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.”
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
The Benefits of Being a Disciple—Rewards You Can Reap Today—Part One
Then Peter said in reply, “Lo, we have left everything and followed You. What then shall we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for My name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19: 27-29
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
With just about any endeavor in which we invest something, “What’s in it for me?” is a fair question to ask. In Matthew 19: 27, Peter asked Jesus “Lo, we have left everything and followed You. What then shall we have?” Think about the disciples for a minute. They really had left everything. They left their parents, their homes, their businesses. James and John left their father in the fishing boat. Matthew left the tax office. In many ways, their following of Jesus was a nomadic existence. He didn’t have a home, and for the most part neither did they. So Peter’s question, “What’s in it for us” is not only a fair question but a logical one.
If we surveyed large groups of Christians in the world today and asked “Why do you follow?” the answer probably would be either “to go to heaven” or “to avoid hell.” We think of the ultimate prize when it comes to following Christ. Sometimes, when life gets tough, following Christ seems like drudgery. And there are many people who think that to follow Christ is to live a life of drudgery, to suffer in this life in order to get reward in the next.
Part of the reason I believe that Christianity is declining in many corners of the world is because of this drudgery mentality and the belief that the reward is only at the end of life, not at THIS moment in life. When the end reward feels far away, or the present challenges seem like they will never end, and when the world talk down on Christianity especially in a moment when we are feeling that it is like a drudgery, this leads many people to put down the cross of Christ. For some, they quit the Christian walk temporarily and pick it up later. And sadly, for some, they quit the Christian walk all together, they never come back to it.
For the next few weeks, we are going to discuss the rewards of being a Christian, not only the eternal reward but rewards we can enjoy TODAY. It’s not just the promise of eternal reward (or avoidance of eternal punishment) that can motivate us, but the promise of reward to be enjoyed today. There are many people who have said that the joy of a journey is not the destination but the journey. Well, the destination of this journey is crucial—eternity is riding on it. The destination promises eternal reward. However, the journey is important. We can’t reach the destination without the journey. And there is plenty of joy and plenty of reward to be enjoyed on the journey as we make our way to the destination.
I ask you to ponder two things today. First, think about the things that people do in their daily lives that are motivated by a desire for rewards. These might be short term rewards or long term rewards. These might be things that people do or things you do. The second thing to ponder on today is what to you think are things our culture considers to be rewards of following Jesus? Do you think that most people in society think of the Christian reward as only being about the eternal, or do you think people recognize that there are rewards to be enjoyed today? Do you think about the rewards of today or only the rewards for eternity? Or do you think only about the avoidance of punishment?
Many people treat Christianity like an insurance policy—if I need it, it’s there. In case it’s all true, I’ve done enough to get in. Christianity is not a life insurance policy. It is a way of life. It is the path to eternal life. And that path is lined with rewards to be enjoyed today, in this life.
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; for His hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel for the Lord, our Maker! For He is our God, and we are the people His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. O that today you would hearken to His voice! Psalm 95:1-7
Spend some time in prayer with God 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: Tutorean
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