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Ancient Wisdom - Tests

Recently I have been slowly reading through a book called 'The Philokalia' which is a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters from Orthodox churches.  They were initially written for the instruction of monks.  I have been reading it for two reasons:

  1. It is helpful to read outside your own church tradition. 
  2. People have been gaining wisdom in learning to follow Jesus for over 2000 years and we can learn from them as well as from contemporary writers.
From time to time I will post excerpts that I have found insightful.  As with other writings, we should weigh them carefully, compare them with scripture and hold on to what is good.

This is from St Mark the Ascetic on those who think that they are made righteous by works - Two Hundred and Twenty-Six Texts:
'200. If it is not easy to find anyone conforming to God's will who has not been put to the test, we ought to thank God for everything that happens to us.
201.  If Peter had not failed to catch anything during the night's fishing (cf Luke 5:5), he would not have caught anything during the day.  And if Paul had not suffered physical blindness (cf Acts 9:8), he would not have been given spiritual sight.  And if Stephen had not been slandered as a blasphemer, he would not have seen the heavens opend and have looked on God (cf Acts 6:15; 7:56).
202. As work according to God is called virtue, so unexpected affliction is called a test.
203.  God 'tested Abraham' (cf Gen 22:1-14), that is, God afflicted him for his own benefit, not in order to learn what kind of man Abraham was - for He knew him, since He knows all things before they come into existence - but in order to provide him with opportunities for showing perfect faith.
204. Every affliction tests our will, showing whether it is inclined to good or evil.  This is why an unforeseen affliction is called a test, because it enables a man to test his hidden desires.


David Wanstall, 06/10/2014