In the last message, I discussed the need to become involved, no, deeply involved, with other brothers and sisters. We need each other! I have discussed this before, but in the relationship between Jonathan and David, there was a wonderful scene that we should look at. David had to hide from Saul because Saul had given himself over to the oppression of evil spirits and was seeking to kill David. Now Jonathan and David are meeting alone so Saul wouldn’t know.
David had to hide from Saul because Saul had given himself over to the oppression of evil spirits and was seeking to kill David. At some point, Jonathan (Saul’s son) and David were meeting alone so Saul would not find David. Jonathan told David, “Go in peace. We have promised by the Lord . . .” Now listen to this, “that we will be friends. We said, „The Lord will be a witness between you and me.” See? They were bound together in God! That is the best way to be bound together. We can call it Holy Ghost Glue if you like, but it goes even deeper than that! Their commitment went “between our descendants forever.”
Look at that. They not only bound “their” lives together, but they bound the lives of their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and children beyond that. There isn’t anything more profound and binding than that.
Then we can see the last time that these two friends will ever meet. They don‟t know it, but very soon, Jonathan is going to be killed in battle.
“David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph. He was afraid because Saul was coming to kill him. But Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh. He helped David have stronger faith in God” (I Samuel 23:15-16)
One translation says it a little better, “(Jonathan) . . . strengthened his (David’s) hand in God.” Isn’t that great? I can’t tell you how many times Lyle has strengthened my hand in God! Nor I, his? How about you, have you found yourself strengthening someone’s “hand in God“? Personally, you can’t find a greater joy than being able to strengthen a friends hand in God! I mean, to be able to call someone, or write them a note at the perfect time. At a time when they need it the most. I have had the joy of making several friends on Facebook — some I treasure deeply. I have often sought to strengthen their hand in God with my Morning Messages, or a phone call or a personal note — and they have done the same for me!
As I said before, when my wife was in surgery for cancer, I called someone, who at that time, was my Pastor as well as a couple of friends, asking for them to pray for Patrice, and they said they would. Whether they followed through, I don’t know. Many we make those kinds of promises but know very well that we won’t. However, when I called Lyle, he never said that he would pray for her . . . he simply said, “Let’s pray . . .” My Pastor didn’t do that! My other friends didn’t do that! But Lyle did!
I have a simple philosophy: When someone asks me to pray, I figure, why wait? Right now is a perfect time to pray . . . I remember praying for the daughter of a friend while standing by the shopping carts in a store. Did people look? Probably. But it didn’t affect the prayer any . . .
Now back to Jonathan and David . . . “David was afraid.” That’s where a friend must come in. Those times when we are weak, or worried, or any way burdened . . . we need that friend to come alongside us! Jonathan finds David and says “Don’t be afraid; don’t ever forget that God has anointed you. Take heart.” He strengthened David’s hand in God.
Isn’t it great to be able to strengthen a friend’s hand in God? I can’t think of a higher honor than that. When I was pastoring that was my greatest sense of joy. Galatians 6:1 says that we should restore one another; we are to refresh one another; teach one another; encourage one another. The fifth chapter of Ephesians instructs us to speak to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Isaiah 50:4 says: “The Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary.” Or, as the Amplified Bible says: “ . . . That I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” I wish we could all learn to have such an instructed tongue. Proverbs 15:28 says the mind of the righteous studies how to answer.
Proverbs 15:23 says: “A man has joy in making an apt answer and a word spoken in the right moment — how good it is!”
Just a side note, this idea of strengthening your friend’s hand in God (or even correcting those in error), is a fine and delicate art. Although, it is one we have to learn if we are to be Christ‟s ambassadors. We need to learn to minister the true comfort of the Lord. Sometimes they need to learn to believe their way through their times of trials. You won‟t learn that by listening to your own reasoning.
If you are ever called to give counsel or comfort to a friend, don’t waste your time consulting with flesh and blood, or going to the psychology books and recent programs from Oprah Winfrey. No, no! Draw your help from the counsel and immense wisdom of the Lord!
Well, since I started this I better give you some guidelines about this stuff. The first rule of counsel is not to give it unless asked for it! Often we “know” just what to say, but the one suffering may not want to hear it. Even when we mean to give counsel out of love, they won’t receive it. However, I bet if we were honest, our attitudes are often ones of spiritual superiority, thinking, “I’m going to straighten him out!”
Second, don’t add to their guilt! You’re there to bring wisdom and healing. You’re there to speak a word in season to him who is weary. Proverbs 12:18 explains that “there are those who speak rashly like the piercing of a sword (Ouch!!), but [now hear this] the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:25 also states that anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down [oh, don’t you know that!], but [I love that word! But!] an encouraging word makes it glad. I could go on and on, but I think the point is well made. Ask yourself why you are sharing counsel with someone. Is it for “your” benefit or their benefit?
We better get back to our story: Do you remember where we were? David was afraid of Saul’s threats and Jonathan came to comfort him. Jonathan told David, “Don’t be afraid. My father won’t touch you. You will become King of Israel, and I will be next to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”
What an amazing thing for Jonathan to say. Jonathan, who was physically next in line to the throne, was saying, “My greatest joy is that you will be the King, and if I can just stand next to you, that will be enough.”
Do you know how to support your friend in God? Wives, do you ever strengthen your husband’s hand in God and encourage him to do whatever the Lord has set in his heart to do? Husbands, do you ever strengthen your wife’s hand in God? What about you people of God whose hearts are bound together, do you strengthen each other with the Word of God and with encouragement? “You know Timothy’s worth,” wrote Paul, “how as a son with a father, he has served me in the gospel.”
I was sharing with one brother, as we began to see the Lord shaping our lives into this same type of relationship and making a covenant with us. He said, “I don‟t know if I can commit myself to you. I feel so weak, so small. I don’t have anything to offer you.” So may times people presume I have this faith stuff wired, that I must be spirutal superstar, or something. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have live by faith, just like you! I simply told this brother, “Alright, this is the time for me to pour my life into you. There may come a time later when you can strengthen me.” And those times have come over and over, as I had to adjust to raising twins plus two, a new job, leaving the ministry and working in a secular field, etc., etc., etc.
There is another brother, who after almost thirty years still brings great joy to my heart when we simply see each other at church. Over thirty years ago, I left a position of leadership — a position that fed my ego well, because people would call me (sometimes late at night) for prayer; I was invited to speak at other churches . . . I was frankly somebody “important.” But then I moved across the state and became a “nobody.” No one asked me to pray for them, no one invited me to teach, no one knew, or for that matter, cared who I was or what my background was.
It was an extremely difficult time for me to adjust to that. And my buddy John simply listened and shared when it was appropriate. He once asked, “So how’s it feel to be just another ‘cog” in the wheel?” Shoot, not too good, thank you, John . . . but he was there for support and correction when I needed it most. I have no doubt at all that our Father brought us together at the most important time! In fact, to this day, whenever I see John my heart is open and my countenance brightens.
But Jonathan said to David, “I am strong now, but soon you will be. You will be King, and I shall just stand by your side.” Gladly Jonathan hands over all the glory of position to David. What a wonderful demonstration of selflessness! “I shall be next to you.”
It’s interesting that in the book of Acts we find Barnabas taking Paul along with him. Everyone referred to them as “Barnabas and Paul.” Later it becomes “Paul and Barnabas” and even “Paul and company.” Barnabas seemed to step aside joyfully. That’s the Spirit of Jesus!
After Jonathan died, I wonder if David ever thought, “Oh, Jonathan, man I loved, I feel you next to me. In a far different way, than we thought, you will always be next to me.” Hebrews 12 mentions the “great cloud of witnesses around us.” The Testimony of all those saints through the years continually surrounds us and encourages us to “stand firm! Believe God!”
(Thank you, Lord.)
Personally, I want my memory to linger with somebody. I want to stand by somebody when I am gone. One of my life purposes, if you will accept my using that term, is to leave a mark on others through my life and my talents, which I hope will point them to God.
To leave a mark on others! Hmm, Interesting thought. A Hollywood partygoer I read about doesn’t expect to. She said, “The whole idea of life is living with enjoyment, as much enjoyment as you can from an imperfect world. If you fail to look at your life that way, you can go right through it with absolutely a zero at the end — I mean, when you disappear, so what? You haven’t left a footprint, a mark, or anything at all.”
How hopeless! She’s all dressed up for life, and nowhere to go! Contrast that with fitting your life into God’s plan for you. Then only He knows how deep, how wide your mark will be on eternity!
One day a guy came up to Jesus, scuffed his toe in the dirt, and couldn’t think of a great conversation opener so he said, “Sir, where are you staying around here?” Jesus spent hours with him and revealed to him the fact that he was the long-awaited Messiah (John 1:35-41).
That guy turned out to be Andrew, who went and got his brother Simon and introduced him to Jesus, and as Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the r-e-e-st of the story.”
These two brothers ended up seeing thousands converted in one day, writing letters which became part of God’s word, and becoming two of the foundation stones of the eternal Church (Ephesians . 2:20). Not to mention having their names written on the final Heavenly City of God (Revelations 21:14).
How’s that for making a mark, when all he did was approach Jesus and ask an ordinary question? When you hook up with Jesus, you have gotten to where the action is, and only God Himself will determine what the eternal effects will be.
Anne Ortlund tells of a time when they lived for several months in a country that punishes its citizens with death if they deny the faith of their fathers and become Christians. One night they were taken secretly to have a private dinner with a young man of that land who loves Jesus with all his heart. She writes:
“How handsome he was, and what an attractive personality he had! He sat on the floor across from us and said, „I can never have a girlfriend. I don‟t even think about a wife. I know before too long they‟ll get me.
“But, oh,” he said, and leaned across so earnestly, “my burning desire is to replace myself with several other Christians before I go.”
I’ll tell you what, that Hollywood partygoer didn’t know what life was all about, but that young man did! I Corinthians 15:58 says, “Be steadfast . . . knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Years ago I read a comment which I have kept all this time:
A solid bar, five inches thick, actually bent under the pressure of my hand! I couldn’t believe it, but a remarkable precision instrument convinced me!
This set me thinking. Am I . . . exerting ‘pressure’ on the scene around me — a pressure measurable not by ordinary means, but real? My very little strength may seem not worth trying to exert. But not all that happens is visible to human eyes.
Several years ago, I journaled all time and I once wrote in that journal, “Father, please, one hundred disciples in my lifetime!” Then I jotted down several scriptures while I was praying over this aspect of my life. One is John 17:19: “For their sakes, I sanctify myself, [Why?] that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” I have dedicated myself to this; I have set myself apart from lesser pursuits and denied myself other desires. It isn’t easy, and I have failed at times, but, just like when I learned to ride a bike, I climb right back on and keep working at it!
I also copied II Corinthians 12:15a: “I will gladly spend and be utterly spent for your souls.” I want that to be my only attitude. It was obviously Paul’s attitude and doubtless of thousands of other Christians through the centuries!
So, how about you? Where is your heart? Are fixated on your troubles? Are you more interested in what college team is winning? Or, are you ready to go hard of our God and pursue His face, and His face only?
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