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.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
The Benefits of Being a Disciple—Rewards You Can Reap Today—Part Seventeen
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
One of the biggest benefits of benefits of being a Disciple is belonging to a community. And one of the biggest benefits of being part of a community is the encouragement that one receives from the members of the community. We are not expected to make our Christian journey alone. This is why Christ established the Church, a community in which our unique journeys of faith are made in a group setting.
If someone was stranded on a deserted island for twenty years, left only with a Bible as a connection to the faith, after twenty years, they would most likely not believe in God. Why? Because they would face challenges. First, being deserted on an island would make one lonely and despondent. Even a sincere effort to be one with God would then be thwarted by attacks from the devil. And with no one to encourage in moments of doubt, one could easily lose their faith. This is because it is hard to exist as a Christian outside of a community. Yes, one can miss church for a Sunday or two and still be a strong Christian. However, absent from a community for a long period of time, one would become disconnected from the faith. We can only receive Communion in the context of community, so that is the first reason to belong to a church community. And the second reason is the encouragement we receive from other members of the community.
When we have doubts or questions about the faith, we have a priest to whom we can take our questions. The priest should not only be the leader of the worship but feed parishioners a steady diet of encouragement through sermons, confession and pastoral care.
On the subject of confession, when we have failed and feel estranged from God, confession is a good place to go for some encouragement. How is that? Because when we receive the prayer absolution at the end of confession, and are told that we need not have anxiety over the things we’ve confessed but can depart in peace, this is a message from God saying that He still loves us, despite what we’ve done.
Encouragement is something we all need in life, and it is something we are all capable of giving. When we think of encouragement, we most likely think of things like encouraging our children to do well in school or in sports. We don’t necessarily think about offering spiritual encouragement to one another. Part of being a member of a church is to offer encouragement to other members. This might be encouragement to go to church, or to read the Bible or pray or get involved in a ministry. Or it might be the same encouragement we offer our children when they get down, to offer the same encouragement to our fellow parishioners who all experience the same ups and downs in life and need encouragement when they are in deep valleys.
Perhaps the greatest form of Christian encouragement is to pray for someone else, and to pray with someone else. Praying with someone is not a pat “there, there,” but a sincere, “I’m going to God on your behalf with whatever you are struggling with.” Praying with others is something we haven’t developed enough, in my opinion, in the Orthodox world. For me personally, it is the best form of spiritual encouragement I receive—when I can stand quietly and listen to someone else speak to God on my behalf.
Saint Paul is quick to link the idea of “building up” one another along with encouragement. Because that’s what encouragement does, it builds up other people. There are so many discouraging messages in the world today that we need encouraging ones to counterbalance them. And there are so many discouraging messages regarding Christianity. That’s why we all need to encourage people not only regarding life but specifically encourage people when it comes to the Christian life, to following Christ, to encourage one another so that our faith can individually and collectively be built up.
No one expects us to make the Christian journey alone. The Lord certainly doesn’t expect that. He expects that we will encourage one another. One of the greatest benefits to being a disciple should be the knowledge that there will be other disciples around to pick us up when our faith is not as strong as we want it to be.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and coming in from this time forth and for evermore. Psalm 121
Encourage others today. Specifically, encourage others in their faith today!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: Barney’s
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