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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oct. 10: Enduring for the Sake of Fellow Believers

We continued today in our study of Paul's letters to Timothy, studying the text 2 Timothy 2:8-15. Fr. David pointed out that in his letters, Paul is writing to Timothy both as an apostle of Jesus Christ to a bishop of the Church and also as a godparent to his godson.

Paul is writing from prison, where he has been sentenced for his preaching. But he is not discouraged, saying "...the word of God is not fettered. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect...".

"Do you think you are able to help or hurt other Christians?" asked Fr. David. "Do the things you do have an effect on them? How deeply connected are we to the Lord and to others?"

The connection, he pointed out, runs very deep. "Paul writes that he is enduring prison 'for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.' In other words, Paul is suffering for those he says elsewhere, in his letter to the Ephesians, were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, but who haven't yet come to faith.

"Paul himself was therefore chosen, before anything was created, to be Christ's instrument of salvation for many throughout the known world of his time, and his purpose for suffering in jail had little to do with his own life but much to do with the lives and welfare of others, including believers right to the present day who are still reading Paul's letters and experiencing spiritual growth."

Fr. David went on to give some examples of ways Christians can affect each other. Negative effects come through the concept first articulated in the Old Testament of the sins of the fathers being visited on their childen. We see this today in dysfunctional families, where the bad behavior and example of parents has an inevitable effect on the children, sometimes continuing
for generations.

In another example, the author Ann White writes in her book Healing Adventure of her need to go and make peace with a person she'd been unwilling to forgive before she could pray effectively for healing for her asthmatic son.

"We ARE connected with the Lord and one another," Fr. David continued. "We can have a positive and holy effect. As we read in James 5:16, 'the prayers of a righteous person avail much,' and when we're living a better life, we're really doing that for others.

"There's an old saying -- 'Jesus first, others second, yourself last spells J-O-Y'. When we lift up others we lift up ourselves too. Even the knowledge that our lives are of eternal value to those around us also lifts us up when we're called to suffer for the sake of the elect. And when we feel
weak, if we're open about that, God will assert his strength in us. Praise the Lord!"

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Thought for the Day: October 3, 2010

"Does God Want Us to Suffer?" addresses some commonly held beliefs among Christians. Here are some valuable thoughts from the article, which specifically addresses physical pain, but is just as applicable to emotional pain as well:

"Today, people often respond to others’ pain with clich├ęs: “Everything happens for a reason,” or, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” glossing over the hard realities of pain in favor of the lessons to be learned."

"Our culture operates under the assumption that “pain is gain” (and that an inability or unwillingness to bear it is a character flaw)."

"Certainly, the Cross demonstrates that pain can be redemptive, and many of us can relate experiences whereby pain led to positive transformation (though such transformation often comes once pain is relieved, because in the midst of severe pain, it’s hard to do much of anything besides be in pain). Christ’s suffering also helps us to know that when we suffer pain, God actually does know how we feel."

"Yet the abundant stories of Jesus' healings also suggest that God understands how pain can limit human flourishing, especially when it leaves people unable to participate in essential human activities (family and community life, work, rest) and disconnected from their true selves."

Click on the article title to read the full piece.