Word Magazine January 1965 Page 3-4
EXPLORING THE POSSIBILITIES OF OUR FAITH
A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
By METROPOLITAN ANTONY
The knowledge of what our faith has to offer to the individual is a matter that each may seek after with his might and main, for it is the most prized possession in the world. Nothing arrives without it, and everything arrives with it. It offers us the most valued thing in life, and connects us with a force which gives us vision and wisdom beyond the fondest dreams of man. Christ compared the possibilities of true religion to a man who found a great treasure which to possess, had to sell everything he had to buy.
From the very beginning of time man tried to explore the possibilities of faith and in life’s higher values. The search has been most gratifying when man used proper means and methods, but he came to a sad ending when he tried to arrogate to himself ways and means against the will of God.
In order to get the most out of his religion one should realize that each of us can become whatever he wishes providing he works hard toward the realization of his possibilities. But that depends upon self-knowledge, and a proper estimate of a person’s capacities. That there are great possibilities in all of us in varying degrees goes without saying, but how to get into these forces within ourselves and utilize them to the best advantage has always been the problem. Psychology and psychiatry offer much help along these lines but it is only in Christianity that we learn how to tap these great possibilities within man to the best advantage.
The very first step on the part of the man seeking to explore the possibilities of religion is by the realization that God and God alone has the key to all knowledge, that all the higher wisdom is imparted by Him to man. In other words, God inspires the human mind imparting to man the wisdom and the illumination necessary to human progress. God gives man the incentive, the green light to go ahead. He prompts man and empowers him for any task which otherwise might seem impossible. Inspiration when arriving into the heart and mind of a person links him with the greatest of all the world’s forces for then he becomes a partner with God, having acquired the plus element.
There cannot be any argument in the fact that God has and holds the initiative, especially in matters pertaining to higher endeavors and wisdom. One of the most fatal mistakes committed by man is his belief that he can go it alone. It is the first step downward, for its spells pride, arrogance, divorcement from the Divine Power which alone can give man the proper guidance, and without which one is doomed to failure.
The turning point in a man’s life arrives when he believes that linked with God nothing shall be impossible to him, and while he does his best toward the realization of his possibilities, he waits upon God for guidance and inspiration. Time and again we come across difficulties and problems which seem well-nigh insurmountable. But the patient believer, tuning in on God, hears words like these, “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
The second step along the road of exploring the possibilities of religion is meditation, concentration — thinking thoughts that are elevating and uplifting. This is where man either rises or falls, for as the sacred writer has it, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” The person who habitually thinks wholesome thoughts is the man on the road to maturity. Keeping one’s thoughts pure is mandatory upon each of us, because what we cook up in our minds usually shows up in deeds either good or bad. Strife, struggles, malice’s and grudges have their origin in man’s mind, just as all the great and worthy deeds, the peace movements and the efforts which contribute to man’s well-being, hatch in man’s mind too. No person can hope to attain to any degree of religious faith; none can explore its great possibilities, the stream of whose thoughts are impure. There is perhaps nothing more rewarding, indeed nothing more gratifying than the consciousness that you are at peace with God and man. Our thoughts are the mirrors in which are reflected our own attitudes toward our fellow human beings.
The third step along the road of exploring the possibilities of religion is devotion, dedicating one’s self on the altar of service to God and humanity. Have you ever stopped to think why people of no great significance at all throughout history, men who were mediocre financially, socially and intellectually became men of great moral stature? The answer is found in the fact that they lived sacrificially, they had the vision glorious in realizing that they were here for the purpose of pleasing God, forgetting their self-interests, giving of their times and means in the service of humanity. They realized the great possibilities within them because they persevered in the way, they obediently followed the light of the Eternal Spirit which ever way it took them. They realized that alone they could not make the grade, they literally put their lives, their entire affairs in God’s hands and therefore, they triumphed over trouble.
If you and I and the rest of humanity were to dedicate our talents, be they ever so small, to the great cause of service to God and humanity we would make the grand and glorious discovery that with God’s help we are sure winners, and by His assistance we attain to great heights spiritually.
Consider if you will, the twelve disciples of our Lord at whose achievements we are still amazed. Could anyone have expected much from men whose efforts were spent in eking out a living by fishing and fighting the elements? Have you ever asked yourselves the reason for their attainment to such dizzy spiritual heights? The answer — they were willing to keep company with Jesus, to follow where ever he led them. “Follow me,” said Jesus simply, “and I will make you fishers of men.” They followed him unquestioningly, but the road led to Gethsemane and a cross. But the road did not end there, for beyond that cross was a resurrection experience, a new life with the assurance that no life shall end in the grave which banked its all on the goodness of God. That life shall live after seeming death because God lives!
Fourth and last, to explore the possibilities of our faith we should have Christ’s pioneering spirit, whose goal was and still is “all the world and every creature.” Christianity, according to Christ, has no human boundaries, racial or linguistic limitations. The frontier of our faith is wherever man is found. St. Paul, one of the greatest Christians that ever lived, who has written one half of the New Testament, made this statement, “I am debtor to the Greek and to the Barbarian, to the wise and to the unwise so that as much as it lies in me I should preach the gospel to you who are in Rome.” A restless, unsatisfied, pioneering spirit characterized the efforts of the early Christians. “We have not attained or are already perfect, but we strive toward the goal of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” was their motto ever urging them on to greater and worthier efforts.
We stop short of the goal because we are influenced with a complacent, let-doing-too-well-
alone-spirit. We’ve lost our pioneering spirit because we feel that we have thriving, well-organized churches and thorough-going organizations. Satisfied with our achievements we become complacent, and with that slacken our efforts, thus progress is arrested and checked, and with that retrogression sets in.
“All the world and every creature” are far from being Christianized. One wonders as to the reason. Is it because we Christians are busy building our denominational walls, stressing our dogmatic differences, behaving as pagans rather than Christians? Is the world on the brink of ruin and on the verge of a global war because of the disunity among the various Christian groups who are supposed to be the children of light and should know the peace of God which passeth all understanding? Have we forgotten Jesus warning that a divided kingdom or house cannot stand? Can we truthfully say that hate and prejudice and ill will are an evidence of a Christian spirit? Unity in the ranks of all godly people is the sure way to lasting Peace. Should we unite under the banner of love, loyalty and good will and thus achieve peace, or shall we continue as we always have done and achieve suicide — which shall it be?
The salvation of the world lies not in having great armaments, guided missiles or larger churches, but it lies in the diffusion of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world and every creature, it lies in rallying all people under the banner of Jesus Christ, the banner of loyalty, love and good-will, laying aside every hindrance and impediment to peace. May God help us in this worthy endeavor.
God give us men! A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands, men whom the lust of office does not kill. Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy. Men who possess opinions and a will. Men who have honor — men who will not lie; tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog, in public duty and in private thinking!