I awoke early this morning with the first one-and-a-half verses of John Bunyan’s hymn running through my mind:
He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.
Who so beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound—his strength the more is.
I wouldn’t say that this was ever one of my favourite hymns and I certainly never set out to learn it by heart. But I guess we must have sung it often enough at school for the words (as well as the tune) to come to mind more than 40 years later – just when I need to take to heart the message which they convey.
The Master is, of course, Jesus, who told his followers: “Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34). We are to be steadfast in loving one another. We must let nothing discourage us. In the words of Teresa of Avila: “Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing discourage you. Whoever depends on God, will lack nothing. God alone is enough.”
Our spiritual strength grows as we face up to and overcome the challenges that life throws at us.
John Bunyan’s hymn goes on:
No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight,
He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.
Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit,
We know we at the end, shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labour night and day to be a pilgrim.
God strengthens us with His/Her Spirit, so that we can live life more abundantly. Knowing this, we have nothing to fear.
It is fear which prevents us from accepting love because we are suspicious of other people’s motives. And fear prevents us from loving other people. Jesus not only told his followers to love one another; He told them again and again: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be fearful.”
If we can become less fearful and allow God’s Spirit of love to flow through us, our lives will bear the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)