Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:11-12
“Consider the lively examples set us by the saints, who possessed the light of true perfection and religion, and you will see how little, how nearly nothing, we do. What, alas, is our life, compared with theirs? The saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in work and fatigue, in vigils and fasts, in prayers and holy meditations, in persecutions and many afflictions. How many and severe were the trials they suffered — the Apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the rest who willed to follow in the footsteps of Christ! They hated their lives on earth that they might have life in eternity.
How strict and detached were the lives the holy hermits led in the desert! What long and grave temptations they suffered! How often were they beset by the enemy! What frequent and ardent prayers they offered to God! What rigorous fasts they observed! How great their zeal and their love for spiritual perfection! How brave the fight they waged to master their evil habits! What pure and straightforward purpose they showed toward God! By day they labored and by night they spent themselves in long prayers. Even at work they did not cease from mental prayer. They used all their time profitably; every hour seemed too short for serving God, and in the great sweetness of contemplation, they forgot even their bodily needs.
They renounced all riches, dignities, honors, friends, and associates. They desired nothing of the world. They scarcely allowed themselves the necessities of life, and the service of the body, even when necessary, was irksome to them. They were poor in earthly things but rich in grace and virtue. Outwardly destitute, inwardly they were full of grace and divine consolation. Strangers to the world, they were close and intimate friends of God. To themselves they seemed as nothing, and they were despised by the world, but in the eyes of God they were precious and beloved. They lived in true humility and simple obedience; they walked in charity and patience, making progress daily on the pathway of spiritual life and obtaining great favor with God.”
Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471) in “The Example Set Us by the Holy Fathers” in The Imitation of Christ (Grand Rapids: CCEL) 24.
I have arrived safely in South Africa. Today is the first of 4 days of meetings I will facilitate with about 80 board chairs and ministry administrators from 43 countries. What a privilege! Today our theme is Locating a Biblical Mindset for Board Governance. We will tackle this theme with what I call a “spiritual discernment” approach with four parts.
(1) We will read Scripture. Today our reading is Numbers 11.
(2) We will sit in silence asking the Holy Spirit to teach us.
(3) Sharing will come from 20 of the 80 participants. I will teach from God’s Word. A panel of elders will share their thoughts on the topic. Then everyone will discuss it and ten table reporters will share key insights from their tables.
(4) Our time will conclude with supplication by five people praying in multiple languages. Understanding and applying biblical teaching is only possible with God’s help.
Why share all this, and what’s it got to do with Thomas à Kempis and generosity in this season of Lent as we focus on prayer?
Because I believe that God is generous and that every good gift comes from Him for our enjoyment and sharing, then my role in facilitating this event, is to position the group with “pure and straightforward purpose” to receive wisdom from God through the contributions of all 80 participants over 4 days and to call God’s people to pray with “frequent and ardent prayers” so that we will have courage to serve sacrificially and govern in “true humility and simple obedience” for God’s glory.
It pertains to generosity because, the world needs more people “rich in grace and virtue”. In so doing, our lives become our gift to the world. Walk with us, like the saints of old, “in charity and patience”.