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

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

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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 Believe There Is a World to Come

Then the King will say to those at His right hand, “Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  Matthew 25:34

Good morning Prayer Team!

I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come.  Amen.

The final statement of the Creed is a belief that there is a world to come, eternal life.  This is another crucial piece of what we believe.  If we didn’t believe in the world to come, then life on this earth would be all about getting as much as possible, enjoying it as much as possible, because when life is over, that would truly be the end. 

Christ tells us that “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)  In other words, if we are so obsessed with the things of this life—its riches, pleasures and trappings—then life will be over for us when we take our last breath.  We will enter into eternal punishment and sadness.  If, however, we spend a good deal of our lives loving God by serving others, we will gain “eternal life.” 

One of the most important things to reflect on in life is: Is there a heaven or not?  There are three possible answers to this questions.  Response one—There is no heaven.  There is nothing after life on earth ends.  Response two—There is a heaven, but everyone will get to go there.  Response three-There is a heaven, but it is for those who have prepared in this life.  Obviously, response three is the correct answer, but there are many people, including many Christians, who actually think the correct answer is response one or response two.  If response one or two is the correct answer, our lives won’t be affected very much.  We can make decisions and not worry if they have eternal consequences or not.  If response three is what we believe to be correct, then our lives will be affected, knowing that decisions we make will have an eternal consequence. 

When we say “I look” for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come, it makes me think that we should “look forward” to these things, with eager anticipation.  If we are living the Christian life in the way that God intended for us to live it, we won’t be burdened with fear over death and the life to come.  Rather, we will embrace it with joy when it comes. 

“The life of the age to come” is the destination that God intends for each of us to reach.  Whether we reach it is in large part up to us, and how we live.  Imagine taking a trip without a destination.  How frustrating would that be?  To drive and drive, or to hike and hike and have no destination.  It would be almost pointless.  Imagine being given a destination and a map with directions for how to get to the destination.  You would still have the freedom to follow the map or not.  You would still have the freedom to stay on the road or take a different way.  It would seem foolish, however, to deviate from the map, even though it might seem more fun.  One might find the concept of a map and directions restrictive.  On the other hand, many people find the concept of a map and directions comforting and relaxing.  Just follow the directions and reach the destination.

Christ has given us the destination, the map and the directions.  It is up to us to follow that map.  And that begins with some personal choices. 

Do we believe in the destination?  I have been fortunate to travel to many places.  The first time I travel someplace, it is foreign, unseen.  I have a destination I’ve never been to but I believe that the destination exists.  On a recent trip to the Rocky Mountains, I had never been to the lodge where we stayed.  I did, however, believe it existed.  I’ve never been to heaven.  But I believe it exists.  And that is enough to start the journey.  This is the most critical question—if we don’t believe in the destination, we are not apt to follow directions.  And if we do believe, why wouldn’t we follow them?

Do we believe in the directions?  We’ve all used directions when travelling.  No one is going to reach a destination they’ve never been to haphazardly or by happenstance.  We all at some point have to believe in some directions.  If we believe in heaven, do we believe in the directions to get there? 

Will we follow the directions?  This is a critical question.  If we believe in the destination and the directions, why wouldn’t we follow them?  Going back to our recent trip to the Rocky Mountains, if I believe there is a lodge where I can stay, and I believe the way to get there is on certain highways, roads I’ve never travelled on before, but ways that are safe, that have been safely travelled by others, would I choose to go off the road, knowing that I might not be safe or successful?  Why would I do that?  If we believe in heaven, and we believe in the directions to get to heaven, then why it is so hard to follow them? 

These three choices are not choices that we make once for all time.  These are choices that we have to make on a continual basis—we choose daily to believe in the destination and the directions and we choose daily to follow the directions.  Choice one and choice two are personally easy for me—I believe in heaven and in the directions to get there.  Temptations and distractions make choice three a challenging one to make correctly each day. 

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me!  O Lord, make haste to help me!  Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life!  Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire my hurt!  Let them be appalled because of their shame who say “Aha, Aha!”  May all who seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee!  May those who love Thy salvation say evermore, “God is great!” But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!  Thou art my helper and my deliverer; O Lord, do not tarry!  Psalm 70

The destination (heaven) gives us purpose, the directions (the teachings of Christ that are expressed in the Bible and through the Church) give us structure, and the choice to follow them is what gives us a challenge, as well as the need to belong to the Church, which helps us to meet the challenge.  We all fail in the choice to follow, which is why we have the continual need for repentance, the choice to come back and get on the right road back towards the destination!

 

+Fr. Stavros

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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.”