Words of Spiritual Benefit | 81-90

81. LITTLE AND MUCH

One of the well-known sayings is: "The little that is permanent is better than the much which is irregular.

This is also good for the spiritual life.

Many take very quick, high leaps starting with what is more than their capabilities.  They fail to carry on, so they regress. The result is falling into depression and despair...

The correct spiritual position is for one to start with whatever is within his capability, because the little that is permanent gives stability to the spiritual life.

Many are those who do not remain firm due to confusion.  It proves lack of organisation and failure in following a wise advice.

Whoever fasts in a moderate way grows little by little, till he reaches a strong spiritual level... This is better than starting with a high level that he would not be able cope with, then gradually slide down as if he never started at all.

We mean by "the little" what is within your capacity, not the little that is due to idleness.

God is able to bless the little and make it grow...

In you spirituality, you must walk on solid grounds.  You take the step that there is return from.  But you pass it to another and with every step, you gain experience ...


82. THE BENEFIT

Many ask for a word of benefit.  But do they all benefit from it?

Benefit has undoubtedly two sources:

Firstly: that the word is beneficial, good for construction.

Secondly: that the listener is the type of person who benefits.

The one who loves to benefit could benefit even from a word of rebuke, a hard word or even a word that is said to another person, not to him...

We still benefit from words that our Fathers said to people who lived at their time, not ours...

The words of benefit are available: if we honestly want them, we will find them within our, reach... The books are full of words of benefit and the mouths of guides flow with life, for those who want life...

Therefore, after the Lord Jesus said words of benefit to all the Angels of the seven churches, He immediately said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Rev. 2,3).

A word of benefit needs an ear to hear, needs the love of benefit and an effective will to cooperate with such love...

Knowing words of benefit is not enough.  In fact, knowledge on its own is judgement, because, "He who knows more has more expected from him"... and the Lord said, "... the word that I have spoken will judge them in the last day."

Some heard the Lord Jesus and did not benefit from what they heard.  One of them even went away sorrowful...

Many heard and liked the word, but did not put it into action.

Others heard St. Paul, the Apostle and said, "what does this babbler want to say?!" And they did not benefit, even from St. Paul's talk.

The word of benefit was there, but without benefit!

Our mother Eve heard the word from God and repeated it literally, but did not benefit.  In fact, she fell on the same day...

People ask for a word of benefit.  But is the benefit gained just by talk?! ...


83. FORMALITIES

Many people, in their worship and relationship with God, pay more attention to the formalities and forget the essence.

In prayer, for example, they stand in front of God and talk to Him, paying more attention to the words and their length.  This is a formality as the essence of prayer is the relationship that links Man to God.  It is the feeling that one is in the presence of the Divinity...

In fasting, some concentrate on the period of abstaining from eating and the type of food they eat.  This is also a formality. The essence of fasting is mainly the principle of prevention and overruling oneself, controlling the body and rising above the level of materialism and food.  That is what escapes many.

In preparation to receive the Holy Communion, many are more concerned with the cleanliness of the body in a very formal way, with no attention to the essence of purity, physically and spiritually!...

In reading the Holy Bible, the main concern of some is the amount they read and the regularity to do so.  This is formality... but the essence is reading with understanding and contemplation.  It is a matter of going beyond the meaning and turning the action of reading into spirit and life...

Some people enter the monastic life and give more care to the outside appearance such as prostration and its number, fasting and abstaining from eating for long periods, locking oneself in the cell, remaining silent and neglecting one's clothes... As for purity of the heart deep from inside real death to the world and the object of monasticism in being occupied with God and His love, it is forgotten amidst the concern with formalities!...

The service is very often lost because of the formalities.  We might become completely involved in what we are going to say...  The effect of what we say in changing people's hearts and leading them to the love of God, is forgotten by many... The service might have several activities, organisations and prominent names.  These are all types of formalities.  The depth in the service is known, it is the aim of serving, that is the salvation of souls... But where is it?!

Formalities never build the Kingdom.  It reminds us of what the Lord said about the Pharisees and Scribes, "...who cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish..." They have been compared to tombs that are white from the outside and the inside is exactly the opposite...

God does not take notice of formalities, therefore He said, "My son, give me your heart." (Prov. 23:26).  For this reason the commandment is not taken literally but God is mainly concerned about the love that is in it.  As for love, God said, "On love hangs all the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 22:40).


84. TEMPTATIONS

Many temptations happen because of the envy of the devil...

If the devil finds a highly spiritual person, he becomes furious and envious.  He attacks him with temptations to see how firm he is in the life of the spirit...

That is what happened with the Lord Jesus Christ...

The devil was not happy about the great glory that the Lord Jesus received at the Jordan River, where the Father witnessed for Him saying, "This is my beloved Son, in who I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:17).  Then the Holy Spirit descended on Him as a dove.  Also, John the Baptist witnessed for Jesus saying, "...whose sandal-strap I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose." (Mark 1:7) ... Therefore, the devil followed the Lord with temptations on the mountain.

The devil's combat sometimes proves the success of the spiritual work, which makes one confident in his work.

The devil's temptations are divided into two types:
Tribulations and enticement...

Tribulations do not hurt, but one can benefit from them and learn patience.  They enable us to experience God's help.  St. James, the Apostle said, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials." (James 1:2).

But the trouble is in the trial by sin...

A sin could tempt the faithful to do or think in a harsh way.  In spite of his refusal, it continues fighting him till he cries to God saying, "lead us not into temptation......"

Temptations indicate that the devil does not give up...

He does not give up, no matter how long it takes.  He kept on tempting the Lord Jesus for forty days.  And in spite of his failure and God dismissing him, he left for a while then returned to tempt Him, even when the Lord was on the cross.

We do not fear the devils' combats.

The grace within us is much stronger than all the tricks of the devil.  And the Holy Spirit that works within us is able to defeat the devil.  Besides, God gave us authority over all the devils...

As the Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed over all trials of the devil, He gave our human nature the spirit of victory and became our leader in His procession of triumph.

May the Lord be blessed in our trials as in our worship...


85. EVERYTHING FOR YOUR SPIRITUALITY

God created everything for your spirituality...

Heaven and earth are not for your materialistic benefit.  They are also for your spiritual benefit, if you are able to extract the spiritual lessons they offer you. "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork." (Ps. 19:1).

The Bible is not only for religious knowledge.  It is also for your spiritual growth......."The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63).  There is a big difference in reading the Bible for study and reading it for a spiritual benefit.

Service, also, is not just education.  Education is merely a means to lead to the spiritualities.  Therefore there is a difference between one type of education and another.

There is an education that addresses your mind and another education that fills your heart.  One education turns you into a learned man and the other turns you into a worshipper...

The education that you undertake is not only for the spirituality of others but also for your own spirituality.

You benefit as much as your listeners benefit.  If you do not benefit with them, they surely would not benefit from what you said since the talk would have lost its spiritual effect.

Hymns and chants at church are not just music and tunes.  They are prayers directed to God.  They have their depth and effect on your heart and your spirituality...

Therefore, there is a difference between the one who just sings and the one who chants hymns.

The same applies to all the spiritual means...

Even all the incidents you experience are permitted by God so you can gain a spiritual benefit from them...

There are those who become nervously, psychologically or mentally affected by incidents.  Others are affected spiritually by whatever events they experience; everything that happens to them makes them closer to God….

The people that you meet, are sent by God. Passing your way, they are for your own spiritual benefit, if you know how to benefit from them.

The righteous present you with an example and a blessing, while you benefit endurance, patience and forgiveness for others from evil.


86. REPENTANCE AND ITS PERFECTION

Repentance has levels and steps that one follows:

1. The first step is the feeling of being in a bad condition and the desire to change it.  It is like what happened to the prodigal son, who came to himself and found that he is about to die of starvation.  He found that the perfect solution is to return to his Father.

2. The second step is leaving sin and keeping away from all the ways that lead to it.  What is meant by leaving sin is not to leave a particular sin but sin in general.  At this point one starts to discover himself.

The more one grows in the spirit, the more he discovers new faults that he never realised before. Then he tries to eradicate them.  He needs to pass various stages of purifying the self, till it returns to God's image.

3. In a life of repentance, leaving sin must be permanent and firm, with no return, so was the repentance of the Saints. We never heard that Augustine returned to sin once more.  The same with Moses the Black, Mary the Egyptian and Pelagia.

Repentance, in the lives of all these Saints was a confirmed turn to God without returning to sin.

4. The perfection of repentance, as the Saints said, is not just leaving sin, but hating it.

The one who actually leaves sin, but continues longing for it in his heart, has not really repented.  His heart has not yet repented.  He is bound to have a relapse with action as well.

Nevertheless, the heart is the basis.  And the Lord says, "My Son, give me your heart." (Prov. 23:26).  Thus repentance must be from the heart and the heart becomes entirely for God.

5. Such a repentant person cannot sin again, because all his feelings and desires become opposed to sin and would not accept it.  Besides, he would not need to strive to keep away from sin.  He automatically stays away from it because of his hatred to it.

6. Real repentance must have fruits.

As the Bible says, "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance." (Matt. 3:8).  The first of these fruits is love for God which possesses the heart, changes the life and bears fruits of righteousness.


87. GOD'S LOVE FOR US "A"

How great is God's love for us.  It's enough to say that God is Love... And "we love Him because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19).

He loved us before we were, therefore He created us...

Because of His love for us, He created us after His image and likeness.

He prepared everything for us before we were created.  He raised the Heaven to be a roof and paved the Earth so we can walk on it.  He made the light, water, plants and paradise... Then He created us.

When we fell in sin, He prepared for us a way of salvation.

Due to His love for us, He sent prophets to guide us and gave us a conscience and a written Law to enlighten our insights.

It was His love for us that made Him incarnate, take our nature and bless this nature in Him. On our behalf, He obeyed the Law and pleased God the Father by presenting a God-fearing image of humanity.

Due to His love, He died for us, "The just for the unjust." (1 Pet. 3:18).

He became a love-offering on the Cross.  He carried the sin of the whole world and washed it with His blood.  "The One without sin was considered sinful, for our sake," and paid the whole price one our behalf.

"... Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." (John 13:1).  And, "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13).

Because He loved us, He said, "No longer do I call you servants, but I have called you friends." (John 15:15).  He also called us brethren and, "... in all things He had to be made like His brethren." (Heb. 2:17).  We became sons of the Heavenly Father, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God." (1 John 3:1).

To show His love for us, He said, "... I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:20). "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20).

His love is also shown in His protection, care and guidance for us in everything.


88. GOD'S LOVE FOR US "B"

Owing to God's love for us, He considers us part of Him, as He says, "I am the vine, you are the branches." (John 15:5). He also says, "...we are members of His body." (Eph. 5:30), or He is the head and the whole Church is the body.  Again He says, "Abide in me and I in you, as the branches abide, in the vine." (John 15:4).  He also says about us to the Father, "I in them and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one." (John 17:23).

=> How beautiful is the expression in the Bible about God's love for us, in saying, "... partakers of the divine nature." (2 Pet. 1:4). And also, "... the communion of the Holy Spirit." (2 Cor. 13:14).  Of course it is not a communion in the nature and essence but in work.  Therefore, St. Paul says about himself and his friend Silas, "For we are God's fellow workers.  " "For we are God's fellow workers." (1 Cor. 3:9).

=> One of the aspects of God's love for us is the friendship that developed between Him and our human race. For example, Abraham was called, "El-Khalil" the friend of God and Enoch, about whom it was said, "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not for God took him." (Gen. 5:24).  Moses, too spent forty days with God on the mountain. The twelve Disciples are also another example, the way the Lord associated with them...

=> It is also beautiful how God made His delight in the sons of men...

He, the unlimited, humbled Himself for the human beings, who are limited and associated with them.  He also appeared to them and talked to them mouth to ear.

=> It is also due to God's love for us all that these amazing ways of care which history tells us occurred, such as the split of the Red Sea, the Manna in the wilderness, the water flowing from a rock, looking after Elijah during the famine, delivering Peter from prison and Daniel from the lions' den and the three youths from the burning furnace...beside many other stories that have no end.

=> As a sign of God's love for us He has given us these beautiful promises:

"I have, inscribed you on the palms of my hands." (Is. 49:16), "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered." (Matt. 10:30), "I will give you a new heart," (Ezek. 36:26). "And no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand." (John 10:29) and, "I go to prepare a place for you." (John 14:2).

=> The gifts we are granted are an evidence of God's love for Man.

The gift of eternity, of the resurrection as in the body of His glory and the several gifts of the Holy Spirit... Blessed by God in His love.


89. LOVE SACRIFICES

Love is tested through suffering, tribulation and sacrifice.

The one who is not able to sacrifice is the one who does not love... Once he loves, he will sacrifice everything.

Abraham, the father of fathers, because of his love for God, left his people and the house of his father and lived a stranger in a tent...

But Abraham's love for God reached its peak when he laid his only son on the altar.  He placed wood and fire around him and raised his hand with the knife, to sacrifice him.

When Daniel loved the Lord, he sacrificed himself and accepted being thrown into the lions' den.  The same with the three youths who proved their love through self-sacrifice, to be cast into the burning furnace...

St. Paul, the Apostle, said about his love for the Lord Jesus, "I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him." (Phil. 3:8-9).

Our fathers the martyrs and the confessors, because of their love for God, sacrificed their blood, their lives and comfort. They experienced torment and never feared, because of their great love...

There are obstacles that hinder Man from sacrifice: his love of comfort, love of dignity and the love of self... But real love does not care for comfort, pride or self...

One sacrifices everything for the sake of the one he loves...

Jacob, the father of fathers, when he fell in love with Rachel, sacrificed much for her sake.  He toiled for twenty years, with the sun burning him during the day and the cold at night... He considered all these years as a few days because of his love for her.

What have you sacrificed for Jesus, who sacrificed Himself on the Cross for your sake?...

The one who loves, sacrifices himself for God and for people.

He has to practise first to sacrifice what is outside himself, such as wealth, time and possessions.  But the one who is unable to sacrifice what is outside himself, how would he sacrifice himself?!

If you are unable to sacrifice, then you do not love others; or do you only love yourself...


90. GOD'S SOLUTIONS

Truly God has many solutions...

We think of our problems, using our human mind, which is limited.  As for God He is unlimited in His knowledge and His wisdom.

When matters become complicated, their complication is relative for us human beings.  As for God nothing becomes complicated, everything is easy and the solutions are many.

God interferes at the right time and in the suitable way.  It could be a solution that never crossed our minds, one that we never thought of or expected...

"The things which are impossible, with man are possible with God." (Luke 18:27).

With God, everything is possible, nothing is hard, as Job the righteous said, "And that no purpose of yours can be withheld from you." (Job 42:2).

God controls everything, sees everything and nothing is hidden from Him.  He plans in secret or in the dark.  Everything is uncovered before His eyes and the answer is known.

Therefore, it is good what Moses the Prophet said, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.  The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace." (Ex. 14:13-14).

God's solutions are strong and His salvation is great...

The faithful wait hoping for God's salvation and they rejoice in hope...

God's work for them in past days increases their faith in God's doings now, in the future and at all time...

God is God.  He does not change in His love or His care...

Therefore, it is said in the psalm, "The Lord shall preserve you from all evil, He shall preserve your soul.  The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in." (Ps. 121:7-8).

In our life we deal with God, not with people. We are all in His hands.  Nobody is independent of God or outside His dominion.

Therefore we are confident in God's work with us...

We are sure of His interference, listening to the psalmist saying, "Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and comfort your heart.  Wait for the Lord."

May God's name be blessed forever.