For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4.10
Many Christians today regard it the great prize of their faith that they have a place secured for them in heaven and they know the joy of a friendly church here and now.
Joy and security – that’s about as far as the faith of many Christians extend.
But God did not save us for joy and security merely; He saved us for good works, and good works only come with hard work. We’ll be ready for what God is readying us for when we set our minds for work. As Columbanus put it (Sermon IV), “But if, then, such and so many pains are borne untiringly for temporal and unsure rewards, what ought we to endure for eternal, true, and sure ones, whose conclusion is eternal? Is it not impossible for any polished accomplishment or exercise to be attained without training [Latin: “discipline”]? Or can training be acquired without bitterness?”
Joy and security are nice, and we praise and thank God for them. But these are not the end of our journey, merely the promise that carries us forward: “Therefore, since these things are so, let us make ready our mind, not for joy, not for security, as the Sage says, but for temptations and trials, for griefs and toils.”
Columbanus would have little patience with preaching that seeks merely to comfort and reassure believers, or to suggest that what God really wants for them is maximum peace and prosperity. These are ours, to be sure, but only in our Lord Jesus Christ. In this life we are called to struggle, fight the good fight, run the good race, lay down our lives, take up our crosses, and die to ourselves.
It requires discipline to live this way, discipline that takes hold of our time and deliberately bends it, at every moment, to the service of Christ. Such living is painful stuff, but stuff which, in the enduring of it, yields that sense of Christ’s Presence and power that make endurance a joy, perseverance a privilege, and trials, toils, and good works reasons to give thanks.
Resources for Shepherds
Two resources especially for pastors, both free: Our book, Fan into Flame, overviews the work of pastoral ministry and provides tools for self-assessment (click here), while our book, The Church Captive, points the way beyond cultural captivity to revival and renewal (click here).
From the Celtic Revival
Columbanus was not only an effective evangelist and pastor, he was also a poet. Here’s an excerpt:
The radiance of Christ’s face,
beautiful before all things,
let us seek more earnestly
than the frail flower of flesh…
From the things of earth, lift up
the eye of your heart, of faith:
love the most loving of hosts –
the company of angels.
- Columbanus, “Poem on the World’s Impermanence” (ca. 700 AD)
His challenge to set our minds on Christ echoes both the psalmist (Ps. 16.8) and the apostle Paul (Col. 3.1-3). This is a much-needed reminder for all of us whom the Good Shepherd has appointed to lead and feed His sheep. Read more on this poem in the current issue of Crosfigell by clicking here.
Check out our Celtic Legacy podcast and the other resources available on our dedicated Celtic Revival home page.
You can also download a free copy in PDF of our book, The Celtic Revival: A Brief Introduction, by clicking here.
T. M. Moore.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 I am in general following the translation in Sancti Columbani Opera, G. S. M. Walker, ed. (Dublin: The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1957), pp. 183-185, although I adjust to capture more faithfully the Latin structure of the poem.