One of the gifts during the Thanksgiving holiday was a focused time to reflect on how thankful I am for those that are persevering in the face of particular difficulties of life. I know that in one sense this describes all of us on our “pilgrim” journey, but many in the body of Christ, both at Christ Church and more broadly, are either bearing particular difficulties right now, or are walking with those in the throes of the fight.
I am grateful for sustained faith. I realize that sometimes it may seem weak to those in the midst of the trial and all faith is always hard fought. But it is a true testimony to the power of the Gospel and an encouragement to those observing from the outside.
St. Augustine said many years ago commenting on the faith of the martyrs in a sermon entitled, On Reprimand and Grace:
In fact, greater freedom is necessary against so many great temptations that did not exist in Paradise -- a freedom defended and fortified by the gift of perseverance, so that this world, with all its loves and terrors and errors, may be overcome. The martyrdom of the saints has taught us this. In the end, using free choice with no terrors and moreover against the command of the terrifying God, Adam did not stand fast in his great happiness, in his ready ability not to sin. The martyred saints, though, have stood fast in their faith, even though the world ... savagely attacked them -- in order that they not stand fast … where does this come from, if not by God's gift?
We are no longer in paradise, and we know the “savage attacks” of this world … but praise God, His grace is sufficient. What a gift! And it truly is a gift. All of us walking through the fire, being acutely aware of our frailty, will readily attest to the giftedness of faith. But what a testimony to see God’s children held fast, even if by a thread, proving the Gospel is real. So let me say thank you to all walking through the deep waters while keeping their eyes on Jesus.