Monday, August 27, 2012

Trees In The Woods



Trees In The Woods

Once upon a time, there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing their hopes and dreams when The First Tree said, "Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carvings and everyone would see my beauty."

Then The Second Tree said, "Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take Kings and Queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull."

Finally, The Third Tree said, "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on the top of the hill and look up to my branches and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me...."

After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, " This looks like a strong tree. I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter." And he began cutting it down. The tree was happy because he knew the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.

At the second tree, a woodsman said, "This looks like a strong tree. I should be able to sell it to the shipyard." The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.

When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down, his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said, "I don't need anything special from my tree, so I'll take this one." And he cut it down.

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for. The second tree was cut and made into a small fish in boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying Kings and Queens had come to an end. The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark. The years went by and the trees forgot about their dreams. Then, one day, a man and a woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.

Years later, a group of men got in the fish in boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arouse and the tree did not think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, he stood and said "PEACE" and the storm stopped. At this time. the tree knew that it had carried the King Of Kings in it's boat.

Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who carried it. When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realise that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.

The Moral of This Story is that when things do not seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in Him, He will give you great gifts. Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined. We do not always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.

What are your hopes and dreams?!!

Keep your hopes and dreams alive and God will ultimately give you the desires of your heart. He clearly tells us this in the Bible.

And remember that you can do all things through Christ.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:13 NKJV 


The road to success is not straight.
There is a curve called Failure,
A loop called Confusion,
Speed bumps called Friends,
Red lights called Enemies, 
Caution lights called Family. 
 You will have flats called Jobs, 

But, 

If you have a spare called Determination,
An engine called Perseverance,
Insurance called Faith,
A driver called Jesus,
You will make it to; 
A place called Success. 



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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Virgin Mary The Pure Soul - By St. Symeon Metaphrastis



'The virgin soul that desires to be united to God must keep itself pure not only from overt sins like unchastity, murder, theft, gluttony, backbiting, falsity, avarice, greed and so on; but to an even greater degree it must keep itself pure from sins that are hidden, such as desire, self-esteem, love of popularity, hypocrisy, love of power, wiliness, malice, hatred, unbelief, envy, self-love, affectation and other things of this kind.

According to Scripture, these concealed sins of the soul are just as pernicious as the overt sins. "The Lord has scattered the bones of those who seek to please men", it says (Ps. 53:5); and: "The Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man" (Ps. 5:6), thus making it clear that deceitfulness is just as abhorrent to God as murder.

Again, it numbers among the "workers of iniquity" those who "speak peace to their neighbor but have evil in their hearts" (Ps. 28: 3), and elsewhere it speaks of those who commit lawless acts in their hearts (Ps. 58:2).

It also says: "Woe to you, when men speak well of you" (Luke 6:26) - that is to say, when you want to hear people say good things about you and when you hang upon their glory and praise. It is true that those who do good cannot escape notice altogether.


Indeed, the Lord Himself says: "Let your light shine before men" (Matt. 5:16), though here it is understood that we do good for the glory of God and not for our own glory or because we desire men's praise.

If this is not the case, then we are lacking in faith, as the Lord makes clear when He says: "How can you have faith when you receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?" (John 5:44).

St. Paul bids us to do everything, even to eat and to drink, for the glory of God; "for," he says, "whether you eat or drink, or do anything else, do it for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).

And St John equates hatred with murder when he says: "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15).'

St. Symeon Metaphrastis


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Begotten Wisdom of The Virgin - By St Nikolai Velimirovic





To a silent tongue and a contemplative mind You draw near, 
O All-Holy Spirit, bridegroom of my soul. 
You avoid a talkative tongue as a swan avoids a stormy lake. 
Like a swan you swim across the quiet of my heart and make it fruitful. 


Desist from your wordly wisdom, my neighbors. 
Wisdom is begotten, not made. 
As Wisdom is begotten in God, so is it begotten on earth. 
Begotten wisdom creates, but is not created. 


So, you braggarts brag about your intellect! 
What is your intellect except remembering many facts? 
And if you remem­ber so much, how could you have forgotten 
the moments of the wondrous begetting of wisdom within you? 
Sometimes I hear you talking about great thoughts 
that were born to you unexpectedly without any effort. 
Who bore these thoughts to you, intellectuals? 
How were they begotten without a father, 
if you admit that you did not father them?


Truly I say to you: 
the father of these thoughts is the All-Holy Spirit, 
and their mother survives as the virgin corner of your soul, 
where the All-Holy Spirit still dares to enter. 


Thus every wisdom in heaven and on earth 
is begotten of the Virgin and the All-Holy Spirit. 
The All-Holy Spirit hovered over the chastity of the first hypostasis, 
and the Ultimate Man, the Wisdom of God, was begotten. 


What the chastity of the Father is in heaven, the virginity of the Mother is on earth. 
What the action of the Holy Spirit is in heaven, His action is on earth. 
What the begetting of wisdom is in heaven, the begetting of wisdom is on earth.

St Nikolai Velimirovic



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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

5 - GREATER THAN HEAVEN AND EARTH - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III




5 - GREATER THAN HEAVEN AND EARTH    
By H.H. Pope Shenouda III 

 
The following is a collection of articles entitled, "The Release of the Spirit" written by HH Pope Shenouda III for the Sunday School Magazine from the year 1951 before starting his monastic life. 

These articles were published in the form of a book in the year 1957 including some of his poems which were published in the magazine as well..

It was his first published book and it gained the approval of many and was reprinted many times.



5 - GREATER THAN HEAVEN AND EARTH  

 
This time I was not walking in the desert or sitting at the door of the monastery, I was with my father the monk in front of his cell in the mount to continue our previous talk concerning He who is greater than heaven and earth.  

My beloved brother, a spirit which desires to be released, knows well its own worth.  It knows how magnificently great it is and how much greater it is than to be humiliated by the flesh, the environment or by the devils.

God's beloved, to have an idea about this matter, we have to examine it together.  We have to also remember the past, the present and the future in order to  recognize what a hidden power we have which we are not aware of.  We have to remember that man is the only being created in God's image and likeness (Gen. 1:27).  So when you are asked to introduce yourself, say, firmly and confidently, 'I am the image of God'.

Being the image of God, you are immortal and not liable to perish at all.  For is it possible that a person created after the likeness of God, the Immortal, would perish?!

See then how great you are than the high mountain, the great sea, the blazing sun and the shining moon.  You are greater than the wide desert and the spacious plain, and even greater than the atom which destroys and all the power of  nature.  All these things pass away as the Holy Bible says, "Heaven and earth will pass away.. ", but you will not, for the Lord Jesus Christ promised you an eternal life (John. 4:14) You, the image of God...

You are the king (ruler) of the earth and all that is in it:

You, my great brother, are the only divine creature who, of all the earth and what is beneath or on it, are given by God the gift of intellect and utterance given to angels.  You are the creature who is given the ability to know God and worship Him and whom God is pleased with... The nature which you sometimes think greater than you, is only made by God to serve you.  You can subjugate everything in it according to your will and your power..

Therefore God first created everything then last of all He created you to dominate over all the other creation...' to dominate over the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea and over the cattle and all that is on the earth '(Gen. 1:26,28).  Do you see how you ought to rule over everything though you think yourself weak and fear the hawk, the whale, the lion and other beasts which are in fact your weak servants that served you before?..

Do not think that you had this before the first sin only, for the righteous in every age has this dignity and authority.  Let us examine some examples from the Old Testament: Samson tore apart the lion with his hand and killed it; Daniel was in the lions' den and they did him no harm; Jonah was swallowed by the fish but it vomited him without daring to injure him, and the three lads were in the fire furnace but the fire became for them cold and peaceful.   The same can be found in the New Testament: St. Mark and his lion is one example.  Another example is St. Paul who the viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand, but he shook it off into the fire and felt no harm; so the people were amazed and said he was a god (Acts 28:3-7).  You also are given the power to trod the serpents and the scorpions and every power of the enemy (The Prayer of Thanksgiving).  

Oh, my beloved brother, would you know the value of your soul which you imprison because of your sin in a prison of humility, cowardice and fear!  It peeps from behind the bars of your prison looking for its past glory and wishing to be set free if you do allow it.

You are the divine creature:

You, Valiant, are a divine creature whom God the Son addressed saying, "Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine." (John. 15:4).  You, at whose door God knocks wishing you to open for Him so He may enter and dine with you and you with Him and makes His home with you.  (Rev 3,20; John. 14:23)
                                                      
You are the image of God and you have His attributes.. See how the Lord Jesus Christ - glory be to Him - says about Himself "I am the light of the world" then says to you and your brethren, "You are the light of the world". (Matt. 5:14) 

You are required to strive to be like God for the Lord of glory says: "Therefore you shall be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48).  You are the person whom God is delighted to call His son, though He did not will to call the angels or archangels His sons.  He called you alone, you, the divine creature.

You are the person whom the Lord poured water and washed his feet and wiped them with the towel with which He was girded.

The members of your body are the members of Christ as the apostle says in (1 Cor. 6:15). 

You alone are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you. (1 Cor. 3:16)

You, whom the angels desire to be like.. and who alone partake of the holy flesh and blood of the Lord.. whom the Lord wished to be one with Him and with the Father. (John. 17:21)

You are whom the angels minister to:

 
"The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them." (Ps. 34:7)

Did you not see, my beloved brother, how the Lord sent two angels to save Lot from Sodom!  How He sent His angel and closed the mouths of the lions for Daniel!  How Elisha was aware of that and said to his servant, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them... And Elisha prayed... Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw.  And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire." (2 Kin 6: 15-17).  How also the angel of the Lord brought food to Elijah while he was sleeping under a broom tree, so he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights. 

(1 Kin 19:5-9)   And how the angel of the Lord carried Hebbekuk to give food to Daniel in the den. (Dan 14:35-38)

The time is lacking to tell you, the Lord's beloved, about the ministry of the angels to you and your brethren, their concern about you and their intercession for you.  Truly, you are an important creature...

You Who Are Called A god:

You, my beloved brother, are the person who is called a god by God and people..  " I said, 'You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High"' (Ps. 82:7).  God had also said to Moses, 'I have made you as god to Pharaoh." (Ex. 7:1)   What is meant here is not divinity but domination..

Whatever the meaning is of these two verses, they certainly show your greatness in the sight of God…

You Have The Power To Bind And Loose In Heaven:

If you are reasonably exalted because the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to the Father to prepare for you a place  in heaven and will come again to take you, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"  (Matt. 25:34), would you not rather be exalted because He gives you the keys of the Kingdom!  For the Lord said, "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 18:18)   Moreover, He gives you the authority to forgive or not.  {This authority of course is given to the priests. But the priest is a man and this article speaks about man as a human being whatever his role may be and whatever generation he may belong to.} 

All this is given to you, who are in the image and likeness of God and whose form the Lord took when He came in a flesh like yours . Though His divine nature never departed His human nature even for a second or a twinkle of the eye.

You Are God's Friend:

 
Remember how God - in His supreme wisdom - before destroying Sodom, revealed His will to His friend Abraham, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? “(Gen 18:17,18)   He even let Abraham argue the matter with Him blaming Him with familiarity and liberty saying, -"Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?... Far be it from You to do such a thing as this... far be it from You!  Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:23-26)

It is indeed familiarity and not mere words from a servant to his master or from a creature to the Creator.. They are words of a person who is sure of his worth in the sight of his friend..

Moses also did the same thing while talking with God concerning his people because God wanted to destroy them, he said: "Yet now, if You will forgive their sin-but if not I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written" (Ex.32:33)... Certainly, this is familiarity and friendship!!

Now, brother, have you recognized the value of your soul and its greatness in the eyes of God?  Would you let a deceitful devil play with your dignity though God has' given you the power over all the devils? I do not think you do.. 


 The Release of The Spirit
 By H.H. Pope Shenouda III 


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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sudden Death of Abune Paulos of Ethiopia

Posted on: Thursday 16th August, 2012 


 
His Holiness Abune Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, appears to have suffered a heart attack yesterday and was admitted to Balcha Hospital in Addis Ababa, where he is reported to have died this morning (16 August), aged 76. He had served as Patriarch since 1992. 

Abune Paulos was in Cairo in March for the funeral of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, where he delivered a dignified eulogy. Only recently, on 16 July, he met with President Mohamed Mursi  during the African Union (AU) leaders’ meeting in Addis Ababa. 

Abba Seraphim announced that he had sent condolences to His Eminence Archbishop Antonios, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Great Britain, assuring him of the prayers of the British Orthodox clergy and faithful in their loss.



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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Verses



You let men ride over our heads; 
we went through fire and through water; 
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. 
Psalm 66:12 ESV



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Saturday, August 4, 2012

4 - ENCLOSED WITHIN FOUR WALLS - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III



4 - ENCLOSED WITHIN FOUR WALLS  
By H.H. Pope Shenouda III

The following is a collection of articles entitled, "The Release of the Spirit" written by HH Pope Shenouda III for the Sunday School Magazine from the year 1951 before starting his monastic life.

These articles were published in the form of a book in the year 1957 including some of his poems which were published in the magazine as well..

It was his first published book and it gained the approval of many and was reprinted many times.

4 - ENCLOSED WITHIN FOUR WALLS 

Spirituality in the desert or on the mount differs in its manner from spirituality in the city.  One of the most troublesome bonds for a worshipper in the city is being enclosed within four walls.

I have experienced this myself when I was-some years ago on a camp in a desert spot called  Almaza, a few miles from Heliopolis.  I used to go up a hill in that desert with one of my brethren in the Sunday Schools for prayer and meditation.  From that spot, within the range of vision on the horizon, appeared  Heliopolis, that splendid suburb with its buildings, streets, road construction and the inhabitants as a tiny insignificant thing . Only lights were visible from that altitude .

We felt that our souls were set free from the limits of length, width and height, from splendor and magnificence, and from exaltation and elegance.. A splendid palace seemed to us the same as a small house, for nothing appeared as it was.  We felt spiritual happiness and pleasure in sitting on the sand on that high hill, a happiness which we never felt in the city. 

When we returned to Cairo on a holiday, I tell you truly, my beloved brother, I was disturbed by this noisy capital (Cairo).  I walked in the streets feeling an out-bursting volcano in my head caused by the clamour of people and the noise of cars, trams and various means of transport.  I recognised amidst this noise that I would not be able to think in an orderly, systematic and uninterrupted way as I did while on that high hill..

When I closed the door of my room and stood to pray, I was unable.  The four walls of the room seemed a strong barrier which prevented me from enjoying God.  So, I did not pray but I came out of my room and walked very far away trying to find a quiet high spot where no buildings existed and where few inhabitants and little civilization was found.  After nearly an hour, I found a place which had a little of my requirement. I returned home depressed and longing for my high hill again..

The months of the camp ended and we returned to the city where I was forced to get used to pray within the four walls.  Yet the memories of the high hill remained in my mind till now... To make up partly for this, I used to go up with my young friends after the Sunday lesson to the roof of the church to have a look on Cairo.  We saw it from there also, in the darkness of the evening,  nothing could be seen except the shadows of  buildings with their white spots of light.

Your spirit, my beloved brother, wants to be set free, to fly like a bird which flies from one branch to another.  It wants to be like the angels who are always singing praise to God without any bonds or restrictions.  If you cannot attain this constantly, at least let this be on certain occasions...

This makes me imagine that meditation can be reached more easily and deeply by sailors, farmers and inhabitants of the mountains and deserts. I imagine also that we shall have the same ability when we get rid of the bonds of the body and go high into heaven where God, the angels and the saints are. 

I discussed this matter with my father the monk and he revealed to me another spiritual, experience.. He told me how, at the beginning of his monastic life, he was secluded in his cell for twenty eight days encompassed within four walls seeing no one and dealing with no one.  He spent that period in hard struggle between himself and God.  It was really a hard time in which his soul was sifted but at last the spirit was able to come out- free from its numerous bonds and get to God.

Thereafter, the monk came out of his cell feeling that it was the same to him, to be encompassed within walls or to be free out of walls...

At this point, I reveal to you a deeper and more sublime level of spirituality.. The first level was feeling bored within the four walls.. but the next level is to be unaware of the four walls.. In this case you sit in your room so absorbed in your prayers, meditations or readings that you are no longer aware of anything around you.  You live in another world beyond the senses.  So, you do not know whether you are in your room or in an open space in the monastery and whether your cell has walls or not.  You do not even know whether heaven has come down to you on  earth or you went up to heaven while still on earth.  

Let me whisper in your ears, my beloved brother, that there were certain persons who could not realise whether they were in the body or out of the body such as St. Paul the Apostle (2 Cor.12:2), Saint John of Assiout and the spiritual old father..

The topic of the release of the spirit from the bounds of place, leads me to meditate on another subject which is  'the revelations'.

We have heard about the revelations experienced by St. John the Beloved and St. Paul the Apostle.  The time is lacking to mention what was experienced by St. Anthony, St. Shenouda and the other saints who left their places and experienced living environments where they saw things which cannot be described or expressed in words

Here I remember a story told to me by one of our beloved brothers about a priest who was full of the spirit.  When that priest was praying the holy Mass, he came to the words ".. he lifted his eyes up..." and he also lifted his eyes, and here... a deep silence prevailed in the church... Minutes passed while the holy priest was looking up in silence, astonishment and distraction.  A long time passed and the congregation was silent looking at their priest attentively.  Then the priest lowered his eyes and went on with his prayers deeply and fervently not aware of the pause which passed.  When one of his followers told him after he finished prayers of what had happened and required him to explain the matter, he was confused and refused to reply.  But pressing on him, the priest said that when he looked up, he saw the church as if with no dome or ceiling and there was a long ladder between the altar and heaven.  He looked at it for just a second or more (as it seemed to him) and then went on with his prayers... 

I wonder how some think of monasticism as a Way for ministry while I see it only as a way to heaven.  In monasticism seclusion, contemplations, and continuous striving help the spirit to be released and united with God.

My beloved brother, I think there is still much to be said in his respect..


 The Release of The Spirit
 By H.H. Pope Shenouda III


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Friday, August 3, 2012

Life Of Faith - 3 - Degrees And Kinds Of Faith


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit One God. Amen.

CHAPTER 3

DEGREES AND KINDS OF FAITH

Degrees Of Faith

People differentiate from one another in the kind of faith and the degree of faith they have "As God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3).

Some may exaggerate by saying that a person with little faith is not at all a believer. This judgment is against the teachings of the Holy Bible, as we will see later. Some may mix between the word 'believer' and 'the chosen one', as if these two words mean the same thing. Let us then meditate on the different kinds of faith and its degrees.

1. There is the newly converted believer and the apostle ordered not to swell the believer up with pride or else he will "fall into the same condemnation as the devil." (1 Titus. 3:6).

2. There are those with little or weak faith, following are examples from Bible about this kind:

a) Those who complain about God's care in food or clothes. The Lord gave them an example of the lilies of the field, and that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. The Lord then rebuked them by saying "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matt. 6:28-30, Luke 12:28).

b) The Lord also rebuked the disciples, when they thought that they did not take bread with them by saying "O you of little faith" (Matt. 14:31).

c) The Lord rebuked Saint Peter when he became afraid after walking with Him on the water and began to sink, the Lord rebuked him and said "O you of little faith, why did you doubt" (Matt. 14:31).

d) Similarly, when the disciples got frightened when the waves covered the ship during the Lord's sleep, then the Lord said to them "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matt. 8:26).

Thus fear and doubt in the help of the Lord are evidences of little faith.

e) The apostle gave an example of a person of weak faith who eats only vegetables, the apostle also ordered that one should not judge or mock such a person and said "To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand." (Rom. 14:1-4).

Here I admire the father of the boy with an evil spirit, when the Lord asked him "do you believe?" so as to heal his son, the father answered "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

The person with weak faith needs those who pray for him, so that the Lord may help him. We should not mock him for God is able to make him firm in faith.

3. There Is A Third Kind Of Faith And That Is The Limited Faith

We mean by that the person who believes in the Lord but in certain limits, and his faith does not exceed these limits. An example of this kind of faith are Mary and Martha, who believed that the Lord is able to heal their brother from sickness so as not to die. If he dies however, then their faith was not yet that far that his being risen from the dead was possible.

Therefore, each one of them said to the Lord "If You had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21,32). When the Lord said to Martha "your brother will rise again" she answered Him "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day " (John 11:24) and when the Lord went to the tomb and said "take away the stone" Martha said "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days" (John 11:39).

God did not refuse this limited faith but He gave it a chance to grow.

That's why He said to Martha "He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." and He rebuked her at the tomb by saying "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:25,40). He gave her the chance to see the glory of God in rising her brother Lazarus from the dead, so that she believes and also the Jews, who saw the miracle, would also believe.

Here faith came after the miracle and not before it.

May be it happened like that because this miracle was the first of its kind, namely rising a dead after four days of being dead and stinking.

4. A fourth kind, from the weak faith, is the slow heart in faith. Maybe it comes from a slow understanding, or from no comprehension, so the person's faith does not come quickly.

This was the kind of faith the disciples of Emmaus had in respect to the resurrection of the Lord. The Lord rebuked them by saying "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things" (Luke 24:25-26). He then began to explain to them what was written in all the Scriptures concerning Christ. so that they believed, or so that he cures this tardiness in their faith resulting from their little knowledge or little understanding.

In this example we could also say that it is sound to rectify the misunderstandings concerning the faith. It is much better that way than to despise and to mock such persons, it won't bring any good results and it won't read to the real faith.

5. There Is A Dangerous Case Of Faith And That Is The Dead Faith.

Saint James the apostle said, "Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17,20). He also said that this kind of faith can not save the person (James 2:14) and he saw that the living faith should have works or deeds to show it, "I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18).

6. There Is Also Faith Which Is Not Firm

An example of that is Jesus Christ before being arrested, said to His disciple Peter "Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail" (Luke 22:31,32). At this time Peter's faith failed but he turned back again to his first power.

7. There Are Other Cases The Bible Describes As Deviating From The True Faith:

a) Saint Paul the apostle said "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his
household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim. 5:8).

b) He said about the young widows when their sensual desires overcame their dedication to Christ "They desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith." (1 Tim. 5:11,12).

c) He also said "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the
faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows " (1 Tim. 6: 10).

d) He said "Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and
contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith" (1 Tim. 6:20,21).

In all these examples, can we deny the relationship between faith and deeds?

With a false deed it is said that a person denied the faith, or refused it, or went astray from it, or deviated from it. May be with these examples as measures we can examine ourselves, doing what the apostle said: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith." (2 Cor. 13: 5).

8. The Most Dangerous Case Is To Retreat From Faith

The apostle says "In latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4: 1). The expression to retreat from faith means that they were in faith and then they retreated from it.

The apostle speaks about the great retreat that will happen before the coming of Christ "for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs" (2 Thes. 2:3).

This is from the general point of view but from the individual point of view the apostle says "Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him" (Heb. 10:38). Here he speaks about the retreat of a believer who was living in faith.

So long the believer can retreat so the believers are not the chosen ones, because the chosen ones stay in their faith all their lives until they meet the Lord.

The above are illustrations of negative kinds of faith, let us explain the positive ones.

9. To Grow In Faith

Saint Paul the apostle says to the Thessalonians "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren,... because your faith grows exceedingly" (2 Thes. 1: 3) and he also said to the people of Corinth that their faith increases (2 Cor. 8:7).

Faith is a virtue like all the other virtues, one can grow in it.

10. To Keep The Faith And To Maintain It.

The apostle says about himself in his last days "I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness" (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

He also says to the Colossians "to present you holy, and blameless in His sight if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Col. 1:23).

11. To Be Firm In Faith

Saint Peter the apostle says about the devil's wars "Resist him, steadfast in the faith " (1 Pet. 5:9).

12. To Be Rich With Faith

Saint James the apostle says "Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"(James 2:5).

13. To Be Filled In Faith

It was said about Stephen "they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit...And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:5,8).

The following qualities are said to be indispensable to faith.

14. Faith Working In With Love

Saint Paul the apostle says "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." (Gal. 5:6), may be he mentioned the expression 'working faith' because faith without deeds is dead (James 2:20). And the expression 'love' is connected with the whole law and the prophets (Matt.22: 40).

There is a great kind of faith:

15. Faith That Performs Miracles

The Lord spoke about "signs will follow those who believe:" (Mark 16:17), and Saint James the apostle said "And the prayer of faith will save the sick" (James 5:15).

The Peak of this matter is clear in the Lord's saying "All things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23).

16. Faith Of Confidence And Believing

It is what the Lord used to ask for from those whom a miracle happened to them. And sometimes He asked "do you believe?".
He asked the blind men who asked Him to heal them "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (Matt. 9:28).

The Lord blessed this kind of faith, as well as He said to the Canaanite woman "great is your faith! " (Matt. 15:28), and also to the centurion "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"(Matt. 8: 10).

17. The Whole Faith

Saint Paul the apostle says "Though I have all faith, so that I could move mountains ... " he considered that this faith that moves mountains is the whole faith, that is, its peak and nothing beyond it.

KINDS OF FAITH

There is a great difference between two kinds of faith: theoretical faith and practical faith.

1. The Theoretical Faith

It is an intellectual or philosophical faith. It is just the intellectual conviction in the existence of God and in the existence of unseen matters without their influence on life.

There is a saying that proves that the devils have this kind of faith. Then Saint James says about the dead faith, which is with no deeds "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!" (James 2:19). The book of Job gives us an evidence to that point because the conversation
between God and Satan proves this theoretical faith, then Satan says to the Lord "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 1:9-11). When Satan took permission from God to act, he went to work against Job, and in the second time Satan told the Lord "Stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 2:5).

Hence Satan believes theoretically that, that is God, and that He is the one who blessed the work of Job, and He is able to strike what he has, and to strike his flesh and bones. Every expression coming out of Job against God is considered a curse towards God. Never the less Satan was fighting the kingdom of God and God's children, and he still does.

The theoretical faith of Satan which Job spoke about is a dead faith according to what the apostle said "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). Thus if faith without deeds is dead, then what is the faith that is loaded with bad deeds opposing every goodness.

The theoretical faith is easy. How easy is it to prove the existence of God with the intellectual proofs and the many evidences, the most important is however the practical faith.

This leads us to the important kind of faith

The Practical Faith

It is the faith, which signs show in the practical life, the life of a believer believing that God is in front of him, he sees and feels Him, and he acts worthy of this faith.

He loves this God who he believes in His existence, His care, His protection, and he talks to this loving God through his prayers and his imploring, and he fears to do anything that may hurt His loving heart... and in tranquillity in His actions, he does not fear and does not trouble, but lives in perpetual peace, he yields his whole life to His wise disposal.

In this way, faith leads the believer to many uncountable virtues.

This kind of faith is the subject of this book, as we will as to describe how faith leads our whole life to become

a life of faith.

This understanding takes us to another quality in the qualities of the true faith:

2. Perpetual Faith

We mean by that, that it does not have occasions. Our faith does not only appear when being in church, or in a spiritual meeting, or when praying, or when reading the Bible, or when having communion; but this faith is apparent at any time and in any place, outside the church as well as inside. God is always in
front of us and is always on our minds with faith that does not change. He is not only the Lord of churches or the Lord of the Bible but He is the Lord of the heart and the mind together and
the Lord of life.

3. Faith Without Seeing

This faith does not depend on the senses and is consistent with what the Lord said "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29). It is not like the scientists who
do not believe in anything unless they get it in their laboratories and convince themselves of it with their eyes and instruments, and not like the Sadducees who denied the existence of the angels, the resurrection and the spirits (Acts 23:8), because they have not seen anything from all that...

4. Faith Of Confidence And Test

It is not faith in God what we read about in the theological books or in the religious institutions, or in the churches and in the Sunday schools with all their kinds.

But it is the faith in God that we test in our lives. We were in companionship with Him, we let Him enter in every detail of our lives, and practically tested what David said "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps 34:8). We found that God is wonderful, to the most extent, beyond what the mind can imagine.

Our whole life is fellowship with Christ. We tasted His beauty, His love and His care, we also saw His power and His glory.

We saw how He enters into our problems and solves them in ways that could not have occurred to us before.

Because of our test we gained confidence not built on books, but on what we felt by our hands, that's why our faith is a true faith destined in our hearts.

5. A Strong Faith

It is faith that is able to do anything (Mark 9:23), it can overcome any obstacle, it does not see anything impossible. It was said about Zerubbabel "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!" (Zech. 4:7).

It is faith that can place its foot in water so as to cross the Red Sea in the days of Moses (Ex. 14:22), and to cross the Jordan river in the days of Joshua (Joshua 3). It can walk inside the great sea or river with waters surrounding it like a gate on its right and on its left without any fear.

It is faith that can strike the rock and water comes out of it (Ex. 17:6). It is faith that walks in the desert without any food or guide collecting its food from the manna descending from heaven day by day (Ex. 16:21) guided by the cloud in the day time and by the fire rod at night (Num 9:15-23).

It is the strong faith which Elijah said through it "There shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word" (1 Kin 17: 1), and thus "it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain" (James 5: 17-18), and that is how he could
close and open the sky.

There are many examples about this strong faith. There are many other examples of this kind but they appear in another form.

6. Faith Which Is Steady

It is a steady faith and is not at all affected by external circumstances; it believes in God's love either on mount Carmel or on Golgotha.

Abraham believed in the love of God that gave him descendants from Sarah in hopeless circumstances, exactly how he believed in the love of God as He said to him "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah" (Gen. 22:2).

Abraham when he raised his hand with the knife to slay his son Isaac did not doubt in the love of God, nor in His timing. His faith was never shaken in God, and not even that he will have descendants from Isaac as many as the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea.

Steady faith does not change according to the external circumstances surrounding it, because its confidence is steady in God, and its peace of heart is not affected by the external circumstances but from God Himself, His love and the truth in His timings.

7. Faith As A Gift

There is normal faith and faith which is considered a gift from the Holy Spirit, and no doubt the latter has a higher degree which overcomes the normal faith.

Saint Paul the apostle, says in his speech about gifts "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. ... But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, " (1 Cor. 12:4-9).

Faith as being among the fruits of the Spirit is also seen in (Gal.5:22).

It becomes clear that we can not separate the faith from the works of the Holy Spirit; either from the fruits of the Spirit, or from the Spirit's gifts; and each of them has its degree.

8. The Sound Faith

How often do people believe in ideas or beliefs political or social, and their belief gives them a power to carry these ideas out and to transfer them to the minds of the people.

The sound faith that has a spiritual nature and has a deep relationship with God "exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 3) this pure and virtuous faith. This lets us say that Faith is not just a belief but a life... or it is a life built on belief, or it is an experienced belief lived by the people and not just ideas in books.

What we want to speak about in this book is this life, the life of faith.


Pope Shenouda III

----------

Title: Life of Faith

Author: H. H. Pope Shenouda Ill.

Press: Dar El Tebaa El Kawmia.

Edition: August 1989 - First edition.

Legal Deposit No.: 5606/1989

Revised: COEPA 1997


Also See:
Life Of Faith - Introduction
http://coptorthodox.blogspot.com/2012/07/life-of-faith-introduction.html

Life Of Faith - 1 - How Great Is Faith
http://coptorthodox.blogspot.com/2012/07/life-of-faith-1-how-great-is-faith.html

Life Of Faith - 2 - What Is Faith?
http://coptorthodox.blogspot.com/2012/08/life-of-faith-2-what-is-faith.html


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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life Of Faith - 2 - What Is Faith?


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit One God. Amen.

CHAPTER 2

WHAT IS FAITH?

Any worshipper of God can use the word `faith' if when he does not believe in the Truth. He may have the name of a believer, but does not have the heart of one.

Faith does not automatically make you a believer if you are born a family which believes in the existence of God. But faith has a much deeper than this, it encompasses the whole spiritual life, performs miracles.

At one occasion, the disciples of the Lord were unable to heal a epileptic boy from the demon, so they asked the Lord for the reason and He answered them "Because of your unbelief" (Matt. 17:20) and rebuked them by saying "O faithless and perverse generation" (Matt 17:17).

A generation be unbelievers, which God came for, but where they really unbelievers? How alarming! Here the Lord says to His disciples "I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it will move" (Matt. 17:20). Truly, what is this faith of a seed which can move a mountain? As the apostle says "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves" (2 Cor. 13:5).

The Bible tells us of something strange, more dangerous... what is it? It is the state of a human being who seems to be believing in God, he prays and performs miracles but he does not believe in Truth! and even not accepted in the eyes of God! Here is what the Lord Himself said "Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 7:21).

The Lord continues "Many will say to Me in that day, `Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (Matt.7:22-23).

What shall we call those who say 'Lord, Lord... in your name we did this and that'? Are they really believers? Maybe it's only an apparent faith, or faith by name, or only mental faith, but it's not the real faith accepted by God.

What then is the real faith which is accepted in the eyes of the Lord? We ask Him and He answers "Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' ... but he who does the will of My Father in heaven " (Matt. 7:21). This also reminds us of the story of the five virgins who also used the expression 'Lord, Lord,...' and they stood behind the closed door saying "Lord, Lord open the door for us", and they heard from the Lord the clear and terrifying answer "I tell you the truth, I don't know you".

The expression 'Lord, Lord' does not necessarily help if you are awaiting the bridegroom with a lamp without oil, or if you arrive after the door is closed.

Therefore what is faith? and what is its connection to oil which signifies the Holy Spirit? and what is its connection with the will of God who is in heaven?

This faith is alive and is accepted by God as we'll see later... Faith is not simply a belief but also a life.

You can test it by its fruits in your life... as the Lord said "You will know them by their fruits....every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matt. 7:16-20).

This is how you can test yourself: Does your faith bear fruit? Because 'by their fruits you will recognise them'.

This is what John the evangelist teaches us "Now by this we know that we know Him" how? "If we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him " (1 John 2:3-4). Faith is tested through a life of obedience to God's commandments, and he who does not have this obedience is not considered a believer of Truth, and can not claim to know God.

The apostle Paul lists in his letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 11) wonderful examples of faithful men. They show practical faith in their private lives. Enoch for example; the bible did not say that he defended his belief like other heroes of faith. But Enoch was a hero of faith because he "He pleased God." (Heb. 11:5) and "Walked with God" (Gen. 5:22,24).

You may not be as spiritually knowledgeable as were the apostles, but no doubt you can also lead the same life as our father Enoch, who walked with God. You can live like other men of faith who St. Paul mentioned "They were strangers and pilgrims on the earth... they desire a better, that is, a heavenly
country." (Heb 11: 13,16).

Our father Abraham was a man of faith who "Obeyed when he was called to go out " (Heb. 11: 8), and went out after God "Not knowing where he was going." He was a man of faith in accepting God's timing and even when he was to sacrifice his only son, confident that God can raise the dead (Heb. 11:17-
19).

His wife Sarah is also considered a hero of faith because she believed the Lord for "She judged Him faithful who had promised." (Heb 11:11).

Heroes of faith are not only those who defended their belief, but are also those who believed in the Lord, walked with Him, who were righteous and pleased Him (Heb. 11:33). Also those who
"Were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." and those who "Had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. .. of whom the world was not worthy " (Heb. 11:35-38) "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith" (Heb. 11:39). In all these examples, the bible gives us a wide spectrum of the meaning of faith.

Paul tells us that faith "Is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).

You hope for many things after death. You hope for eternal life with angels and the saints, to see the Lord in Paradise and resurrect from the dead into a spiritual body. You desire eternal peace after the general resurrection. Faith is without any doubt, complete confidence that these matters exist without having seen them.

Faith Is Beyond The Level Of Our Senses
Faith does not contradict but beyond our senses. Faith is a higher power than our limited senses. Our senses are only capable of detecting physical or materialistic things, but there are other matters, which are beyond the material sense. The senses are also limited in what they can physically detect.

Instruments are often used to sense details and gain information which the senses alone can not accomplish. How much more is it for the non-physical, which the apostle called "invisible things". Faith is not what is seen by the human eye (2 Cor. 5:7).

The soul can not be seen or felt by the senses. The fact that the senses do not feel the soul does not mean that it does not exist but rather, unable to detect it. The senses are limited in scope and the level of the soul.

Faith Is Beyond The Level Of The Intellect
The intellect may guide you to the beginning of the way but faith continues with you on the way to the end. Faith does not contradict the intellect, but leads it to a higher level the mind alone cannot reach.

What the mind cannot understand is called unattainable. We often describe God as infinite because He has no limit. The human mind is limited, and can only understand the limited matters. The mind can bring you to know God and some of His qualities but of faith, "God has revealed... to us through His
Spirit." (1 Cor. 2:10). God shows Himself to the believer to what they can bear to comprehend.

The mind may not grasp many things but must accept them. By nature, the mind does not refuse all that it does not understand.

There are for example in our physical world, many inventions only experts can understand. In spite of this, the normal mind can accept and deal with these things without knowing how they work. The mind accepts death, and speaks about it, but does not understand it.

If the mind accepts many things in our world without understanding them, then clearly nothing should deprive the mind from accepting other matters not of this world.

The mind does not understand how miracles happen, but it accepts them and finds joy in them.

A miracle is called a miracle because the mind fails to grasp it and cannot explain it. But the mind accepts it by faith... faith, with infinite power, greater than that of the mind, can perform things the mind fails to understand. This power is the power of God the almighty.

We respect the mind, and at the same time we know its limits.

We can not accept the proud mind which desires to understand all things, refusing that some are beyond comprehension.

The mind should be humble to know its limitation "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Rom. 12.3). The mind should submit matters beyond its
level of understanding to faith.

If the mind wanted to nullify all that it does not understand it would end up destroying itself, lose the element of faith and put itself in a very narrow circle of very limited range of understanding.

Believers are moderate, they esteem the mind and use it in religious and spiritual affairs. There are philosophers and people of high intellect among the believers, who do not depend on the mind in pride or trust in its ability to understand all things.

However, in simplicity and humility they confess that their minds are limited and are unable to understand all this associated with God. With faith, their hearts and minds accept all that is beyond the level of the mind.

The simple and humble mind accepts faith and miracles.

We mean humble in the sense that the mind is not proud of its own understanding or destroys all that is does not understand.

But does not complicate matters or insist on placing everything within its own limits. We will refer to this point later when we speak about the simplicity of faith.

Faith is not only a prayer said, but a life we live. If you are living a life of faith, the fruits of faith apparent in your practical life. Examine your faith against the virtues which are clear in the believer's life and these are many. As the apostle says, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5).

Conviction Of The Unseen
The apostle said about faith: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). We want to know what this verse means:
Conviction: is certainty, confidence and belief without doubt. It is not simply an idea, opinion or knowledge gained from reading or hearing about it, but certainty that unseen matters exist.

Here is a clear difference between believers and men of science.

The things that are not seen are not in the working field of the researchers. If they are not sure of something, they investigate it thoroughly with their instruments and apparatus. The same also
applies to men of material beliefs.

Believers are not like this, they follow God's saying "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).

The believer accepts the creation from nothing. The scientist's research refuses this matter, and refuses that five loaves of bread fed five thousand men (excluding the women and children) and that twelve baskets full of bread where left over.

The believer accepts all this.

The believer accepts firstly that God is powerful. He also accepts everything in a certain range of this unlimited power.

The believer frees himself from the doubts of the researches and the investigations of the unbeliever. Not only does he accept the unseen, but moreover, he lives according to and focuses his mind and affection on the unseen according to what the apostle's words. "While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor. 4:18).

You will ask, how can I see the hidden? And I tell you by faith.

What are then those unseen matters? The first is probably God Himself, His qualities, His works, and all things pertaining to Him.

1- God, His Qualities And Works
God is unseen, as John the evangelist said "No one has seen God" (John 1:18). Actually who can see the divinity? No one!

However, in spite of this, you believe in Him with all your heart, and with all certainty. This faith does not at all rely on your physical senses. You may say you see Him with your trained spiritual senses (Heb.5:14). This non-physical senses were trained to see the unseen, and we have the following examples from the Bible:

David said "I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved." (Ps 16:8). So how did he see the Lord in front of him and at his right hand all times? No doubt he saw Him with an eye of faith. In some of the translations it is written "I have seen the Lord...." that
means that he is continuously seeing the unseen and focusing on Him with mind and feeling.

With the same meaning Elijah said "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand"(1 Kin 18:15). How was he able to feel that he stands before God? And how was he able to always see the Lord in front of him? Not through the bodily senses since they can not arouse a believer's heart. But it is by faith that the Lord is before him. It is faith that sees the unseen.

If you are in faith, you will have confidence that God is always before you and will act according to this belief, that God sees you and hears you...

If you live in faith, you are sure that God is in the midst of His people, according to His promise "...I am there in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20) and "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt.28:20). You do not see Him with the eye of your body, but you believe that He is in our midst. You do not need to see Him physically to believe. You believe without seeing, or you perceive the unseen.
What is a spiritual life my brothers and sisters? It is not simply a shift from what is felt and visible to the unseen.

We live the unseen with confidence that He is in front of us.

This becomes the difference between the believer and the non-believer.

The non-believer desires to see everything with his eyes, or else he can not believe. The believer does not allow his eyes, senses, or external happenings shape his beliefs. But his heart believes in the existence of unseen matters. On one occasion, God rebuked His disciple Thomas who would not believe without seeing when God said to him "Do not be unbelieving, but believing", "Because you have seen Me, you have believed.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:27,29).

We mentioned earlier, faith in God is among the conviction of unseen matters. Not only faith in the existence of God but also faith in His attributes and in His works.

You believe in His goodness and choices for your good, the almighty who has dominion over all things. You believe that He is able to do everything, for "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27), and you believe in God's love for you and for others.

You may not see all these qualities physically, but you believe in them. You believe that God takes care of the universe, and preserves its beauty. You believe that He labours and takes care
of every individual. You will either see His work or the results of His work or you will not see anything at all.

2- The Timing Of God
The following were described as men of faith "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. " (Heb. 11:13), these people waited for the things promised in faith, and believed in what the Lord said to them.

And things promised "Which God has prepared for those who love Him" were all unseen matters, as explained by the apostle as "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the
heart of man" (1 Cor. 2:9).

God's warnings are also unseen things. Noah believed the Lord when He said that He will flood the whole world even though floods were unknown to Noah. No flood had ever happened before in his days or the days of his ancestors. However, he believed that this which never happened before, would happen.

He laboured to complete the ark, enduring the mockery from others, these were years of faith.

Noah heeded to the warning of God, and was therefore considered a man of faith. Through faith he had seen the flood before it happened. Through faith, he entered the ark with his wife, his sons and his son's wives. Our teacher Saint Paul teaches us, "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not
yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household " (Heb. 11:7). The others, who did not heed God's warning, and had no faith in God's truth were destroyed.

Lot and the city of Sidom also experienced God's warning before it happened. As this was the first time that fire came down from heaven, it was also the first time that a flood happened in the time of Noah.

The people of Sidom who did not accept the warning of God were destroyed as were who also did not believe it in the days of Noah.

God's warning in regard to eternity and judgement lies ever before us. Inspite of this, many are still immersed in evil and sin as if God had not warned them. They do not fear God in their hearts or judgement in eternity.

We spoke about God, His attributes and works, His promises and warmings as unseen matters, we should also add that:

3- Dwelling Of The Spirit And His Work In Us Are Unseen Matters
Samuel anointed David with oil and the spirit of the Lord came upon him (2 Sam. 16:13). No one saw the unseen Spirit of the lord, but it happened.

No one was able to see the Holy Spirit descend on the new believers when the disciples place their hands on them (Acts 8:17). The Holy Spirit also came on those anointed (1 John 2:20,27). No one saw the Holy Spirit but its fruits showed in their life.

You may be aware that there is an inner power working in you and for you, without your seeing it. It is what the Lord said "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8). This power, the power of the Holy Spirit, guides you to do good, helps you and protects you from sin.

Here we say that our whole life becomes in fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14).

What is this fellowship? How does it take place? How can we be in fellowship with the Godly nature, this an unseen nature?

We believe in God's active spirit working in the church, we do not see it but we believe in it.

The apostle said, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"(1 Cor.3:16), "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?" (1 Cor. 6:19).

We do not see the Spirit, but we see its fruits.

The Lord said that through the fruits of the holy spirit, we can stand before governors and kings, "For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you" (Matt. 10:20).

How does the Spirit of the Father Spirit speak through us? All these things are unseen matters.

4- The Grace Of God In Us Are Things Unseen
We attain visits of grace, which fill us with God's love. We do not see it but we feel it. Grace working in us, is without doubt is the work of the unseen things.

Saint John the evangelist said "Grace and truth came through Jesus." (John 1: 17). What is this grace working in us? And the grace that Saint John enjoyed. He said "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain." (1Cor. 15: 10), and he also says about us "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (Rom. 6:14), and urges Timothy to "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim. 2: 1).

We do not see this grace with our physical eye, it is amongst the unseen matters, but we feel its presence in our lives. The grace of God in us is beyond our senses as we accept this grace from
God. The church grants grace every time it repeats Saint Paul's words "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2Cor. 13:14).

Here we move to another point, the element of blessings

5- Blessing Are Unseen
A blessing can be directly from God, from parents, from the church through the priest and all these are unseen matters.

God said to Abram father of fathers "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you ... And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:2,3).

Abram saw the fruits of this unseen blessings in his life. Isaac blessed his son Jacob and he became blessed. Esau lamented because he lost this blessing (Gen.27). Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh by saying "The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads" (Gen. 48:16). Ephraim became
exceedingly blessed, more than his brother when Jacob placed his right hand on Ephraim's head (Gen. 48:17-20).

What is this blessing? How was it passed from the hands of Isaac and Jacob? How was it given through the apostles, and from the hands of the men of faith?

All these unseen matters we believe in and in its blessings although we do not see them. We ask for the blessings of our mothers, fathers, from priests and men of God. Abram was a blessing to the world according to the Lord's promise to him.

Joseph was also a blessing in the house of his master and to all Egypt, as was the blessings of Elijah.

Through all the above examples, we would still be unable to give a precise meaning to the word blessings, for it has wider meaning than our limited vocabulary can describe. An unseen matter, which we can only see its fruits. However, a blessing itself, who can see it and define it?

How was Jesus Christ able to bless through His hands the five loaves of bread and the two fish? This food given out was enough to feed thousands of people, and despite this, twelve full baskets were left over? How did this happen? What was the cause and its effect?. All these things are unseen matters.

6-Faith In The Presence Of Angels And Their Works
We believe in the existence of angels, and the unseen spirits. We may not have seen an angel in our whole life, but despite of this, we believe they close to us "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. " (Ps 34:7). We believe that the angels fill the church, and have confidence that they are with us in all that we do "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb. 1:14).

Many are glad if they see the Virgin Mary or the saints in a revelation.

It is far greater to believe that they are around you without seeing them. It is not necessary that God sends you a white dove during your evening church meetings, but you believe without seeing that the church is full of the spirits of angels.

And the wings of the saints flutter upon it, the saints that God sent to serve humanity.

Gehazi the disciple of Elisha was afraid when he saw the enemies surrounding the city, but Elisha, the man with opened eyes saw the angels defending the it against the enemy. He comforted his disciple by saying "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kin 6:16).

Elisha prayed that God would open the eyes of Gehazi to see and the conviction in unseen matters.

7- Belief In The Spirit And The Other World
We can not see the spirit, but presume its existence. When a person dies, we say that his spirit, which we have not seen, has left his body.

Faith is concerned with the destiny of this spirit, if it will go to heaven or to hell. Likewise, with the return of this spirit to the body in the general resurrection, and the destiny of the resurrected person in eternity after the last judgment.

All these matters, the spirit, resurrection, eternity, judgment, heaven, grace, hell, are all unseen matters and through faith we have a conviction in those things. Actually, no one can speak about the eternal life, and all things associated with it, except by faith. Likewise, he who believes in the second life believes in
unseen matters.

8- People Believed In The Coming Of Christ Without Seeing Him
Even the Samaritan woman said to the Lord "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things" (John 4:25).

Thus, everyone knew, according to God's promise that the Messiah was coming. They were eagerly awaiting for Him.

They understood what had Isaiah said, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). They believed nevertheless, although they never saw the Virgin.

The wait by the Old Testament people through faith for the Messiah is like our wait for the Second Coming of Christ in the New Testament. Waiting for Christ's Second Coming on the clouds according to the Lord's promise (Mat. 24:25) and the two angels who appeared to the disciples (Acts 1: 11).

We probably have not seen the Lord on the clouds in the glory of His Father and His saints. And through faith, we believe in His Second Coming in this form although we have never seen it.

9-Redemption Is Also From The Unseen Matters
Jesus redeemed us by taking away all our sins and dying for us through His love "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6). John the Baptist also said about Him "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the
sin of the world!" (John 1:29). John the evangelist said "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." (1 John 2:2). St. Paul said "Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us." (Col.2:14), and "having made peace through the
blood of His cross" (Col. 1:20).

We only see the cross; some may see it superficially! But, all gifts the cross has from love, redemption, forgiveness, cancelling of the written code, taking away the sins of the world, and also what the cross carries from peace, all these are unseen matters. We see them through faith.

Peter - before believing in all this - saw the cross as loss and as shame! Therefore he said "Never, Lord" (John 16:22). The Lord rebuked him because Peter did not see the unseen matters...

The cross represents the goodness of God to us. The rulers at that time did not see this because their eyes were blinded, "For had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor. 2:8).

10- The Hidden Benevolences Of God
We only thank God for the benevolences we see and know.

However, there are also unseen things we should thank Him for.

When we enter the life of faith we automatically enter in a life of perpetual appreciation, as the apostle said "Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 5:20).

In our life, we also have to thank for the temptations, because we feel that they have hidden benevolences in them from God that we do not see. And if we saw them we'll no doubt be singing with James "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials" (James 1:2).

From this, we see that faith gives a spiritual meaning to suffering, pains that God allows for the special grace that is in them. All from unseen matters, but we accept them in faith having confidence in God's love who does good. We also have confidence in what the Bible says "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God." (Rom. 8:28).

11-The Existence Of God In Our Lives And His Power Working In Us
How beautiful is the Lord's saying to Jacob "I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land." (Gen. 28: 15). The Lord was with him and watched over him wherever he went although he has not seen the Lord physically. It is very comfortable for the soul to feel that the
Lord is with us and to believe it. This allows us to live in serenity and joy.

The above was not only a blessing to Jacob but the Lord says "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:20).

Our feeling that God is with us, gives us a feeling that a Godly power is walking with us and protecting us.

This power is working in you and is with you from the moment you receive the Holy Spirit and He then accompanies you for the rest of your life. In the time of the first church the people saw the kingdom of God being established in power (Mark 9: 1), "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:31). It was said that St. Stephen was "Full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs" (Acts 6:8), and that he stood before the synagogue "And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke" (Acts 6: 10). That is the power in faith. He who believes but is afraid to show his faith is a person with weak faith, he does not believe in the power of God working with him.

The woman who was bleeding for twelve years felt that if she could just touched the edge of the cloak of Jesus a power would come out of Him to heal her, and that is what happened (Matt. 9:22, Lk 8:46).

If you believe in the power of God and hold steadfastly to it, you will surely obtain it.

Let it be that you have this faith and this feeling in all aspects of your life: in your service, prayer and works.

Even in your fall, believe that there is a power to save you. If you are weaker than the devils then believe that God who loves you is stronger, and that He is able to save you from sin. And in strong faith pray to God to grant you the power you need to succeed in your spiritual life, ask Him who "always leads us in
triumph in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14).

Even if you have been waiting long time, just believe that the power of God will reach you and save you. This power of God is unseen, but it exists, and is ready to work with those who ask for it by faith. You need to experience this power which is accompanying you, not only in the life of repentance but in all
aspects of your spiritual life so that when you speek, others will feel the strength and the effect of the words you are saying.

The believer is a strong person believing in the power of God working in him.

Paul said, "To this end I also labour, striving according to His working which works in me mightily." (Col. 1:29) and he says about God "To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us." (Eph. 3:20).

It is faith in the unseen power of God that prompted Saint Paul to claim confidently, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13).

We ask ourselves: is this phrase only applies to Saints like Paul?

The Lord answers "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23).

Perhaps this power is a test for our spiritual lives. Are we in faith? Is it a power we are glad of and live in serenity with?

In the church, we rejoice in the many unseen things.

12-What Happens In The Baptism
Saint Paul says "For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal. 3:27). How great is this sacrament! Who has seen its promise? Ananias told Saul, "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptised, and wash away your sins." (Acts 22:16). Who saw these sins being washed away? These are unseen matters, which we accept by faith, as the apostle about Christ, "He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Tit. 3: 5). The salvation we obtain by rebirth is an unseen matter, but we believe in it according to the Lord's saying, "He who
believes and is baptised will be saved." (Mark 16:16).

What is the meaning of a second birth? Moreover, what does it mean to be born from above, from God, and to be born from water and spirit? The Lord spoke about it in (John 3:3-6). They are all unseen matters; the rebirth from God is an unseen sacrament. We see a person immersed in the baptism font but we do not see how he is reborn from the spirit. Blessed are those who believe without seeing. This, the church calls a sacrament.

The apostle says "Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith ... forgiven you all trespass" (Col. 2:12). He gives the same meaning in his letter to the Romans, and he adds that the old person was crucified with Christ, that we may live with Him (Rom. 6:3-6). Who has seen this death, burial, resurrection, forgiveness of sins, the new life, crucifixion of the old self... these are all unseen matters, but we believe in them.

13-The Sacrament Of The Holy Eucharist
You see in faith the bread and wine in front of you transform into the body and the blood of the Lord. Here you can not rely on your senses to judge, because the bodily senses see only the visible matters. But the spiritual senses heed to what the Lord says "This is my body... This is my blood" (Matt. 26:26,28),
"Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you... My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." (John 6:53-56).

I do not dispute what the Lord said but I accept it in faith.

In faith we are sure of what we do not see for what is seen is bread and wine. This is what Saint Paul says "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16), and he also says "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." (1 Cor. 11:27,29).

How can we know if this is the body of the Lord, so as not to gain judgment upon ourselves? Here, by faith, we go beyond the level of the senses, and the level of the intellect.

Our minds make us tired when we accept the sacraments of the church. Our senses do also tire us. We need the simplicity of faith to believe all what Jesus Christ and the apostles said without discussion.

14-To Accept The Sacraments Of Christianity
To accept the laying of hands that Barnabas and Saul obtained from the disciples, so that they could go on to service (Acts 13:2,3), and also the laying of Saint Paul's hands on Timothy (2 Tim. 1:6). We believe that this is a sacrament.

We accept the power the Lord gave in His saying "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained " (John 20:23) "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 18:18).

This honour is unseen but we see it through faith. It is not for everyone and no one can take it by himself, but he who is called by God just like Aaron was (Heb. 5:4).

Seeing the unseen is the real spiritual sight: maybe it is what the Lord meant in His saying to his disciples "But blessed are your eyes for they see " (Matt. 13:16). What do they see? It sees Jesus Christ and His miracles. It sees the unseen just like the revelation, which Saint John saw. Further, how Saint Paul saw
the third heaven and many other signs (2 Cor.12: 2,7).

The Lord rebuked those who did not have this spiritual sense by saying "And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes " (Matt. 13: 15) the disciple also wrote the same thing about them (Acts 28:27). The expression they closed their eyes could mean that they did not train themselves to see the spiritualities or that they refused to see the spiritualities because of their interest in material things.
Gehazi did not see what his teacher Elisha saw (2 Kin 6:17).

The companions of Saul did not see anything during the Godly vision he saw, the Bible said that they "Stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one." (Acts 9:7).


Pope Shenouda III

----------

Title: Life of Faith

Author: H. H. Pope Shenouda Ill.

Press: Dar El Tebaa El Kawmia.

Edition: August 1989 - First edition.

Legal Deposit No.: 5606/1989

Revised: COEPA 1997


Also See:
Life Of Faith - Introduction
http://coptorthodox.blogspot.com/2012/07/life-of-faith-introduction.html

Life Of Faith - 1 - How Great Is Faith
http://coptorthodox.blogspot.com/2012/07/life-of-faith-1-how-great-is-faith.html


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