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.”
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Good morning Prayer Team!
What is the ultimate goal of life? The answer is salvation, entrance into the Kingdom of God, into eternal life. What is the number one goal of a marriage? Mutual salvation. What is the number one goal of a parent for a child? That they know Christ, so that they can receive salvation. Salvation is the ultimate goal, the ultimate purpose for life.
As St. Paul says so beautifully in his letter to the Hebrews, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is our belief in the promises of God, the confidence to trust that all of the things the Lord has told us will come true. This means not only trusting in God’s promises for eternal life, but trusting in God’s commandments for how to live in this life. Faith means trusting God, living for God, and keeping God at the center of your life.
I often tell couples who are about to get married, as concerns faith, that God-willing, they will hold hands together in this life for many, many years. But after many years, one will most likely pass away first, so the one spouse who is remaining is going to take the hand of the spouse that is dying and place it in either the hand of God. And if not God, then what?
Faith, as it relates to our interactions with others, pertains to how we witness our Christianity towards them. We are not all called to be priests. We are not expected to stand on street corners holding signs. But we are all expected to help spread the faith. In fact, in giving the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus tells His followers to “GO, 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 do all that I have commanded you.” These are four action verbs. We are not told to “Learn about the faith and keep what you learn to yourself.” We are told to go, make, baptize and teach.
So, how can we live out the Great Commission? How are we supposed to witness for our faith? There are two ways to lead—by example and by direction. We can talk about Christ—we can teach Sunday school, teach our children at home, and talk to friends about Christ. What do I mean talk to friends about Christ? There are opportunities, if we are looking for them, to bring Christ up in conversation. When you are talking to a friend who is in some kind of crisis, offer to say a prayer with them. Mention something you heard in a sermon. Talk about going to church on a holiday. There are many ways to do it.
More important, however, than the spoken example, is the examples of Christian behavior that are unspoken. Become a person of patience and forgiveness. Become a person of love and empathy. Become a person of peace. Think about all the stress in the world. When you act in a peaceful, optimistic way, people will take notice because peace and optimism are generally missing from the world. And when someone asks you how you have such peace and optimism, there is the opportunity to say, “It comes from my relationship with Christ.”
Faith (from a spiritual perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do I trust in God at all times, even when times are tough in my life? How often do I think of my salvation? Do I keep salvation as my number one life goal all the time?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
If salvation isn’t our number one goal, then what takes its place? Many of us write out life plans, goals and steps to achieving them. If salvation is the ultimate goal, think about what steps you need in order to make strides towards this goal. Make short term, intermediate term and long term spiritual goals.
Faith (from a relationship perspective)—Do I model a Christ-like example to others in my daily interactions with them? Do I witness for the faith to my friends by my conduct? Do I speak about the faith with my friends?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Someone once said to me that if everyone in your congregation likes you, you are probably not a good priest. Because good priests challenge people and not everyone likes to be challenged. I would venture to say that if no one knows that we are Christians, then what kind of Christians are we? Because a Christian understands that part of being a Christian is witnessing for the faith and seeking to bring others towards Christ. A popular Protestant hymn says “They will KNOW we are Christians by our love.”
I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart. I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; lo, I have not restrained my lips, as You know, O Lord. I have not hid Your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness from the great congregation. Do not, O Lord, withhold Your mercy from me, let Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness ever preserve me! Amen. Psalm 40:8-11
Put God first today!
Photo Credit: Faith United Church
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