Trials Can Foster Growth in Faith (Fri. Oct. 4)

The word of the day is “encourage .”  In our reading of Colossians 2:1-7, St. Paul encourages the believers in Colossae who face the challenge of false teachers who threaten to undermine their faith.  He commends them for their “good order and steadfastness of their faith” (vs.5). Paul rejoices in their persistence despite the persuasiveness of the heretics (vs. 4).

The Apostle discloses his “great conflict” for those in Colossae, neighboring Laodicea,  and others in the region that he has not seen face to face (vs. 1).  From the Greek word for “conflict,” we get the English word “agony.”  Paul is saying that he is in agony for the believers because of the external threat to their faith (Strong’s #73,5).

Ways of Encouragement

Paul lists several things that will encourage the believers in the region.  First, their hearts should be “knit together in love” (vs. 2). This metaphor is a fitting translation of the Greek word that means “to force or weld together” (Strong’s #4823, 238).  Indeed, Paul affirms that the believers will find comfort (Strong’s #3870, 190) and mutual strength against temptations when their love for one another binds them together.

Second, they should “attain to all the riches of the full assurance of understanding” (vs. 2).  The insight into the mystery of God the Father and the Son is an invaluable treasure.  And the Colossians should hang onto it with complete confidence  (Strong’s #4136, 204).

Third, a literal translation is that “the knowledge of the mystery of God [is] Christ”  Therefore, the Colossians must not look for wisdom and knowledge to “elemental spirits ” (vs. 2:9),  angels (2:18),  “principles of the world” (vs. 20), or “things that have the appearance of wisdom” (vs. 23).  But they should find this understanding hidden in Christ (2:3).

  For Reflection

Paul admits that he has great anxiety for the churches in the religion of Colossae.  He is worried that false teachers will lead the believers away from their faith in Christ   But note that Paul does not pray that the deceivers will suddenly disappear.  Nor does the Apostle pray that the believers will find arguments to refute their tempters.  Paul only prays for the faithful to be encouraged amid this temptation.  You see, the trials of their souls allowed them to grow in their faith:   to love one another more closely, to believe more confidently, and to understand more deeply.

Fighting Against Temptation Is Good for the Soul

Once, the monk John the Short told the desert father Poeman that he had asked the Lord to take away his passions.  John said that the Lord answered his prayer, and he was at peace: the warfare between flesh and spirit in his heart was over.  Poeman replied, “Go and ask the Lord to stir up in you a new battle against the passions.  Fighting against temptation is good for the soul.”  When the passions attacked John again,  he did not pray for the end of the fight against them.  He only prayed, “Lord, grant me the strength to endure it.”

About Fr. Basil

Now retired, the Very Rev. Archpriest Basil Ross Aden has served as a parish priest, parish pastor, diocesan mission director, writer, and college teacher of New Testament and Religious Studies. He has a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago and has published daily devotional and stewardship materials as well as a college textbook on Religious Studies. He also has published papers and/or lectured on the Orthodox perspective on Luther and the Reformation. religious freedom, current issues of religion and society, and St. John Chrysostom. He is married to Sandra and has two sons and three grandchildren. He is still active as a priest as well as a writer of articles and materials on Orthodoxy and topics of faith and life today.

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