But look (you say) , I am falling and perishing. Not by nature of the trial, but by your own laziness. St. John Chrysostom
Nobody can become a Christian by being lazy. It needs work, lots of work.
BEING A CHRISTIAN
The Christian life requires work and effort
Every priest can tell you that he’s had his share of people who don’t think he understands the difficulties they face with their jobs, families, and spouses. Many people think their priest expects too much of them, and they ignore the homilies that challenge them to go deeper into their faith. They drop a check into the collection plate, and head out the door of the church for another round of spiritual nothingness.
Yet the scriptures tell us that we must seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. Being successful in business or raising the perfect child are wonderful things, but they should not be on the top of our list. Making more money than your brother-in-law, or having a better house than your neighbors should not be on your list. Working for a good retirement can be a good thing, but not at the expense of your eternal life.
The challenges given to us by the Church’s priests are meant to aid us in our quest for the Kingdom of God. And if we are taking our faith seriously we will be grateful for those hard to hear homilies that hit too close to home. We seek out a golf pro in order to improve our swing, and expect him to help us be a better golfer. The trainer in the gym is expected to help us be healthier, and fitter, and our financial adviser is expected to help us make good choices in our investments, yet we ignore the advice of our parish priest, as he attempts to help us gain ground in the spiritual arena.
Our pride can keep us from deepening our spiritual life, if we, like that young man, refuse to seek the guidance of one more experienced in the inner life. If we don’t want anyone telling us what do to or pointing out areas of our lives that need change, we can become off kilter, spiritually. The spiritual father gives direction and sets standards that, like the golf pro and weight lifting instructor, are based on experience.
Have your priest recommend some spiritual books that can inspire you to work for perfection in your spiritual life. Ask the proprietor of your parish bookstore to suggest books that would work for you. If you don’t have a prayerbook, get one and use it. Create an icon corner or wall for your own personal and family devotions.
Start going to confession on a regular basis. And, whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to be late for the services. Arrive from fifteen minutes to a half hour early, so as to properly prepare yourself for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Get in the habit of attending Orthros if this service precedes the Sunday Liturgy, or attend the Vesper service, or the All Night Vigil, on Saturday night. Make an effort to immerse yourself in the life of the Church.
Remember, if we let our own ego be our spiritual guide, we will be following the direction of a fool. Living the Christian life takes effort on our part, and with the guidance of someone who really knows us, and is willing to point out where we need to change, we will begin to grow in our faith. The Christian life begins when we decide to think like a Christian, and spiritual maturation comes with work and effort, just as does emotional maturation. Spiritual maturation will fill your life with tranquility, joy and meaningfulness, but you must work for this end.
With love in Christ,
‘When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore, for the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Matt 9:36)’
My heart lept for joy and I cried out silently, “O Lord, are You lacking workers?” Later on when I had become one of the workers in the vineyard of the Lord, I was certain that that text of the gospel was the Lord’s first calling for me to be dedicated to His ministry.
– St Luke the Blessed Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol