In 1 Samuel, David was fleeing from King Saul through the cavernous deserts of lower Israel. On one occasion during those desperate days when David was deeply troubled, his friend Jonathan came and “strengthened his hand in God” (1 Samuel 23:16).
But later David found himself in an even deeper hole in the town of Ziklag in 1 Samuel 30. His mentor, Samuel, was dead. David had been rejected and denied safety by the Philistines. The Amalekites had invaded his camp and kidnapped his family and those of his men. His friends were turning on him, and his loyal band of followers were ready to stone him. Saddest of all, his dear Jonathan was unable to come to him, for Jonathan was loyally preparing with his father for their final battle.
At that dark moment, we encounter a powerful sentence in God’s Word. It reveals one of our most vital spiritual techniques.
But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6).
Call it self-encouragement. Call it PTL (Praise the Lord) therapy. When our family and friends aren’t with us, when we’re between a rock and a hard place, when we’re in Ziklag, we’ve got to know how to strengthen ourselves in the Lord.
Talking to Yourself
When we listen to the devil, we’re led in the wrong direction. When we listen to friends, we get mixed advice. When we listen to our doubts, fears, worries, and feelings, we grow confused. Sometimes there’s no one to give us a “talking to” but ourselves. We must remind ourselves of God’s promises. We must quote to ourselves the great promises of God. We must count our blessings and remember God’s faithful mercies which are new every morning. We have to encourage ourselves in the Lord, force a smile back onto our faces, and say, “Praise the Lord anyway!”
Make Yourself a PTL List
An easy way to begin is by making a PTL list. You might do this on paper or in prayer. It might be on your computer or your calendar. If you keep a journal, that’s a good place to begin. Update the old habit of counting your blessings, and find a way of encouraging yourself with lists. List some of the things for which you’re blessed. Bullet-point the promises of God that most encourage you. Make a list of “praise verses” to memorize or “praise hymns” to sing. Practice 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Some people fall into despair when facing great trials. None of us are immune from that, of course; and each of us is sometimes stunned by the blows of life. But our faith should give us a resilience known only to Christians. We have Romans 8:28, the promise that all things work together for good. We have the assurance in Hebrews 13:5 that God will never leave us nor forsake us. We know that the eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27). We have the words of Jesus in John 14:1, “Let not your heart be troubled.”
Need some other passages for strengthening yourself in the Lord? Here are some of my favorites:
- Psalm 46 begins: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (verse 1).
- 1 Peter 5 includes the little verse: “Casting all your care upon Him” (verse 7).
- And Isaiah 40:28-29, with its majestic refrain: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.”
Sometimes we try too hard to squeeze encouragement from someone else. There are some needs only God can meet. It’s unfair to expect our husband or wife or pastor or friend to do for us what only the Lord Himself can do. Instead of succumbing to discouragement, we can strengthen ourselves in the Lord. And I can say without hesitation, this is the greatest technique of the strengthened soul. The best therapy for the mind is reminding ourselves of our Savior and His pardon, promises, provision, and all-sufficient grace.
As Psalm 92:1 says: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night”
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information on Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.
For a Christian to thrive in the current culture, it takes more than faith. It takes courage. Dr. David Jeremiah begins the series, Courage to Conquer, in order to help you grow in this important attribute-especially if you tend to react with fear to what’s happening in the world.