Have you ever been falsely accused? Have you ever been persecuted?
I’ve lost track of how many times St. Paul was falsely accused or persecuted, but it’s a bunch – a big bunch!
Jesus, his Master, predicted that such persecution would come, and Paul himself had been told that he would be put in chains for the gospel. The amazing thing is that Paul is like the Energizer Bunny. He keeps on going and going, knowing that he will face further persecution: 2nd verse, same as the 1st.
Some of us love to read true stories of courage: it’s one of the reasons people like to read non-fiction works about wars, and it’s one of the reasons people like The Lord of the Rings, because face it, most of us are not wizards or elves or even men or dwarves but hobbits who appear to be insignificant.
But here are the truest and noblest stories of courage: the lives of the saints, including St. Paul. Once again, we find him facing persecution and courageously enduring it like a soldier of the Cross.
Thank God we also know the source of that courage and have access to it: it’s the Encourager Himself, the Holy Spirit.
If you’re like me, you may not have faced a lot of outright persecution. Since I don’t have many good stories from my own life, especially persecution ones, I’ll share the one I’ve got.
It was back in the spring of 1986, and I was working on my master’s degree in English literature at good ol’ conservative Texas A&M (go Aggies! Whoo-ahhh! Sorry.) I got involved with the literary magazine, Litmus, and served on the poetry editorial board. We had a lot of poetry submissions to review, but out of them we only passed 13 on to the next level of consideration, 3 of which were my 3 submissions. The upper board only passed 3 of these 13, two of which were mine. Especially since they didn’t know I’d written them, I was very gratified by this.
And amused. One of the poems I’d written about desiring God was misinterpreted by one of those on the board as being about romantic love and sex. It was not just the passionate language but also that some of the board members had no category in their hearts for passionate poetry about God. The chief editor remarked that she thought it couldn’t possibly be about God (in spite of very clear markers that this is exactly what the author had intended) and therefore had to be about romantic love.
In the end, all 3 of my poems were going to be published in Litmus until I got a call from the chairperson. She informed me that only 1 of my poems would be published, which happened to be the only one not specifically Christian in nature. When I asked her why the other 2 were dropped, ones which had been highly praised in earlier meetings, all she could tell me was that it wasn’t the kind of language they were looking for. She assured me that it had nothing to do with the religious content and, oh, by the way, would I serve on the board next year.
You’d have to understand how much of my identity was tied up with my writing at that point in my life to understand the hurt. In the end, I chalked it up to being persecuted for Christ.
The point of my story is not what you may think. I come to bury Fr. Charles, not to praise him. My point is how much I allow relatively little things to hurt me and how much I think of the injuries I sustain by the aluminum foil spears of the enemy.
How much greater were the persecutions of Paul and of many Christians throughout the world today! How much greater their courage, and how much greater their opportunity to learn that God is made perfect in their weakness and that His grace is sufficient.
I, too, have my opportunities, but I find that on occasion I want to run and hide or am willing to joust against the anthills of the enemy but not his real strongholds.
But not St. Paul. He was a true warrior. God may not have called you or me to battles like St. Paul’s, but He’s called us.
We are at war, and He’s summoned us to join Him. He recruited us, and we signed up for life in his army. Like a hobbit, you may think that the battles He’s given you and your role in them are insignificant, but God thinks otherwise. He’s given you exactly the role He wants you to have, which is exactly the role you should have. And should you prove a good and faithful soldier, He’ll promote you to a grander part of the battle.
But it’s by being faithful in the small things, by being courageous and encouraged by the Holy Spirit that we grow in His service.
So thank you today, St. Paul, for inspiring me to be more bold and courageous in the Lord’s service. I will go forth today renewed in the service God has crafted especially for me, remembering that everything that happens today is a means of seeing God and giving Him glory.
Prayer: Father, in my hour of weakness, trial, and attack, I turn to You as my strong help. Send to me the Encourager, the Holy Spirit, that I may fight courageously and without shame in Your army. Help me to seek and find my Lord Jesus Christ that I may follow Him into spiritual battle today, knowing that He alone is my spiritual armor. Give me the strength to accept the mission You have given me today, and use it to lead me closer to You. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. To what battles is the Lord calling you today? In what ways can you prepare for them?
2. When you are weak and fearful, what has been your strategy lately?
Resolution: I resolve to look for Jesus Christ in my weakness today, asking Him to send the Holy Spirit that I may do His will courageously and fearlessly.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson