Having what it takes

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1. 7

"When the going gets tough..." as they say. But what distinguishes those who rise to the challenge of hard times and those who crumble under the pressure? I have found that the answer is rarely what one would expect. There was a particularly gruelling process I once experienced and what amazed me was that the ones who made it through were not the brightest or the fittest. Yet somehow they blossomed while others wilted. What was their secret?

No one had it tougher than the earliest generations of Christians, who faced rejection and mounting persecution - on a scale that made being a Christian synonymous with signing your own death warrant. Yet the church prevailed and we have a hint in the verse above as to why it did. Paul insists to his younger successor, Timothy, that it is not in the nature of Christians to be timid; we are made of sterner stuff. Or perhaps it would be fairer to say that, at our re-birth in Christ, God took away our old nature with all its hang-ups and short-comings and replaced it with a new nature characterised by power, love and self-discipline: the necessary equipment for faithful living in an uncompromising environment.

Of course it takes time to grow into our new nature. We should not expect to get there at once. So, don't get down or give if you stumble and fall. Remember, you are different now. "He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world", as another of Jesus' apostles once remarked, to encourage his fellow believers (1 John 4. 4). This what it means to "live victoriously". Victorious Christian living is not about asserting oneself over others but finding the wherewithal to live faithfully despite hostile circumstances and pressures: to love God and serve others. It sounds impressive but the reality usually less glamorous. Yet our example is Jesus Christ himself, who "for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame..." (Hebrews 12.1).

The really exciting thing is knowing that the same power that brought Jesus through and raised him to new life is the power at work in you and me - nurturing within us power, love and self-discipline!

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