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The Spiritual Man, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

18- Elements of strength

 

1. The strength of love and sacrifice:

The Song of Solomon talked about the strength of love and said: Love is as strong as death. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can floods drown it (Song 8:6,7). And St Paul the Apostle said: Love never fails (1 Cor 13:8).

This is true love that is not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 Jn 3:18). Maybe the deepest love is that of the mother for her babe and the love of David for Jonathan (2 Sam 1:26). Even his love for his son Absalom who betrayed him and how he wept bitterly when he heard about his death (2 Sam 18:33).

 

The strength of love shows in sacrifice and the strongest is self -sacrifice.

 

This matter became clear in the lives of the martyrs and how they sacrificed everything, even life, for their love of the Lord. The strength of this love also showed in the lives of the fathers the monks and the hermits, who left the world and all that is in it, who dwelt in the mountains and wilderness because of their great love for Christ, the King. Also the love of the fathers the Apostles who, because of their love for the Lord and His kingdom, endured flogging, imprisonment, stoning, vagrancy and also death. And they also said to the Lord : We have left all and followed you (Mt 19:27). And St Paul the Apostle says about that: I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:8).

The strength of love also shows if it was from the heart.

The Holy Bible said about that: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might (Deut 6:5) (Mt 22:37). And the word all indicates that there should not be any other love in your heart to compete with the love of God. And the Lord said about that: He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Mt 10:37). Even he who loves his life more than God is not worthy of Him. And the Lord said about that: He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it (Mt 10:39).

 

Love leads to sacrifice and the strength of sacrifice has reasons.

There is a sacrifice because of love, as it was said: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Jn 3:16). Like the martyrs who sacrificed because of their love for the Lord. There is a strength in sacrifice and its reason is obedience. Like our Father Abraham when he raised the knife to sacrifice his only son, a burnt offering for the Lord. And there is a strength in sacrifice and its reason is asceticism, like our fathers the monks.

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We move to the strength of faith:

St-Takla.org Image: The Death of Absalom the son of King David: II Samuel 18:9 صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: موت أبشالوم ابن داود الملك - 2 صموئيل 18: 9

St-Takla.org Image: The Death of Absalom the son of King David: II Samuel 18:9

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: موت أبشالوم ابن داود الملك - 2 صموئيل 18: 9

The strength of faith shows in how it believes in everything. Believes that God is able to make dry ground in the midst of the sea and a spring of water from the rock and to make miracles and wonders. The faith that made Peter walk on the water (Mt14:29). The faith that the Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace (Ex 14:14). Faith that makes you offer life for the Lord and offer your tithes out of your needs. Faith that says: Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me (Ps 23). Faith that : All things work together for good to those who love God (Rom 8:28). The strong faith in eternity that makes man get ready for it with all his might.

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The power of prayer is also among the elements of strength :

May be one of its deepest pictures is what was said about the time of the fathers the Apostles: And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31). And also the prayer of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who: Prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow. She continued praying before the Lord. Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk ( 1 Sam 1:9-13).

And the powerful prayer is also: a prayer with faith, with insistence, with understanding and with warmth. A prayer that the spiritual man says with his heart completely connected to God, and he feels that he is in the presence of the Lord...

It could be a struggle with God, as it was said about our father Jacob that he wrestled with God and with people and prevailed. And that he wrestled with God until the breaking of day, and he took hold of the Lord and said: I will not let you go unless you bless me (Gen 32:24-29).

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Among the elements of strength is also: the power of repentance:

If the spiritual man sins and repents, the power of his repentance shows in his deep contrition, his regret and his tears. As it happened with David the Prophet who said: I am weary with my groaning, all might I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears (Ps 6). And the repentance of the spiritual man shows its power in its continuity and how he never turns back to the life of sin. But, more than that, he continues growing in the spiritual life, proceeding towards perfection. An example of that is the repentance of St Augustine, Moses the Black, Mary of Egypt and Pelagia. Their repentance turned them from sinners to saints.

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The strength of the spiritual man shows in his victory over the spiritual wars and temptations.

As the strength of Joseph the Upright showed in his amazing victory over the temptations of the wife of Potiphar (Gen 39:9). And saying in practical determination: How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

The strength of the spiritual man does not show in prevailing over others but in prevailing over sin, no matter how the perils are fierce, whether from the devil or from evil men or from false brethren (2 Cor 11:26). As for the one who weakens and falls, the saying of the Holy Bible applies to him: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting (Dan 5:27).

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The spiritual man, if he sins, has the strength to confess his sin.

Many find great difficulty in confessing their sins, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. As for St Augustine, he has published his confessions in a book that was read by all his generation and the generations that followed. And the spiritual man also, if he felt that he has done wrong to anyone, has the strength to apologize to that person and confess his offence without trying to justify it or argue about it...

 

And if he felt that he is wrong, he is able to easily give up his opinion without stubbornness, like some people do...

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The strength in self control:

+The spiritual man is strong within. He is able to control himself, as the Holy Bible said: He who rules his spirit (is better) than he who takes a city ( Prov 16:32) He controls his thoughts so they would not astray in what is not suitable, following the saying of the Apostle: Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:15). He also controls his senses so he would not sin by looking, hearing or touching. He also controls his hearts feelings and emotions. He controls his tongue too, so no sinful word would come out of his mouth and also no unnecessary word. St James the Apostle said about that: If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body (Jas 3:2). Here is the inner strength in controlling the self, the thought, the senses, the feelings and also the tongue.

The spiritual man also controls his instincts and his emotions, and rises above the level of provocation...

The outside provocation does not disturb him within, but he becomes stronger than it. For example, he does not lose his temper if he experienced an offence, and he: Repays no one evil for evil (Rom 12:17). He does not answer back a sinful word with one like it. Evil does not overcome him but he overcomes evil with good ((Rom12:21). He is able to control anger, is strong and does not lose his temper.

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+ The spiritual man is distinguished by the strength of endurance:

He can endure hardships and tribulations. And if he was afflicted by a temptation, it would not shake him within, but he withstands. He is capable of enduring it, like Job the Righteous. He also endures the mistakes of others. The mistaken is the weak one who failed to control himself, but he who endures is the strong one. Therefore the Apostle said: We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves (Rom 15:1). The one who is strong within is capable of forgiving the wrong doer, which means that he has the ability, not only to endure, but also to forgive and to do good to those who hate him (Mt 5:44).

The weak man needs the one who will bear him. As for the strong, he endures others. He endures the weak mans bad temper, his faults, words and actions. The spiritual strength shows here, in the ability to turn the other cheek, to walk the second mile and to persevere everything...

+The spiritual man is distinguished by a strong personality:

He is strong in his mind, his understanding, his ability to comprehend and draw a conclusion, strong in his memory, quick intuition, wisdom and good action. He also has a strong will, strong determination, strong in the wisdom of his action and good management of matters. He is also strong as he does not shake before any threat or terrorization. The saying of the Holy Bible applies to him: Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! (Zech 4:7).

His strength also shows in every work he does and any responsibility that he undertakes.

He is a man capable of bearing responsibilities, no matter how they seem great and dangerous and he does his work with all seriousness, honesty, accuracy and commitment and achieves the anticipated results by correct implementation. He is also firm and does not hesitate. No matter how many obstacles occur, he does not worry, become troubled or fear. But he stands like a fixed mountain, confident in God who works with him and by him...

He has an effect on the society in which he lives and it may extend to generations.

The spirituals are strong and they do not get affected by the environment surrounding them: And do not be conformed to this world (Rom 12:2). But they have the ability to affect society by the thought, inclination and spirituality, like the early fathers did, till it was said: The Athanasius period, St Anthonys period... They affect others by their example or their writings, the influence of which extends to many generations...

We move to another point, which is:

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Strength in the word, the service and the preaching:

Every word that comes out of the spiritual man is strong, effective and does not return void but it shall accomplish the Lords work (Is 55:11). His words are strong in their effect on others and his service is aflame and fruitful. St Paul the Apostle was taken captive and in chains before Felix the ruler. When he spoke about righteousness, judgement and self-control, Felix was afraid (Acts 24:25). And when he spoke before Agrippa the king, Agrippa said to him: You almost persuade me to become a Christian (Acts 26:28). And time will fail us if we talked about the service of St Paul, its strength and how it spread. Also the strength of the service at the time of our fathers the Apostles...

By the strength of the fathers service, the unarmed Christianity stood before the Roman Empire with all its influence and cruelty.

And before the Jews with all their intrigues and plots. And stood before the philosophies of the period. And with one sermon from St Peter, three thousand joined the faith and were baptized on the same day (Acts 2:41). It is the power of the Holy Spirit that works in the word.

And by the strength of the fathers service:

The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). And the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly (Acts 6:7). Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied (Acts 9:31).

St Paul said about the strength of the service and the servants: Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor 15:58).

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The spiritual man is strong in his service, in his sermons, in the spiritual principles that he calls for, in his spiritual effect, in his fruit, striving according to His working which works in him mightily ( Col 1:29). He is strong in his witnessing for the Lord, saying with David the Prophet: I will speak of your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed (Ps 119:46).


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