There are some who, like worms wallowing in marshes and mud, feed on foolish and useless pleasures. People are like pigs. For pigs, it is said, like mud better than pure water. Let us not, then, be enslaved or become like pigs. Instead, as true children of the light, let us raise our eyes and look at light, lest the Lord discover us to be superficial. Therefore, let us repent and move from ignorance to knowledge, from foolishness to wisdom, from self ‐indulgence to self‐restraint, from unrighteousness to righteousness, from godlessness to God. By striving toward God, one shows noble daring. The enjoyment of many good things is within the reach of those who love righteousness and who pursue eternal life, especially those things which God alludes to in Isaiah. He says, “There is an inheritance for those who serve the Lord.” Noble and desirable is this inheritance, not gold, not silver, not clothing, that the moths destroy, nor things of earth that robbers attack because they are dazzled by worldly wealth. Instead, it is the treasure of salvation which we must hurry to by becoming lovers of the Word. Then praiseworthy works will descend to us and fly with us on the wing of truth. This is the inheritance God grants us with His eternal covenant, conveying the everlasting gift of grace. Consequently, our loving Father— the true Father— never stops urging, admonishing, training, or loving us.
This is the true athlete— one who is crowned for having victory over all passions in the great stadium, the world. For He who directs the contest is the Almighty God, and He who awards the prize is the Only-begotten Son of God. Angels and demons are spectators. And the contest, containing all the different exercises, is “not against flesh and blood,” but against the spiritual powers of unregulated passions that work through the flesh. Those who master these struggles and overthrow the tempter, win eternal life. The spectators are called to come to the contest, and the athletes contend in the stadium. The one who has obeyed the trainer’s directions wins the day. For the rewards God offers to everyone are equal, and He is indisputable. His judgment is always right. Those who have strength receive mercy, and those who have exercised willpower are mighty. Also, we have received intelligence so that we might understand what we are doing. The command, “Know thyself” means to know what we are born for. We are born to obey the commandments, if we are willing to be saved….The athlete who has obeyed the trainer’s directions wins the day. Man’s duty, then, is obedience to God. One who readily receives and keeps the commandments, considering them appropriately, is faithful.
I urge you by our common faith, by my true and simple love for you. Hold fast to your glory with courage, perseverance, and strength, having overcome the enemy. We are still in the world. We are still placed in the battlefield. We fight daily for our lives. Take care in order to profit from these battles and to finish what you have begun to be. It is a small thing to attain something, but it is more important to keep what you have attained. Faith and saving birth makes alive, not by being received, but by being preserved. It isn’t actually the attainment, but the perfecting, that keeps a man for God. The Lord taught this when He said, “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” Imagine Him as saying this to one who confesses Him, “Lo, thou art made a confessor; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” Solomon, Saul, and many others were able to keep the grace given to them as long as they walked in the Lord’s ways. But when they abandoned the Lord, grace also abandoned them.
It would be absurd to grasp for money but throw away your health, or to cleanse your body lavishly but neglect cleansing your soul. It is ridiculous to seek for freedom from earthly slavery but not care about heavenly freedom, or to zealously do good to others without wanting to do good to yourself. It is foolish to eagerly try to dress and live extravagantly, but never consider how you yourself could become precious. If you could buy goodness, you wouldn’t spare any money. But when mercy is offered freely at your feet, you despise it for its cheapness. Every moment is fitting to cleanse yourself, because you may die at any moment. With Paul, I shout to you with his loud voice, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Now doesn’t point to a specific time, but is every present moment. Also, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light.” He will dispel the darkness of sin. For as Isaiah says, it is terrifying to receive hope at night, but profitable to receive it in the morning.
Three things are found in faith. Those who work out their faith through love must hope for what God promises. Hope, therefore, is the partner of faith. For hope is necessary as long as we don’t see what we believe, or else, by not seeing we would fail. Not seeing makes us sad, but the hope of seeing comforts us…. Love is also the partner of faith. We long glow with desire for it, and hunger and thirst for it. So together there is faith, hope, and love…. Take away faith and all you believe in evaporates; take away love and all that you do evaporates. For the purpose of faith is to believe; of love, to do. For if you believe without love, you don’t diligently perform good works. Or, if you do, you do so as a slave out of fear of punishment instead of as a child out of love of righteousness. Therefore, faith purifies the heart and is worked out by love.
Truly the symbol of the cross is considered despicable according to the world and among people. But in heaven and among the faithful, it is the highest glory. Poverty, too, is seen as despicable, but we boast in it. It is cheapened by the public and they laugh at it, but we are elated by it. In the same way, we boast in the cross. Paul doesn’t say, “I boast not,” or “I will not boast,” but “Far be it from me that I should.” It is as though he hates it, considers it absurd, and asks for God to help him avoid it.
But what is boasting in the cross? Boasting in the fact that Christ took on the form of a slave for my sake and suffered for me when I was the slave, the enemy, the unfeeling one. He loved me so much that He gave Himself over to a curse for me. What can compare to this? If servants only receive praise from their masters, who they are bound to kin by nature, and are elated by it, how much more must we boast when our Master, God Himself, isn’t ashamed of the cross Christ endured for us. Therefore, we must not be ashamed of His unspeakable tenderness. He wasn’t ashamed of being crucified for you— will you be ashamed to confess His infinite care for you?
As long as athletes of Christ are in the body, they never lack victory in contests. But in proportion to their growth by triumphant successes, more severe struggles confront them. For when the flesh is restrained and conquered, swarms of foes and masses of enemies are egged on by such triumphs and rise up against the victorious soldier of Christ! They fear that such soldiers of Christ might relax their efforts in the ease of peace and forget about the glorious struggles of their contests. They fear that, through the idleness caused by immunity from danger, soldiers could relax and be cheated of their prizes and rewards. So if we want to rise to these stages of triumph with ever-growing righteousness, we should enlist into battle in the same way. We should begin by saying with Paul, “I so fight, not as one that beateth the air, but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection.” Then when this conflict is ended, we could say with him once more, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against world-rulers of this darkness, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.” Otherwise, we can’t possibly battle against these enemies. We don’t deserve to compete spiritually if we are conquered even in fleshly contests and beaten in our struggle with our stomachs. We will deserve to hear the apostle’s words of blame, “Temptation does not overtake you, except what is common to man.”
Our confession must not contain lazy or deliberately vague words. There must not be any space between our heart and lips, lest what should be the confession of true reverence become a mask for evil. The Word must be near us and within us. There must not be any delay between the heart and the lips. We must have a faith of conviction as well as of words….The Apostle Paul explains the prophet’s words: “That is the word of faith, which we preach; because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” True devotion consists in rejecting doubt, and in righteousness from believing, and salvation from confessing. Don’t dally with ambiguities. Don’t babble vainly. Don’t debate God’s powers in any way or try to limit His strength. Stop searching over and over again for the causes of unsearchable mysteries…. Faith lies in simplicity, righteousness in faith, and true godliness in confession. For God doesn’t call us to the blessed life through tiring investigations. He doesn’t tempt us with rhetoric. The way to eternity is plain and easy: believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess that He is the Lord. …Jesus Christ died so that we could live in Him.
We, whose spiritual eyes have been opened by the Word, Jesus Christ, and who see the difference between light and darkness, prefer to take our stand “in the light.” We won’t have anything at all to do with darkness. In addition, the true Light, endowed with life, knows who to reveal His full splendor to and to whom His light. For He doesn’t just display His brilliance due to the weakness in the recipient’s eyes. And whose eyes are affected and injured if we must speak of them at all? Those who are ignorant of God and whose passions prevent them from seeing the truth. Christians, however, aren’t blinded by the words of those who opposed worshiping God. But let those who know they are blinded by following crowds who are in error and groups that keep festivals to demons, draw near to the Word, Jesus Christ. He can give the gift of sight. Like the poor and blind whom…Jesus healed because they said to Him, “Son of David, have mercy upon me,” those who draw near to Him will also receive mercy and recover their eyesight, created fresh and beautiful by the Word of God.
The evil one’s operation, hurling various irritations at our spirit, is broad and wide. The trifling ones you can despise because they are little. You might yield to the very great ones because they are overpowering. When the injury is smaller, there is no need for impatience. But when the injury is greater, the injury’s remedy—patience is more necessary. Therefore, let us strive to endure the evil one’s afflictions so that the lack of emotions seen in our composure may mock the passion of the enemy….The reward of that duty is great— namely, happiness. For the Lord has called the patient happy. He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I guarantee this, that none is “poor in spirit” except the humble. Well, who is humble except the patient? For no one can humble himself or bear humiliation without patience. “Blessed,” He says, “are the weepers and mourners.” Who is tolerant of such unhappiness without patience? But consolation and laughter are promised to such people. …He says, “Rejoice and exult, as often as they shall curse and persecute you; for very great is your reward in heaven.” Of course, He isn’t making a promise to joy, for no one will “exult” in misfortunes unless he first learns to despise it. No one will despise misfortunes unless he has learned to practice patience.