By Stanley K. Scism
TEXT: Philippians 3.12-21
When we go to a track and field meet, a marathon, even a sack race, we cheer for someone. We shout, wave our hands, behave like idiots, thinking we can encourage someone to do more to win. We don’t help to move legs faster, just show our favor for our favorite.
Gregory of Nyssa illustrated with races of his time the Spiritual race. Born just after persecution of the
church ended, he lived (331-396) and believed we should not study the Bible to learn ABOUT Christ and Christian history and background primarily, but to learn Christ – to grow in virtue to be more like Jesus, to elevate our soul to God. He read Paul’s passage and, when someone wrote asking him for advice on living a virtuous life, said in his book Life of Moses:
“I seem to be doing the same thing myself, most valued friend and brother. While you are competing
admirably in the divine race along the course of virtue, light footedly leaping and straining constantly
for the prize of the heavenly calling, I exhort, urge and encourage you vigorously to increase your speed.” He does this because people appointed fathers over many souls “consider it proper here in our old age to accept a commission from youth, How much more suitable is it, inasmuch as we have taught you a
young man, to obey voluntarily,” for himself also to obey this commission of teaching. So, he asks God’s
guidance since “it is beyond my power to encompass perfection in my treatise or to show in my life the
insights of the treatise. And perhaps I am not alone in this. Many great men, even those who excel in virtue, will admit that for them such an accomplishment as this is unattainable.” He points out that perfection in the sensory, temporal world can be measured, but perfection in the unseen, eternal world has no limit. Walking is an act of imbalance, falling forward, taking a step each time. If we stopped stepping, we’d fall. 0 also, when we top living, we die. When we stop pursuing virtue we begin to fall into evil. We keep running and run all our lives, because we’ll never reach absolute perfection never BE GOD. We’ll just keep coming closer to Him.
One is Himself the Good (in the primary and proper sense of the word), whose very nature is goodness.
This He is and He is so named.” Since the opposite of good is evil, and since God has no opposite, evil can’t stop God’s goodness – God’s virtue has no limit.
Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your father in Heaven is perfect. ” This goal is our race, and we can make great
progress. Isaiah said, “Consider Abraham your father, and Sarah who gave you birth, ” and men and women can follow these examples as recorded in God’s Word. If anyone says those examples and Moses’ are too far away to be followed now, I say we don’t ask you to wear sandals and robes, ride donkeys and
camels. Instead, you can wear shoes and socks, ride Mustangs and Thunderbirds while you imitate the
virtue of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Zipporah’s lives. We do this by disregarding things we used to
hope for and which God has promised us anyway, and instead seek to be like Jesus!
Gregory became one of the three Greek Cappadocian fathers. (The other two were Greg’s brother, Basil, and their friend, Gregory of Nazianzus.) Gregory of Nyssa is one of Church history’s most powerful, original thinkers. He knew Platonism and Stoicism, but rooted his thought in the Bible. His voice still speaks. Has your race to Christ been a sprint? a marathon? an obstacle course? a downhill coast? an uphill climb? Think of people who cheered you on: how did they encourage you – can you do the same for others? For what do you strive? For what are you in casual pursuit? For what are you in hot pursuit?
Cheer someone on this week. Send a letter, telephone them, stop by and visit, encourage! And you can grow, too – share desires and intentions with a friend, study Bible characters, become God’s friend. Spend more and more time with Him. Let God love you.
Editor’s Note: Stanley Scism founded and presides over Scism Christian Institute, (named after his grandfather.) teaches there, pastors Yes” Mandali in Nepal and Yesu Kalishia in India, speaks in various places, edits Glory magazine, writes books, songs and articles, and rejoices that more people are coming to know Jesus Christ.