Seek Encouragement in God
Edward Steichen, who eventually became one of the world's most renowned photographers, almost gave up on the day he shot his first pictures. At 16, he bought a camera and took 50 pictures. Only one turned out - a portrait of his sister at the piano. Edward's father thought that it was a poor showing. But his mother insisted that the picture of his sister was so beautiful that it more than compensated for 49 failures. Her encouragement convinced the youngster to stick with his new hobby. He stayed with it for the rest of his life and always expressed his gratitude that his hobby became his career. Each time when he felt uncertain about doing something, he took himself back to the day he found encouragement in what his mother said. Even the times when he failed, that kept him going. There isn't a single person on the face of the earth who never needed encouragement. The times come when our world come crashing down and we think, “This is the end!” But then...there is a way out. As if sent to us someone comes and gives us just those words we need to hear at the time. That was also true in David's situation from 1 Samuel 30. God spoke to Him at a time He needed understanding. Only God could have a comprehension of what he had before him. His situation was far more serious and complicated than the day we have once in a while that would make us complain, “Oh, I have a terrible day. The car broke down and the hot water tank went – and the day isn't over yet!” No, for David the situation was unbearable. He and 600 of his men were away serving in the army of King Achish of Gath in Philistine, one of the enemies of Israel. David was forced to go to Gath, because Saul threatened to take his life and to ensure that he and his men had the favour of Achish they had to fight in his army. But when David and his men returned to Ziklag, the place where their women and children stayed, they found it plundered and burned down by the Amalekites and their families were taken captive. Listen to how they reacted when they faced their reality – verse 4, “So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.” The men even took their emotions about losing their wives and children to the next level – they blamed David and talked about stoning him. You will agree with me – the man after God's own heart, was in a position none of us had ever been in and never will be. He needed someone to encourage him. To him there was no doubt about who it was going to be. He didn't sit down and think like we do from time to time - “Who should I go and consult with?” No, it was only God Who came to mind.
From the events in 1 Samuel 30 we learn two essential principles about Seeking Encouragement in God:
First – Seek Guidance And Direction From God. We read that David requested from Abiathar, the priest, to bring him the ephod. It was the attire worn by priests, because constantly they came before God in prayer. David was going to seek God's guidance and direction. He asked in verse 8, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” You see, when David fled from Saul, he didn't consult with God – he just went to Gath to “save” his own skin. In fact, he did something more, that could have brought God's wrath over him. He violated God's explicit instructions not to form alliances with pagan peoples. This time before making any move, he first sought to determine what the will of God was! This time David deliberately stopped to ask the Lord if he should pursue the Amalekites and try to recover what had been taken. If David had gone to God the first time, things would have been so different. Isn't that true of most of God's children? They first go after their own agendas and when it turn out to be one great mess, then they come back to God to fix their lives. Actor Kirk Cameron, who became famous for his role in Growing Pains, shared at Youth conventions, “I wasn't going to allow God to tell me how to live my live. I went after my own dreams. How wrong I was.” Psalm 32: 8 should become the guideline we live by every single day of our lives - “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Those words came from the same David. Perhaps it was after the situation of returning from Gath and dealing with the Amalekites that he wrote Psalm 32 to affirm what he heard so vividly from His God - “I will instruct you...teach you...counsel you.” He made a deliberate decision – “from now on God will be the One to say where we are going from here.” In 1 Samuel 30: 8 he received clear instructions from the Lord, “Pursue them,” He answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.” What was David's response to God's instruction? Did he sit down in the ruins of Ziklag and pitied himself for what happened? Did he throw himself before his men and cry out, “Stone me now, for I deserve it”? No, he believed God and acted. He took his 600 men all the way to the Besor Valley. There 200 of them stayed behind, because they were too exhausted to continue on. The excursion in Achish's army took its toll. But David and the 400 remaining pressed on. Perseverance is a wonderful gift from God. Though we sometimes feel we just can't make it to the next point in life, we find God's grace to continue. That was true for the prophets and apostles in God's service. That was true for so many missionaries in countries where they faced hostility when God gave them what they couldn't find within themselves. That gives you and me the driving force to continue on in God's service though we face so much opposition in our day. Though we don't have physical offences like David and his men, we have spiritual warfare. But we seek God's guidance and instructions and we have the urge to press on for Jesus.
That brings us to the second principle from 1 Samuel 30 – Wherever God Leads Us, He Provides. David and the remaining four hundred men crossed over the brook and pushed on into the desolate desert in pursuit of the Amalekites. But they were not able to find any trace of their families' captors. With each passing hour it seemed more and more hopeless. But then we see God’s sovereignty in a small incident of this story. They came across a sick Egyptian captive who had been left behind by the Amalekites. After David revived this man who was close to the point of death, by giving him food and drink, he listened to his story. Then he requested to be taken to where the Amalekites were. Can we appreciate in what great mysterious ways God always works? Here was a man left for death by the Amalekites, because he was useless and sick. But because David and his men were kind and humane to a dying man, they allowed God's provision to come into reality. You see my friends, where people of the world are always on the lookout for the big things to happen, God would sometimes place the little things right under their noses and they miss it. Can you and I even recall the little things God used in our lives to bring His provisions into reality? A renown scientist was honoured at a recognition function, and as the room was packed with colleagues, University professors and his family and friends, he went to give his speech. He started by saying, “There is one person in particular who was very instrumental in my success I want to thank. A person other than my family, professors, friends or colleagues. I invited the person earlier tonight to come to the podium.” From the back of the room came a bent-over elderly lady. People looked at each other and asked, “What could she have contributed?” When she reached the front, the scientist said, “She took me into her home when I went to school and couldn't afford to rent a room; she fed me; she brought me a hot drink late at night; but most important of all – I heard her pray out loud for me at night.” Because David and his men trusted God with His provision in this story, they were taken all the way to the camp of the Amalekites. The operation ended well for the Israelites. Everything that was plundered was recovered, including the women and children. We read in this passage that nothing was missing. What was the secret of David's success? We find it in verse 6b, “But David found strength in the Lord his God.” There is a perception among many people that it doesn't matter how you start, but how you end. This perception isn't one Christians are supposed to live by. No, we have to begin right; we have to begin all of our endeavours, all of our programs, all of our outreaches in the Lord. In the Lord, we have to work diligently and in the Lord, we will finish well. Let me ask you a question, “Are you discouraged about your prospects as a servant of God?” If in honestly you and I answer yes, here in God's presence, He comes and says, “Learn from my servant David and then Encourage Yourself In Me.” My friends, in the Lord no mountain will be too high to climb and no obstacle will be too difficult to overcome. May we unconditionally allow Him to be our Strength and Guide.