Monthly Archives: June 2018

Persevering in God’s Will

Seeking to carry out God’s will is not always easy and can often be met with numerous obstacles.   

Examples are endless.  Decisions with respect to vocation or career, responding to a difficult boss or work colleague, nurturing the Christian upbringing of children, balancing the demands of work and family; being generous with our time and money; setting aside time for daily prayer – and many more.

Perseverance is a characteristic nearly always found in the saints.  St. Paul’s life is a running narrative of perseverance.  From the time of Jesus’ personal call to him on the road to Damascus, to his death in Rome, St. Paul encountered rejection and persecution throughout most of his ministry.

He was forced to flee Iconium; he was stoned in Lystra; he and Silas were beaten and imprisoned in Philippi; his presence in Thessalonica and Ephesus provoked riots; and he was ridiculed in Athens.  On his last trip to Jerusalem, he was arrested and held for two years by the Roman governor, Felix, who refused to release him, hoping to receive a bribe.  He was later sent to Rome and was under house arrest for two years before his eventual death.

In his own words he says, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.  I have labored and toiled and have gone without sleep… Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:24-28)

Most of us are not likely to experience these severe difficulties in fulfilling God’s will, but we can expect to encounter various challenges. 

As an attorney for a large oil company, in my mid-40’s I was offered an assignment that would have required our family to move back to New York from northern Virginia.  It was a career enhancing assignment, but we had three teenage daughters and a two year old son at the time.  My wife and I discerned that our daughters were all in a good place with good schools and Christian friends, and we were not sure we could replicate those conditions in New York.  Therefore, I declined the offer.

While I did not lose my job because of this decision, further advancement in my career was certainly put on hold.  Not long afterwards, I was asked to take a position I had previously held in order to give a “more promotable person” the experience of my current job.  I started to see attorneys who used to report to me being promoted over me.  I would like to report that I accepted all of this with understanding and grace, but I struggled mightily for several years.

In the meantime, God blessed us with another daughter; the teenage daughters we were concerned about completed their education, met wonderful husbands and are now raising Christian families of their own. The same is true for our son.

After about five years, my career seemed to get off its side track. Now in retirement, as I divide my time with family and a couple of Christian ministries, we could not be more blessed.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked before us.”  (Hebrews 12:1)

Belief’s Impact on Family

How important is our belief in Jesus on family and household?

There is a fascinating story in Acts where Paul and Silas are beaten and imprisoned for delivering a slave girl from an evil spirit.  This deprived the owners of the slave girl from earning money from her fortune telling.  As a result they dragged Paul and Silas into the marketplace and incited the people and magistrates to order them to be flogged and imprisoned.

Placed in an inner cell with their feet fastened in stocks, Paul and Silas started praying and singing hymns at midnight.  Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, the prison doors flew open and their chains came loose.  The jailer, thinking everyone had escaped, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.  Paul shouted, “Do not harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer fell trembling before Paul and Silas and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31) They then spoke the word of the Lord to the jailer and all the others in his house and they were baptized.

Because of the practice of holding jailers responsible with their life if prisoners escaped, the jailer may have been thinking about how he could save his life.  Paul was intent on saving not only his life but also his soul and giving him eternal life, and the rest of his household as well.

We may not fully appreciate the impact that our belief in the Lord Jesus has on the rest of our family and members of our household.   I thank God for the Christian heritage that I received from my mother and father, my grandparents and those who went before them.  I believe that there is a certain grace that flows from such a heritage that nurtures the gift of faith God desires for each of us.

While the heirs of such a heritage are free to reject the gift of faith, a heritage of faith enriches the soil into which the seed of faith is planted.  The greater the example of a life lived by faith on the part of the parents, the more fertile the soil in the children to receive the seeds of faith, and for those seeds to grow and mature. 

How often have we seen a rebellious son or daughter come back to the faith through a parent’s example and prayers of intercession?  St. Augustine is one of the more notable examples who returned to God through the intercession of his mother, Monica, after having lived a rather promiscuous life for a number of his early adult years.

St. Paul tells us that an unbelieving spouse is sanctified by a believing spouse. (1 Cor. 7:14)  Our belief in Jesus and how we live out that belief is not just for our individual benefit, but part of God’s plan to spread the faith to others, particularly our own family and household.

“So then they said to him, ‘What can we do to accomplish the works of God?’ Jesus answered, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.’” (John 6:28-29)

Opening the Door to God

a56e43d9021bd6bcd50f01ab4fae112dAre we opening the door to God in our lives?  Jesus provides a continuous invitation.  He says, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)

I recently came across a beautiful reflection from St. Augustine about how he had put God off for many years, and then he reflects:

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!

     You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.

     In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. 

     You were with me, but I was not with you. 

     Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you, they would              have not been at all. 

     You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. 

     You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. 

     You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.

     I have tasted you; now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I

     burned for your peace.  (The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book Ten, XXVII)

While I will never attain the depth of Augustine’s spirituality and wisdom, I relate to his early struggles in resisting God’s invitations to have a personal and intimate relationship with him.  In my early adult years, I went to church every Sunday, participated in the sacraments and loved my wife and children.

There were times when I would experience a whiff of God’s special fragrance, but for the most part, I kept him at arm’s length, particularly when it came to moving forward in my career as a young attorney.  I allowed myself to be influenced more by the ways of the world than the ways of God.

Then one October evening, through God’s grace and the influence of my wife and other spirit-filled Christian friends, I met Jesus in a way I had never experienced before – just the two of us.  In the solitude of his presence and gentle love, I was inclined to ask him to take the sin and mixed priorities in my life, and before I could finish the request, he responded with an affirmation that words are inadequate to describe. 

It was a watershed moment.  If you ask my wife, she will tell you that from that point forward all my priorities began to change.  Jesus gave me a new thirst for reading scripture and spending time daily with him.  He gave me a new love for the Church and his sacraments, and a desire to share his presence with others.  Yes, I am still capable of failing him, but repentance eventually follows.

Like Augustine, we thank you, Lord, for breaking through our deafness, for dispelling our blindness and breathing the fragrance of your Spirit on us.