St. Thomas Aquinas, On the Creed: Part Five
The fourth effect of faith is that by it we overcome temptations: “The holy ones by faith conquered kingdoms” [Heb 11:33]. We know that every temptation is either from the world or the flesh or the devil. The devil would have us disobey God and not be subject to Him. This is removed by faith, since through it we know that He is the Lord of all things and must therefore be obeyed. “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, strong in faith” [1 Pet 5:8].The world tempts us either by attaching us to it in prosperity, or by filling us with fear of adversity. But faith overcomes this in that we believe in a life to come better than this one, and hence we despise the riches of this world and we are not terrified in the face of adversity. “This is the victory which overcomes the world: our faith” [1 Jn 5:4].The flesh, however, tempts us by attracting us to the swiftly passing pleasures of this present life. But faith shows us that, if we cling to these things inordinately, we shall lose eternal joys. “In all things taking the shield of faith” [Eph 6:16].We see from this that it is very necessary to have faith.
We are studying the effects of faith in order to desire to explore, discover, and find its attractiveness and appeal. We have said already that its effects are alluring because through it the soul is brought into union with God, that such a union incorporates us in the eternal life of Heaven, and that we thus find the right direction for lives to be lived with God as our end and destiny. What a wonderful set of effects that whet our appetite in deepest affection for faith. Faith is then not only a cause of virtue and goodness but is also the means to hope for eternal happiness and joy.
Now we come to the fourth effect of faith which is to overcome our temptations. That we must overcome temptations should not surprise us. The Devil and his unhappy friends spend all the time that is left to them in trying to distract us from God with many temptations. Their chief end is that we ought not to be wholly and sincerely intending to reach God’s Heaven by the means of faith. Faith requires that we should obey God in all things if we hope to reach His Kingdom. This is most displeasing to the Devil. He tries to convince us that obedience and service to God constitute servile slavery and sorry sycophancy. He would have us fear the loss of ourselves, our integrity and our independence. But the Devil cannot bear that God is pure wisdom, love, and power. The Devil cannot stand that the same wisdom, love, and power promise to redeem, remake, and save us. The Devil cannot abide the delight that we might find in discovering a dependence that brings all manner of astonishing excitement, joy, and happiness. He cannot see that rather than being beaten down and trodden underfoot we might gratefully embrace the honor and dignity afforded in being asked to come up higher by our noble Lord and Ruler and King. Faith helps us to say no the Devil and to say yes to God. Faith teaches us that God is the Ruler of the Universe and that to obey Him is the gift that lies within the reach of free-willing creatures whose perfection is found in their Maker.
Faith teaches to resist the temptations of the world also. The world threatens us with the loss of prosperity in adversity. Faith teaches us that the loss of Heaven’s riches is far more dangerous than earthly adversity. Faith enables us to suffer all losses in this world because our faith, hope, and love are secured already in Heaven. Faith enables us to embrace the rich treasure of God’s Grace as work in our hearts.
The temptations of the flesh are also quite alluring. They are exacerbated by long-standing practices and bad habits. We must fight them with all our faith. Our faith in God must seek out a remedy to vanquish and overcome them. Our faith in God gives us hope for the power that alone can surmount and subdue them. Our faith in God teaches us that we must rather pursue the pleasures of His presence, the satisfaction of keeping His laws, and the adventurous felicity that soars into the exploration of His Wisdom and Love.
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