TAKING THE WORLD BY CALM
This month we will be talking about, understanding, and embodying STRENGTH. The Christ Consciousness in us shows us how to develop real strength in the quietness of our own soul. Real strength is found in being still. Out of our soul's stillness, we are able to express the qualities of true strength: patience, tolerance, steadfastness, and balance.
Henry Ward Beecher said, "The strength of a man consists in finding out the way God is going and going that way."a
WHAT IS STRENGTH?
So... What is Strength? The Limited conception: is rigidity, muscles, stubbornness, force, pressure, firearms, and outer movement. It is usually associated with or represented by outer signs or instruments of force or protection, such as strong police forces, strong armies, strong locks, strong jails, strong muscles, strong bank vaults, strong alarms, or strong fists.
Look at how we use the word "security" today. It's a six-gun way of resolving conflict, insults, and disagreements. It's the need to prove who is stronger, faster, or better. "Step outside." "Draw." "Make my day." God is always on our side, our team, our national symbols and our songs. Only sissies and wimps run from a "good fight." "Eye for an eye." And the folk heroes of this outer concept of strength: Rambo, John Wayne, James Bond. Strong person of the Bible: Samson
A greater conception of what true strength is: would be quietness, inner confidence, poise, the ability to keep peace, non-resistance, refraining from retaliating in kind, to love your enemies, negotiation, giving good for evil, forgiveness, and boycotts or blockades rather than fights. When you have inner confidence, when you know who and what you are - you have no need to strike out against anything. The strength of a nation is not in how many arms and wars it has, but in how we care for all people, the environment, and work together with others of the planet. It is in education, sanitation, good housing, decent work, safety, child-care, and freedom for all people. It is conflict resolution. Talking it out rather than hitting or bombing. Non-violent defense. And the folk heroes of this concept of strength are: Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Dalai Lama. Strong person of the Bible: Jesus.
STRENGTH IS FOUND IN STILLNESS
Strength is found in stillness. As it said in scripture at Isaiah 30:15 "For thus said the Lord God, ...: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. ..."b
THE STRENGTH OF PATIENCE
There is a strength in patience: Patience is calm, centered endurance. It is persistent courage. Whenever you need to be courageous in a situation, you need to become still. Get still inwardly and quiet courage will come forth through your consciousness as patience and the ability to meet any situation with strength and to act from strength. This is an inner strength that comes from God.
THE STRENGTH OF TOLERANCE
There is a strength in tolerance: Strong people are tolerant. Weak people are intolerant. Tolerance is our ability to be fair, open and just with those with whom we do not agree. This gives freedom from bigotry and sees diversity as a blessing not a curse. We are all different. We have to learn to respect differences and to function cooperatively together as partners, families, classes, organizations, businesses, churches, and society. And that tolerance starts within ourselves. Are you tolerant of yourself?
THE STRENGTH OF STEADFASTNESS
There is a strength in steadfastness: Steadfastness is another way of strength and a way we benefit by placing God at the head of our lives. It is our ability to stay centered and focused in spite of appearances, setbacks, and disappointments. It keeps us firm in purpose and mission. It keeps us from the fickle "on again, off again" cycle. It allows us to "hang in there" and "stick with it." The affirmation for steadfastness is "Be still & know that I Am GOD."c Exodus 14:13-14 says, "Fear not, wait & see the salvation of the Lord, which He will perform for me today, for the fear I see today, I shall see no more forever. The Lord will fight for me, and I shall hold my peace. I will stand firm."d
THE DISCIPLE ANDREW PORTRAYS STRENGTH
The disciple Andrew portrays strength. The disciple Peter (faith) and Andrew were brothers, indicating the close interaction of faith and strength. Life has its "ups and downs." But faith and strength help us see the bigger picture and meet all the challenges successfully.
Suné Richards writes: "The first real friend that Jesus had was Andrew, and the strength he showed was primarily strength of character. Like Peter, his brother, for whom he worked, he was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Andrew was called 'the introducer,' for it was he who introduced his brother to Jesus, as soon as he knew that this was the true 'Messiah.' He brought before him the little boy with the loaves and fishes, when Jesus fed the 5,000 hungry people. It was he who introduced the first of the Greeks to Jesus - it is believed that when he went to bring his brother, Peter, to Jesus, John went with him and called his brother James. Andrew was there when John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the River Jordan."e
Andrew is the strength of the mind that is rejoiced greatly when it finds the inexhaustible Source of all strength, and exclaims, John 1:41 "We have found the Messiah."f Andrew symbolizes the strength, while Simon Peter symbolized the faith capacity, of the mind. When strength finds faith, and they are brothers consciously in the mind, a bond of unity is established that carries us along, even though we may run into the worst types of experiences.
Strength is the energy of God; freedom from weakness; stability of character; power to withstand temptation; capacity to accomplish. Strength is physical, mental, and spiritual. All strength originates in Spirit, the thought and the word spiritually expressed becomes the manifestation.
According to the Gospel of John, Andrew (along with an unnamed other) was the first person to become a disciple of Jesus. In later Christian tradition he was often referred to as the "first called."
Little is known of Andrew's youth other than that he apparently grew up in Bethsaida, an important town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, just east of the Jordan. He was probably born sometime in the first decade B.C. The city had a considerable Greek population and Greek names such as Andrew were not uncommon. The town's older name, Bethsaida, meant "house of the fisherman," an obvious fit for Andrew and his brother Simon Peter, who both grew up to make their living fishing the Sea of Galilee.
At some point the brothers apparently moved three miles west across the Jordan to Capernaum. They formed a fishing partnership with a man named Zebedee and his two sons, James and John. Andrew lived in a house with his brother, who was married and whose wife's mother also lived with them. Archeologists believe they have discovered the ruins of that or a similar house - an extensive structure with room for a clan of several families.
How Andrew came to be a disciple is told in two different ways, in the Gospel of John and in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. John describes Andrew as first a disciple of John the Baptist. Before he ever heard of Jesus, Andrew, like many Jews of his day, was filled with expectation of the coming of a Messiah. When reports of John's preaching reached Capernaum, Andrew went with the multitudes to hear him. But unlike most, Andrew stayed with this new prophet and became devoted to his powerful teachings along with a circle of other disciples.
Everything about the Baptist excited the religious expectations of the times, but John himself revealed to those around him that he was not the Messiah. One afternoon Andrew and another disciple were standing with John when Jesus walked by and John said, (John 1:36) "Look, here is the Lamb of God!"g - a metaphorical reference to the Passover lambs. Andrew and his unnamed companion were intrigued by John's statement and followed Jesus. When Jesus noticed them, he invited them to come to his house, and they spent the rest of the day conversing. The encounter so impressed Andrew that he concluded that his religious quest had been fulfilled. Almost immediately he went to his brother Simon with the news, (John 1:41) "We have found the Messiah"h, and brought him to meet Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark provide another account of Andrew's call, emphasizing the authority of Jesus' summons. Both Gospels introduce Andrew and Peter as they are fishing with casting nets along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus approaches and says simply, (Matthew 4:19) "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people."i Without a word they forsake their nets and obey.
Through most of the Gospel narratives, Andrew simply shares the experiences of the other disciples and does not stand out as an individual. A few episodes, however, highlight his presence. It was in his house, shared with Peter and his wife, that Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law. When more than 5,000 people were hungry in the wilderness, it was Andrew who found a boy who had five barley loaves and two fish that Jesus used to feed the throng. When certain Greeks who were in Jerusalem wished to see Jesus, they came first to Philip and then to Andrew, the two disciples with Greek names, who then informed Jesus of the request.
After Jesus' death and during the early years of Christianity in Jerusalem, Andrew labored with the other apostles, but little is known of his ministry. Many legends about Andrew grew in the second century, and a long, didactic tale called the Acts of Andrew was composed. It told how the apostle preached in Greece, rescued Matthias from cannibals, and traveled through Asia Minor and northern Greece working fabulous miracles and preaching celibacy. Finally, it told how Andrew was crucified by a Roman proconsul whose wife refused conjugal relations after Andrew had converted her.
Still later tradition attributed to Andrew the founding of the church in Byzantium (which was later Constantinople) and in Russia. The supposed bones of the apostle were kept in Constantinople (though an arm was taken to St. Andrews, Scotland) until Crusaders brought them to Italy in 1204. The X-shaped cross was linked to the tradition of Andrew's crucifixion sometime after the seventh century. But the tradition that Andrew died on an X-shaped cross is unlikely.
So we look at Andrew and his life as a representation of Strength. He is our ideal of strength and we grow to be like that which we idealize. Affirming or naming a mighty spiritual principle identifies the mind with that principle; then all that the principle stands for in the realm of ideas is poured out upon the one who affirms.
"Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might"j is a great strengthening affirmation for ourselves and for others. Never let the thought of weakness enter your consciousness, but always ignore the suggestion and affirm yourself to be a tower of strength, within and without.
I would like to close with a quote from Anna Eleanor Roosevelt who said, "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do."k
aHenry Ward Beecher
eAlberta Rae Suné Richards
kAnna Eleanor Roosevelt