“Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
~Philippians 4:9 (NRSV)
What the book of Hebrews majors on, and what was a major theme in Christian spirituality in the First Century, is just as much an issue today: backsliding. Hebrews vacillates through warnings for disobedience and exhortations to go on in faith, beyond temptation to believe in old things, practice old practices, and turn backwards away from God.
The Apostle Paul commends the Philippians to just that: to focus on his solemn, unrelenting example. Today it is no different. We must continue to commend ourselves to the example of Christlike stewards-of-faith, those exemplifying humility, peaceable joy, faithfulness, and love in the Holy Spirit.
The Boldness Of The Apostle
I cannot, for one minute, imagine putting myself up as the godly example to an entire region of believers, lest the whole world—yet, Paul has.
Indeed, as we are challenged to get over our spiritual pride—which shudders in response to such a calling toward example—we recognise the courage it takes for an apostle, and nowadays ministers, to take hold of the tenuous spiritual cauldron and abandon timidity such that the Lord could use our example. Beyond our sinfulness, piety must be our sole objective.
To such an extent we who would respond to God’s call, to be examples, will put ourselves up for criticism. And if we aren’t called to such account we ought to thankfully encourage those who are; it is no easy call. It is a perilous undertaking, but one required all the same.
Back To Backsliding!
Besides the infilling of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual presence and discernment of divinity, we are left to godly example and Divine Word in our quest for a fervent, continual spirituality that takes us forever beyond any thought of backsliding.
Our godly examples, our pastors and spiritual mentors, have spoken into our lives for truth and for the justice of eternity; they were compelled to do so, perhaps, and now it is up to us to grow forward along the journey—for, without travelling forward we select reverse gear.
We connect everything we see and saw in them with the testimony of the Word—they, in their minds and hearts and skin, bring and brought the Bible alive. Through such example we now must exemplify godliness—humble, just, merciful godliness.
The testimony of those stalwarts of faith that have shown us the way to Jesus must remain in our consciences. God has used them to speak into our hearts. Being beyond backsliding is honouring that example. Being beyond backsliding is searching for opportunities where we might become and be that example.
When we do such things as follow good example, peace will be ours.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.