Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NKJV). These instructions are part of the apostle Paul’s closing remarks in a very difficult letter to the saints at Corinth. In that letter he addressed a congregation plagued with division, immorality and corrupting influences. Judging from the number of issues one might conclude that the faithful were a minority in this congregation. Standing for truth requires a great deal of courage. Standing alone requires greater courage! How much courage do you suppose is required to repair a damaged spiritual family? Where does one even start?
The answer lies in the instruction. The first step is to watch. To watch is to be awake, alert, aware and on guard. The Thessalonian brethren were to be watchful and serious considering future judgment. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 NKJV). Watching is part of self-preservation.
The second step is to stand fast. Preserving self is vital to saving others. One must not give ground to sin. Paul understood this and used himself as an example to the Corinthians. His efforts to save them would have been wasted had he not practiced what he preached. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27 NKJV).
Third is to be brave. Courage is the antidote to fear. Some fears are the result of external circumstances. Other fears come from within. Paul was not immune to fear. For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears (2 Corinthians 7:5 NKJV). He understood perfectly what the Corinthians were experiencing and what they needed to do to overcome fear.
Fourth, be strong. The Corinthians needed to put bravery into action. Paul explained this to Timothy. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:6-7 NKJV). Paul goes on to tell Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, even if that means sharing in suffering (2 Timothy 1:8).
Lastly, all actions resulting from courage are to be motivated and tempered by love. Not only can fear cause us to fail to act, it can cause us to react poorly to circumstances or to act in haste. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18 NKJV). Having another’s best interest at heart promotes appropriate action.
It becomes apparent in a subsequent letter to the Corinthians that great progress was made addressing issues there. Those who were faithful were able to assist their brethren in repentance. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:11 NKJV).
Have you ever considered that it also took courage for the Corinthians who were practicing error to repent? It takes courage to admit that you are in sin. It takes courage to admit that you don’t know how to fix the problem. It takes courage to admit that you need salvation. It takes courage to admit that you do not have power to save yourself. It takes courage to admit that you need help, God’s help and the help of His faithful saints. It takes courage to make the necessary changes and then stay the course.
Watch. Stand fast. Be brave. Be strong. Act in love.