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
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:6-9
Several years ago, I confided in a friend that I was nervous about a big day in our church community and that when the moment of truth came, I might not succeed. When the day came, before the service, my friend gave me a card with Philippians 4:13 on it: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” And my friend asked me “Do you think that God wants you to fail? Don’t you think that He is going to be with you in the task that you are doing?”
And of course, my friend was right, God didn’t want me to fail. He does not want us to fail. He wants us to succeed.
Like most of us, I’ve had many teachers over the years. I remember teachers who told us on the first day of class, “You all start with a zero and have to work your way up.” And thankfully, I had a majority of teachers who said “Everyone starts with 100 and it’s yours to lose.” It was these teachers that wanted us to succeed. And it is just like these teachers when it comes to God. He wants us to succeed.
We are currently raising a teenager. Our hope for him is that he will go to college, have a career and hopefully one day have a family. While we can’t control the outcome of any of these things, we can certainly create expectations, offer encouragement and create an environment that models these things. We certainly are giving him every chance to succeed in this “plan.” He may choose differently. He may choose to not do well in school. That’s not our plan for him, but that may be his choice.
In a similar way, God has called each of us to something. He has given each of us unique talents, abilities and opportunities. It is His plan for us to succeed in them. Not everyone will have the same success because not everyone has the same talents, abilities and opportunities. God wants each of us to succeed in the unique set of circumstances that we are presented with. Like our son, we also have a choice to stick with the plan or go against the plan.
God didn’t put me here on the earth so that I can fail, or harm others, or end up in prison. He put me here so that I can succeed in some way. Because of His love for us, He has given us free will, so that each of has a choice in following God’s plan or going against it. If I harm someone and end up in prison, that’s not God’s plan to my life, that’s my choice to go against His plan, which for me includes being a priest.
God’s ultimate plan for each of us is salvation. We may have failures and setbacks in life, we may even have a lot of them. God may even allow us to fail at things at times. Parents sometimes allow their children to fail, so that they will learn something. Of course there is a critical difference between allowing a failure and causing one. While I’ve never caused my child to fail, I have allowed him to fail. For instance, I didn’t remind him to take his P.E. clothes to school one day, even though I knew he was forgetting them. He got a conduct cut and learned the value of remembering to take them. Likewise, I don’t believe God causes our failures, but at times allows us to fail so that we can learn from our mistakes.
Again, God’s ultimate plan for each life is salvation, and this is something that is very much on the table for everyone, as long as they are alive, irrespective of how many times they have failed. God wants us to succeed in this. This is why He offers us innumerable opportunities to believe, to work, and to repent. We are saved ultimately by God’s mercy. Salvation isn’t something we bestow on ourselves. However, we play a critical role in our salvation based on our faith and works.
Today’s Scripture verses remind us of God’s wisdom and power, as well as the reward that “God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9) These are things that “no eye has seen, nor ear, nor the heart of man conceived.” (2:9) Indeed God’s plans for our salvation are too awesome to comprehend. His plan is for us to enjoy His rewards. It is our role to work in concert with God’s grace through our faith and works. He has certainly blessed us with all the tools.
Lord thank You for paving the way to our salvation through the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. Thank You for the unique talents and opportunities that You have given me, as well as the very life I enjoy today as I offer to You this prayer. Help me to make strides daily in my journey to salvation. Help me to make the right choices that keep me on track for salvation. Help me to have wisdom to see good choices and avoid bad ones. Please reassure me in my moments of doubt, so that I know at all times that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. Amen.
God’s will is for us to succeed in our journey to salvation. Will we? It’s our choice. Make the choice for God today! (and everyday).
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
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.