About 6 weeks ago, I had been a bit worn out with blogging and trying to stay up on all the theological banter of the day, both in reading and blogging. So I took a short break from blogging and also stayed away from more ‘theological’ reading and instead read more devotionally, as well as started the Bible in 90 Days plan (which I will probably finish in 120 days).
One more devotional type book I purchased was Bill Johnson’s Strengthen Yourself in the Lord. Johnson is the lead-senior pastor of Bethel Church, based in Redding, California. Johnson and Bethel are high on the list in Christian charismatic circles, also giving us great worship leaders and team such as Brian & Jenn Johnson and Jesus Culture. Yet, for some non-charismatics, Johnson and Bethel are problematic, to use a nicer word.
But here was a practical book with its main thesis based in the words of 1 Sam 30:6 – But David found strength in the Lord his God.
David had been anointed as king by Samuel, but he wasn’t reigning just yet. Matter of fact, he was on the run from the current king, Saul, who was trying to kill him. Even more, he had been fighting on the side of the typical enemy of Israel, with the Philistines! But in 1 Sam 29, many of the Philistine leaders are not so sure they want David fighting with them against the Israelites, just in case he turns on them. So the commander sends David and his men back to the city of Ziklag. Upon arrival, they found the city destroyed and their wives and children taken away. And to top it all off, David’s men are now thinking of stoning him because of everything that has happened.
Distressing situation, to say the least.
Many of us know 1 Sam 30:6, about David strengthening himself in the Lord. But maybe we weren’t so clear on the details of the account. I can only imagine David needed to strengthen himself in the Lord, if not more!
And, so, Johnson uses this account and particular verse to launch into some practical realities of how we can strengthen ourselves in the Lord today.
Not every single point Johnson shares would be new to mature Christians. Still, the book brings refreshment through both fresh insights and good reminders as to how we can presently strengthen and then remain strong in the Lord.
First off, I list a short summary of points that really stuck out to me. Then I want to list a few more pointers, followed by some brief words of Johnson as an elaboration of what was meant.
- Protecting and guarding one’s heart, as Prov 4:23 reminds us –
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
- Passionate pursuit of God’s purposes, as opposed to complete passivity.
- Living lives of deep thankfulness for all of God’s work.
- Direct, covenant relationships with those in the body of Christ.
The physical act of worship is an extremely helpful tool in seeing our thoughts and emotions line up with God’s perspective. I highlight these words of Johnson:
Some say it’s hypocritical to do something you don’t feel like doing. I think it’s hypocritical to do only what I feel like doing and call myself a believing believer. Right actions release right emotions and right thinking. (p69)
In other words, you don’t have to feel full of faith to rejoice – you just have to do it. (p72)
We must guard from over-analysing our problems, which will ultimately draw our focus away from the Lord and his purposes.
Believers often fall into the trap of thinking they can find a solution by looking at a problem from every single angle and letting it consume their world. But what happens is that the affections of their hearts get drawn away from the Lord, to the point that they care more about the problem than about giving Him what He deserves. (p74)
To walk out the promises of God, we must recall them, speak them, pray them.
I can’t afford to have thoughts in my head about me that God doesn’t have in His. It’s impossible to be consistently effective in fulfilling His purposes unless I am continually training my mind to think of myself according to what God says about me. (p98)
We all know the importance of testimony. So, as with God’s promises, let’s recite God’s work in our lives, his work as evidenced in Scripture, and his work amongst God’s people (both past and present).
The testimonies of God are what connect each succeeding generation of believers to His covenant promises. (p108)
If you are someone who feels like you haven’t seen very many miracles, you first need to remember that you possess every story of God’s as your own. Then, because they’re yours, you should study the testimonies of Scripture and collect the testimonies of both historical saints and the saints around you so you can meditate on them. Meditation on the testimonies trains your mind to think from the realm of faith. (p117)
More than anything, we must stand on the firm foundation of truth that God is always good.
I refuse to sacrifice the revelation that God is always good on the altar of human reason because of my need to make sense of my seemingly unanswered prayer. (p153)
Again, this book provides refreshment and encouragement, giving us both new things to consider and reminding us of things we might already know to help us strengthen ourselves in the Lord on an ongoing basis.