Encourage Yourself

“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6

walklikejesusI spoke to a lot of people today who were discouraged and were needing some encouragement. I am beginning to think that the words encourage yourself in the Lord are a lifeline. There will often be times when no one is around to give you the boost that you need. To press in and receive God’s heart in a lot of situations requires us to find answers in His Word and not from those around us. Human as we are, we are quick to ask someone or wait for someone to pull us up by our bootstraps.

I think it is the same with any kind of discipline or relationship. There comes a point where we need to take responsibility and not expect everyone to do the work for us. Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when our hearts may take more than encouraging ourselves in Him, but I think this is a discipline worth learning. We can’t count on others to keep us alive spiritually. It is kind of like me asking you to keep my marriage in a good place. Nobody else can do that for me. Or for you.

I remember when I first became a Christian. My Mom was a prayer warrior. So whenever I had an issue or a prayer request, I would call her and ask her to pray. Oftentimes, I wouldn’t do it myself. I hadn’t been raised to press in to things and if they seemed too hard, I would ask someone else to do it or look for an easy solution. I tell you I am still reaping the consequences of that kind of thinking. Perseverance was not a quality that was instilled in me. I learned the hard way when my Mom passed away that in order to have relationship with Jesus, I needed to talk to Him myself.

I really had no idea that I relied on her encouragement and prayers as much as I did until the silence ensued after she died. Encouraging ourselves is not just blowing smoke to ourselves and being positive but to dig in deep, lift your eyes up to the hills and let God be the one that brings the encouragement. Our words need to be filled with His truth and not used to speak defeat over our lives.

Chuck Norris wrote the foreword to a book called Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris, he wrote, “Today we live in a culture that promotes comfort, not challenges. Everything is about finding ways to escape hardship, avoid pain and dodge duty. In the past, young people were expected to make significant contributions to society.” The Harris twins write about combatting the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility. I think this statement speaks loudly of what our culture has been doing in the last generation. Out of brokenness, this vacation from responsibility mentality has carried over into our lives as adults.

Hence, it has carried over into our spiritual lives with an expectation that God will just do things or a miracle will bail us out (not that miracles aren’t possible but they don’t teach us as process can) or that someone else will help to carry this responsibility. I think our spiritual, emotional and physical lives will come to a standstill or spin on a hamster wheel until we really take the bull by the horns per se. I am preaching at myself too.

The story in 1 Samuel 30 finds David coming back from being turned away from fighting with the Philistines only to discover that the Amalekites had burned Ziklag and taken their wives and children. David’s men in their distress talked about killing him even though David had experienced the same losses. Instead of giving in to blaming, David sought his encouragement from the Lord and looked for a solution in Him. Because he took this stance and listened to the Lord’s wisdom, they were able to recover every person.

David chose to be encouraged in the Lord. This meant pressing in and seeking Him in the midst of trouble. He could have easily given in to the blame or the hurt of rejection by His brothers/soldiers, or just the difficulty of the situation. He talked to God himself. Often, that is just what we need to do, talk to Him ourselves.

There is a song called Encourage Yourself by Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers. encourageThese are some of the words. We are more than conquerors. Don’t let the enemy speak lies into your discouragement. Don’t take a vacation from your responsibility to encourage yourself in the Lord. By learning this, encouragement will be quick on your tongue to speak to others that need it or to teach them how to seek it.

Psalm 10:17, “You Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them and you listen to their cry.”

Everything but Ordinary

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

Ordinary – with no special or distinctive features, normal. Commonplace or standard. 

I have recently discovered that right now we are in what is called Ordinary Time according to the church or liturgical calendar. If we defined this by our worldly standards it would not be very significant. The reason it is called Ordinary Time is quite the opposite of our understanding. It is a reflection of the quality of God as the Divine Orderer of Creation. It is meant to be a fruitful time.

January has become a time that people set new goals and recommit to old ones and it is to be a time of hope and new beginnings. Often though, people are blue after the holidays or feeling lost without all the busyness and people and celebrations. Ordinary Time is a time to reflect on how God intervenes in the world and brings His divine presence into the chaos of our life. It is an invitation to practice our faith and relationship with God in the quiet. This made me reflect and think that God is everything but ordinary yet He often works through people who are.

In the verse in Acts above Peter and John had been arrested and were being questioned by the chief priests and elders after they had healed a lame man. The council recognized them as ordinary men which in those days would mean not educated in some way. Kris Vallotton said,” Until you have done the ordinary, you don’t have a place to do the extraordinary.” God called Peter and John strategically to show His glory in their weakness.

Sometimes we only think things count if we have a story to tell. I believe that it is in these Ordinary Times that God is creating your story, it is in the seemingly ordinary things that you are training. Kris also said, that Jesus is going to look for you at your place of responsibility. He called Peter and John while they were fishermen, not after they got an education or became extraordinary, it was God in them that made them extraordinary. What has He given you responsibility for? Faith, family, job, school, ministry? He is waiting for you at that place.

My story today is a stomach bug and so my place has been bed, computer, bathroom x 50 and podcasts are my friend today. So I was challenged by this question in my ordinary time of being confined at home to what has God given me responsibility for. Top 3, my relationship with Him, my family and my ministry of encouragement. Today He met me in the middle of my bug and I could still write, still send notes to encourage as I learned more about Him and checked on my family. In and of themselves none of these things may seem extraordinary but God is in all of it so He adds that dimension.

I encourage you to let Ordinary Time open your heart to His dreams and desires for you this season. The world will be astonished that an ordinary person had been with Jesus and is doing extraordinary things.