736) Wisdom from Thomas a Kempis

From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis  (1380-1471)

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Trust in God to Endure Slander (ch. 46)

    Stand firm and trust in God, for what are the mean and critical things others say against you but mere words?  They fly through the air but cannot hurt anything.  If you are guilty, consider how you may gladly improve yourself.  If you are not conscious of any fault, consider how you may gladly endure this for the sake of God (I Peter 2:19-20).  Why do such small matters pierce you to the heart as they do, unless perhaps you are still too worldly and pay more heed to men than you ought (I Corinthians 3:3)?  You do not wish to be reproved for your faults and you seek shelter in excuses because you are afraid of being despised.  But look into yourself more thoroughly and you will learn that the world is still very much alive in you, as you still have this vain desire to please men.  He who trusts in God, and who has no desire to stand by his own judgment, shall be free from the fear of men.  For God is the judge and discerner of all secrets (Psalm 7:8).  God knows who causes injury and who suffers it, and God shall judge the guilty and the innocent.  The testimony of man oftentimes deceives, but God’s judgment is true.  It is never mistaken, even though it may not seem right in the eyes of the unwise.

   Enduring Trials for the Sake of Eternal Life  (ch. 47) 

    Do not let tribulations cast you down.  In all things let God’s promise strengthen and console you.  He is able to reward you beyond all measure.  You will not labor here long, nor will you always be oppressed by sorrows.  Wait a little while and you will see a speedy end of your troubles.  The hour will come when all labor and tumult shall cease.  Trivial and brief is all that which passes away with time.  Peace will come on a day which is known to the Lord, and then there shall be perpetual light, lasting peace, and secure rest.  Then death will be banished, and there will be health unfailing.  There will be no anxiety then, but blessed joy, and sweet, noble companionship.  If you could only see those now in heaven, and their great rejoicing, you would be glad to suffer any affliction for God.  Oh, if these things penetrated deeply into your heart, you would dare not complain even once.  Lift up your eyes unto heaven.  Behold Christ and those with Him.  They all had great trials in this life, but now they rejoice and are comforted.

The Day of Eternity and the Distresses of This Life (ch. 48)   

    O most happy mansion of that heavenly city above, ever joyful and ever secure!  Oh, that this day may soon shine forth, and that all these temporal things come to an end!  The citizens of heaven know how joyful that day is, but it still appears far off to us pilgrims on earth, as for a time we must yet endure the bitterness and tediousness of this world.  The days of this life are short and evil, full of grief and distress.  Here man is defiled by many sins, ensnared in many passions, enslaved by many fears, and burdened with many cares.  He is distracted by many curiosities and entangled in many vanities; surrounded by many errors and worn away by many labors; oppressed by temptations, weakened by pleasures, and tormented with want.  Oh, when will these evils end?  When, Lord, shall I fully rejoice in you?  When shall I be without hindrance, in true liberty, free from every grievance of mind and body?  When will there be solid peace, undisturbed and secure, inward peace and outward peace, peace secured on every side?  O Jesus, when shall I stand to behold you? When shall I be with you in that kingdom of yours, which you have prepared from all eternity?  For now I am left poor and exiled in a hostile land, where every day sees wars and great calamities.  “O my God, be not far from me.” (Psalm 71:12).

God’s Secret Judgments (ch. 58)

    Beware of God’s hidden judgments– why this person is so forsaken and why that one is so favored; or why one man is so afflicted and another so highly exalted.  Such things are beyond all human understanding, and no reason or disputation can fathom the judgments of God.  When the enemy puts such suggestions in your mind, or when some curious persons raise questions about them, let your answer be that of the Psalmist: “Thou art just, O Lord, and righteous are Thy judgments” (Ps. 119:137).  God’s judgments are to be feared, not discussed, for they are not to be comprehended by the understanding of men.  Be careful, then, of treating matters beyond your knowledge out of curiosity.  Let it rather be your business and aim to be that you are found in the kingdom of God.  It is a great thing to be even the least in heaven where all are great, because all there shall be the children of God.  If men would only be content, then they would know enough to refrain from their useless discussions and vain discourses.

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Psalm 71:12  —  Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me.

I Peter 2:11  —  Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

II Thessalonians 3:3  —  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

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     O Lord God, just Judge, strong and patient, you know my weakness and wickedness.  Be my strength and all my confidence, for my own conscience is not sufficient for me.  You know what I do not know, and therefore, I ought to humble myself under all blame and all hardship, and bear it meekly.  In your mercy forgive me for my every failure, and give me once more the grace of greater endurance.  Amen. 
–Thomas a Kempis