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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
THE ENCOURAGEMENT PROJECT
A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns; and thorns grew with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold. Luke 8: 5-8
Good morning Prayer Team!
One day, early on my priesthood, I called my spiritual father because I was feeling discouraged. I felt like whatever I was doing wasn’t really making a difference. I wasn’t seeing the reward for my efforts. I guess I thought that I would see people grow in their faith in dramatic fashion right before my eyes.
In a way that was reassuring and encouraging, my spiritual father discussed with me the Parable of the Sower. He said, “Imagine that you have a big bags of seeds. You walk down a long road each day scattering the seeds. At the end of the day when you are tired, you set the bag down, sleep, and then wake up again the next day and continue down the road. Here is the thing—the road is a one-way street so you will never come back on it. And secondly, you aren’t even allowed to look over your shoulder as you are throwing the seed. You have to be content to just throw the seed. Where it lands and how it develops is not for you to know. God will reward your efforts, not necessarily your results. After all, you can’t control the kind of soil your seed lands in, only the throwing the seed. So stop concentrating on how many people come to services and focus on how many services you offer. Because God is not going to count how many people came to things but how many opportunities you gave them.”
Sound advice indeed.
We are obsessed with results. So much so that if we don’t get results, we feel as though we are failures. And sometimes so much so that we are willing to cheat just to get the results we want. We have to remember that God rewards effort. As parents, we teach our children to behave well. However, we do not go to school with them to make sure they behave. So, we have to concentrate on what we can control—which is what we teach them.
Teachers naturally want their students to learn. However, some students don’t want to learn. So, if a great teacher has a class of students and only 50% of them want to learn, should the teacher feel like a failure? I would say no, because the role of the teacher is to create an environment which encourages learning. The desire to learn is on the student. The teacher controls the environment and whether the environment encourages learning.
Let’s look at doctors or medical personnel. The job of the doctor is to heal. Yet, part of the healing is on the patient. If the patient doesn’t work with the doctor in developing a healthy lifestyle, the doctor can’t be blamed if the patient is perpetually sick. The role of the doctor is to create an environment which encourages healthy living. Some of this involves treating acute sickness and that is something only a doctor can do. But when the sickness is cured, the doctor can encourage healthy living. The decision to follow through is up to the patient.
Many of us are frustrated with our jobs or other roles we play because we are obsessed with results. God is interested in effort. So, focus on creating environments that encourage certain kinds of behavior and you’ll be less frustrated. The job description for just about any job involves encouragement. It involves “creating an environment that encourages” learning, teaching, healing, spiritual growth, etc.
Lord, thank You for the opportunities I have each day. Help me to focus on my efforts and not results. Help me to create environments of encouragement in whatever role I am playing today. Help me to encourage others to be successful, but help me not to be discouraged if success doesn’t come right away for them or for me. Help me to continually give a good effort. Amen.
Give a good effort today! Create an environment of encouragement in whatever you are doing today!
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