If we consult a Bible concordance for the words «belief» and «faith», we find many pages of Biblical references. So very much has been said in the Scriptures and by the Fathers, yet these words are still misused and misunderstood. In the Western Churches, debates on «faith alone», or «faith and works», have caused division and strife. Today, in our consumer-oriented society, as we look at the Scriptures, we tend to want to know what is promised, what we deserve, and what we can get from our faith and belief. Certainly, «all things are possible to him who believes»; but only from searching the whole of the Scriptures and the mind of the Church, can we come to understand what is revealed to us by God. Our understanding of faith cannot be limited to a belief in the existence of God. Satan knows that God is God, the demons recognized and knew Jesus Christ, and many devil-worshippers recognize, yet wish to deny, what God reveals to us.
One aspect of faith is trust: to trust that God will take care of all that we can not; to trust that God in His Wisdom will bring us all to salvation. Nevertheless, knowing about God and trusting in His might is still not enough. We are called to believe and to trust, and this belief leads us to experience God in the Church that He established, guides, and lives within. Our God «rests in His Saints», and abides in His Church.
«I believe», we say in the Creed, «in the Father . . . the Son . . . the Holy Spirit and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.» When establishing the Holy Church, Christ promised to send to His Disciples the Holy Spirit. Greater miracles than were performed by Christ would be performed by the Church of God, greater not in quality, but rather in time and magnitude. Christ, who heads His Church, will by the grace of the Holy Spirit, reach the whole of His Creation. What is impossible to man, is possible to God, and if all of our lives can be in the Holy Church of God, and if we allow God to live or rest within us, then all things are possible to us.
Belief is not belief unless it is lived. When we believe, we accept and live what God has revealed. You, as leaders and members of the community of God, with God as your head, are challenged by God to come to know what is revealed by living, learning, praying and working within the Church. This is not the Church as an organization, but the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church of Christ as revealed to us by God; the Church of Christ, with Christ as the head, not us. We who are baptized into Christ, it is we who are challenged.
Our belief must be belief in what is true. Truth is not relative, but is what is. God is the Lord and has revealed Himself to us. We who claim to be God’s people, who are the «Orthodox» or «true believers», must accept our calling to preach and to act as His Church. We must spread the word of God, since this is the commission given by God to those who believe.
All is possible to those who believe within God, because no power can stand against God. But God alone is all-powerful. Belief will not exempt us from suffering. It will not make us popular, nor will it make our earthly life easy. At times, the Orthodox believers of today will be, as many were in the past, called to witness Christ by martyrdom or sufferings. But belief in God gives us power. Belief in God gives us life in God Himself.
God has revealed Himself to His people. His people have lived within God for over 6,000 years. We are His people, and as such we must continue to live with God as our head. We know where we are coming from and where we are going, because God reveals Himself through His Church. Our Church must not be governed by our vote or our will, but by our obedience to God as revealed by our Bishop, the Scriptures, and the Fathers.
You, leaders in our Church, must submit yourselves to God because you believe in Him. You must come to understand God by your perseverance, humility and obedience to God and His Holy Church. You must not desecrate the Body of Christ, which you have accepted by your baptism, and must no longer put your will before the will of God.
Live in God, and the mountain will move at your command – because the command is God’s, and all things that God reveals must take place. I believe that the visions of our Metropolitan PHILIP for the future of our Archdiocese, in spreading the Word of God in missions, and in establishing the Antiochian Village, are the revealed will of Christ, our heavenly King. Let us continue to pray that God gives our Metropolitan the wisdom to rightly define the Word of God, and gives us the humility and wisdom to obey him. Let us not be faithless, but obedient.
Belief without life in Christ is a lie. God has revealed His Church to us and we must nurture and support God’s activity by our cooperation with Him. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. All things will take place, by the grace of God, through those who believe, because all things are possible.
Father John Abdalah is pastor of St. George Church in New Kensington, Pennsylvania