Word Magazine December 1968 Page 14-15
THE MATURE CHRISTIAN
By The Late Father Michael Baroudy,
A person who wishes to attain and achieve success in life must consider that life is a struggle, a race, a competition every day. And if one hopes to attain any appreciable height financially, socially or religiously, he must face facts about himself in order to keep fit for the race of life. The complexity of present-day living tends to discourage the best men but, nevertheless, much depends on the way you and I struggle. One derives much courage from the knowledge that he or she is attached to a great cause. Doing your job well is praiseworthy; it matters not what the job is. If you despise your job, if you are not enthused about it, of course, you are on your way to failure. The world’s great causes, no matter of what character, depend for their success upon the vision, faith and loyalty of the men and women who espouse and support them. Whenever and wherever you see a cause gaining momentum, getting ahead regardless of obstacles, you can be absolutely certain that there are men and women shouldering the responsibility, doing their level best, ever striving toward a goal, an objective. They feel the compulsion, the urge that, come what may, they will do their part to make that cause live. There is perhaps nothing more rewarding to a person than putting himself in the service of some worthy enterprise, some civic or benevolent cause, where one puts his talents to work, pooling them with other fellow workers to make that cause a success.
In St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we find this statement, “I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”
St. Paul, the writer of these words, was a seasoned and mature warrior of Christ, a man whom no obstacle or difficulty could make deny the faith. This letter was written from a prison cell. St. Paul was at Rome, soon to be executed, not for any wrong doing, but for espousing a cause which was considered dangerous. Consider that handful of Christian men pitted their puny strength against the Roman Empire, paganism and pagan practices. The world in which Paul lived teemed with idolatry and immorality; tyranny and utter degradation were connived at and even encouraged. And because Paul raised his voice against indecency, injustice and irreligion, he was considered insane, a dangerous man. He was tried in many courts and when he could get no justice, he appealed his case to Rome. There, awaiting trial and execution, he wrote the letter, containing the words of our text, to a young disciple called Timothy, in which he laid down some definite principles necessary to a mature Christian life.
The first principle St. Paul laid down is knowledge, derived from confidence. “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed.” A person is mature when he arrives at that stage of his life where, through a long and arduous struggle, he can truthfully say. “I know what life is about, for I have tried every phase of living; I have tasted the bitterness and the gall of persecution; I have lived outside the gate of faith, and what it means to be without God and without hope in the world. I know, for I have been there. I have known these and the futility and folly of unbelief.” Yes, knowledge is power in any realm. The man who knows his job earns the respect of others, no matter what that job is. But St. Paul here points out to us the road to certainty and maturity; it is to know God, to be appreciative of the divine love and the compassion of the Savior.
Heroic living comes from knowledge based on confidence. Paul could not have become the towering giant of Christianity that he was had he not known by personal experience the great Personality to whom he so inseparably had become attached. His oneness and identity with the Christ caused him to cry triumphantly in another scripture, “I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Much of the present-day unhappiness and misery are due to the uncertainty of people’s beliefs. Our beliefs must carry convictions so deeply entrenched in us that dependability becomes our watchword. How much confidence could you have in a son whose promises are never fulfilled, who carries a chip on his shoulder, who mistrusts everybody and who trusts no one; a person beset by indecision and uncertainty, one whose life from day to day is like the shifting winds, “Subject to change without notice ?“ There is nothing perhaps more despicable, nothing more contemptible in the sight of God than a person who stands for nothing in particular. One church cannot become a power for God and His Christ unless the men and women in it have iron convictions ingrained in their souls, whom nothing in the world could discourage, who would be willing to work and offer no excuses. The great assets of Christianity, whatever other material assets it could boast, are devotion, loyalty, convictions well-founded, and which nothing, not even death, could terminate or destroy. You and I must have faith in one another as well as in God. We should believe in the integrity of everyone until he proves himself otherwise. The more our faith in God grows the more able you and I become in trusting men. Confidence and trust have in them the redeeming, saving elements of mankind. I believe the least worthy of men will become a better person when we trust him and put him on his honor.
Another principle necessary to maturity is commitment, and that is the goal, the objective of knowledge and conviction. Of course, commitment means to consign, to surrender. Paul said he was unashamed and unafraid because he laid his life in its entirety on the altar of service to God and humanity, therefore, he had no fear of the consequences because God was able to keep that trust, after all it was His own, which He committed into his keeping.
Many of us pray to God when we feel the need. But in some instances we feel no release from the worry or the strain gripping us. The reason is because our faith has not matured to the extent that we feel able to make the full surrender. Therefore, our uneasiness is due, not to lack of God’s power or unwillingness on His part to espouse our cause and relieve the tension, but it is due to our half-hearted surrender, our inability to let go of something we cherish. Fullness of joy and happiness, unbounded and without measure, depends upon the utter, unstinted commitments to Him who is able to keep that which we trustingly leave to His fatherly care.
One of my favorite stories is about the little boy who was taken by is father to get a new pair of shoes. It was a winter day, and the sidewalks were icy. As they came from the store, the father reached for his son’s hand, but the boy with the new shoes felt proud and grown up and chose to walk alone. They had not gone far, however, when down went the little boy. You could hear the crack of his elbow as he hit the ice. Manfully trying to withhold the tears, he rose to his feet, grimly gripped his father’s hand and continued safely on his way.
If our failures and mistakes cause us to take a firmer grip on God’s hand, they are not in vain. Instead, the experience will help to make us wiser and to keep us closer to the Source of Security. We will then be better equipped to face life. Our humble and penitent spirits will make us more understanding and ready to help others along life’s way.