Friday, January 18, 2013

Polycarp 9 - Obedience and Patience

This is a continuation of my series on Polycarp's letter to the Philippian church. If you are unfamiliar with Polycarp or his letter to the Philippians, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

Polycarp's exhortation to the Philippians was to continue in obedience and patience.
"I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. (Polycarp 9)"
The writer of Hebrews put it this way, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1) The Christian life can be difficult in that we are living for rewards that await us in heaven at the end of our lives; we are living for rewards that are far off in the future. Often the righteous choices that we make have no immediate reward, sometimes they may actually cause our lives to be more difficult in the moment, while we wait for a future reward of those choices. In striving for these rewards, faith is critical but is often not enough. The writer of Hebrews tells us to be "imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12) Faith is often not enough to receive God's promises, sometimes it must be mingled with patience. It is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises.

Along with patience, we must also understand that faith is not merely believing. Again the writer of Hebrews says, "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief." (Hebrews 3:18-19) He draws a direct link between unbelief and disobedience implying a similar link between faith and obedience. Obedience is the other side of the same coin that is faith. We can not have godly faith without also having obedience. Faith without obedience is dead faith; a faith that cannot lead us to inherit the promises of God.

The key to persisting in faith and patience is to find that which will motivate us over the long haul. Polycarp wrote of those who now compose the "great cloud of witnesses,"
"For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead." (Polycarp 9)
If we find motivation in this life we will be sorely disappointed. This world is temporal, fading away, and has nothing of everlasting value to offer us. Jesus, however, is eternal and His love for us was demonstrated in His willingness to die for us on the cross. If we set our hope, life, and desire on Christ we will never be disappointed and our love and gratitude towards Him will ever motivate us towards faith, patience, and even obedience.

David Robison

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