“You sure are sure of yourself.” She said it like it was a bad thing to be confident and act on that confidence. And it really confused me, until a wiser man pulled me off to the side and told me that confident people make people who lack confidence nervous. Sometimes that’s understandable, but sometimes it just reveals the lack of faith and a life driven by fear instead of faith.
That helped me so much, because most of my life I’ve been one who simply believed that being confident and positive was the best way to live. I’ve worked with one person who we all lovingly called “Eeyore,” you know, the donkey from Winnie the Pooh. Eeyore was always convinced the worst was going to happen. “It’s such a beautiful day!” “Yeah, but it will probably rain later.” You know, Eeyore! And that attitude always confused me until the situation happend above. There are a lot of people who really are afraid of confidence and aren’t sure about much of anything in their lives!
Look at our lesson today in Philippians 1:1-7:
BRETHREN, Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
St. Paul is writing another letter to a Church he established during his missionary work. The Church at Philippi was one of the most important cities in the ancient Greek world because of its strategic place in northern Greece. No wonder Paul, who regularly focused his missionary work in the strategic cities of the Empire, went there during his missionary work. The city was filled with folks from all over the Empire and was a focal point of trade and commerce. Paul plants a church there and 10 years later writes this letter to the church he founded.
And look at how he begins this letter. He has a deep love for this community for many reasons, not least of which the bishop there, Epaphroditus, was a faithful and godly man who had assisted Paul a great deal. But Paul also starts his letter with a phrase that struck me as very significant for you and me today. He says “And I am sure…” What is St. Paul sure of?
He is sure that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” The work St. Paul mentions is nothing less than their partnership in the Gospel with him. And the focus of Paul’s work was the spread, conversion to, and the perpetual growth of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Philippians partnership with Paul in seeing this vision of the Faith as central to their lives was what Paul was “sure” God was going to bring about “until the day of Jesus Christ.” And by that he meant what we pray for at each Liturgy: “And let us ask for a Christian end to our life, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good defense before the awesome judgment seat of Christ.” Paul was “sure” God was going to use His Church to accomplish His purpose and that purpose was the Faith offered to the world and for the healing of every person created!
And Paul was “sure” about these Philippians because he saw how the Philippians cared for him even when he was being persecuted. Their faithfulness wasn’t merely in word, but deed as well!
Today, what are you sure of in your life? What has life taught you that you are so confident in that you live your life based on the “sure” knowledge this can be depended on, or that is always consistent? If Jesus Christ and His Church is the center of your life then you’ve discovered what I’ve discovered, I can be “sure” that my Faith will always be the solid foundation to my everyday living. And that confidence, that “surety” shapes my choices, my priorities, and my confidence. I am Orthodox on Purpose!
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