One of the Apostle Paul’s most powerful and encouraging admonitions to the men of Corinth in tough times was, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). He is on a missionary journey and won’t see them for a while so he wants to give his personal words to lift them up until he sees them again, if he ever does. He has just told them to “stand firm always giving yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Death has been conquered in victory through Jesus Christ he entreats the men. Therefore we might say, “don’t worry about tomorrow, because we have life eternal with Christ.”
Does the atmosphere of the presidential campaign and world instability give you a sense of strength or less, perhaps fear? But we must be alert! Does the persecution of Christians around the world give you pause about speaking out? Then read Paul’s words again and be encouraged. The conditions might not change, but God is with us and will strengthen us for the days to come. In the psalms we are often reminded, “I love you, O Lord my strength” (Psalm 18:1) or “The Lord is my strength and my shield” (Psalm 28:7) and in Psalm 29:11, “The Lord gives strength to His people.” God tells us to arm ourselves with strength and to sing a song of strength in the Lord. We are to praise God and ascribe to Him strength as Psalm 96:7 reminds us. I personally go to the psalms when I need strength or courage. David continually found his courage in the Lord, not men. In Hebrews 3:6 we read, “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to courage and the hope of which we boast.” So as we are told, we should encourage one another until Christ’s soon return. Because Christ has been faithful, we too must hold onto the faith.
I am in the middle of a study on the letters 1-3 John wherein the Apostle continually encourages us to “love one another.” He reminds us that God first loved us so that we can love one another (1 John 4:19). He laid down His life for us that we might love one another. It is the courage of knowing our salvation that brings us courage to stand firm in love for others, even as they don’t love you. Love and courage are indeed related. Our love is the only scripture some may ever see. God describes what love is throughout the Bible. Perhaps 1 Corinthians 13 is the most quoted saying, “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, 13). Paul calls this “the most excellent way.” He is saying that we must live in love as love lives in us through the Holy Spirit of God in Christ Jesus.