A Bible Verse about Strength
(The Lord) gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint, Isaiah 40:29, 31.
A Story of Courage
Martin Luther King Jr. felt poorly the night he delivered this speech, the last one of his life. The venue was a mass meeting held in the Bishop Charles Mason Temple Church of God in Memphis, Tennessee. Andrew Young, who was with him at the time, said King initially decided not to speak at all that night. King and his small entourage, including Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, and Benjamin Hooks, had led a march that day protesting low pay for black garbage collectors in Memphis. A rainstorm was gathering. King decided he was too sick to preach. He asked his best friend, Abernathy, to speak instead. In the end, Dr. King decided he must speak. Here is a small piece of what he needed to say:
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. [applause] And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!
These words are prophetic and courageous. This is no surprise because courage and strength were hallmarks of the work of Dr. King. He stood up and organized others to join him in challenging racism and injustice. The nineteen sixties were especially turbulent times and there was much unrest amid social change across the United States. Like the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther King Jr. was imprisoned and beaten many times. Yet like Paul he persisted in pursuing what was right and necessary, and in Dr. King’s case, he was an advocate for the rights of his fellow African Americans. He willingly stood against the government and popular opinion. Dr. King is a profound example of courage and conviction.
Ground Work: Read Galatians 2:15-21
Paul was courageous and strong like Dr. King when he stood up to one of the earliest and most influential disciples of Jesus named Peter or Cephas. You know Peter, the walking on water, “I will never desert you Jesus no matter what” disciple. This is the same Peter who stood up and gave the first sermon in the book of Acts on the day of Pentecost when 3000 people became followers of Jesus. It is this Peter who came to confront Paul at the center of Gentile church in Antioch.
It took tremendous courage for Dr. King to stand up to the government and against popular opinion on behalf of what was right and just for African Americans. It can be hard for any of us to stand up for what is right even if we are standing up to an individual. Imagine how challenging it was to be a black leader standing up for his own people in the revolutionary period of the 1960’s in U.S. history. Doing what is right is often hard. For Dr. King and other leaders of the civil rights movement there was much personal risk.
The Apostle Paul demonstrated courage when he stood against the prevailing thought among Jewish followers of Jesus that the law still required circumcision before baptism. This way of thinking held that Jesus was only the Jewish Messiah. If you wanted to be a Christian you had to become Jewish first. This was clearly a stumbling block to the Gentile mission. In fact, the Holy Spirit broke all the rules and filled Gentile believers in Jesus even before they were circumcised or baptized (Acts 10:44-48).
Paul wrote: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:19c-20). This verse summarizes the gift of God through Christ for all who believe and follow him. Christ now lives in us as we live by faith and follow him.
- How in any way has your perspective changed on the impact of Dr. King if you were alive and recall your impressions when you were younger?
- Why do you think it was so important that God used Paul to stand up against Peter in this battle over the gospel message?
- What does Galatians 2:19-20 mean to you? What difference does this verse mean to you?
- What is your prayer today as a response to this reading? A Final Thought about Love (Let all that you do be done in love, 1 Corinthians 16:14):But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked, Luke 6:35.