Jesus Christ

Growing in Christ - Meditation


"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon is a very unusual book. It is about Father Tim, a fictional Episcopalian priest in a very small American town.

Father Tim is a gentle, soft-spoken fellow. He is a hard worker, trying to do his best for his congregation. He has an Achilles heel-or rather, an Achilles stomach. He enjoys good food, and in particular he enjoys sweets. He is diagnosed, early in the novel, with diabetes.

Resolving to lead a healthier lifestyle he is also confronted with a variety of new events in his life. He suddenly finds himself responsible for the care of a large rambunctious dog, as well as for a small boy from a disadvantaged background. He finds himself drawn also into various adventures involving crime and secrets from the past. He has, moreover, a new next-door neighbor who happens to be a single and very attractive lady.

How all of these dramatic situations get resolved makes for a pleasant reading experience.

In our determined quest to plumb the depths of meaning of the word "faith" we might ponder a conversation that takes place between Father Tim and his new, surprisingly well-informed neighbor:

She looked up, quoting the Scottish teacher who happened to be one of his favorite writers. "'Faith by its very nature must be tried,' he (Oswald Chambers) says. Do you agree?"

He (Father Tim) sat down in his wing chair, suddenly feeling more at home with his company. "Absolutely!"

"I've never been one for physical exercise," she said, "but what God does with our faith must be something like workouts. He sees to it that our faith gets pushed and pulled, stretched and pounded, taken to its limits so its limits can expand."

He liked that-taken to its limits so its limits can expand. Yes! [1]

As we can see, this is no ordinary conversation. Although it is presented in a light-hearted way, it makes a serious point. Faith is not always "because" of reasoning and blessings; it is "in spite of" hardships or injustice. We know very well that, for some people, the trials of faith can be staggering.

Turn the sparkling diamond of faith around again-let the light filter through with another meaning. Faith is also our consolation, our comfort:

2 Corinthians 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (ESV).

Remember or imagine the sufferings of our non-Christian friends. They have no hope for eternal salvation. They have no example to follow, as we do in Christ's suffering, however inadequate our imitation might be. They have no source of rich encouragement, as we do in the writings of Paul through the Holy Spirit. Such friends need to hear from us. At the very least, they need to see us-imperfect to be sure, but with our lives unmistakably impacted by relationship with God.

There are times-extreme and unusual times, one hopes-when the Bible slips from the hands of even the strongest among us. The afflicted cannot think, cannot talk, they can only feel pain or shock or exhaustion. Even at such times our faith will provide for us:

Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.

Yes, this is our God, and we are his people. He knows us, he understands us, he loves us. In the deep mystery of our faith he is constant even as we wax and wane, fade and flourish.

Praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

In faith and fellowship,

Patrick McKitrick

Outreach Canada Ministries - more...

[1] Jan Karon, At Home in Mitford (New York: Penguin Books) 1994, p.158.