“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.”
Authentic Christianity is courageous.
Paul concludes this passage by encouraging us not to be frightened by anything that our opponents might throw at us. Standing firm for Christ and living the standards of the kingdom in the midst of a broken world requires courage. The easy thing to do is capitulate and compromise, but that is the way of the weak and the path of the faint-of-heart. We are called to courage and strength of heart, and we will find that courage in the fellowship of the Christian community.
The word “courage” is Latin for “strength of heart.” Thus “to encourage” someone means to give them strength of heart. This is precisely why fellowship in the Christian community is so important. We need each other. We need to encourage and make each other stronger. We need to support and strengthen each other.
However, you cannot give what you do not have. In order for you to encourage others, you must have strength of heart. You must operate from a foundation of Christ-centered courage.
Paul tells us to be strong and to refuse to be intimidated by our opponents. The word translated “frightened” is the Greek word ptyresthai, and this is the only place it is found in the bible. It appears on occasion in classical Greek in reference to timid horses that shy when they are startled at some unexpected object. So what Paul is saying is this: “When adversaries attack you or oppose you, don’t flinch. Don’t shrink back. Don’t be afraid. Stand firm.”
And keep in mind Paul is telling us to do this as a group; as a fellowship; as a community. He is telling us to stand strong together and not be afraid.
Fear is one of the chief enemies of faith. Fear is the great immobilizer; it has frozen many people in their tracks and kept them from accomplishing all they were created to do in God’s kingdom.
Fear caused the Israelites to grumble and complain as God was about to deliver them from Pharaoh’s advancing army. Fear froze the armies of Israel before Goliath. It caused the disciples to wake Jesus from his sleep in the midst of a storm. It caused Peter to deny Jesus during the passion. Fear has been the source of many a Christian’s failure to be and do all God has commanded them to be and do.
Fear is a condition of the mind that is the result of focusing on self and circumstances. Confidence and courage is a condition of the mind that is the result of trusting God, standing firm, and taking disciplined action. Even (especially) when you are afraid.
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)
May we stand side-by-side as we work together for the kingdom of God. May we trust God, encourage each other, and defeat fear.
The Lord is calling.