In all times and every place throughout history God has specialized in taking imperfect and broken people and transformed and used them for his own glory and honor. On the Christian calendar, November 1 is the day each year to remember the saints who have gone before us. This day is meant to be an intentional way of not forgetting the people, friends and family as well as long-dead historical saints, who have made a significant impact in our spiritual lives.
All Saints’ Day should not be a focus on extraordinary persons so much as on the grace and work of ordinary Christians who faithfully lived their lives. We give thanks for the gift of how they lived their faith each and every day. We also remember that all believers in Jesus are united and connected through the cross.
Remembering is a prominent theme in Scripture. Well over a hundred times we are told to remember God’s covenant and actions on behalf of his people; to remember those less fortunate; and, to remember the important people in our lives who influenced us in our journey of faith. The writer of Hebrews exhorted Christians with this: Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7).
We are to be inspired in the present with the actions of faithful saints of the past. They are to serve as a model of faithfulness so that they we will persevere in our Christian lives and not give up. Through biblical stories of very human persons being used of God, as well as reading biographies of godly people who were given to God in service, we can be motivated to be patient and keep persevering until Jesus returns.
Who were the people in your life that went out of their way to communicate the gospel to you both with words and with actions? Who were those persons who labored behind the scenes in prayer so that you and others would know Jesus? If any of those persons are still around, and you know where they are, remember them. Drop them a note. Express to them a simple thank you for their influence in your life. In doing so, you will not only encourage that person, but it will help you remember and re-engage with something in your life that you may have forgotten or have just taken for granted for too long.
Gordon McDonald, a Christian pastor and writer, at the passing of a lifelong mentor, recalled his loyalty and the crucial counsel he gave in a crisis: “He was there when, many years later, my life fell apart because of a failure for which I was totally responsible. In our worst moments of shame and humiliation, he came and lived in our home for a week and helped us do a searing examination of our lives. We will always remember his words: ‘”You are both momentarily in a great darkness. You have a choice to make. You can—as do so many—deny this terrible pain, or blame it on others, or run away from it. Or, you can embrace this pain together and let it do its purifying work as you hear the things God means to whisper into your hearts during the process. If you choose the latter, I expect you will have an adventurous future modeling what true repentance and grace is all about.’”
We are not to live our Christian lives in isolation from others, as if we do not need them. We are here today because someone significantly influenced us in the way of Jesus. And we will continue to persevere and thrive in the faith only when we remember those who have gone before us and allow those here in the present to journey with us along this road of faith.