French Archbishop François Fénelon (1651-1725) has been dealing with those who took advantage of their recent experience during the war and migration to either feel sorry for themselves or try to get ahead of others who are struggling. But now he notices that some in his diocese have become weary of well doing.[1] They want to prove themselves holy, but the path to holiness is full of quicksand and thorn bushes. In other words, they’ve had enough of this Via Dolorosa and want to get back to everyday living. So, the Archbishop has a message for them on their search for Christian perfection.

Consequently, Fénelon tells them that Christian perfection is not the strict, tiresome, forced devotion as many suppose. It requires us to give ourselves to God with our whole heart, and as soon as we accomplish this, whatever we are called upon to do for God becomes easy. Those dedicated to God’s calling are always satisfied. They only desire what He will’s and are ready to do whatever He asks of them. They are prepared to strip themselves of needless things and are sure to find a hundred times as much joy in such openness.

This hundredfold happiness that the true children of God possess amid all the troubles of this world consists in a peaceful conscience, freedom of spirit, and a welcome surrender of everything to God. It brings a joyful sense of His light ever-growing stronger within their heart, and a thorough deliverance from all domineering fears and longings after worldly things. The sacrifices they make are for Him whom they love best. They suffer willingly, realizing such suffering is better than any earthly joy. Their body may be diseased, mentally weak, and shrinking, but their will is steadfast, and they can say a hearty Amen to every challenge.

What God requires is an undivided will – a yielding will, only desiring what He desires for them, rejecting what He rejects, and doing both unreservedly. Where such a mindset exists, everything becomes positive, and they enjoy helping others. Such people are happy indeed. They are delivered from all their desire to judge others, from unkindness, slaves to unproven maxims and cold, heartless ridicule. They feel liberated from the troubles of what the world calls “getting rich,” from the betrayal or forgetfulness of friends, from the opponent’s traps, from their weakness, and worrying how long they might live.

Furthermore, they no longer fear the terror of dying without God, from the bitter remorse that follows sin, and from the eternal condemnation of God. From all these endless torments, Christians are set free. They have resigned their will to God and accept nothing other than God’s will for their lives. As a result, faith and hope are their comforts amid all possible sorrows.

Is it a critical mistake to be afraid of giving oneself to God and be committed to such a blessed state of existence? No! Blessed are they who throw themselves headlong and blindfolded into the arms of “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.’’[2] Nothing remains for them except to know God better and better.[3] Their only fear is that they may not be quick enough to see what He requires; immediately upon discovering any fresh enlightenment from His Word, they “rejoice as one who finds a hidden treasure.”[4] Whatever may happen to true Christians, all is well to their minds. They seek only to love God more, and the further they learn to walk in the way of holiness, the lighter they feel Jesus’s yoke.

Can you not see the foolishness of being afraid to give yourself entirely to God? It may mean we are scared of being too happy. Or perhaps accepting His will in all things with enthusiasm, coping bravely with inevitable trials, finding too much comfort in His love, or letting go of the worldly desires that make us miserable? Therefore, let us do our best to despise all that is of the world so that we may be completely surrender to God’s Word and Will.

Listen, you should not feel obligated to cut yourself off from all earthly involvement in trying to lead an excellent self-disciplined lifestyle. All that is needed is for the motivating power to become that of God’s love. You would then continue living an honest, moral life as you do now. God does not arbitrarily modify the ministry He assigned to each of us or the duties of that calling. The alteration would be this: Right now, you fulfill your responsibilities to your satisfaction and that of the world. You must change to doing whatever you do with your whole being for the Lord and not for yourself or others.[5]

However, instead of being eaten up by pride or passion and living in bondage to the world’s distasteful criticism, we can act freely and bravely in the fullness of our hope in God’s salvation. Being full of trust and looking forward to God’s eternal blessings would comfort us in place of the earthly happiness that seems to have slipped from under our feet. God’s love would give wings to our feet in treading His paths and lifting us beyond all our unnecessary anxiety. Listen to what the Psalmist David had to say, “Give the Lord a chance to show you how good He is.”[6]

Hear what the Son of God says to Christians without exception, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your way, take up your cross, and follow me.”[7] Jesus also said, “Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”[8] He was clear when He stated that the “Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.”[9] Furthermore, Jesus advised those listening to Him, “The truth is, you must change your thinking and become like little children. If you don’t do this, you will never enter God’s kingdom.”[10] Jesus also taught that “Great blessings belong to those who are sad now over what they have lost. God will comfort them.”[11] And finally, here is what the Apostle John had to say, “People who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. But people who do not believe are already judged because they have not believed in God’s only Son.”[12]

These truths may frighten many because they only see what their religion requires, without realizing what it offers or the loving spirit that makes every burden light. They do not understand that such belief leads to the highest perfection by filling us with a loving peace that lightens the impact of every hardship. Those who give themselves wholeheartedly to God are always content. They realize that the yoke of Jesus Christ is light and easy to carry, and that in Him they do indeed find rest, and that He lightens the load of all that are weary and heavy-laden, [13] as He promised.

But what can be more heart-wrenching than those hesitating, careless souls that remain divided between God and the world’s temptations? They will be torn apart by their sinful tendencies and remorse at their indulgence or are afraid of God’s judgments and, at the same time, those of worldly people. They are frightened about doing what’s wrong yet ashamed of undertaking what’s right yet having all the trials of doing good but without its comfort. If they only dared to despise idle talk, petty ridicule, and the rash judgments of others, what peace and rest they might enjoy in the arms of God!

Nothing is more hazardous to your salvation, more unworthy of God, or more hurtful to your ordinary happiness than being content to remain as you are. Our whole life is given us with the object of going boldly on toward our heavenly home. The world slips away like a deceitful shadow, and eternity draws near. Why delay to push forward? While it is yet time, your merciful Father lights up your path, so make haste and seek His kingdom![14]

I agree with Archbishop Fénelon that it remains a mystery why so many Christians deny themselves of all the promises and blessings God gives to those who do not give Him His fair share of their time. Yet, we can so easily accomplish on a regular basis or daily through worship, prayer, singing, reading and sharing His Word with others, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

[1] Galatians 6:9

[2] 2 Corinthians 1:3

[3] Philippians 3:10

[4] Psalm 119:162

[5] Colossians 3:23

[6] Psalm 34:8 – The Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

[7] Matthew 16:24

[8] Ibid. 7:13

[9] Ibid. 11:12

[10] Ibid. 18:3

[11] Ibid. 5:4

[12] John 3:18

[13] Matthew 11:28

[14] Fénelon, François: Paraclete Giants, The Complete Fénelon, Translated and Edited by Robert J. Edmonson, Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2008, pp. 33-36; Vocabulary and grammer redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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