A Final Four

Todd Stiles   -  

12 words. Four commands. One verse.

That is a numerical summary of 1 Corinthians 16:13, which reads, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

With compelling clarity and striking succinctness, Paul is calling for attitudes and actions that enable endurance. What’s necessary, the Apostle writes, is emotional, spiritual, and physical strength to persevere and continue.

But why? The verse just before this—16:12—gives us the possible first clue: the Corinthian believers were not going to see Apollos after all. The context indicates they were anxiously anticipating a visit from their fellow brother, perhaps because he would come along side with encouragement and support. But with the news that he was not going to visit them as previously thought, they would, more than ever, need to maintain their commitment to the Lord and one another. So, in light of his absence, do what is necessary to stay vertically and horizontally faithful.

Additionally, the verse just after this—16:14—gives us the possible second clue: doing everything in love is hard work. The Corinthian believers were facing monumental challenges in their church, such as the selfish misuse of spiritual gifts, personality parties and celebrity-ism, taking advantage of the Lord’s Supper, and suing others in court for personal gain. None of these were actions rooted in love for one another. To end carnal behavior would require an immense amount of discipline and strength, the kind that can only come from a vertical and horizontal focus.

That’s why verse 13 is so beautifully bold and promising. It is giving us four actions the Corinthians took to ensure they would love another in all they did, especially in the middle of unexpected disappointment. It was to this end they were attentive (“be watchful”), convictional (“stand firm in the faith”), courageous (“act like men”), and stalwart (“be strong”).

Today, take the same necessary actions that lead to winning where it matters—loving one another. It’s the real championship that deserves our focus and faithfulness, and by pursuing the four actions listed in 1 Corinthians 16:13, God will enable us to do the one thing that most surely testifies to the world that we are Christ’s disciples: loving for one another.