Encouragement: The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.
Encouragement is an action word. It requires giving. And if I am to give to another, I first must possess something of value to give.
How can I offer support to another if I have no strength myself? As selfish as it may seem, sometimes the first person I need to encourage is me.
Perhaps my favorite Bible story of encouragement is found in 1 Samuel 30. David, the anointed king of Israel, was living as a fugitive because King Saul refused to honor God and abdicate his throne. Instead of ruling comfortably from a palace as one might expect a king to do, David was living in Philistine territory, covertly attacking enemy cities while maintaining the front of allegiance to the Philistines. For many years he walked this precarious life on the edge, leading a ragtag group of warriors as they picked off the enemy bit by bit. Never having a place to settle comfortably without the threat from their own countrymen or fear of discovery of their “double life.”
Having been granted the country town of Ziklag by the Philisine king Achish, David and his men settled there, along with their families. Things were relatively uneventful until the day David and his men returned from a three-day absence only to find Ziklag burned to the ground and all its inhabitants taken captive by the Amalekites. This act of violence not only reduced David and his warriors to weeping, but the hopelessness of the situation caused irrational thinking as the people considered taking out their frustration and grief by stoning David.
In the midst of this disheartening and terrifying situation, we find these words: But David strengthened himself in the Lord (v.6).
Though grieving to the point of exhaustion and fearing for his life, David grasped the opportunity to seek the Lord and gain his strength from God. In this time of despair, David asked God for direction, and he received an answer. The answer was to pursue and overtake the enemy, with the assurance that all would be recovered.
Starting out in a state of physical and mental exhaustion, David and his six hundred men made it to the brook Besor, but two hundred of the warriors were too exhausted to cross over, so David continued on with only four hundred. Along the way, they came upon an Egyptian slave who, having been overcome with illness, had been deserted by the fleeing Amalekites. Having been without food or water for three days, the man was weakened, so David gave him food and drink before inquiring as to the whereabouts of the Amalekites, With promises of refuge and freedom, the Egyptian led David and his men to the Amalekites’ encampment where they found the enemy dancing and celebrating the plunder of Ziklag.
Then David attacked them from twilight until the evening of the next day… so David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away… And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all.
David recovered all.
That is what happens when God is invited to come and strengthen us in our discouragement.
When David and the four hundred returned to the brook Besor with all the spoils, they were greeted by the two hundred men who had been too tired to fight alongside them. Some of the four hundred said, Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man’s wife and children, that they may lead them away and depart.
But David answered, ‘No, my brothers! Don’t be selfish with what the Lord has given us. He has kept us safe and helped us defeat the the band of raiders that attacked us. Who will listen when you talk like this? We share and share alike – those who go to battle and those who guard the equipment.’
So it was from that day forward; he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.
Not only was it in David’s heart to give to those who were weary, whom some considered unworthy to receive the spoils, but he took it a step further and even sent gifts of plunder to the elders scattered throughout Judah. He shared the bounty God had given him. Not grudgingly. Not sparingly, but freely and lavishly. And I can’t help but think all were encouraged by experiencing a share in the wonders God had done on behalf of his own.
Over and over the Bible encourages us to encourage others. To consider others. To stand in faith together through prayer and presence. But generally that only follows a time of first encouraging ourselves and framing our own mindset to be supported by truth. If David would have toppled with despair instead of strengthening himself and seeking God’s intervention, I’m sure this story would have had a much different ending.
But because David conquered the flesh of himself with the power of the living God, life was experienced by all.
Walking in the spirit of encouragement can be a hard task. There are days I would much rather sit and pout than strengthen myself in the truth of God’s Word. There are times when I’m hesitant to share the gift of hope with someone who frustrates me with their negative reactions to times of distress. There are moments when I am weary and would prefer to plant my feet on this side of my own brook of Besor when God is calling me to continue to fight for recovery. And there are times when I am afraid to seek God because He might be calling me to a battle I would prefer to avoid completely.
That’s when I would be wise to remember the truth of His Word, the encouragement I have in knowing I will never face a battle without the Lord’s presence surrounding me on every side. No matter how alone I may feel.
I daresay, most of us have never experienced a situation that required God’s hand more than the one David experienced at Ziklag. And if my God is strong enough to help David recover all, then I can place my hope in the fact that He will do the same for me and you.
Take heart this day, dear friend, and strengthen yourself in the Lord. He is mighty to save. Seek His will. Listen to His voice. Then walk the path before you – pursuing His will; trusting the Lord to overtake your enemy, and without fail, recover all.
I encourage you to read the full story in 1 Samuel 30. There is so much truth to be gleaned from this encounter. May your hearts be encouraged and your faith strengthened to believe that God is for you.