Brian Zahnd: Encourage Yourself in God

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Brian Zahnd: Encourage Yourself in GodTo help and encourage his congregation, Brian Zahnd, founder and senior pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri, developed a sermon series based on the story of David at Ziklag in 1 Samuel 30. When David and his men returned to Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had invaded the city, burned their homes, ransacked their possessions, and kidnapped their wives, sons and daughters. This was surely the worst day of their lives. But David did 10 things when faced with this horrible reality. In his new book, What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life, Zahnd discusses David's 10 responses and how we can follow his example. Here is an excerpt from the book, Step No. 3: "Encourage Yourself in God."

David could sink into the black hole of depression and give up and quit. Or he could ?ght back. But before David could ?ght, he would have to get his strength and courage back. As David looked around him, he saw nothing but discouraged and down­cast men. David had no one to encourage him, so he had only one recourse: He "encouraged himself in the Lord his God" (1 Sam. 30:6, KJV).

 From what we know of David, it is very easy to surmise how David went about encouraging himself. David took his harp, retreated to a solitary place, and began to sing songs of praise to God. No doubt David didn't feel like singing, but he did it anyway. To sing was simply a choice that David made.

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David didn't sing a sad lament bemoaning his situation. Instead, David sang of the majesty and power of God. He sang of the Creator who had spoken the worlds into existence. He sang of the deliverer who had already given him improb­able victories--victory over the lion, victory over the bear, and victory over the Philistine giant Goliath. Through praise and worship, David changed his focus. On the wings of a song his spirit was lifted above his present circumstances into the pres­ence of the One who is high and lifted up. The melodies of David's harp ?lled the air as the sweet psalmist of Israel sang praises to the God of heaven who transcends human limita­tion and is forever seated upon the throne of the universe.

The Bible states it very matter-of-factly: "David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." There was nothing about the circumstance that was encouraging, and had David limited his focus to the present circumstance, he would have surely gone into a deep depression. But David encouraged himself in God. In times of uncertainty and upheaval, God was David's constant. God was David's constant because God doesn't change. No matter what the circumstances, God is above it all, seated upon the throne of sovereignty and holding the scepter of dominion. Through praise and worship, David changed his focus so that by the eye of faith he beheld El Shaddai--the almighty God.

How did David praise God? Maybe he sang Psalm 34. In fact, I would ?nd it hard to believe that this particular song did not come to David's mind as he sought to encourage himself. David had written this psalm just two years earlier when God had delivered him from the Philistine king Abim­elech. I can easily imagine David sitting in the ashes of what was once his home with harp in hand singing these words:

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears" (vv. 34:1-4, NKJV).

David sang, "I will bless the Lord at all times." All times--good times, bad times, great times and terrible times. Even on the worst day of your life, God is worthy of praise. David sang praises to God in the middle of burnt-out Ziklag.

David sang. He sang the amazing lyric, "His praise shall continually be in my mouth." This is part of the path to encouragement. When praise is in your mouth, there will be no grumbling, no complaining and no negative speaking. Praise is the language of faith. If you want to strengthen your faith, begin to praise God.

Then David sang another lyric: "Oh, magnify the Lord with me." What does that mean? What does it mean to magnify the Lord? "Magnify" means "to enlarge or make bigger in perspective." When we magnify something with a magni­fying glass, a microscope, or a telescope, we don't change its reality. We don't make the object we are observing any bigger, but we change our perception of it. We cannot make God any bigger than He already is--you can't increase omnipo­tence, but you can magnify (or diminish) your perspective of God. Perspective has everything to do with whether you are encouraged or discouraged.

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