William R. Ragsdale: Living in today
A question often asked pastors is “Do you believe once saved always saved ?” Salvation in, of and by Jesus Christ needs to be maintained one day at a time.
The real answer to the salvation question is not either/or — but both/and. This is because we live “in, but not of” the world. We live in the world of faith in Jesus Christ and the world about us simultaneously. As we grow in Christian faith there may be a public, outward display or moment of being saved/healed but this must be nurtured as we grow through the years. In truth aren’t we saved and healed many times alive in time growing and maturing ? I think so.
Yesterday’s salvation saves/heals us today if it is renewed on a daily basis. By the same token, yesterday’s salvation is not going to save us today without being daily renewed. It depends on whether we are living in today, yesterday or tomorrow. It also depends on whether we are living in the mystery of faith in the now, today, as we meet the mystery of the future living each moment as it comes at us, sometimes too fast. It will not save us today unless our faith is alive and growing.
Living in the past is living in that which is dead and gone. Jesus said in Luke 20: 38: “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (NIV)
In Phillipians 2:12 Paul admonishes us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We do this renewal daily by being in contact with God Almighty Creator — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For those of us who need help remaining in touch with the power of God there are several ways this is done on a daily basis.
Probably the first, foremost, and simplest way of connecting is prayer in which we are humbled before that which is greater than us. There is the devotional Our Daily Bread and others. In my memory is the picture of my mother in bed with her Bible, cup of coffee, and The Upper Room, beginning her day with devotionals. Catholics have the opportunity to attend Mass to begin each day. There are many other choices.
Many of us begin the day by praising God and thanking Him for bringing us into a fresh new day. Should we forget to do this at the start of the day then we can start our day over at any time, and sometimes we may need to begin it over several times. Living daily in the mystery of faith means we are living one day at a time.
The salvation question is similar to this question put to Jesus, a trick question intended to trip Him up. His enemies were testing Him. “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar ?” they asked. He asked for a coin and whose picture was on it, upon which he answered “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” (Matt. 22:21)
Are we living in an open future or is it closed because we live in the past? As we move into the future there is a definite mystery about it. Yes plans and appointments are made, but keep in mind the footnote in many programs: “Subject to change at the last minute.” This does not mean we quit or drop out of our Christian faith as we face the mysterious future. We strengthen our faith by relying on Jesus Christ who gives us the power to live one day at a time with courage and wisdom.
There is an anonymous piece that can help keep us focused in today.
I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might humbly learn to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do greater things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for vision that I might control my future. I was given awareness that I be grateful for the now.
I got nothing I asked for — but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all people most richly blessed.
Quoted by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse
The Rev. William R. Ragsdale is chaplain at NC State Veterans Nursing Home, Salisbury.