Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NLT).
It is really hard to improve on these brief instructions for the Christian life. They are terse, to the point and comprehensive. If we do these consistently, we will be faithful to the end. And friends, there is no guarantee of that. I have been crushed recently to learn that a man who has been in the ministry for many years, whose ministry I have admired and been blessed by has lost his ministerial credentials because of sexual misconduct. So if that can happen to someone like that, it can happen to any of us. Nor does the collapse have to be as visible as that; it can be any of a number of other things.
But the good news is that it does not have to happen! We can run the race and win the prize, and it is as simple as Paul’s simple words. The first challenge is to know that we have an enemy who is out to destroy us. Be on guard! That doesn’t mean we need to live in constant tension. “Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.” But we have to be recognizing the threats in order to utilize our wonderful resources.
Then stand firm in the faith. All around us we see people who are compromising. Can you keep a personal faith while undercutting the intellectual roots of it? Yes, for awhile. But there is an end to it. Finally, there is a day we have gone too far, and none of it really has any power to transform and renew.
In it all, we must be courageous. In stories about battle, courage is often simply the willingness to take action. We think that “bravery” is some special quality that a person manifests all the time. But that is hardly ever the case. A squad of men is pinned down by enemy fire, and suddenly one of them, perhaps the least likely one, jumps up and rushes the enemy emplacement and destroys it. Courage. The enemy tells us, “you can’t do anything; you’ll fail; it’s too much.” So sure enough, we do nothing. Let’s be courageous.
Finally, do it all in love. Yes! What is this faith all about? Oh, it’s about me, me being on guard, me keeping the faith, me acting with courage. No! It’s not about me. It’s about God and others. The Devil does not really care how he gets me to focus on me. If he succeeds in that, he has won. Why do all this? For love, love of the One who has loved me to the end; love of those for whom my Lover has given everything.
Follow these simple instructions, day after day after day, and the prize is ours.
(Editor's note: for this and other blogs written by Dr. Oswalt you can visit his blog site HERE.)