If you are in a jam and no one is around to encourage you, strengthen yourself in the Lord. Assess your situation, ask God for wisdom and strength, be obedient in the ordinary requirements of the day, and express gratitude. That is called trust, and it catalyzes the strength of the Lord.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 30:3-6
When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 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.
David found out something about human nature, if he didn’t know it before this: the very men who flocked to his leadership now were ready to stone him when the tide was turned against them. Not everyone who loves you and follows your leadership will love you and follow your leadership when times get tough and sacrifice is required. Not everyone will stand loyally by your side when you make a mistake, especially if the mistake personally affects them.
When David’s small army went off on a raid, their camp was attacked and destroyed, and worse, their families had been carried off as captives. The men would have expected that their wives and children would be treated in the most brutal fashion. Understandably, David’s men were emotional.
What was David’s response to this desperate situation? He went to God. What did he do with God to get his strength? Who knows. For sure, he would have poured out his heart to God. Probably he recounted God’s call and His promises to David that he would rule over the people of Israel. Perhaps he recounted the many times God had delivered him, thus reminding himself of God’s unfailing love. Whatever David did with God, he was able to find strength in the Lord his God.
What a contrast to David’s response when he first moved to Ziklag (the scene of the Amalekite raid and the sources of David’s men’s misery). We are told in the text that he moved there because “David kept thinking to himself…” that Saul would eventually find him and kill him. (I Samuel 27:1). Once again he is in a tight squeeze, but this time he goes to God.
Even godly leaders can fall into the trap of humanistic thinking, or they can strengthen themselves in the Lord. In life and in leadership, that is a skill we need to develop. When the chips are down, and others are not there to lift us up, we must find ways to strengthen ourselves in the Lord. In his book, Keep in Step with the Spirit, theologian J.I. Packer gives a step-by-step guide for this very thing:
First, as one who wants to do all the good you can, you observe what tasks, opportunities, and responsibilities face you. Second, you pray for help in these, acknowledging that without Christ you can do nothing—nothing fruitful, that is (John 15:5). Third, you go to work with a good will and a high heart, expecting to be helped as you asked to be. Fourth, you thank God for help given, ask pardon for your own failures en route, and request more help for the next task. . . . holiness is hard working holiness, based on endless repetitions of this sequence.
Assess, pray, obey, thank—then trust that God is at work in your difficult circumstances, because he is. John Newton said,
Faith upholds a Christian under all trials, by assuring him that every painful dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of His love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by Infinite Wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his need.
How do you strengthen yourself in the Lord? The bottom line is that you offer old fashioned trust in the One who works things out for his glory and your good.