St. Augustine

A Lesson for today from Saint Augustine

Doing The Best That You Can

One of the Bible passages that we enjoy learning is Ephesians 2:8-9. "It is by Grace that we have been saved, through faith, (and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God) not by works, so that no-one can boast." It is a beautiful piece of Scripture that assures us that Jesus has done all the work. He is the One who sacrificed Himself on the Cross and our part is to trust in Him. Our walk with God is His free gift; it is nothing we can earn.

But, have you ever noticed the next verse. It goes on to tell us that, as Christians, God makes us His "masterpieces", made new in Christ Jesus so that we can do good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do. What this verse is telling us, is this:

1. When we put our trust in Jesus, God then begins to remould us and rework us and refine us so that we become the masterpieces He wants us to be. As Leonardo DaVinci must have spent hours working and reworking his Mona Lisa, so God works on us until we are perfect.

2. God makes us into new people so that we can do "good works". Good works might not play a part in our being saved from our sin, but they are certainly part of us being Christian. God has something special for each of us to do…

3. …and God had this something in mind even before we were born, which means that there is a little part of God's plan which, if we don't do our bit, will not get done. We could be the missing piece in a jigsaw, or the part that makes the picture complete.

This seems like an awesome responsibility, but those whom God calls He will also equip, and in 1 Corinthians 12 we are told "not to be ignorant about spiritual gifts" because "to each one a manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given… He gives a gift to each believer as He sees fit." The God who calls us, and who knows precisely what He wants us to do, will equip us to do it. What a rich promise: so what stops us?

One of the main obstacles is fear. Fear of God letting us down. Fear of what others may think if we step out of line. Fear is a terrible paralyser. Timothy, Paul's companion often lived in fear. He was a young man and, although Paul knew he was ready for the responsibilities he placed on him, he was afraid that people looked down on him because of his youth and, because of that, afraid that he was going too far and God would let him down. As a result we have two wonderful letters of encouragement written by Saint Paul, a well respected Apostle, to encourage his young disciple.

At the start of his second letter, Paul addresses Timothy's fears. Firstly he reminds him of his faith. Timothy had learned it from his grandmother and his mother and it was now firmly rooted in him. God would not let him down. Paul then tells him to "fan into flame his gift from God", because as does so, his confidence in God will grow and his fear of what people may say get less and less. The order of what Paul says is interesting. Timothy had to trust God and exercise his gift, and only then would his fear of others diminish. Its all about focus: will we focus on God and trust Him, or will we let fear win and leave a part of God's jigsaw undone. Which way are you looking? Who are you seeking to encourage?

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