4 October OS 2015 – Saturday of the Twentieth Week after Pentecost/2nd Week of St. Luke, Holy Hieromartyr Hierotheos of Athens
In today’s reading from the Apostolos, St. Paul speaks of his helplessness in the face of opposition to the Gospel, and his complete reliance on the grace of Christ:
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf. – II Corinthians 1: 8-11
In the Acts of the Apostles and in the Lives of the Apostles, we see demonstrated over and over again the power of God to deliver His servants from what are, in human terms, simply impossible situations. Here St. Paul is speaking of one of the numerous encounters with imminent death that he endured in the course of his tireless missionary work. He states the reason why God allowed this to happen to him: “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”
We never stop learning how much we trust in ourselves and how little we trust in God, both because the depths of our pride are so deep (though not infinitely deep, for we are finite beings – there is an end to it, as we see demonstrated in the lives of saints) and, more importantly, because the power of God is infinitely great to work in us – “Great is our God, and great is His strength, and of His understanding there is no measure.” Look, here is the pre-eminent Apostle, Paul, and you would think that, well, after awhile he would “have it all down.” No, to the end of his life, the Lord is teaching Him: Trust in Me.
Our Christian life can be seen through the image of the woman in labor. She has greater and greater contractions, more and more pain, until the child is born. Between contractions, she can rest, but then…here it comes…and it is greater than the previous one. In our lives, the Lord trains us for greater trials by means of lesser ones. When the waves of crisis subside, we say, “Whew, I am glad that that is over!” But how can we benefit from each crisis, in order to grow closer to God and to be prepared for the next wave? There are at least three things to do:
- In the midst of every difficulty, and after it ends, thank God for all things. Force yourself to glorify Him in every difficulty and cry out to Him for help.
- When the problem begins to recede, start reflecting on what has happened. Ask God to show you how He was holding your hand at every moment and how He delivered you from sorrow.
- Resolve in your mind to accept the reality that equal and greater crises are yet to come, whether exterior, in outward difficulties, or interior, within the soul. Beg the Lord to deepen your trust in Him, so that, strengthened by each successive crisis and gradually growing in faith and in hope, you will become a stronger and stronger Christian, able to endure the demonic winds and the worldly waves that will inevitably beat against the house of the soul right up to the moment of death. If the house of the soul is founded on the Rock that is Christ, you have nothing to fear.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. – Matthew 7: 24-27