their wives, children and goods.  So, instead of cowering in a corner, waiting to be stoned, David rallied his men to go after the Amalekites, which they did and recovered everything the Amalekites had taken plus much spoil.  Soon afterward came the news that Saul was dead and the way was open for David to return home to be crowned king of Judah and later, of all Israel.

We need to encourage ourselves in the Lord our God.  For this, we need a good grasp of the public record of God’s works, promises, truth and character.  That record is the Bible.  If we are a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, then we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit whose job it is take the things that belong to Christ and reveal them to us. (John 16:14-15)  Thus, He takes what He has already inspired to be written in Scripture and applies it to us.  We need to talk to God about what He has promised to us, what He has done in the past to fulfill His promises, what is actually true about us and Him and then have a party in His presence, rejoicing over His goodness, His faithfulness, His almightiness and wise providence in all that He does or allows to happen.  In talking to God we will also be addressing ourselves, the result of which will be strong encouragement and inspiration to do what needs to be done under the circumstances.  So, read your Bible, trusting in the Holy Spirit to make it come to life and thus equip yourself with the tools by which you can encourage yourself in the Lord whenever needed.