Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
II Corinthians 12:8-10
Good morning Prayer Team!
Today’s verses follow yesterday’s verse about “thorns” that are in the sides of almost every human life. Continuing on for the next three verses, St. Paul writes that three times he asked the Lord that his “thorns” should leave him, but that the Lord reminded him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Grace is an intangible gift, blessing and power that comes from God to us. Grace heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking in each person. So God’s grace not only counterbalances the “thorns”, the things that are infirm and lacking in each of us, but grace helps to overcome those things. Think about when Christ was at His greatest strength. His greatest act was dying for our sins. His Cross and subsequent Resurrection are what have opened the path to Paradise for us. Without the pain and humiliation on the cross, without laying in the tomb, then the path to Paradise could not have been opened. Christ’s greatest power shown forth from the moment He appeared at His weakest.
Before my Dad passed away last year, he told me about dreams he was having about gates and doors and lights, and getting on a boat and leaving the harbor. These were dreams about heaven. I don’t have dreams like this. Before he passed away, he expressed strength and confidence about his salvation, in the midst of his physical suffering. His moments of greatest confidence, probably in his life, were these last moments, as he became more confident about eternal life. Again, strength shown amidst physical weakness and hardship.
When we are filled with self-confidence, where is there room for God’s grace to take refuge in us? When we are humble, and even when we are humbled by circumstance, when we are empty, this is when there is the most room for us to be filled with Christ. No life is going to go the distance without some kind of hardship. And these are the times when we are to lean even more on the Lord. These are the times when the Lord will fill us even moreso with His grace and mercy.
We should endeavor to pray every day. On the good day, we should offer prayers of thanksgiving and joy. And on the bad day, we should offer even more prayers. I remember a couple of occasions in my life when I had been steadily praying for physical strength. And I remember that as I became more and more fatigued, I was praying even more. Until I got to a point where I felt I had no physical strength to make it through the day. And this is where, totally empty, I went to God in desperation, I even remember saying in prayer, “I have nothing left, nowhere else to go, except to you.” And this is where I felt the greatest sense of strength-spiritual strength that actually manifested itself into new-found physical strength. I can say with confidence that I have felt God’s presence most strongly in my life at the times when I have felt the weakest-both physically and in my confidence. I pray that God’s grace will be poured on abundantly on you today-if you are on a good path, may He continue to bless you on it, and if you are feeling weak and without confidence, may His grace heal what it infirm and complete what is lacking in you!
Lord, thank You for the gift of grace that comes only from You. Please be with me today in all that I do. Please heal what is infirm and complete what is lacking in my life. Walk with me most closely during my times of weakness. Give me confidence in You even when I do not have confidence in myself and in those around me. Help me to be a vessel for Your grace, by building up others who are around me today. Amen.
Have a great day!