I suppose we all could use a little encouragement from time to time.
Webster defines the word encourage thusly: “to inspire with courage or confidence”, or “to support.” One of my favorite words for “encourage” found in the New Testament means “to come along side.”
When I was a boy working on the farm with my brothers, we were often faced with the task of moving an empty hay wagon or tobacco wagon which had been unhooked from the tractor. A member of our farm work force, usually my father, would grab the wagon tongue and call for help.
On many occasions I would throw the full force of my weight and strength into the back of the wagon in an attempt to get it moving. It was a daunting task, not to be accomplished by only one pusher.
Over the many years that have gone by, I have often recalled with great fondness and comfort the sense of exhilaration I felt when one — or two — of my brothers stepped up beside me and lent his strength to the effort. Any task becomes easier whenever someone “comes along side.”
It is a fortunate man or woman who has friends who come along beside them when there is a mountain to be moved, a challenge to be faced, a problem to be solved, a burden to be born, or a grief to be endured. To be encouraged by a friend is a wonderful thing.
One of my favorite characters in all of history is David, the shepherd King of Israel. From the time he was anointed king by the prophet Samuel until he became king, he spent years running for his life. The reigning King Saul, subject to severe mood swings and paranoia, was constantly on his trail. David’s many trials and tribulations during those years on the run inspired many of his best Psalms.
Over the course of those years David put together a ragtag army, described in I Samuel 22:2 “And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.”
I’m quite sure they could have been described as a motley crew. Both they and David were tested at a city called Ziklag. To make a long story short; the enemy, the Amalekites, evaded the south, smote Ziklag, and set it on fire. It gets worse.
The wives, the sons, and the daughters of David and his men were taken captive. “Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him.”
How about that? The distressed, the indebted, and the discontented turned on David.
It is here at this point in the story we find one of those little jewels so often found in scripture. “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
It did not say “David encouraged himself in the Lord”, but in “the Lord his God.”
David personalized it. Just as he did in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd.” Jesus took it a step further when He gave us the model prayer: “Our Father which art in heaven.”
His God, my shepherd, our Father. His, my, our — possessive pronouns.
It is a wonderful thing to have earthly friends who offer encouragement by coming along side, but some circumstances call for the intervention of a higher power.
Encouragement — we all can use a little from time to time.
I have referenced this quote from William Barclay in a column before, but it one to be shared often.
“One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement. It is easy to laugh at men’s ideas; it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasms; it is easy to discourage others. The world is filled with discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man – or woman – who speaks such a word.”
Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, Southern storyteller and author. A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a “Certified Speaking Professional.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2021 by Jack McCall.