789) The Imitation of Christ (c)

Monument on Mount Saint Agnes in Zwolle:  “Here lived Thomas van Kempen in the service of the Lord and wrote On the Imitation of Christ, 1406-1471″

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From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)

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The Value of Adversity

It is good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not put all our hope in any worldly thing.  It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradictions, and that men think ill of us, even though we do well and mean well.  These things help us to be humble and shield us from pride.  When to all outward appearances men give us no credit, and when they do not think well of us, then we are more inclined to seek God who sees our hearts.  Therefore, a man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations of men.  When a man of good will is afflicted, tempted, and tormented by evil thoughts, then he understands better the great need he has of God, without whom he can do no good.  Saddened by his miseries and sufferings, he laments and prays.  Then he understands that perfect security and complete peace cannot be found in this world.

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Resisting Temptation

So long as we live in this world we cannot escape suffering and temptation.  It is written in Job: “The life of man upon earth is a hard service” (Job 7:1).  Everyone, therefore, must guard against temptation and must watch in prayer lest the devil find occasion to deceive him.  The devil never sleeps, but goes about “seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).  No one is so perfect and holy, but that he sometimes has temptations.  Yet temptations, though troublesome and grievous, are often profitable to a man, for in them he is humbled, purified, and instructed…

There is no one that is altogether safe from temptations while he lives on earth; for the root of temptation is in ourselves, in that we were born in sin and with evil desires (James 1:13,14).  When one temptation or trial goes away, another comes.  We shall always have something to suffer, because we have lost the state of original blessedness (Genesis 3).  Deal not roughly with others who are tempted, but comfort them as you yourself would wish to be comforted.  The beginning of all temptation lies in a wavering mind and little trust in God, for as a rudderless ship is driven to and fro by the waves, so a careless and irresolute person is tempted in many ways (James 1:6; 3:4,5).  Fire tempers iron, and temptation steels the just.  Often we do not know what we can stand, but temptation shows us what we are.

Above all, we must be especially alert against the beginnings of temptation, for the enemy is more easily conquered if he is refused admittance to the mind and is met at the gate when he knocks.  Someone has said very aptly: “Resist the beginnings; remedies often come too late, when by long delay the evil has gained strength.”  First, a mere thought comes to mind, then strong imagination, followed by pleasure, evil delight, and consent.  And so little by little our wicked enemy gains complete entrance, because he was not resisted in the beginning.  The longer one delays in resisting, so much the weaker does he become each day, while the strength of the enemy grows against him.  In temptations and trials the progress of a man is measured.  It is no great thing for a man to be fervent and devout when he feels no affliction; but if he bears up patiently in time of adversity, there is hope for great progress.

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I Peter 5:8-10  —  Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
 
James 1:12-15  —  Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.  When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 
 
1 Corinthians 10:12-13  —   …If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 

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Forgive me my sins, O Lord: the sins of my present and the sins of my past; the sins of my soul and the sins of my body; the sins I have done to please myself and the sins which I have done to please others.  Forgive me my casual sins and my deliberate sins, and those which I have labored so to hide that I have hidden them even from myself.  Forgive me them, O Lord, forgive them all; for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.   

–Thomas Wilson (d. 1775)