Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cowboy Up, Christian!

Be watchful,
stand firm in the faith,
act like men,
be strong.
1 Cor. 16:13, ESV

Falling as those commands do in the final chapter of 1 Corinthians, they are not directed to husbands or young men, but to the whole church in Corinth. The Greek word which constitutes the third command is andrizomai. Essentially, it turns the noun "man" into a verb: "to (be a) man."  The ESV and NASB translate, "Act like men." The CSB and NIV say, "Be courageous." The J. B. Phillips paraphrase exhorts, "Live like men." The Message paraphrase says. "Give it all you've got." In English, a soldier would say, "Man up!" A Texan would say, "Cowboy (or -girl) up!"

The ESV Study Bible notes that, in the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, this word frequently occurs in "contexts encouraging people to act with courage and strength in obedience to the Lord and with confidence in his power (see Deut. 31:6-7, 23; Josh. 1:6-7, 9; 10:25; 1 Chron. 28:20; Ps. 27:14)."

Perhaps you, like me, look around at your circumstances and inward at yourself and ask, "How in this mess am I supposed to cowgirl up when I'm shaking in my boots?" To that, I first start speaking truth to myself, "Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is fear walking" (Susan David, in her TED Talk "The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage). Again, "Courage is the resolve to face a fearful threat. And courage is fueled by hope--a hope in something stronger than what we fear" (Jon Bloom, "Be a Human Infusion of Hope", accessed 8:23 AM, CDT, Aug. 17, 2015). Merriam-Webster Online defines courage as "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty." Courage or "manning up," then, is not the opposite of fear but the resolve to move towards God and His will in spite of our fear.

More importantly, I search the Scriptures listed in that ESV note for principles that would fuel hope and courage in me, even in fearful times:
  • Man up, Christian, because YHWH is with you and will not leave you in the lurch.

    "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).

    Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished. (1 Chron 28:20).
  • Man up because YHWH keeps His promises.

    Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deu.t 31:7-8).

    And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you" (Deut. 31:23).
  • Man up because you are obeying God's call and Word.
    "Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go" (Josh. 1:6-7).
  • Man up because today's victory will be tomorrow's courage when the LORD fights for you.

    And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight” (Josh. 10:25).

    Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! (Ps 27:14).

We serve a God who delights to turn Very Small Animals like Piglet and me into mighty warriors for His kingdom. The roots of such courage lie not in our strength but in the character of our God. May He grant us grace to put boots on our fear and walk forward anyway. May He keep reminding us of these and similar truths to preach to ourselves when fear tries to bully us into backing down from obedient faith. Courage, dear hearts!

"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
With blessings on your head."

~William Cowper
(a poet who himself struggled with disabling anxiety and depression),

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