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The Strength of the Soul

It's everything.

The Celtic Revival: Age of the Peregrini (18)

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[1]

…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

It is difficult for us to imagine the tremendous hardships those Irish peregrini faced as they undertook their missions of evangelism for the Lord. They traversed hard terrain among unfamiliar peoples. 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 to console them.

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 wrote a song for his men to sing as they rowed on contrary rivers, to unite them in camaraderie and encouragement in their common endeavor. He himself might have chanted the verses, like some spiritual coxswain, while the men would join in the final line of each stanza, encouraging one another and pulling together on their oars at each “Ho!”

Columbanus knew that the devil can use our weaknesses to thwart the Lord’s plans. Discouragement, setback, physical weakness, loss of direction, failure – all these can be the thread that unravels our calling as the devil begins to pull on them. If we would resist and defeat him, we must guard our souls by seeking strength beyond our strength – the strength which comes from contemplating the risen Christ.

By singing this song together as they rowed, Columbanus’ men 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. The persecution they were experiencing was real and hard, and the temptation must have been great to allow that persecution to command their thinking and planning for everyday life. But Peter encouraged them 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 would continue. Here’s the final stanza of this rowing song:

The King of virtues, too, Fount of being, highest Power,
Offers prizes to him who strives, and to the victor gives them.
Let your mind, my men, recalling Christ sound Ho!

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 to focus on glorious unseen things which are always our hope and strength.

When we are at the end of our strength for seeking the Kingdom and righteousness of God, more strength can be found by contemplating Christ, His sufferings on our behalf, His mighty resurrection, His glorious reign at the right hand of God, and His soon return in glory. 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 real, albeit 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 communion of saints, ambassadors, and witnesses for Christ, many of whom endure daily hardships far beyond what we will ever know.

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.

Fix the eye of your heart to contemplate Christ 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 in prayer and song 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. Let your heart and mind pull on the Savior, and sound “Ho!”

For Reflection
1. When you think of Jesus, ruling in glory, what do you see?

2. How can concentrating on this vision strengthen you for following Jesus each day?

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, especially today as I…

Strong Souls

Have you been following our ReVision series, “Strong Souls”? We’re well into the study at this point, but you can look at and download each of the studies in the series thus far by clicking here.

Thank you
Thanks so much to those of you who faithfully support the work of The Fellowship of Ailbe. God uses your gifts and prayers to reach thousands of people every day in over 160 countries. We praise the Lord for His having moved and enabled you to share with us in this ministry.

If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through Anedot or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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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.


[1] Walker, p. 191.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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