The Confident Life of a Disciple: Believing and Belonging—Part One

The Confident Life of a Disciple: Believing and Belonging—Part One

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Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.

ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples

Go, therefore and 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 observe all that I have commanded you.  Matthew 28:19-20

I Want to Be Confident

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Good morning Prayer Team! 

At every Divine Liturgy, we are invited to pray the Lord’s Prayer with these words that are offered by the priest:

And make us worthy, Master, with confidence and without fear of condemnation, to dare call You, the heavenly God, Father, and to say: (From the Divine Liturgy, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary Press, 1985)

With confidence and without fear of condemnation!  I wonder how many of us have that!  The truth of the matter is that many Christians go through life just the opposite.  They feel shaky in their faith and in fear of what happens when life on this earth ends. 

For today’s reflection, we will discuss having confidence in life.  In the next reflection, we will discuss confidence at the end of life. 

Everyone want to feel confident in what they doing.  We want to feel confident as spouses, as parents, in our jobs, in our relationships, in all that we are doing.  No one wants to do something without confidence.  Because the person who lacks confidence is filled with fear.  And fear is paralyzing.  Fear clouds our minds.  Fear clouds reason and clear thinking.  Clearly, fear and confidence do not easily co-exist. 

Over-confidence is not necessarily good thing.  Because being overconfident leads one to feel cocky and then humility is lacking.  Or overconfidence breeds complacency.  Be complacent for too long and things happen that we don’t want to happen. 

There is often, then, a fine line between confidence and arrogance, just there is a fine line between confidence and fear.  If we study Hebrews 4:16, we actually find the line between arrogance, confidence and fear. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need  

In the second half of this verse, we encounter humility.  An arrogant, cocky and overconfident person is not going to feel the need for mercy or grace, at least not at the same time they are feeling arrogant, cocky or overconfident.  To feel the need for mercy and grace presupposes some humility, i.e.  I can’t do all things by myself, I need mercy and grace to compensate for my deficiencies. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. 

Next, let’s address fear.  Saint Paul reveals God’s throne as “the throne of grace.”  It is not a throne of punishment, fear, dictatorship, or austerity.  It is a throne of grace.  God is an inviting God.  Yes, He has expectations that He clearly sets forth.  But He is an inviting God.  He wants us to ask for His grace.  He wants to bestow His grace on us.  He wants us to feel confident and not be in fear.  Faithfulness to God and our love for Him should help mitigate fear.  As we read in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.”  The person who needs to fear is the person who is complacent in his or her faithfulness and love for God.  A lukewarm relationship or a lukewarm effort is a reason to fear. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. 

Which bring us to confidence.  An honest, earnest, sincere and loving effort should merit confidence.  I suppose the catch is that the definition of an honest, earnest, sincere and loving relationship with God varies amongst each person. 

There are two sources to my confidence in my personal health—my doctor and myself.  When my doctor tells me that I’m doing well, then I feel confident.  I trust my doctor.  When my doctor tells me that I’m not doing well, I feel confident in his diagnosis and more motivated to work on my overall health.  I also have confidence in myself.  When I eat right and exercise, even if I’m still a little out of shape or still want to lose a few more pounds, I still have confidence because I know I’m heading in the right direction.  On the other hand, I know deep down when I’m eating poorly or not exercising.  And no amount of praise from a doctors or someone else is going to give me confidence.  I need to work at confidence on my own, using my own discipline. 

My confidence in my own faith is bolstered by being around other people.  First and foremost, I have a priest I’ve identified as a Spiritual Father, who basically plays the role of spiritual doctor.  I take my spiritual ailments and sicknesses to him and he prescribes a remedy for them.  When I follow his advice, I feel confident.  If he gives wrong advice, it’s on him.  The onus on me is to follow whatever advice he gives.  Second, belonging to a community of believes give me confidence.  Not only do I learn from the community, I receive encouragement and direction from the community as well.  Finally, I know in my heart when I feel close to God and when I feel like things have gotten off track.  I think most of us have this innate sense. 

The ideal Christian life is lived with confidence—not arrogance, and not fear.  It is lived with confidence that comes through receiving and following direction (obedience to the commandments), getting encouragement (which fosters joy and motivates one to grow even more), and personal discipline (self-control that helps us navigate the touch stretches of being a Christian. 

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall.  Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.  For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent, He will set me high upon a rock.  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies round about me; and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy, I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!  Thou hast said “Seek ye My face.”  My heart says to Thee, “Thy face, Lord, do I seek.”  Hide not Thy face form me.  Turn not Thy servant away in anger, Thou who has been my help.  Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.  Teach me Thy way, O Lord; and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.  Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.  I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!  Psalm 27

Walk with confidence today by being obedient to the commandments of God, be humble, and let your love of God and loving gestures towards other push away fear.  Love God and serve your neighbor and it will foster confidence in you today!

 

+Fr. Stavros

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With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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.”