† Where is your Faith? †
Where is your Faith?
"Faith working through Love" (Gal. 5:6) (2)
I was asked to write an article for "Orthodox News" and I thought about which topic more appropriate to start with.
I found out that the most appropriate topic, as I encountered through writing in "Abba Antony" Magazine of the monastery for years and according to what I see in the community, is about faith and its relationship with our life. Especially we are in the Apostles' Fasting and they are examples for us in work and faith. Our ultimate example is Our Lord Jesus Christ, but Christ handed down many things to the apostles; some have been written in the gospels and others we see in the life of the apostles in the Acts, Epistles and Revelation books, and in the history of the church and the Holy Tradition. Thus when we imitate the apostles we imitate Christ though our imitation of the apostles as the apostle Paul said, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." (1Cor. 11:1, 4:16) (Phil. 3:17)
The kind of faith I want to talk about is faith as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith," (Gal. 5:22)
If we would like to classify faith into kinds or phases it would be: faith in God as He is and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb. 11:6) then faith in Christ and His salvation and in the Gospel, then faith as a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit. We find that faith as a fruit of the Holy Spirit is the net result of all those kinds and phases. Of course we as believers went though faith in God and of the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ, but our faith and its power is revealed in us as a fruit. "You will know them by their fruits." (Matt. 7:16, 20)
Therefore what is the meaning of faith as a fruit of the Holy Spirit?
*From the gift point of view, it is, as a fruit, comes forth by plowing and making our land ready to receive the seeds which are the word of God, then we take care of it by putting fertilizers which are the holy doctrines and teachings, and wait for the rain of the Spirit from heaven. We should give chance for the work of the grace though the means of grace, i.e. prayer, fasting, and the Holy Sacraments...etc. Thus it is not by our own effort but by the work of grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit although our effort and our work is essential in our communion with the Holy Spirit.
*From our advancing point of view, it is that we walk in the path under guidance. Probably we may not notice our growth except after long time because growth is different than gaining weight or being fat. You can eat a lot on one day and your weight would increase, but this is not growth, and this may harm you, because he who walks without guidance and increases his spirituals without wisdom may harm himself. But growth under spiritual guidance is a regular healthy advance.
*From the form of the fruit point of view, is that he who has this fruit puts all his trust in the Lord and do not fear any perils and hardships, and no events make him worry, and he does not back up in front of dangers and threats. He does not fear suffering or death but put his life in the hand of the Lord and be sure of His work and His providence.
We can see these fruits very obvious in the life of the apostles who did not consider dangers, sufferings or death, and no perils, threats, sufferings or death prevented them from their preaching. Especially the Apostle Paul who said, "I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;" (2Cor. 11:26) "Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep." (2Cor. 11:25)
When the Holy Spirit solemnly testified to him in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await him the brethren said to him not to go to Jerusalem, "Then Paul answered, 'What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'" (Acts 21:13) He said also, "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers," (Rom. 8:35-39)
But faith must be living and this is revealed in works, "But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" (Jam. 2:20) Thus faith must be working, but this is not enough also as the apostle paul says, "And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." (1Cor. 13:3) He says also, "...and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1Cor. 13:2)
Also the mother that worries and fear about her son who, for example, go to war or dangers, must know that not a single hair of his head fall down except with God's permission. (Acts 27:34) (Luke 21:18) We should trust the lord and His love and kindness, and she is not more compassionate on her son more than the Lord. A father that is worried about the future of his sons and his family should hear the words of the Lord to His disciples when they forgot to take bread with them on the boat, "But Jesus, aware of this, said, "You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? "Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up?" (Matt. 16:8-9) And when He calmed the wind and the sea, "And He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?'" (Mar. 4:40), "And He said to them, 'Where is your faith?'" (Luke 8:25)
Our faith makes us fix our sight on Christ. Peter the apostle when he went out of the ship walked on the water but when he looked to the tides and the wind he started to sink, "Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?'" (Matt. 14:31) We also when we fix our sight on the Lord Christ we rise up with faith over the tides of this world and they cannot affect us. But if we look at them and turn our sight away from He who has everything in His hand, we start to drown.
Therefore as Christians if we want to put our spiritual life in three words from the Bible it would be, "Faith working through Love" (Gal. 5:6) Let these words be the slogan of our path and the plan of our walk and let no cultures, enticements, societies or pressures affect us.
Fr. Marcus St. Antony
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