“Keep calm and carry on.” You may recognize these words, having been made popular today on a variety of advertisements and posters. Originally, however, these words had a very serious purpose. They were used on a motivational poster produced by the British government. In 1939, on the eve of World War II, the British government was desperate to provide hope for its people. Hitler’s armies had overrun the Czechoslovak Republic and the Republic of Poland in a matter of weeks. By the summer of 1940, one year later, the Nazi war machine had conquered the rest of Europe—France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway—and had surrounded nearly the entire British Army at the port of Dunkirk.
My family and I recently watched two movies documenting these harrowing events: The Darkest Hour and Dunkirk . I thought to myself: How would I have reacted had I been alive under those circumstances? As the defeats and deaths mounted in the face of what appeared to be unstoppable evil, would I have "kept calm and carried on" or would I have folded in hopeless despair?
We live in a world cursed by sin. That means this world no longer functions as it was originally created and, as a result, bad things happen. We Christians are not spared. We are not spared from war, from aging bodies, from cancer, from a wayward son or daughter, from violence, from a friend’s betrayal, from car accidents, from an abusive parent, from our own bad judgment, from our own sin patterns, from our own weakness, and on and on and on.
In one sense, our Heavenly Father commands believers to “keep calm and carry on” in the face of confusion, pain, and failure. Jesus was definitive in John 16:33 when he said: “In the world you will have tribulation.” Yet Jesus and his apostles command us (1) not to worry (Matt. 6:34, Phil. 4:6) and (2) to remain active, working to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth (Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:13, Ja. 2:17).
In another sense, however, our Heavenly Father offers so much more to believers than the British government ever could offer to its people. Unlike the British government, our Heavenly Father doesn’t simply command us to do something and leave us to our own strength to obey. Our Creator knows that at some point in our trials, as the heat of our circumstances increases, our own self-discipline, perseverance, hope, and patience will fail. He knows our stiff upper lip will turn to mush!
The Apostle Paul had more earthly ability, discipline, and intellect than most of us, yet Paul also endured more suffering than most of us as well. Through his many successes and failures, Paul uniquely understood that the way to life and peace in the Christian life is not living in one’s own strength but living in the Spirit. Paul was so aware of the futility of relying on his own strength that he even boasted in his weaknesses. Counterintuitive!
The Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, says this: Our all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful Heavenly Father not only sent his own son to redeem us eternally, he has also sent his Holy Spirit to redeem our lives in the here and now, by changing us from the inside out! That means believers are able, in the Spirit, to keep calm and carry on under any earthly circumstances—not by our own strength, but by the power of the One who commands us. Praise Him!
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:9-11.