Tolerance has become the new virtue in America today.
We are told not to criticize anything, not to condemn anyone, and to accept everything no matter how bizarre the behavior may be. Ironically, as a result, people of faith are not to be tolerated for their Bible-based moral beliefs. In fact, recently a national political candidate opined, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”
In the midst of a culture that is becoming more critical of Christianity it is crucial that God’s people remain faithful. In one of the great verses of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 16:13, we are given such exhortation and encouragement.
The apostle Paul simply said, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”
This scripture is short. These words are simple. And the command is succinct. But they contain an effective admonition that will empower us spiritually.
The word “watch” means “to give strict attention to, to be cautious.” One version translates this “be on your guard.” Another renders it “be on the alert.” Implied is the military metaphor of a sentry watching out for enemy attacks. Protecting the post. Guarding the troops. And warning of impending danger.
Christians must be aware of what is happening in our society. We can’t “stick our heads in the sand” and ignore the moral mind-shift and cultural changes that are occurring around us that are decidedly anti-Christian. Wake up! Be aware! Be alert!
We are told to “be firm in the faith.” Not opinions. Traditions. Or human dogmas. But “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). There is “one faith” (Eph 4:4) and it is the faith of the gospel that is the basis of our hope (Col 1:23).
Along with teaching tolerance today, is the philosophy of relativism. We are told “there are no absolutes”! There is no such thing as absolute truth, so proclaim the “enlightened” elite. But Jesus said God’s Word is Truth (Jn 17:17). And He came as the embodiment of Truth and said, “I am the Truth.” (John 1:14; 14:6).
Let us “stand firm to the faith!
Some versions translate this “be men of courage” or “act like men” which is the literal meaning of the Greek verb. It speaks to the need of Christian courage. Valor. Bravery.
The Christian army is no place for cowards or weaklings as we fight against “the wiles of the Devil.” The fearful and the fainthearted will be defeated. Be brave as we battle for Truth.
While somewhat similar to the preceding command, this exhortation carries a slightly different connotation. The final imperative is written in the passive voice and means “to be made strong, to empower, to increase in vigor, to be strengthened.”
This same word is used in Eph 3:16 where Paul says, “I pray that out of his glorious riches (God) may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”
Through our fellowship with God by prayer, Bible study, meditation and worship, we can muster the strength that fortifies our faith against all spiritual foes.
Finally, let us not wring our hands in despair. “In times like these it’s good to recall that there have always been times like these” as Paul Harvey once put it. And more importantly “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31).
So, the call is clear. Watch. Stand fast. Be brave. Be strong.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman