"And Jonathan, Saul's son, arose, and went to David into the forest, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said unto him, "Fear not for the hand of Saul, my father, shall not find you; and you shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; that also Saul my father knows."
1 Samuel 23:16-17.
I love the words that Jonathan said to David. David was hiding in the woods and Jonathan went to him to meet his need of some major duty encouragement. In doing this, Jonathan risked his own life because King Saul was a brutal man and could easily decide to have his own son killed. Jonathan encourages David by reminding David that God had anointed him as the next king, which meant he knew that David could not die. Lastly, he tells David he has made it clear to his father he supported God's plans for David. I wonder if I am truly the kind of friend who strengthens or encourages others, especially when it might not be the popular thing to do in the moment.
In Romans 12:1 we are encouraged to be living sacrifices. As members of the "body" or group of believers we are called to live for God, which takes both time and energy. Being a living sacrifice actually requires us to die to our selfish wants and desires to meet the needs of others. It may mean giving up a CD to feed a hungry person. It may mean giving up a movie to spend time with a hurting friend. It may mean getting up 15 minutes earlier to help someone out at home. It may mean taking time from TV to write an encouragement note. My life has been rich with people who sacrificed time and energy to encourage me. Some babysat my kids so I could go to the doctor or date my husband. One friend gave us a car when ours was falling apart. Others gave up more exciting events to love my kids by reading to them or taking them to the park. It has also been rich with Bible teachers who sacrificed time to answer my questions and friends who prayed with me when I hurt. I truly want to be that kind of person to others.
In our culture we don't often have to take huge risks to share Christ or minister to friends. Yet, I have seen students who were criticized by friends for reaching out to students who were not a part of the "in crowd". Some students caved into the criticism, while others have shown tremendous courage and stood by the less popular students. Is there someone we need to encourage in the Lord and have held off for fear of what others might think? Jonathan feared what God thought more than what his own father Saul thought. As a Christian we may find that encouraging a friend in the Lord means we run the risk of criticism, imprisonment, or even death. Remember His Word, " If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:32b) and be of good courage.
Jonathan reminded David of the truth. David had been anointed by God to be the next king and that meant Saul could not kill him. For us that principle has many applications. If we have a friend who is discouraged by sin, we can remind her that they are forgiven when they confess their sin. If a friend has been rejected, we can remind her that the creator of the universe loves her and accepts her. If a friend is facing hard circumstances we can remind her that God will walk her through this hard time and that it is okay to be real with Him. If a friend is feeling her life has no purpose, we can remind her that she is a minister to others, God's co-worker, the dwelling place of God, God’s ambassador in this fallen world, and that she was appointed to bear fruit. The New Testament is full of exhortations to love each other, to speak truth to each other, to comfort one another, and to accept each other as needed parts of the body.
Lastly, Saul defended David to his father. We know it took great risk on Jonathan's part. How often are we guilty of gossip or slander? Even worse, how often do we allow others to assassinate someone else's character so we can feel like we are a part of the “group?” Our silence makes us just as guilty as those who spoke. One of our kids was lied about and gossiped about on a mission trip. The youth pastor sat every student down and talked to them. It was awesome to see the people who started the rumors apologize and even more awesome when others came forward and apologized because they had done nothing to stop it. I have seen other's who are were so wounded when they were slandered and no one stopped it or apologized that they left the church. Sadly, some of those who spread the slander are also often guilty of saying those who leave the church must not be real believers. My prayer is that we become a body of believers committed to what is right, honorable, and pure and that we develop the courage to offer grace and to defend others being slandered and rejected. I hope we can become like Jonathon who knew that Saul hated David and risked his own life to defend him. I wonder if we are willing to risk rejection by defending someone who is being slandered. Jonathan did not believe what Saul said about David and he told his father that. We should do the same. God is gracious in giving us the gift of friendship, but along with friendship comes the responsibility to sacrificially love with courage, grace, and truth. Are we willing to do that?
Prayer: Father, thank you for the people you have put in our lives to encourage us. Help us to recognize our opportunities and to be selfless enough to make sacrifices of time to be encouragers. Give us boldness and gentleness and the courage we need to take risks that you might call us to take for others. Amen.