“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’” Matthew 14:27
Ours is a challenging calling, we Christ-followers. And ours is a scary, uncertain time. So sometimes we lose heart. And sometimes we fear. We are human; this is natural.
But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to remain defeated and fearful, because the Lord our God is with us. Let’s get started.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary, “courage” is “the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.” Its root word comes from the Latin, “cor,” meaning “heart.”
The American Heritage Dictionary also defines “fortitude” as “strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage.” Its root is from the Latin, “fortis,” meaning “strong.”
In our passage from Matthew given here, Jesus said these words to his disciples when their little boat was swamped by wind and wave and they were very afraid. He walked across the water toward them. They watched him, at first thinking this was a ghost. But then he said those words “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,” and, as they continued to fix their eyes on him, their hearts filled with courage, with confidence and with peace. The waves subsided.
Just as it was for the disciples, the same is true for us. In the midst of life’s storms, it is Jesus who gives us “courage,” the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables us to face danger. He calms our troubled hearts.
In the same way, as we fix our attention on the Word made flesh, we have “fortitude,” our minds become strong; we do not worry.
Finally, we can look at Philippians 4:6-7 where St. Paul gives us a little prescription on how not to let those earthly anxieties have control over us. We are to dispel such anxieties by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. And then Jesus sends us peace to guard our hearts and minds in Him.
The Greek word translated here as “guard” was the same word used to describe a Roman soldier at guard. In the time of St. Paul, the Romans were the most militarily-advanced people around. After all, they conquered and maintained a vast empire, stretching from places in the Middle East like Armenia, just north of what is now the United Arab Emirate all around the Mediterranean Sea and all the way west and north to the British Isles. They were the superpower of the day. So it is with this same strength that Jesus’ peace will guard our hearts and minds in Him.
So I “encourage” you (give you heart), dear warrior of Christ, that when you find yourself “disheartened” (without heart), or your heart is paralyzed with fear, “take heart”, as your Lord and Savior is near. He will never leave or forsake you. He is your very present help in time of trouble.
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