The Keys to Staying Faithful for a LifetimeFr. Barnabas Powell
Our busy lives really do challenge us in keeping our priorities in the right order, don’t they? We moderns are a complicated mishmash of schedules, opportunities, affluence, and “freedom.” And that multiplication of events, desires, hopes, and advertisements don’t seem to be slowing down. It seems that each new day brings a new barrage of invitations, exhortations, and marketing all meant to fill up every available moment of our day with “You just have to do this! It’s got to be your number one priority!” or “You won’t be truly happy/fulfilled/popular/relevant/up to date/ if you don’t have/do/sign up for/attend/buy this _____________!”
So, in light of our crazy (for the most part – self imposed) schedules, how do we develop an antidote for our own weaknesses to get distracted from the timeless priorities that lead us to real happiness and peace?
Look at our lesson today in 2 Corinthians 4:6-15. St. Paul offers the Corinthians (and by extension to us as well since we are all one Body in Christ) three doses of reality to keep us sober in the middle of the intoxicating world we live in.
Brethren, it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too believed, and so we speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
First, St. Paul reminds these Corinthians that God is God. Sounds simple enough. But I tend to be intoxicated by the “opportunities” to fill up my life with distractions when I forget that my life has but one overarching narrative and goal: to know God. Because knowing God reveals my true self and my true purpose in life. When I forget that God is God, I naturally (or unnaturally) slip into choices and behaviors that feed my selfishness rather than my true self, which was created to know God and be known by Him.
Second, St. Paul tells the Corinthians they “need” God. He reminds them that part of our problem is when we forget that we hold this treasure of faith in “earthen vessels” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7). When I forget that my true life is a gift, my abilities are gifts, my world is a gift, I start forgetting my dependence on God for my very breath. That forgetfulness makes me ungrateful. And ingratitude intoxicates me into believing I am enough for myself. When that happens, well, cue crash and burn sound effect!
Finally, St. Paul shows the Corinthians (and us) that God is enough! He reminds the Corinthians that since Christ has destroyed “death by death” then all our excuses, all our forgetfulness, all our distractions, are powerless to hold us. They only hold us now because we allow them to hold us. And that means the Resurrection of Christ offers us the path to a sober and faithful life.
Today, do you know how to stay faithful? our Orthodoxy invites us once again, lovingly, forcefully, and graciously toward the wake up call to “BE” faithful, and in being faithful, put an end to the chaos of undisciplined lives. In light of this gift of Faith, chaos is now self-inflicted. The freedom to live in the beauty of faithfulness and clarity is within your grasp. The choice remains yours, and yours alone. Choose in this moment to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. I pray you have a blessed weekend. And don’t forget to pray for us, as we pray for you. You see, you make this work possible. It would be a waste of time to simply do all this without you on the receiving end of this work. So you are appreciated and valued. Thank you. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.