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”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought my son to You, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked Your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And He answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to Me.” And they brought the boy to Him; and when the spirit saw Him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if You can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:17-24
The Bible is filled with stories of people who, although they lived many years ago, are people we can relate with today. In Mark 9, we read about a man whose son was possessed by a dumb spirit. He brought his son to the disciples of Jesus and asked them to cast it out. They were not able.
Imagine for a moment the doctor who has brought their child to the doctor for healing and the doctor cannot heal the disease. Or the person who has come to the counselor for guidance and it hasn’t helped. Or the parent who has brought their child to the teacher for extra tutoring and it hasn’t worked. Or the person who has gone to the priest in crisis and he hasn’t been able to take it away. We’ve all been the person who has gone to someone in expectation of a fix that just didn’t happen. And these experiences have at times affected how we relate to doctors, or counselors or teachers.
In the case of this man, he went to the disciples of Jesus. After this encounter with the disciples proved unsuccessful, the man went to Jesus Himself, exasperated. But he was also hopeful. He wasn’t so exasperated and discouraged that he left and didn’t give Christ another chance. The man still found something worthy in Jesus and so he showed up, even though he was frustrated. When Jesus told him that “all things are possible to him who believes,” (Mark 9:23) the man made one of the most honest and real statements in the Bible—“I believe! Help my unbelief! (9:24)
There are many times I feel like this man. I believe, but I have doubts. I keep coming but I’m not sure if it’s working. I have faith but I’m not sure how strong it really is. I trust in God, but I wonder why He isn’t making certain things work out for me. I’m sure if we are honest, we all have moments like these. And it’s in these moments in particular that it is important that we keep showing up—in prayer, in worship, in obedience to the commandments, in service to others.
The Apostle Thomas provides another real example. On the evening after the Resurrection, the disciples were gathered together and Thomas was not with them. Jesus appeared to the disciples, and they were glad when they saw the Lord. When they told Thomas that they had seen the Lord with their own eyes, he couldn’t believe them. He wouldn’t believe them. He said “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) We continue on, “Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.” (20:26) While most of us remember the famous confession of Thomas upon seeing the Lord—“My Lord and my God” (20:28)—and Jesus admonition to Thomas—“Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (20:29)—we forget the important detail that eight days after doubting the Resurrection, Thomas was still with the disciples. He still showed up.
We all feel like Thomas at times. We wonder, is it all real? And just like Thomas, it is important to keep showing up. That’s after all what faith is, to keep showing up, even when you have doubts and distractions. This is true for Christianity, and also for marriage, parenting, our jobs and lots of other things. Sometimes it is hard to maintain enthusiasm, especially in our moments of doubt. This is where encouragement of others also becomes so important.
I may not understand all of God’s plans but I know He has them. I may not understand all of His plans for my life, but I know He has them. And I know that His greatest plan is for me to make my way to His heavenly Kingdom. That plan is fulfilled through His grace and my faith and participation. If we are going to participate fully in the life of the Church, we are going to have to have some enthusiasm, even in times of doubt.
How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all the day? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; let my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him”; lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in Thy steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13
Show up today—in prayer, in worship, in faith!
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.
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