September, 2020

Good morning,

encourage / in-ker-ig / verb / defined as…
1.  To give hope or support so that someone will continue toward an objective.
2.  To provide a fresh view.
3.  To energize someone during personal trials.

All of that happened in the span of about one minute during the 1924 Paris Olympics.

The Eric Liddell story is well known and often told—Britain's premier sprinter who, because of his Christian convictions, withdrew from two events because they were held on Sunday. In both cases, Liddell was the odds-on-favorite for gold.

His withdrawal did not go over well—the Prince of Wales and the British Olympic Committee pressured him to reconsider, and when he refused the British press and Parliament vilified him.

Later in that week, Liddell ran the 400-meter race— event he was less familiar and marginally qualified. Just before the race, an American competitor slipped a note into Liddell's hand quoting 1Sam 2.30, "Those who honor Me, I will honor."" Clutching that note while he ran, Eric won the race and the gold medal, setting both Olympic and world records.

Oh, the power of encouragement!

Giving hope to others is a homework assignment for us all. The poetic Solomon put it this way, "A bright look brings joy to the heart." Paul simply said, "Encourage one another."

It's a wonder that scripture has to remind us at all. However, it repeatedly prompts us with, "How delightful is a timely word."

Yet, the actual doing is rare:

  • During the 40-year journey from Egypt to the Promised Land (recorded in Exodus through Deuteronomy) the word encourage is mentioned only twice. In both cases, Moses encouraged Joshua in his new role as leader. Not once did anyone encourage Moses.
  • Poor ol' Job sat on the ash heap of his ruined life, mourning his catastrophic losses. Soon his three friends arrived to assess the why of it all. During that time, Job encouraged them. Not one of them encouraged him.
  • On an ill-fated ship carrying Paul and 275 others to Rome, a massive storm blew them off course and into a frenzy. After days of hopelessness and seasickness, an equally woozy Paul stood and encouraged them.
  • Hours before the crucifixion in the upper room, as Jesus faced the horror of the cross and sin's ultimate punishment, He encouraged the sad and depressed disciples. Yet none of them encouraged Him.

The lack of encouragement seems epidemic in proportion. So, it begs the question—who encourages the encouragers?

Actually, it's pretty simple.

Scripture has a word for it: "David chazaq himself in the Lord his God." Chazaq (pronounced sha-zak) is Hebrew for encouraged or strengthened, to grow hopeful or courageous. David literally refreshed himself as he chazaq'ed.

In fact, the psalmist kept God's chazaq on speed-dial; it was his go-to solution for every storm.

  • "The Lord is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer in whom I take refuge."
  • "Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord."
  • "Rescue me out of the hand of the wicked, out of the grasp of the wrongdoer … for You are my hope, O Lord God, You are my confidence."
  • "Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge."
  • "Wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him."

These reminders, and the thousands just like them, need to be our go-to as well. Once we've been thoroughly chazaq'ed, we can chazaq others.

Even Isaiah, during Israel's most discouraging and toxic days, used the chazaq formula: "The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary."

We can do the same.

Blessings and chazaq!


Ron Walters
Salem Media Group

© Copyright 2020 by Ron Walters

Ron Walters