Thursday, September 3, 2009

To be a saint...

"Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ..."

(Philippians 1:27a)

Graham Greene wrote a short story called "The Power and the Glory." The main character is a seedy, alcoholic Catholic priest, who after living months as a fugitive is finally caught by the revolutionary Mexican government and condemned to be shot. On the evening before his execution, he sits in his cell with a flask of brandy to keep his courage up and thinks back over what seems to him the dingy failure of his life. "Tears poured down his face," Greene writes… "He was not at the moment afraid of damnation – even the fear of pain was in the background. He felt only an immense disappointment because he had to go to God empty-handed, with nothing done at all. It seemed to him at that moment that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would only have needed a little self-restraint, and a little courage. He felt like someone who has missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew now that at the end there was only one thing that counted – to be a saint."

For those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, this is the challenge, isn't it? On the one hand, we're all sinful creatures. No one's perfect. But on the other hand, we all have those moments when "a little self-restraint, and a little courage" could go a long, long way. As Christians, we believe the presence of the Holy Spirit (God with us, though unseen) can help us make wise and right decisions - IF we choose to listen... and respond! (Ah, there's the rub!)

Paul writes to the church in Philippi... encouraging them to live their lives "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." He could have called them to live as saints (he does that elsewhere), but then we might have heard that and dismissed it as impossible. Instead, simply lead a life worthy of the gospel. Maybe that's not so simple after all. It seems that even the most committed Christians have a hard time following that at times. And yet, by the grace of God... with a little self-restraint and a little courage... who knows what God might be able to do through us!?!?!

PRAYER: You know where my heart is, Lord... when it's on track and when it wanders. Keep me walking in your light... give me the courage to choose a little self-restraint when it's needed most. Thank you for the saints who have influenced my life over the years... and may I be that kind of influence to others. AMEN.

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