A Better Possession

American fantasy author Jeaniene Frost said, “Some things are worth the cost of their consequences.”

And looking back in history and even in my own life, I can attest to the truthfulness of this statement. The challenge is knowing when to pay the price for what you value. All of our lives are filled with trading what we do for what we receive. And many times we want to live our lives without having the deal with the consequences of our choices. But that mindset is forever a slave to the childish immaturity of a character not yet developed and a life not yet disciplined by wisdom.

The truth is we always live with the consequences of our choices, but the wisest of us discern what is most valuable and live with the consequences of the cost of keeping first things first. Sometimes that cost is our very lives. Many times the cost is in being accepted or rejected by society, and other times there are real monetary costs for keeping your values no matter what. I think of some parents who are willing to keep their kids out of events that take them away from church services, the athlete who refuses to compromise his faith for his sport, and so many other everyday heroes who stand for what is right no matter what the cost.

Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 10:32-38:

Brethren, recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. “For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; but my righteous one shall live by faith.”

St. Paul is dealing with these precious Hebrew Christians who had left the safety of their Old Testament religion to embrace the completion of the Promises of the Prophets and the Law in Jesus Christ. The pressure was on these dear ones to go back and reject Jesus as the promised Messiah. And St. Paul is trying to remind them they have already paid the price for their decision to follow Jesus, and not to give up now that it’s even harder to stay a faithful Christian.

He reminds them that they have already endured the struggle to be faithful. He reminds them they have already weathered abuse and watched as friends and family members who joined them in following Jesus faced the same persecution. He even reminds them that they “joyfully accepted the plundering” of their property. They didn’t let a threat to their bank accounts and homes turn them away from following Christ. What courage in the face of such pressure to give up!

And here is where Paul reveals to them, and us, the key to keeping the Faith: Endurance! I know those dark nights of the soul when the whispered temptation to give up haunts my sleep. I know those moments when I’m just physically and spiritually exhausted when I’m tempted with the thought of quitting. I bet you’ve faced moments like that as well. And I bet you’ve heard the old saying “It’s always too soon to quit.” But how do we endure when life brings us to these hard moments? How do we keep going when we are worn down?

St. Anthony of Optina says, “No matter what bitterness has befallen you, no matter what unpleasantness has happened to you, say, “I shall endure this for Jesus Christ!” and it will be easier for you. For the name of Jesus Christ is powerful. Through it all unpleasantness is calmed, and demons disappear. Your disappointments will also be calmed and your pusillanimity will be quieted.”

It always starts with your cultivating your actual and real relationship with Jesus Himself. Endurance comes to that one who has already practiced the discipline of prayer and gratitude toward Christ. Realizing the “Better” Possession of an eternal perspective instead of the temporary shadow of what looks like defeat or failure or even discomfort. The key to enduring those hard moments that come to all of us is remembering what you’ve already paid to be faithful and to value that price you’ve already paid above the momentary temptation to give up now!

Today, are you faced with the weariness of staying strong? Are you worn down by the price of faithfulness? It is in this moment where you can draw strength from other times when you’ve stayed faithful even when it was hard, and you can endure, even if it means you face temporary setbacks or even what looks like a failure by staying Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. O Lord, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day and all that it shall bring. Teach me to pray. Pray You, Yourself, in me! Amen

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