Fired by love's urgent longings, I am his rocketman.
Where Does Courage Come From?

Where Does Courage Come From?

In his letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul commends them for ” … receiving the word despite great trials, with the joy the comes from the Holy Spirit”.  (1 Thess. 1: 6)

In his initial greeting, Paul writes:

We keep thanking God for all of you in our prayers, for we constantly are mindful before our God and Father of the way you are proving your faith, and laboring in love, and showing constancy of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Thess.1:2-3)

He praises them further reporting that, “The word of the Lord has echoed forth from you resoundingly.”  (1 Thess. 1:8)

God’s word is alive; it strikes the heart.  It pierces more surely than a two edged sword.  (See Hebrews 4:12)

The word of God is alive and it strikes my heart.  My job, if you will, is to receive it, with a good heart, that is with joy that comes from the Holy Spirit.  This doesn’t seem too difficult; after all it is the Holy Spirit who gives me the power I need to respond.

But once I receive it, I have to go further, to prove my faith, to labor in love and to be constant in hope, not in myself, not in you, not in my work, not in my country or the economy or anything else, but in Jesus Christ.

How do I prove my faith?  I prove my faith by my actions, by what I do and how I do it, by acting consistently with what I believe.  Likewise, I labor in love when I demonstrate love for those I live with and work with, day in and day out.  I show constancy in hope when I face the challenges of life, difficulties and trials, believing that even the hard stuff will turn out for my good and for the good of those I love and support in prayer.

And, like the Thessalonians, if I receive the word with joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, if I prove my faith, if I labor in love and if I show constant hope, the word of the Lord will echo forth from me not in a whimper, or a whisper, or a faint voice, but resoundingly!  Hmmm?

Later in the same letter to the Thessalonians Paul references his own recent experience in Philippi where he had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel:  “Fresh from the humiliation we had suffered at Philippi — about which you know — we drew courage from our God to preach good tidings to you in the face of great opposition … having met the test imposed on us by God as men entrusted with good tidings, we speak as those who strive to please God, ‘the tester of our hearts’, rather than men.”  (1 Thess. 2:1-4)

Sometimes I am tempted to romanticize Paul’s time in prison; but, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul makes it clear that he was uncertain if he would live or die?  While there he faced the very real possibility, at least in his mind, that he might be executed for preaching Christ.  (See Phil. 1)  Nevertheless, immediately upon his release from prison, he returns to preaching the gospel.

Note, however, his secret.  He writes, “we drew courage from our God”.  (1 Thess. 2:2)  This is not hyperbole, elegant speech or careless words.  He wrote exactly what he intended to write.  Paul, and those with him, supernaturally received courage from God the Father through Jesus Christ which enabled them to continue to preach the gospel.

For my part, I am encouraged that Paul refers to his experience at Philippi as “the humiliation” and to God as the “tester of our hearts”.  I can certainly identify with “humiliations” and having my heart tested.  Somehow it’s comforting to know Paul learned through humiliation and testing just like me.

Moreover, I can see in Paul’s experiences and example the very thing he asks of the Thessalonians and of me:  proof of faith, labor in love and constant hope (perseverance in great difficulty).  Also, I can’t help but notice how often Paul invites believers to imitate his life:  “You must recall brothers, our efforts and our toil; how we worked day and night, all the time we preached God’s good tidings to you … how we encouraged and pleaded with you to make your lives worthy of God who calls you to his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess. 2:9-12)

I believe that I have been called to his kingdom and glory.  I want to be part of his kingdom and to receive his glory very much.  I desire to live a life worthy of him.  Why?  Because he deserves it.  The Father has given me his best; how can I give him less?

I always try to remind myself whenever I am stirred up to do more, or to try harder, or to be better, that it is Christ in me who does it.  I really can do all things through faith in him.


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