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.
Good morning Prayer Team!
Having surveyed a number of people of all ages, from teens at summer camp, to our Sunday school teachers, to parishioners of all ages, there is an almost unanimous agreement that the number of voices we hear in our daily lives are voices of discouragement, rather than encouragement. People are much more likely to feel torn down than built up. And because we are all treated this way, we also tend to treat others in this way.
Because most of our sensory input (what we see and what we hear, what we read and what we say) is discouraging, we need to tip the scales and put some more encouragement into our lives in order to bring things into a balance we all need, even if we don’t realize it. Many times we want to give up because the discouraging voices outweigh the encouraging ones.
There is a secondary problem to not enough encouragement and that is people lack safe spaces in which to talk about their thoughts. Oftentimes, in the sacrament of confession, I have found a person will quickly confess their sins and then ask “can we just talk? I have no place to put certain thoughts and feelings.” Thus, many of us lack not only encouragement, but we lack a safe space in which to put our thoughts, work through our challenges, and share our doubts and fears.
So, not only are most of us at a deficit when it comes to encouragement versus discouragement, many of us lack someone even to talk to honestly about our struggles and even about our successes. Many feel discouraged. Few feel encouraged. Not enough are intentionally encouraging others. Not enough are listening and many are not feeling that they are heard.
The other struggle we all have, because we are human beings living in a fallen world, is that we each contribute to the problem of discouragement. Whether we gossip, speak negatively, or have indifference, at times we all contribute to the problem.
The goal of this unit on the Heart of Encouragement is to bring encouragement to the forefront of our minds. Because we all crave encouragement and because we have few places to go get it, an infusion of encouragement into our daily consciousness and incorporated into our daily lives will hopefully lead you to a greater sense of joy and optimism in your life, your relationships and in your faith. In line with encouraging, we can help create safe spaces where honest conversation can happen. And we can work to build authentic relationships based on love and respect, where gossip, negativity and indifference are intentionally and purposely cast aside.
Today we begin a study on I Thessalonians 5:11, the central verse in this chapter on encouragement. This verse gives us two specific things we are to do for each other—encourage and build up one another. The two concepts go hand in hand. Encouraging builds up. Discouraging tears down. We must consciously seek to do the one, while purposefully avoiding the other. Because encouragement is not only a doing of the positive but an avoiding of the negative. When it comes to encouraging and building up, we are either doing both or we are doing neither. We can’t do one and not the other. So, start the process today by looking for opportunities to encourage and build up.
Lord, I begin today by offering thanks to You, for the Gift of a new day. I know that today will have challenges. I know that I may not even know what these challenges are. Help me to trust that You will walk with me in all of them. I know that there will be opportunities for joy today. Help me to seize on those moments. And I know that there will be an opportunity to encourage someone today. Open the eyes of my soul to see those opportunities and the eyes of my heart to be an encourager. Bless me and everyone I will meet today. Amen.
Have a great day! Be encouraging today! Start off with good and positive intentions for your day today!
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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