Saturday, August 19, 2017

Encouragement

November 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14).

Four years ago I rededicated my life to the Lord after a decade of prodigal living and was so excited with all the things the Lord was doing in my life that “encouragement” was something I didn’t think I needed much of. I married a beautiful Christian woman, started a new business at the Lord’s prompting and was riding the wave of exponential spiritual growth that the Holy Spirit was pouring into my life. The fire in my life was palpable and was encouraging all on its own, but this was to change as all things in life do.

Today, the business is closed and I am working part time for the Air National Guard, finding myself in the desert of waiting on the Lord. I often find in my day-to-day Christian walk that my biggest enemy can be the spirit of discouragement. It can be very subtle and often manifests itself simply as a discouraging thought passing through my mind or misinterpreting circumstances that didn’t quite go the way I expected. It is what keeps my mouth shut when I need to be witnessing and allows my feet to stray from the path God has for my life. Now I ask, “How did this happen?”

What causes us as new creatures in Christ to allow this hindrance to occur in our walks? In my walk the discouragement comes when I am waiting on the Lord. When I am hard charging for the Lord I have a sharp focus and am single-minded. When I am waiting on the Lord it seems that thoughts such as, “Lord, when are you coming back? Why is my wife constantly battling sickness and injury? Will I be effective at my job working only part-time?” Take a larger role in my life. This doesn’t seem right, but the Lord is showing me why the waiting period is important and how it should be a time of renewing my fellowship with Him instead of an opportunity for the enemy to sow tares of doubt and fear.

Scripture has always been my first source of encouragement and the Psalms of David speak so clearly to a discouraged heart. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14). It is encouraging that the Lord is faithful to strengthen those that believe in His goodness. I like that it is God who strengthens me because I know that my own strength is so weak and insufficient.

The military uses acronyms to form a common system so the users can expedite the flow of information and have concise communication. To help me remember the practical steps I need to take in times of discouragement I have created the acronym ENCOURAGE.

Encounters with God – I must pray, read the Word, meditate and daily walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16)
New Man – Put off the old man and put on the new man (Eph. 4:20-24)

Communicate – Talking and praying with other Christians to encourage us (Matt. 18:20)

Others – Evangelism and serving take my mind off of me and on the love of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20)

United with Christ – Our relationship is my daily focus and I want more of Him and less of me (Gal. 2:20)

Remember – Christ’s death for my salvation (Romans 5:8)

Assemble – Fellowship is essential for prayer, worship and exhortation (Heb. 10:24-25)
Gifts of the Spirit – The Holy Spirit distributes gifts to profit all (1 Corinth. 12:1-11)

Eternity – God has put eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11-15) and offers eternal life (Rom. 6:23)

I like to think of my relationship with Jesus as a long road trip. At the beginning there is so much excitement but there are also hours spent packing and planning the trip. I know the start and the end point, but I don’t know what lies in between. We hit the road and the first few hours fly by as the adrenaline of the adventure kicks in. Then things seem to settle in as the cruise control is set and the miles seem to tick by at a nice pace. Sometimes we talk and sometimes it is quiet. There are moments when we belly laugh and times when tears are the only thing rolling.

There are so many challenges on this trip that can be discouraging. Head winds, road construction, bad weather and a flat tire seem to be so frustrating at times and at best unpredictable. It’s nice that I have Jesus with me. I’m amazed at the scenery and I thank Him for it. I am lost in my thoughts and He smiles at me in only the way He can, making me feel like I am the most important person in the world even though I know He loves everyone else just as much as me. We are getting close and Jesus nudges me awake from my nap. He has that twinkle in His eye that tells me this is only the beginning. It’s so nice to have Jesus with me. I have heard it said that the journey is often more important than the destination, but I disagree. They are equally important and I’m so glad that Jesus is with me.

Ryan Stern is a Captain in the Air National Guard and a Volunteer for the Soldiers Bible Ministry.

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