The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting recently released a report saying: “We are living through an era of intense turbulence, disillusionment and bewilderment. Deepening geopolitical tensions are transforming international relations, and political tribalism is revealing deep fissures within countries. The spread of exponential technologies is upending long-held assumptions about security, politics, economics and so much more. At least two factors distinguish the current phase of globalisation from past iterations.

First, the accelerated pace of change is making it virtually impossible to plan ahead. The speed of transformation, and its effects on markets, firms and labour, is astonishing. Second, the interdependence of global financial and trading systems and supply chains means that even the smallest of local glitches can have planetary ramifications. And while the world has never been more intertwined, it seems harder than ever to solve the most pressing transnational problems.

The relentless spread of new technologies—artificial intelligence, robotics, genomics and biotechnology—is mesmerising and unnerving in equal measure. There are widespread fears that automation will generate mass unemployment, in poor and wealthy countries alike, and that algorithms could hack electorates and destroy democracy itself. The last stories of inevitability—the empowering potential of the internet and the dominance of liberal democracy—are over. There are no discursive guardrails to give direction. The absence of a unifying narrative is deeply unsettling, especially in the West.”

It is exactly as the Lord foretold—“distress of nations, with perplexity” (Luke 21:25).

So what are we to do in this ever-changing, turbulent world of ours? The Scriptures provide a wonderful solution—to remain steadfast and immoveable in our beliefs and in our values.

In the New Testament we may be surprised to know that there are at least four different word groups that depict this theme of steadfastness. They are:

stereomastereoostereosTo strengthen, confirm. The noun denotes something solid and stable.
bebaiosisbebaioobebaiosDescribes that which is fixed, stable, sure, attested to and certified. It is something which is unwavering, valid, certain and thus can be relied upon.
sterigmos(epi)sterizoTo fix, make fast, set, establish.
hedraiomahedraiosThis is a word that originally was used to speak of one who was sitting (sedentary) and later came to be used figuratively of that which is firm, settled, steady, unshakeable, stable. It refers to something that is firmly fixed in place, secure and generally permanent.

The diversity of words only serves to illustrate the emphasis placed on remaining firm and consistent in the things of God.

Let’s examine the first grouping of words under the verb, stereoo. It is used of the lame man whose ankle bones were repaired so that he received strength (Acts 3:7). Peter, shortly after, supplied the spiritual lesson related to this miracle: “And his name through faith in his name (that is, the name of Jesus Christ) hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (v16). Faith is the power that gives strength. Without this there can only be weakness and instability. But this faith goes hand in hand with “the faith” because the word is later used in Acts 16:5, “And so were the ecclesias established in the faith”. They were made strong by the determinations of the Jerusalem Council, which gave them the appropriate direction and guidance they needed in Christ.

Paul used the word in 2 Timothy 2:19 to describe the foundation of God created by Christ and the apostles standing sure. It is like a bastion rock upon which we can whole-heartedly rely. When Paul wrote to the Colossians he rejoiced, “joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (Col 2:5). The metaphor is a military one. The word translated “order” is taxis, which means a rank or an ordered arrangement. The Colossians were like an ordered army, with every disciple in their appointed place, ready and willing to obey the word of command. The word translated “stedfastness” is our word, stereoma, which in this place means a solid bulwark, an immoveable phalanx.

Paul’s metaphor describes a military force set out in an unbreakable square, solidly immoveable against the shock of the enemy’s charge. Within ecclesias there should be disciplined order and strong steadiness, like the order and dependability of a trained and disciplined body of troops. Can we say that our ecclesia is like that? Are we personally shoring up the defences against the incursions that daily assail us?

The second group of words under the verb, bebaios, conveys a slightly different connotation. The word group is frequently used to describe the way the Spirit confirmed the validity of the gospel with signs and wonders (cp Heb 2:2-4).

Peter exhorts us to “give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Pet 1:10). Making sure of our glorious calling is contrasted to falling and stumbling out of the way. We have been called to a glorious hope, but it must be made secure. It will take diligence, Peter informs us, to achieve that, and it is made sure if we are able to manifest the qualities of faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and sacrificial love outlined in verses 5-7.

The word bebaioo occurs in Colossians 2:6-7: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving”. Being established in the faith is illustrated in two different ways. As a tree strikes its roots deep into the soil, so our faith should strike deep into the Word of God, rooted and grounded in love (Eph 3:17). Just as a building is established on a firm foundation, so our lives should be grounded and settled upon the rock of hearing and doing the Word of God (Matt 7:24). All of this needs to be done with an abundance of thanksgiving. Can our life in Christ be characterised in this way?

Under the third group, sterizo, we find it is used in Luke 9:51, “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem”. Here is resolution and determination to follow through with his Father’s will. We ought to have that same sense of resolve and fortitude towards our work in Christ.

Part of the great work of the apostle was to confirm and strengthen the ecclesias that had already been established (Acts 14:22, 15:32,41, 18:23). This was done by exhorting them to persevere in the faith and stand firm in the face of tribulation. Part of that strengthening derives its efficacy from love; as Paul wrote in 1 Thess 3:12-13, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another…to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints”. When love is diffused through a meeting, the heart can find safety and security.

There is an excellent illustration of the meaning of sterizo in the Septuagint where we read of Moses’ hands becoming heavy as Israel fought against Amalek: “Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported (sterizo in the imperfect tense – over and over they support) his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady (sterizo) until the sun set” (Exod 17:12 NASB). This is how we can strengthen each other; by supporting the hands of fellow brothers and sisters, particularly as we labour together in prayer for each other.

Lastly, in the fourth group, we find the words being used in the sense of being settled. For example in 1 Corinthians 7:37, Paul used the expression in this way: “Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well”. The Corinthians were prone to fickleness; shifting without reason from one position to another. Let them show a settled purpose, something that will not easily be disturbed. It carries a sense of being “grounded and settled and not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col 1:23).

Troubles, difficulties, anxieties, fears are all hall-marks of our ever-changing world and we are not immune from these things in Christ. Our God is “the living God, and stedfast for ever” (Dan 6:26) and it is in Him that we can find stability and peace (Isa 26:3).

The Word of life encourages us to be constant, firm, resolute, unwavering, determined in purpose and loyal. This means standing firm in the face of adversity and evil: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58).