Sunday, March 02, 2008

Encouraging Yourself in the Lord

Encouraging Yourself in the Lord
from 1 Samuel 30:1-6

Discouragement is a ruthless thief. It not only robs us of "full steam
ahead" service for the Lord, it also decreases the spiritual goods and
services others receive from us. Despair is a despot who despoils its

Those faith-filled and faithful souls who press on in the face of fear
and despondency have treasures to share with others. By God's grace,
these God-bolstered bad boys - in the nicest sense of the word - bless
others with booty from life's battles.

When life assaults one's heart and leaves breaches and scars, when
retreat seems the only sensible and survivable option, we need to follow not-yet-king
David's example in 1 Samuel 30:1-6.

"Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the
Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They
had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were
in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but
carried them off and went their way.

"And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with
fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David
and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more
strength to weep. David's two wives also had been taken captive...

"And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him,
because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and
daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God" (ESV).

How David zapped back at Ziklag - went from cinders to spoils to share - is beyond
inspirational. It is instructional. He models how to move
ahead in the Lord when we would rather just move away.

Charred houses, kidnapped families, despair and near mutiny greet David
when he came home to Ziklag. He had been excused from going to war
alongside the Philistines against Israel. They knew his heart - that he
would turn and fight for his people - God's people (1 Samuel 27-31). A
loyal man.

Relieved at being spared another battle, David and his 600 men returned
to a burnt city and abducted loved ones. What a way to come home!

After intense grieving, David's men considered finding comfort in
stoning him. Note: leadership means wearing a target and leaders often get
too much blame or credit.

David, lonely and discouraged, sought and found comfort and strength in
the LORD. He "strengthened himself in the LORD his God" (vs. 6). Instead of 
digging a hole, he fled to the Holy One. He rediscovered resolve in His redeemer.

Like Nehemiah would later tell of those who "repaired" Jerusalem's torn
down walls, so too David found help, repair for his breached soul. David found
fortification in the Father.

The word "strengthened" is often used militaristically - beefed up
troops. It speaks of being strong, courageous, to fasten to. David
fastened his hope in the LORD and it turned this tale around. Read
Psalms 27:14 and 46; Proverbs 3:5, 6; Isaiah 40 and 35:4.

To what or whom do you turn for encouragement, fortification, help,
soul-repair and mind-mending?

Who is your source of inner strength, resolve, courage (see Joshua 1:6,
7, 9, 18)? Friends are great blessings, but when they edge out God, we
rob ourselves of God's help.

Note: such help that David found comes not from gods of our own making.
We idol-crafters need to turn fully to the LORD God (1 Thessalonians
1:8-10). Ask Israel if their dallying with idols gets proven results?
"Judgment," they say?

To recovering, still-stinging freshly spanked idolaters we read: "For I, the LORD 
your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, Fear not, I am the one who helps
you" (Isaiah 41:13). Is the LORD your God? Take a self-test from Jeremiah 2:5, 11-13;
Joshua 23-24.

Finding gumption in God, David seeks His will, then pursues and
whips the bad guys. The Lord blesses him with full recovery of their
wives, children and stuff. In celebration and as a witness, David sends
out gifts from the goodies, perks from the plunder to several cities.

Had he stayed in his funk, sunk into his bog of despair, the story might have a very
different ending. Yet, he allowed God to gird him up for life and the battles ahead. What
circumstances have you hidden behind? What excuses do you need to confess as sin?

For us to have spoils to share from wars won by God's grace, we must
find solace and strength in the LORD (see Jude 20; 1 Peter 1:3- 2:3; Psalm 37). Who has
enjoyed the benefits of your seeking God? Who has been enriched by your encouragement in
the LORD?

Who has gone without - physically or spiritually - because you cling to
your circumstances and not the God of the universe? Read Matthew 6:25-34 and Jeremiah

What spoils can you share as a testimony of God's greatness? We must
seek strength and comfort from the Lord as if lives depend on it.

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