Call to a Higher Life, Part 2
March 15, 2017
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
Great things are happening in the world of Christianity. For five young people to come up in front especially at this time and day, it is not an easy thing. It has to be God drawing them. Many of us become timid when it comes to our faith, and I challenge each of us that once we become what the Bible calls the uncompromisingly righteous people of God, once we become the people God wants us to become, things will happen and we will see things that we have never seen before. I pray that for these five people that we prayed for tonight, there will truly be a heavenly visitation in their hearts that will confirm the Word of God with signs following their lives. I wouldn’t be surprised seeing them doing great exploits in the kingdom of God.
As we continue to journey through Lent, guided by the hand of God, we must regularly and constantly pause to reflect upon where we are, in the situation we are in, in the light of where we have been, and where we aim to go in these forty days of Lent. There has to be a constant self-examination and introspection. This is what Lent tries to draw us.
Going through this journey, we want to be constantly nourished with the living and abiding Word of God, which is our spiritual diet. I pray that you are taking to heart this challenge of “Around the Word in Forty Days” each day and allow the Word of God to richly dwell in us. For these Wednesdays nights, we gather and we have the series on the LOVE OF GOD to which we are being built into. We saw the foundation in Ephesians 4:16 which talks about every joint and part of the Body of Christ growing and supplying to the growth of the Body which is being built up in love.
These may be simple words, but it is a very profound and deep expression which Paul made and gave. In the course of our study, we saw in two letters of Paul, written to two different groups of Christians in two places, one in Romans and the other to the Corinthians, and we can see the parallelism that is drawn into our lives today.
This is what the study of Scriptures is there for. It is always relevant to where we are today. It is not just a beautiful story of history, but it is something that can be pulled out of history and brought into our lives that can cause great power. The Word of God is incorruptible, the imperishable seed that is being planted constantly in our lives. The Word of God is always dynamic, always revealing, always filled with the Spirit and life. No matter how long and how much we have meditated upon a Scripture, there will always be something significant that Scriptures can relate to in our lives today.
The heart of our Church leadership is to have a desire to level up our spirituality. It is more than playing Church and going through ceremonies, but to see the very presence of God dynamic in our hearts and in our lives.
We began last week with that attribute of Divine Love which is joy. We saw the joyful love, and how that we are to rejoice in hope; how we should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. We were asked to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to show to us a person that we can come across with every day and to whom we can share, rejoice, and weep with as we see the work of God being done profoundly in our lives.
The purpose and the goal of this Season of Lent is for us to have the life of Jesus become more evident. This life is one that desires and pursues the well-being, the improvement, and the advancement of the life of others. It is not self-centered, but always others-centered. It is always centered on the will of God and the welfare of the people of God. It goes beyond the life of the people we know, even the life of the enemies that we might have.
In Romans 5:6-8J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS), St. Paul writes, “And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us.” The heart of God is for us to be able to go just beyond the people we know. The amazing thing about God is that even for His enemies, He died for.
Today, we come to a second attribute of love, that is: patience. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul listed this attribute of love as the first description of love, saying, “Love is patient…”
There are two words that Paul uses in his letters, which we translate today as being “patient”. One is long suffering. In Greek, it means forbearing, enduring love. This is the kind of patience that is directed to people. The literal word is long-tempered. It is the quality of self-restraint when provoked by people, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It does not hastily retaliate nor promptly punish. It is the kind of love which James talks about in James 1:19b, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Patient love is non-reactive.
The second word referred to being patient translated in the Bible is persevering patient love. It is the kind of patience that is directed to circumstances or events in our lives. If long suffering love is directed to people, persevering patient love is directed to events in our lives. The literal word is to live under; living or abiding under a situation. It is the quality of love that does not surrender to circumstances. It does not succumb to trials.
Patient love, therefore, brings to us the resources, the provisions, and gives to us the ability we need to live a godly life. It is to live a life with the heart of Jesus, which I call the “Corazon de Hesus” – the heart of Divine Mercy and Love. It is a heart that is willing to get hurt and even die so that others may live. It is a heart that is willing to sacrifice for the good of others, a heart that is willing to give expecting nothing in return.
Having the heart of Jesus is being able to love patiently. Loving patiently takes place within us, when we learn to do three things. First, when we learn to wait in delight. 2 Peter 3:9 Contemporary English Version (CEV) says, “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.” We wonder why there are people who haven’t changed their ways for the better even if we pray for them. We need patience, forbearance because God isn’t slow to keep His promises.
We have always seen the ideal life of Christianity. When we were born again, renewed, many had the illusion that there will be no more problems, and that people in Church will be perfect and nice, and that every situation will be ideal. However, the next day we begin to see situations change, and this is what tribulation is all about. Tribulation is the conflict we individually go through and it is between God’s promise (ideal) and the present situation we see and experience. For example, God said that we are love; and He made us in His image and likeness. Then we see people lying and stealing and we wonder, “Lord, why?” This conflict is called tribulation.
God said, “When you pray, when you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you and your household will be saved.” And yet, many family members are still going astray. This is tribulation. We go through times where our officemates are continually persecuting us, and yet the Psalms would say, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper,” and we ask, “Why, Lord?” This is tribulation. It is the conflict of what we see as ideal, what we hope for, and what we want to happen, but we don’t see it because what we see is exactly the opposite.
In Romans 12:12, we are told to persevere in tribulation. Persevering is the quality that does not surrender or give up to circumstances. It does not succumb to trials. This is love. Love is tough love. When we walk in the love of God, we ascend to the ways of God’s Kingdom even in the midst of the difficulties of everyday life. Even while we are going through the tribulations where there is the conflict of what we want to happen and what is happening, we are still on top of the situation. It is a “sursum corda”! It is a lifting up of our hearts so that we can be transformed to be the “Corazon de Hesus”. We are taken from the material world of chronological time (where we count minutes, seconds, days, years) to a world of Divine time (where we live in “Zoe” – the God-quality kind of Life). Divine time does not count anything but it is the quality of life.
In the Old Testament, Jacob was running away from Esau, and he finds his relative Laban. He goes to the city where Laban is and he sees a beautiful girl called Rachel. Jacob falls in love with her, but tradition says that he has to serve the family before he can get Rachel as his wife. In Genesis 29:20 (NIV), “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” Love for God lasts forever.
In Isaiah 40:31, it says, “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; they will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; they will run and not become weary. They will walk and not grow tired.”
Loving patiently also takes place when we learn to be humble. Romans 12:16New International Version (NIV), “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” In Romans 12:16J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS), it says, “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people. Don’t become set in your own opinions.” In 1 Corinthians 13:4New International Version (NIV), “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Have a real interest with people. People will know if we are just masking it.
When we have come to a certain point of our maturity in our Christian walk, there will always be the urge or even the temptation to compare ourselves with others who have not yet come to that same point of growth. We come a Pharisaic attitude of saying, “Why can I do it?” as we compare ourselves to others. As Jesus describes it, it is so easy to see the speck in our brother’s eye and miss on the log in our own eye. This is why we must always bring ourselves to a point of self-examination, introspection, a crying to God (as in the old Orthodox prayer), “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”
Lent teaches us true humility. In our daily plight and battles in the arena of life – professional, businessman, housewife and mother, student, budding teen-ager – we encounter a barrage of situations that tire us out and consume our energy. We become tired of life. In Matthew 11:29 (NIV), Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Learn from Jesus for He is gentle, humble in heart and we won’t get tired because we know where we can get our strength from.
The third thing that takes place when we learn to love patiently is that we are devoted to prayer. It is said that hurry is the death of prayer. There is a link between patience, being quiet and not being in a rush and the power of prayer. God is more than just our five-minutes or a little of our time. There is a life-thread linking patience and prayer. Prayer is a wonderful exercise in patience. When we learn to know the whole beauty of prayer, we become more patient. We begin to draw our strength and hunger more for God.
Many fast from certain food during Lent, and what is the normal reaction of our body? We get hungry. 1Corinthians 15 says that the natural comes first, and then the spiritual. The natural hunger that we have during Lent will now be transformed to s spiritual hunger for the things of God. We can now be, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” We won’t just hunger for food, but we will also hunger for the Word of God. The natural hunger becomes a spiritual hunger. We fast physically so that we can long for spiritually the things of God.
In the life of Anna in Luke 2:36-38, it says “There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
In the life of Habakkuk, he was a prophet during the time of King Josiah, toward the end of the Babylonian captivity of Israel. King Josiah was the very young king of Judah. He became king at 8 years old. By 16, he seriously sought God. When he was 20 years old, he boldly purged the idolatry in Judah. He was able to transform Israel from an idol-worshiping people to a God-worshiping people. It was at this time that Hilkiah found the copy of the book of the Law, which was lost for a long time. It contained the writings of Moses, the call of God to Israel, and the instructions from God on how to fulfill and to live out this calling. The King led the nation to a national repentance, published the book of the Law, making it available to the people, and required everyone to read the book.
In spite of all these, the people still lived a very superficial life. Religion was changed from idols to faith in the living God, but it was just outward and trivial. They had the customs and rituals of ancient Israel again, but their heart was still far from God. In Habakkuk 1:2, Habakkuk says,
“O Lord, how long will I call for help and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save.”