Most of my musical friends and family will automatically think of ‘Annie’ when they see the title for this post. The infamous musical is a joy to hear with its portrayal of a spunky redhead. But that’s not why I selected the title.
I am exploring Thomas á Kempis as he sets before the reader the example set by the Holy Fathers (as he describes them), the monks whose role in church history is quite significant in their preservation of scripture and their pursuit of an ascetic life as a demonstration of their devotion to God.
Have you ever met a ‘holy hermit?’ I don’t think I have, except in the lectures and books of church historians. Thomas seeks to paint for us a picture of their devotion in their desert living. He writes…
[My reflective comments will follow in regular font, while the quotes from The Imitation of Christ will appear in blue italics.
“How strict and detached were the lives the holy hermits led in the desert!”
This was their environment for growth. This was their strategy in dealing with the allurement of the world. We may consider them extreme, but how are we resisting conformity to the pattern of this age?
What long and grave temptations they suffered!
The temptation is a life-long reality, isn’t it? When we fail to resist the devil we sin against God and against others.
How often were they beset by the enemy!
When the devil finished tempting Jesus in the wilderness, he left him ‘for a more opportune time.’ Haven’t you found that are seasons of attack?
What frequent and ardent prayers they offered to God!
‘The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man…’ This King James Version rendition of James 5:16 reminds us that we must be righteous and that we must pursue God fervently.
What rigorous fasts they observed!
When was the last time you fasted? For what purpose? Repentance? Guidance? Spiritual empowerment?
How great their zeal and their love for spiritual perfection!
How easy it is to become complacent in my walk with God. The pursuit of righteousness is indeed a pursuit. Hebrews 12:14 is still in the Bible, isn’t it? ‘Pursue peace with all men and holiness, without which no one will see God.’
How brave the fight they waged to master their evil habits!
John Owen’s ‘Mortification of Sin’ should not be optional reading. What strategies has God led you to pursue in your walk with him?
What pursuit and straightforward purpose they showed towards God!
This ‘one thing’ I do. How singular am I in my devotion to Jesus Christ? Have I been cheating on Him by flirting with the world?
By day they laboured and by night they spent themselves in long prayers.
Long prayers aren’t the issue, but how are we spending our time? Having been saved by faith, (Ephesians 2:8-9), we pursue good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Even at work, they did not cease from mental prayer.
Pray without ceasing. Are we obedient to this command given to the Thessalonian church by the Apostle Paul? Watch and pray.
They used all their time profitably; every hour seemed too short for serving God, and in the great sweetness of contemplation, they forget even their bodily needs.
This reminds me of the call of Jesus Christ, ‘If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow…’ Or consider the testimony of the Apostle Paul, ‘I beat my body and make it my slave…’ Perhaps in a casual moment, these followers of Jesus Christ from an earlier century would declare – ‘Christianity? It’s a hard knock life!’
May God awaken our sleepy hearts, call us to repentance and restore to us the joy of our salvation! Sola Deo Gloria!