MY son Timothy, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
In this, second letter to his student Timothy, Saint Paul reminds him that Christian life is not always rosy. Timothy observed Paul's teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, etc., while traveling with him and preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps Timothy was going through a rough time establishing his own community, so Paul says that hardships are perfectly normal. In fact they are almost expected - "all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
These are no small words. Jesus warned about the same:
"If the world hates you, be aware that it hated Me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world - therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their Master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of My Name, because they do not know Him Who sent Me" (John 15:18-21).
In short, Christian life is not easy, but it is the life of salvation. St Paul was persecuted - he was imprisoned, he was beaten, he was stoned, - yet the Lord rescued him from all these things. Here is a simple fact of life - no matter what kind of life we lead, we will struggle, we will suffer, so why not suffer for something, why not struggle for salvation in Christ? If we endure, if we remain faithful we have the promise of salvation. Do we have the promise of wealth (and/or health) if we, let's say, put in 60-70-80 hours a week of work, be it in the office or in the gym?
I am not saying putting in the work and striving for something is bad in and of itself. But we need to have our priorities straight, if following Jesus Christ, being His faithful disciple, is important to us, then we need to put at least some effort into it - effort that extends beyond couple hours on weekends.
St Paul tells Timothy that no matter his circumstances he should "continue in what [he had] learned and firmly believed." The question becomes - what have we learned and what do we believe? I became an altar server when I was 20, at one of my first services the head altar server came up to me and said, "Christianity is a beautiful abyss of knowledge - the more you learn, the more you realize you haven't even scratched the surface." And he was right, learning about our faith is like reading a book and each turn of the page does not lead to the next page, but to more books. It's impossible to know everything because the source of everything is God's wisdom, which is unattainable for us.
This does not mean that we should be content with whatever we know, or think we know. Yes, we have lives and families and careers, and we constantly need to learn there, but don't neglect learning about your faith. Learn the Holy Scriptures, read the Bible daily because it is "able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." Have a solid prayer rule, solid not in terms of length, but in terms of attainability, the kind of prayer rule that will be spiritually nourishing (discuss with your parish priest if you have questions). Read spiritual books, there is an abundant choice of books in our time both in print and ebooks. If your parish offers Catechism, adult classes, Bible Study, etc., try to make those whenever you can.
Above all, don't let the hardships of this life bring you down. Our loving Lord created His Church as a community for a reason - we need each other's support. Be a support for someone and let others be the same support for you. The Lord rescues us from persecutions by giving us each other.
God bless you all.
Yours in Christ,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest
Come and see... (John 1:39, 46)
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Little Falls, NJ 07424
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