The Courage and Will to Live our Faith

2018 Sunday of Orthodoxy  - The courage and will to live our faith by Fr Ted Toppses

Dearest fathers, brothers and sisters and beloved family in the Lord.  Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you on this Sunday of Orthodoxy.  

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” - Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

Do we want to change for the better? Do we want to live more fully by truly embracing our Orthodox Christian Faith? Do we want to have a closer relationship with God? Do we want to free ourselves from the bondage of sin?  If we go to almost any bookstore seeking a book on how to change or improve your life we will find rows and rows of books all promising self improvement.  The improvements they offer may seem good, but are often hollow and temporary.  This is because self improvement books are typically not dealing with the true method of real change.  This true method of real and meaningful change and improvement can only be accomplished by living our faith and thereby embracing and growing closer to God.  Through living our faith we are transformed by God’s real presence.    

We can seek improvement based on behavior and change of habit, and yet our real improvement is based on our will and courage to act on our faith in God.  We must be courageous in our faith to live the treasure of our Orthodox Christian faith.  Our Orthodox Faith is the ultimate path to transformation, the path to true fulfillment.  Our Orthodox faith is the everlasting and real path to God.

Through the courage of living our faith we are a living sacrifice and offering to God.  
Romans 12:1-2 writes:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)

Please realize my brothers and sisters,
We are changed through our prayer, because God changes us.
We are changed through our love and acts of charity, because God’s love transforms us.
We are changed through our faith because as we live a life with God, He is not only with us, but Our Lord fulfills our life.

Let us ask ourselves, can we have the will and courage to act on our faith?  We can claim many worldly distractions destroy our ability to follow our faith in its fullness. The ability to follow our faith is given to us by God.  The ability to follow our faith can not be taken away from us without our consent.  
Let us receive a lesson from St. John Maximovich on keeping our focus and having the will to change.

Saint John Maximovich writes...
There was a king who had a wicked son. Having no hope that he would change for the better,
the father condemned the son to death. He gave him a month to prepare.

The month went by, and the father summoned the son. To his surprise he saw that the
young man was noticeably changed: his face was thin and drawn, and his whole body
looked as if it had suffered.
"How is it that such a transformation has come over you, my son?" the father asked.

"My father and my lord," replied the son, "how could I not change when each passing
day brought me closer to death?"

"Good, my son," remarked the king. "Since you have evidently come to your senses,
I shall pardon you. However, you must maintain this vigilant disposition of soul for the
rest of your life."
"Father," replied the son, "that's impossible. How can I withstand the countless
seductions and temptations?"

Then the king ordered that a vessel be brought, full of oil, and he told his son:
"Take this vessel and carry it along all the streets of the city.
Following you will be two soldiers with sharp swords. If you spill so much as a single drop
they will cut off your head."
The son obeyed. With light, careful steps, he walked along all the streets,
the soldiers accompanying him, and he did not spill a drop.
When he returned to the castle, the father asked, "My son, what did you see as
you were walking through the city?"
"I saw nothing."
"What do you mean, 'nothing'?" said the king.
"Today is a holiday; you must have seen the booths with all kinds of trinkets,
many carriages, people, animals ..."
"I didn't notice any of that," said the son. "All my attention was focused on the oil
in the vessel. I was afraid to spill a drop and thereby lose my life."

"Quite right, my son," said the king. "Keep this lesson in mind for the rest of you life.
Be as vigilant over your soul as you were today over the oil in the vessel.
Turn your thoughts away from what will soon pass away, and keep them
focused on what is eternal. You will be followed not by armed soldiers
but by death to which we are brought closer by every day.
Be very careful to guard your soul from all ruinous temptations."
The son obeyed his father, and lived happily.

Saint John teaches us that the change we seek is actually possible when our desire will not allow the things of this world to take our heart from God. Our love for God must be a passionate love, always keeping us on guard and always having the courage to live our faith.

St. Porphyrios once said “Somebody who is Christ's must love Christ, and when he loves Christ he is delivered from the devil, from hell and from death.”

And In Scripture it is written in James 2:18: But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

My dearest family in Christ,
Live your faith! We are Christ’s worshipers, followers, servants and friends.  Our love for Christ will transform us by living constantly in His Holy Presence.  

Do we want to change, to be better Christians, to have a closer relationship with God, to free ourselves from the bondage of sin?  We must have the courage and will to live our faith through our actions. We must not be satisfied with how far we have come in faith, but we should always be striving for a deeper and closer relationship with the Living God.  We must be persistent and tenacious in our life of faith and our love for God.  We must pray daily and often together in Church and quietly at home in private and God’s Holy Presence will change us, will grow us and will transform us into who we are truly meant to be.

God Bless you and be with you, and God give us all the courage and will to live our faith for our true fulfillment now and with Christ in Life Everlasting.
Amen

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