When Our Strength is Gone
Yogi Berra is regarded as one of baseball’s all-time greats. He spent the majority of his career as the catcher for the New York Yankees. Berra received many awards and honors throughout his storied career. He is thought by many to be the greatest catcher to have ever played the game, though obviously it depends on who you ask.
Yogi was just as lively off the field as he was on the field. He is known for his pithy comments and witticisms, known as “Yogi-isms.” In both a denial and confirmation he said, “I really didn’t say everything I said.” He once said about baseball, “90% of the game is half mental.” He said of a St. Louis restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” When giving directions to his New Jersey home, which is accessible by two routes, he said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” He said, “You should always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t come to yours.” And I always love this one, “Never answer an anonymous letter.”
In 1973, Yogi Berra was the manager of the New York Mets. In July they found themselves trailing the Chicago Cubs by nine and a half games in the National League East Division. But the Mets battled back and rallied to win the Division on the final day of the regular season. Yogi, in his typical style, responded to the press, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” The Mets went on that year to win the National League Pennant.
What do you do when your strength is gone? When you lose your hope, joy, peace, and sense of victory? What do you do? If you read 1 Samuel 30:1-6, you will quickly realize that David is having a really bad day. He has lost everything. His people have lost everything. His friends are wanting to kill him. We know that storms will come in this life. And the truth is we all have our own struggles with which to deal. We all experience those difficult moments that put a strain on every aspect of our lives. We struggle with finances, relationships, parenting, health, among many others. Well, the simple exhortation is this: Don’t give up! There is hope for us today! I believe there are some keys to restoring our strength and victory that are found in this passage from 1 Samuel. If we only take the time to notice some of the imports of this wonderful story in the life of David, we will be able to better deal with those most difficult moments in life that so often weigh us down.
As children of God we must…
Find Encouragement in the Lord
1 Samuel 30:6 tells us that David found strength in the Lord his God. But what does this look like? How are we to do this? The psalmist says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalms 42:5). We should put our hope in God, realizing that he is our salvation in time of need. Even though there is great turmoil in the world and in our lives, God is there providing our deliverance. That’s not to say we are not going to experience the storms of life, but that in the midst of the raging storms God is there.
Part of finding encouragement in the Lord is meditating on who we are in Christ. Think about the Children of Israel and the Promised Land. They were making their way toward the land which flowed with milk and honey as they fled from Egypt. The spies had been sent into Canaan to gather intel on the landscape and people who dwelt there. As the story is told in the book of Numbers, twelve spies are sent out. When they returned, the reporting was filled with wonderful pictures of a lush region which yielded exceptional harvests. However, alongside this good report of the produce was the recommendation that they not enter the land because the people were giants. “But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it’” (Numbers 13:30). Joshua and Caleb said, “We can!” The other 10 spies said, “We can’t!” The truth is we can change the way we think about ourselves by meditating on who we are in Christ.
Reach Out to the People of God
1 Samuel 30:7 explains that David went to the priest. David, in the midst of a very difficult day, saw the need to go and speak with Abiathar the priest. We, too, ought to reach out to the people of God. What a wonderful blessing we have from God. He established his church so that we would have the love and support of those of like precious faith. The church is here to provide hope, healing, and restoration to hurting people. God designed the church in such a way that its leadership bears a responsibility to shepherd the flock. Elders serve to provide support and encouragement to God’s children. We all have a responsibility to each other to provide support during times of need. The joy of being a part of the family of God is that we all work to love and care for one another. What a blessing.
Look to the Lord
1 Samuel 30:8 says that David sought God’s counsel. After asking Abiathar for the ephod David begins praying to God, asking God for guidance and help. What life becomes hard, it seems our first reaction is to develop strategies of our own. All too often we rely on our own strength and abilities. And if all else fails, we turn to God. Looking to the Lord should be our first move. Micah 7:7 says, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” This, to me, is one of the most encouraging passages in all of scripture. When you are in trouble, where do you look for your help, healing, and hope? In a wonderful display of assurance and faith, the psalmist says,
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:1-4).
Help comes from the Lord. Sometimes we simply need to wait. God promises that he will help and care for us. He hears our concerns. He hears our cries. He knows what need before we even ask. God gave David a promise and it motivated David to press on and pursue his enemies. God gives many promises. And his promises will never fail.
Arise and Pursue
So what does it mean to arise and pursue? Isn’t it interesting how when faced with great difficulty response is to duck and cover? I’m not sure if this stems back to the days of the Cold War or not…but likely so. Our response is to cower down in the corner in hopes that if we don’t make eye contact our problems will eventually go away. But that’s not at all what the people of God should do. In this story of David’s really bad day we see him finding encouragement from the Lord as he reaches out to the people of God. When David looks to the Lord he is told to arise and pursue his enemies. God assures him that he will be successful. 1 Samuel 30:9 says, “So David set out…” David brought everything back. Was there a battle to fight? Yes! But because David arose and pursued, because David trusted in God, he was victorious.
Micah 7:8 says, “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” Notice that he says, “when I fall.” Falling is inevitable. But what will we do after the fall? Give up? Or arise? We must understand that Satan is real. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But we can never give up. On October 29, 1941, Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, visited Harrow School to hear the traditional songs he had sung there as a young boy, as well as to speak to the students. The speech that Churchill gave that day became one of his most well-known addresses. In his closing remarks, Churchill said,
“But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period—I am addressing myself to the School—surely from this period of ten months, this is the lesson:
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.
Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.”
As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Some people might feel they are sitting in darkness and hopelessness today. Some may feel like their strength is gone and the victory is out of reach. The truth is, God wants to strengthen us. God wants to restore our joy, peace, and hope today. We now find ourselves in a position where we can be sure that we have only to persevere and conquer. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Let’s never give in to our weakness. Let’s allow God to restore our strength today.