“Reality, What a Concept!” Of course, this is a flippant way we moderns have dealt with the struggle of all of humanity through the centuries with our own existence. Whole religions have developed around the idea that all of this life is unreal, suffering is unreal, existence is unreal. And then there are other philosophies who’ve argued just the opposite! The whole philosophical argument between Plato and Aristotle was all about how to talk about reality -Was it the Universals or the Particulars that make reality real?
I love this stuff! Mainly because it is so fundamental in forming HOW we think and ultimately how we view. consciously and unconsciously, our everyday lives. And since I am convinced our Faith is meant to form the foundation of our lives, how our Faith answers the question “What is real?” is the most important answer ever!
Listen to what Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10-15:
“TIMOTHY, my son, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at lconion, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
St. Paul helps his spiritual son, Timothy, deal with the realities of following Jesus Christ with all the blessings and trials that will bring. And make no mistake, if you actually live out your faith on a daily basis, you better not ignore the reality that there are real consequences for that commitment. So, how do we handle the times when reality slaps us in the face?
Paul gives us 3 insights into embracing and accepting and surviving REAL life in Christ.
The first insight is Real Communion. Look at what he tells his spiritual son. “Timothy, pay attention to how I have endured persecutions.” The Christian faith can never be reduced to a mere philosophy or some self-help positive thinking. No, the Christian life is a calling to be lived, not merely thought about. It is in pressing out this Christian life in real relationships, both past and present, that encourages me not to give up in my times of trial. Reading the lives of the saints, enduring the often painful but necessary hard work of relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and watching as those I respect face difficulties and don’t cut and run or don’t give away their hope, all of this feeds my own ability to endure!
The second insight is Reality over Fantasy. Those who so quickly fall into the fantasy of “what I’m afraid of” or “what I wish for” always struggle with being deceived and deceiving others. In fact, these poor souls desperately need to have others join them in their deception so they can constantly reinforce their fantasy! Paul warns Timothy away from such brokenness because fantasy never leads to endurance. It always ends up with a burst bubble and a disappointed heart. Eventually, everybody has to leave the Amusement Park and deal with life as it really is. If we don’t, we run the risk of seeing a pattern of broken relationships and increased isolation in our lives. That isn’t endurance, that’s hell!
Finally, Real Application of Eternal Wisdom. Paul tells Timothy “keep doing what you have always done! Avoid the temptations of diverting off your path!” Our commitment to the wisdom of the Holy Scriptures and the devotion to the real people who taught us the scriptures and lived that faith for us to follow is absolutely necessary if we are to endure the times of unfair treatment, innuendo, and downright persecution. We don’t allow the darkness of the moment to snuff out the Light we’ve held in our lives. We KNOW what is True, or better, we know WHO is true. That commitment to the wisdom given to us strengthens us to endure!
Today, whatever you face, you are called to pass through this with confidence and the strength of God’s grace. Whatever you face today, physical illness, spiritual fear, emotional heartache, even the very real consequences of your own mistakes, grab a hold of healthy relationships, reality over fantasy, and the wisdom you know in your heart to be true because you’ve witnessed it change the lives of others, and stand firm. When you embrace this reality, you are being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, You are real. You are the Author of life and You are the Maker of all that is. You are my Maker, and You have fashioned me for Yourself and for my good. Living life in Your wisdom is real life. Outside Your wisdom is only delusion and slavery. Please have mercy on me as I struggle with escaping the delusions of life and embrace Your True Life. Help me and forgive me and place me in Your Church so I can learn to love others more than myself and love You above all things. Amen.