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
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4: 6-15 (Epistle from Feast of St. Minas, St. Victor and St. Vincent)
Good morning Prayer Team!
A popular Protestant praise song is called “Trading My Sorrows.” It puts into song a couple of verses from today’s Epistle Lesson from 2 Corinthians 4. Here are some of the lyrics:
I’m trading my sorrows, and I’m trading my shame
Am I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.
And I’m trading my sickness, and I’m trading my pain,
I’m laying it, laying it, laying it down for the joy of the Lord.
I’m pressed but not crushed, persecuted, not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
And I am blessed beyond the curse, for His promise will endure
That His joy is going to be my strength
Though my sorrows may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning.
Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord Amen.
Just because we are a Christian doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be hard times, perhaps even lots of them. Those early followers of Christ had hard times. Saint Paul details them in 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” They were afflicted with illnesses, just like everyone else. They struggled financially to provide sustenance for themselves. They were abandoned by their own families who didn’t believe in the new Christian message. Some undoubtedly lost jobs and homes. Some became nomadic, rejected by those they knew. But their spirits were not crushed and neither was their faith. Because their joy trumped their sorrow. Following Christ caused them confusion and doubt. The devil brought them distraction and temptation. But they were not driven to despair. Indeed they were highly motivated to spread the message of Christ. They were persecuted with imprisonment and torture, they were driven into exile and lost reputation. But God did not forsake them. They could feel His presence at all times. This is why they sang hymns in the jails and were joyful when dragged in front of tribunals. Finally, many were struck down with martyrdom. Their earthly lives ended. Yet, they received crowns of glory in heaven, and their movement, Christ’s message not only did not die with them, it grew because of them.
In contemporary times, in the United States anyway, we are not being killed for our faith. We easily forget that in other parts of the world, people are being killed for being Christians. Being a Christian in some countries is a very dangerous proposition. Christians in these parts of the world do live in real affliction and danger, they are persecuted and struck down. Yet, Christianity is not eradicated from these countries. In fact, in many of these countries, Christianity is growing. And in our country, it is in marked decline.
I can’t say that I feel “struck down” or even “persecuted” because I am a Christian. I am “afflicted” by illnesses and disappointments, stresses and challenges just like everyone else. The challenge for me and for everyone is to not feel “crushed” when we get afflicted. I am perplexed about a lot of things—why so much suffering in the world, why are certainly aspects of life easier, etc. I’m sure all of us feel perplexed at times. The challenge then it to not be driven to despair by the things that perplex us.
It is God’s grace that allows us to not feel crushed when we are afflicted and to not feel despair when we are perplexed. It is this same grace that allows people to not feel forsaken when they are persecuted. And this same grace does not allow our faith to be destroyed, even in pockets of the world where Christians are being struck down, and in the pockets of this country where the Christian message is being struck down or distorted.
A close relationship with Christ through prayer, worship, fellowship with other Christians, and service/charity to others allows God’s grace to grow in us and this grace is what protects us when we come under fire from the assaults of the world. It is this grace that allows us to cry out “Yes Lord! Yes Lord! Yes Lord!” even when we are under fire for our faith. We can’t trade away our bad things because bad things happen to everyone. But we can trade away the sorrow that results from those bad things and turn it into joy. Because joy is a choice. And it is a choice that is made easier when we abide in the Lord. So when we choose the Lord, we are given His grace, which brings us joy, which allows us to “trade our sorrows”.
Being a Christian will not take away sickness, challenge and struggle from us. These things are part of life in our fallen world. But God’s grace, which is the reward of the committed Christian life, will take away our sorrows and turn them into joy.
In tears, the women bearing sweet spices went in haste to Your sepulcher. And they were saying to each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us?” For You, the King of all, were guarded by soldiers. The Angel of great Counsel has risen, after trampling on death. O Lord almighty, glory to You. (Second Resurrectional Kathisma of the second set, Grave Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Work to trade your sorrows for the joy of the Lord. Say YES to Christ 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: Building Faith Families
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