Lorraine E. Espenhain
“We sent Timothy, who is our brother and fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith…” [1 Th 3:2]
When the Apostle Paul and his companions were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in Thessalonica, – establishing a church there for the Lord – they were driven out by the enemies of Christ. Time and time again they attempted to return to Thessalonica, but, according to Paul, they could not, because “Satan stopped them.” In order to outwit the enemies of our Lord (who were obviously on the lookout for Paul), Paul then sent Timothy to the Thessalonian believers (instead of going there himself) in order to strengthen and encourage them in their faith.
All of us need to be strengthened and encouraged in our journey toward Heaven. In fact, this is one of the chief reasons why I write. My specific calling from God is to teach, strengthen, encourage (and sometimes warn) those whom He loves in His Son. Encouragement is absolutely essential – so much so that, in his letter to the church in Rome, when Paul lists some of the many gifts of the Spirit, encouraging others is actually mentioned among them. [See Romans 12:8]
It is truly a wonderful and refreshing blessing when God sends somebody our way with a timely word of encouragement, isn’t it? But, dearly beloved, it has been my personal experience that those times are often few and far between. I think that there is a reason for this. I believe that as we mature in the Lord, God wants to wean us off of human dependency when it comes to seeking for sources of encouragement and strength in the Lord. The Lord wants to be the chief Source of these things in our lives. This is why He has graciously and generously given to us the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as well as His written Word. For it is primarily through His Word and His Holy Spirit that we are strengthened and encouraged in our faith.
People are not always going to be there for us. It’s just a fact of life. If we start depending on other people to keep us pumped, strengthened, and encouraged in our faith, at some point we’re going to find ourselves sitting disconsolately by an empty well.
The Christian who aims for spiritual maturity is one who is learning how to encourage himself in the Lord, instead of depending upon other people to do it for him. Do you know, dear friends, that David himself had to learn this truth the hard way? David and his men had gone off to battle, leaving their wives and children behind at their camp in Ziklag. But while the men were gone, Amalekites attacked Ziklag and burned it. They then took captive the women and the children, both young and old. When David and his men returned to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives, sons, and daughters taken captive. David and his men wept aloud until they had no more strength to weep. Then, the men turned on David, blaming him for the tragedy. If David had not required them to leave the camp in order to go off to battle, none of this would have happened; their wives, sons, and daughters would still be with them. In their tortured and tormented minds, this was all David’s fault.
Poor David! He, too, was suffering, because both of his wives had been taken captive as well. If there was ever a time when David needed comfort and encouragement, it was then. But instead of receiving this comfort and encouragement, the men were talking of stoning him! How did David respond? The answer is provided for us in the following verse of Scripture:
“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 encouraged himself in the Lord.” [1 Samuel 30:6]
The story, thanks be to God, ends well. David and his men pursued the Amalekites, destroyed them, and recovered their wives, sons, and daughters. But when David first found himself engulfed in this tragedy, he did not know how it was going to turn out. There was nothing but destruction and sorrow all around him. Not only this, but everyone was against him and talked of putting him to death. In the midst of one of the darkest hours in his life, there was no word of encouragement or comfort for David. To keep his faith strong in the midst of the storm, David had to learn how to encourage himself in the Lord.
What goes for David, my brothers and sisters, goes for all of us who are in Christ. Whether we like it or not, we are going to find ourselves in dark and difficult seasons in our lives, and in those times, there are not going to be people at hand to strengthen and encourage us in our faith. If we don’t want to become completely unraveled and unglued – if we want our faith to remain strong and intact – then we are going to have to learn, as David did, how to encourage ourselves in the Lord. This is why the Scriptures are such an invaluable tool in our lives.
If it were not for the Scriptures, and the many hours that I have meditated on them throughout my lifetime, my faith would have been destroyed by Satan long ago. I’ve seen too many battles. I’ve shed too many tears. I’ve sustained too many wounds. I’ve carried too many crosses, I’ve weathered too many storms, and I have faced too many enemies. I should have been destroyed by the forces of Hell long, long ago, and yet, by the grace of my beloved Jesus, I remain with a faith that is still strong and intact. Hallelujah! This is the blessing of God that comes to all of His sons and daughters who have learned how to continually encourage themselves in the Lord!
Let us listen, dear friends, to what the Spirit is saying to us through these words. No matter what comes our way, if we have learned how to encourage ourselves through the reading of the Scriptures and the contemplation of God, like a house that is built upon a strong foundation, we will still remain standing…
…long after the storms of life have passed.