Encourage Yourself in God

How can you handle devastating circumstances? What can you do to move from doubt and despair to peace and confidence? Consider an example from the life of King David — a leader who experienced both tragedy and triumph.

In 1 Samuel chapter 30 we find David in southwestern Israel still on the run from King Saul. Saul had been disqualified from his kingship [1 Sam 13,15] and repeatedly tried to hunt down and kill David. Although this son of Jesse was anointed king by Samuel the prophet about 15 years earlier, David and his band of followers where in forced exile until God would fulfill His promises of establishing David’s kingship.

Here is the crisis they encountered:

“Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (1 Sam. 30:1-5).

What a tragedy! What a crisis! It got even worse: “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters” (v.6a).

Notice how David handled this worst-case scenario: “but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (v.6b). This is the final test of David before he was given rule of the Kingdom of Judah — and he passed the test. David’s experience demonstrates how to encourage yourself in God:

1. Encourage yourself in PRAYER and GOD’S WORD.

God had made provision to give “yes” or “no” answers through the high priest’s ephod (breastplate). [1] When David sought God’s direction (prayer), God assured him that they should pursue the Amalekites, and that they would successfully recover their families. [2] What an amazing promise! So David rallied his 600 men to faith and action (vv.7-9). Likewise, when we seek God in prayer, we “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Today we have the completed Scriptures in order to find encouragement and guidance: “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;… prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21). If you read your Bible daily, you’ll be more prepared to find relevant promises and encouragement in tough times.

2. Encourage yourself in GOD’S SALVATION.

The chapter concludes with a complete salvation (rescue) of all the families and possessions of David’s brigade: “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” (1 Sam 30:18,19). What a contrast to the initial crisis when the men considered stoning David!

Likewise, if you have received Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you can give thanks for your eternal salvation. As the prophet testified,

“Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.
Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:2-3).

Christ promised, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). If you know your name is written in the Book of Life (Luke 10:20) and that you have eternal life (John 6:47) then every other problem shrinks to manageable proportions (2 Cor. 4:17).

3. Encourage yourself in GOD’S PROVIDENCE.

God’s providence is His wise, personal, almighty, and mysterious governance of the activities in His universe. God did not only create, He also rules. We are taught that all things are under the direction and permission of God, “…according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).

In this story from the life of David we can discover several results of God’s providential control:
a) the servant of an enemy soldier got sick and was cast aside to die. He was found and revived by David’s troops and was then able to show them where to find their captured families (vv. 11-16);
b) After the victory, David established an important policy of the equal sharing of the spoils of battle (vv.21-25);
c) David was able to give gifts of the booty from the Amalekites to the elders of Judah [3].

So, this calamity did have a beneficial purpose, even though at first it sure didn’t appear that way!

God’s ultimate purpose for us is to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). With this goal in view we can appreciate the promise of the preceding verse: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (v.28). If we really come to accept God’s providence, then we will be able to, “Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18 Phillips; Cf. Phil 4:12,13).

Perhaps you know what it’s like to be at “Wit’s End Corner”

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Son, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?
Does the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember, at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Is just where your worth is shown.

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Blinded with wearying pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain?
Bruised through the constant sufferings,
Dizzy, and dazed and numb?
Remember, at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Is where your decisions come.

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner?”
Then you are just in the very spot,
To learn a wondrous lesson;
From Him that faileth not.
No doubt to a brighter pathway,
Your footsteps will soon be moved;
But only at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Can your real value and worth be proved.[4]

For the child of God, “Wit’s End Corner” reveals that we have no ultimate value, worth, and strength apart from our union with Christ (John 15:5). As we discover our inadequacy, we are prepared to appropriate the fullness of Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Then His promise becomes more precious than ever: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Fellow believer, whatever troubles you’re facing, follow David’s example and encourage yourself in God!


Originally published on September 16, 2001. Copyright by John Woodward. Permission is given to reprint this if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com.

[1] Ex. 28:30 Deut. 33:8 Judges 1:1 20:18; 1Sam. 14:3,18 23:9 2 Sam. 21:1. The exact description and function of the ephod’s “Urim and Thummim” cannot be determined with any certainty. All we know is that they were a certain divinely-given means by which God imparted, through the high priest, direction and counsel to Israel when these were needed. (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).

[2] “The Amalekites first came in contact with the Israelites at Rephidim, but were signally defeated. Ex. 17:8-16. In union with the Canaanites they again attacked the Israelites on the borders of Palestine, and defeated them near Hormah. Num. 14:45. Saul undertook an expedition against them. 1Sam. 14:48.” (Revised Smith’s Dictionary)

[3] This strengthened their relationship with David, whom they would soon appoint king of Judah (1 Sam. 31-2 Sam. 2).

[4] The mysterious aspect of it involves human free will and Satan’s opposing kingdom. Acts 4:27-28; Job chs 1-2. See Grace Notes “Living in Providence” and “The Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man: a Quest for Balance” [Theological Papers] at www.GraceNotebook.com

[5] Found in a collection by A. Gowlett, 1938; no author identified.

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Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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