…Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
- 1 Peter 1.7-9
Thus the hated foe deals as he wearies our hearts,
And by ill temptations shakes the inward hearts with rage.
Let your mind, my men, recalling Christ, sound Ho!
- Columbanus, “A Boat Song,” Irish, 7th century
It is difficult for us to imagine the tremendous hardships faced by those Irish peregrini – wandering missionaries – as they undertook their missions of evangelism for the Lord. They were opposed by established church leaders, who didn’t like being called to task for their many compromises. They were attacked by pagans who rightly saw them as a threat to their established religions. They had little in the way of material possessions or physical comforts.
Yet they went by the thousands to preach the Gospel. Where did they acquire the strength of soul for such an effort?
In Gaul, Columbanus, anticipating the rigors of sailing on contrary rivers, wrote his boat song for his men to sing, so that they could combat the temptation to give up and turn back as their strength began to fail. Columbanus knew that the devil can use our weaknesses to thwart the Lord’s plans. If we would resist and defeat him, we must guard our souls by looking to a strength beyond our strength – the strength which comes from contemplating the risen Christ.
By singing this song together as they rowed, they sustained a common focus and reinforced one another against their souls being subverted and their purpose denied.
Similarly, Peter commended the Asian churches for keeping their focus on Christ during their time of hardship. They could see the persecution they were experiencing, and the temptation must have been great to allow that to be the focal point of their thinking and planning for everyday life. But, with Peter’s encouragement, they managed to focus their minds on Christ, Whom they could not see with their physical eyes, but only with the eye of the heart, and by faith.
Columbanus composed his song to help his men do the same, so that the work of the Kingdom could go on in spite of their weariness.
This is the way God works to renew us and take us to new levels of spiritual life. He leads us to look beyond our circumstances, and the worst-case scenarios we posit based on these, and to focus on glorious unseen – but real – things which are our hope and strength at all times.
When we are at the end of our strength, yet more strength can be found by contemplating Christ, His sufferings on our behalf, His might resurrection, and His glorious reign at the right hand of God. Every day we must expect God to take us beyond where our natural strength – whether of body or soul – has gone before (Eph. 3.20), by enabling us to draw on the strength of Jesus, exalted in glory.
We inhabit a larger landscape than that which surrounds us every day in our mundane lives. We have the power of Christ at work within us, willing and doing of God’s good pleasure (Phil. 2.13). We are surrounded and even sustained by unseen witnesses – saints and angels – who in mysterious ways rally to our aid, so that we might know more of the Lord’s presence and strength for the race He has set before us. We are members of a worldwide body of saints, ambassadors, and witnesses for Christ.
We don’t have to let our circumstances get the best of us. Resources exist in the unseen realm to buoy and bolster our soul, and to embolden us for rejoicing and obedience, even in ways or to degrees we’ve never known before.
Contemplate Christ, friends, and all the beauty, might, and majesty attendant to Him in that glorious unseen realm. See Jesus in His glory, seeing you in your weakness. Reach out to Him and receive a strength of glory you never knew possible – exceedingly abundantly beyond all you’ve ever dared to ask or think.
Look to Jesus, whenever or wherever you feel your joy or hope beginning to falter. He will meet you there, where you are weak, and take you beyond.
Psalm 118.7-9 (Windsor: Come, Ye Thankful People, Come)
For the Lord stands next to me; He will give me victory!
Over all who hate my life I will triumph through the strife!
In His grace I refuge find; in His steadfast love so kind.
Trust not princes, trust not men – Christ shall be our haven then!
Lord, deliver me through all my fears and weakness to love You as I ought, and help me to carry out all Your will. Adapted from Rule of Comghall
Men at Prayer
Thank the Lord with us!
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Walker, p. 191.