Posted by Jud Wilhite: Reading Augustine’s fifth century classic "City of God" just exaggerates how shallow my faith can be. In the first part of the book he describes Christians being killed, tortured and raped during the fall of Rome and addresses non-Christians who argued that this proves the Christian God is powerless.

Augustine systematically shows the foolishness of the argument, and as he does so he speaks of a Christian who does not “grieve if deprived in life of those possessions which he would soon have to leave behind at his death.”

Many were tortured to determine where they might have hid their gold or silver, but faithful Christians did not hope in money. They rejoiced in God even in their horrible situation.

Some of these believers starved to death and others were destroyed by horrible disease. Yet they remained steadfast in that there allegiance to God.

Augustine writes, “Death is not to be regarded as a disaster, when it follows on a good life, for the only thing that makes death an evil is what comes after death. Those who must inevitably die ought not to worry overmuch about what accident will cause their death, but about their destination after dying. Christians know that the death of a poor religious man, licked by the tongues of dogs, is far better than the death of a godless rich man, dressed in purple and linen. Why then should those who have lived well be dismayed by the terror of death in any form?”

Spending time in the City of God, I find myself asking forgiveness for my shallow clinging to the allusion of control in my life. I pray for the strength and courage of those in previous times. They lived with a profound awareness of life’s fragility and uncertainty that led to greater dependence and more radical faith. Suffering and even death was not something to fear, but rather an opportunity to bring glory to God.

Ever feel like your faith doesn’t stand up to the guts and courage of believers in previous times?