What Shipwrecks Faith?Fr. Barnabas Powell
Let’s face it, we live in a society that has exalted radical uncertainty to a virtue. Where the “really sophisticated” people pride themselves on being able to “see all sides” of an issue without ever coming down clearly on a position. The modern thinkers fear being labeled “fundamentalists” or “close minded” and fear this so strongly that they fundamentally refuse to hold a position on anything except that they refuse to hold a position on anything. AND they are close minded to any opinion strongly held so that they can protect their status as “fair” and “open minded.”
What is it about clarity and conviction that scares us today? Is it the fear we will actually have to live up to a standard of conduct that is seen as “too restrictive” or imposes a common morality upon us? Maybe we simply aren’t comfortable around those with strong convictions because it reveals our own lack of conviction. Or maybe we have thrown out so many time tested social morays in favor of what seems “fair” that we simply have no foundation to stand on anymore. Is there hope on the rocky seas of modern life?
Look at our lesson today in 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 2:8-10:
TIMOTHY, my son, this charge I commit to you in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenaios and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion.
Our Orthodox Christian faith doesn’t suffer from the limitations of modern society. The hard sayings of Jesus in the Gospels and the clear, timeless teaching of the Faith gives solid direction to anyone willing to hear it. St. Paul reveals to us today the guidance that will keep us off the rocky shores of a shipwrecked faith.
First, Intimacy with God. Your faith will never wreck as long as you you foster a life of intimacy with God. And here Paul reveals that prayer is the key to intimacy with God. You can’t stay close to someone you never talk to. And you can’t be close to someone you only talk to when you’re in trouble. The wisdom of the Orthodox Way of life is a way of prayer. Daily prayer; frequent liturgies; and focused devotion in learning the timeless words of prayer creates an intimacy with God that keeps your life afloat!
Next, Humility before God. Paul uses the illustration of modesty to teach all of us the power of humility. It is a humble person who thinks first of their relationship with God in even how they dress their bodies. It is a priority of a person of faith who doesn’t crash their life into the rocky shores of spiritual blindness in so ordering their everyday life that even their clothes witness to their devotion.
Finally, Fidelity to God. Faithfulness isn’t a moment, but stringing together days, weeks, and months, and even years of consistent living as a purposeful believer. But, God’s grace is so faithful to us that falling doesn’t destroy us unless we stay down. Even the most public crash is salvageable when we get back up and start anew. God’s grace and His faithful love NEVER gives up on us. Even the time of sorrow in our failures can’t overcome God’s good grace. He is always, and I mean ALWAYS, ready to start us over again if only we will ask!
Today, have you or even someone you know made a shipwreck of their faith? It’s not too late to begin again. It never is! Through Intimacy, Humility, and Fidelity, God can take your shipwreck, repair your life, and make you “seaworthy” again all by being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. But it’s also a time of year where it’s easy to forget WHY it’s so wonderful. In your giving this year, make sure you leave room in your budget to give to your parish, to Ancient Faith Radio, and to other worthy causes that help you grow in your faith. Most ministries depend on their end of year giving to keep going! Thank you.