Encourage Yourself in the LORD
1 Samuel 30:1-6 (1) And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; (2) And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way. (3) So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. (4) Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. (5) And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. (6) 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. The city of Ziklag had been given to David by the Philistine king of Gath (1SAM 27:5-8), and from there David and his men went out to fight Israel's enemies. Upon returning from one sortie, they here found Ziklag smitten and burned, their women and children taken captive. Included in the captives were David's two wives. The loss of wife and child by evil is enough to try any man's soul. The grief of the men was understandable but their way of processing that grief was to turn against David. David had suffered also but rather than turn against his men or against God, he turned and “...encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (v. 6). David walked in Moses' steps, the faithful leader of Israel who often was blamed by the people for the troubles they underwent (EXO 16:3; NUM 16:13; etc.) and they “pushed his buttons” until he broke in frustration (NUM 20:10-12). It is the unenviable burden of those in leadership to be made the scapegoat for troubles that befall their followers but it is the responsible burden of those in leadership to not become embittered against them. Leadership can be lonely at the best of times, and distressingly lonely when otherwise good men turn away or turn against you. Sometimes it is the troubles that come upon oneself that estrange acquaintances and family. Job was a man of influence but when calamity struck him, he said, “All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me” (JOB 19:19). Such arrows from loved ones are especially barbed. These sorrows are best handled by cleaving to God's promises like “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up” (PSA 27:10). The apostle Paul's “family” were those begotten by his gospel (1CO 4:15) and spiritual family can be as jaded as natural family when trouble comes. Paul had to point out to the Corinthians that their problems were not the fault of their ministers: “Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels” (2CO 6:12). While Paul was in prison, he wrote, “...all they which are in Asia be turned away from me...(2TI 1:15), “...Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world...” (2TI 4:10) and “At my first answer no man stood with me...” (2TI 4:16). But like David, he was not without company or support: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me...” (2TI 4:17). He found in God a trustworthy Friend Who never forsakes His own (HEB 13:5), never breaks His sworn word (HEB 6:18), Who loved His elect savingly when they were dead in sins (EPH 2:1), ungodly and without strength (ROM 5:6) and continues to love them with provided strength for the burden of the moment: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (ISA 40:29). David, who in this time of distress encouraged himself in the LORD, said elsewhere, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (PSA 27:13-14). Such promises are as sure to the believer as the promise of eternal life to Christ's sheep: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (JOH 10:28). If we are encouraged by this promise, we ought to be encouraged by the others and gird up the loins of our minds (1PE 1:13) accordingly. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (ISA 26:3). How does one encourage himself in the LORD? Let David's example speak again. In the next two verses (1SAM 30:7-8), “...David inquired at the LORD...” He asked of God, “...And he answered him...” Much distress is borne out of a lack of following this simple pattern: pray, expect an answer, and seek the answer in Scripture for it is there where God speaks to us. Why choose to mire in misery when you can walk in wisdom and stand in strength? The things which God has written “...are for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (ROM 15:4). Comfort primarily means strengthening, encouragement (Oxford English Dictionary). While you seek, having made your request known unto God with thanksgiving, “...the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (PHIL 4:6-7). When Christ was in torment of soul as His crucifixion neared, “...there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (LUK 22:43), likely with the scriptures which promised “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell...” (PSA 16:10 c/w ACT 2:22-32). Encourage yourself in the LORD by not yielding to the fickle emotions of the heart but to the faithful promotions of the scriptures: “Hear thou, my son, and guide thine heart in the way” (PRO 23:19). The heart must be kept with diligence (PRO 4:23) lest its deceitfulness (JER 17:9) cause our faith to fail not only in the “down” moments of life but even in the “up” moments, as when the disciples “...believed not for joy, and wondered...” (LUK 24:41). Encourage yourself in the LORD by considering “...him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (HEB 12:2-3). The faithful scriptures declare a faithful God Who became human and is “...touched with the feeling of our infirmities...” (HEB 4:15). Jesus Christ suffered reproaches (ROM 15:3), alienation from family (JOH 7:5) and countrymen (JOH 1:11), weariness (JOH 4:6), fear (HEB 5:7), abandonment (MAT 26:56), mental anguish (MAR 14:33; LUK 22:44), injustice, physical pain and something that no other son of God experiences: being forsaken of the Father (MAT 27:46). As such, our Mediator is very sympathetic to our plight. We have not a God Who is so lofty that He can only guess as to what is plaguing us: He knows it intimately. Encourage yourself in the LORD by considering how inspirational the example of the Lord Jesus Christ is to you, both His boldness in confronting sinners and in confronting death. Then consider how that you can likewise by grace be an inspiration to others, as Paul was to those who saw him bear his cross: “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (PHIL 1:14). How we bear up (or give up) under stress is a testimony to others. Encourage yourself in the LORD by remembering that He genuinely cares for you, not just for your eternal safety but for your present distress and your future weakness: “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (ISA 46:4). Humble yourself before Him in prayer, admitting your perplexity, weakness, fear, loneliness, insecurity, whatever, and your desperate need for His relief and a token of His good favor, “...Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1PE 5:6-7). We are precious in his sight and loved (ISA 43:4). Let God be the One Who holds a “pity party,” not you. Tell God that you believe Him where He said, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (PSA 103:13). Then be bold at the throne of grace and plead, “Shew me a token for good...” (PSA 86:17). Then wait for God Who comforts those that are cast down to send a faithful friend, for example (2CO 7:6) in lieu of an angel, who brings a good word in due season (PRO 15:23), even if it is a needed reproof: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear” (PRO 25:11-12). Encourage yourself in the LORD by remembering that Christ said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (MAT 11:30). If your burden is heavy, check if it is a Pharisee burden of super-righteousness and artificial commandments (MAT 23:4; MAR 7:1-7), or a burden of your own making because you over-extended in the things of this world (LUK 8:14). Lighten up accordingly. Encourage yourself in the LORD by remembering that the afflictions of the righteous are many “...but the LORD delivereth him out of them all” (PSA 34:19), that weeping is temporary (PSA 30:5), that they are nothing compared to eternal glory (ROM 8:18) and lightly “...worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2CO 4:17-18). Encourage yourself in the LORD by remembering that NO distress (not even that which David felt, per our text) throws you out of eternal life. David had much sorrow and personal failings but knew, “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow” (2SAM 23:5). We have such a promise: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress...?...[nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ROM 8:35-39).