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.
Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Matthew 6:33
Nearly thirty years ago, I graduated high school with a 3.99 Grade Point Average. There was just one blemish on my grades, but we won’t get into that. For those of us who are “old” like me, there was a four-point scale. They didn’t have “weighted” GPA’s. I always shake my head when I hear people have a 7.30 GPA. They probably think that my 3.99 made me a pretty mediocre student.
Many students are obsessed with their GPA. I suppose rightfully so, as college are obsessed with them too. Everyone knows his or her own GPA, they monitor it constantly. If it is good, they are proud to share it with others. And if it isn’t, they shy away, or even exaggerate it. They weight it to make it the best possible score.
Today we are going to talk about another kind of GPA—the God, Prayer, Attention average. And we will all grade ourselves according to this scale, using the system they had when I was in high school. So read, and grade yourself.
4.0 Would be an A-grade, and would reflect excellence
3.0 Would be a B-grade and would indicate one performs well, but has room for improvement
2.0 Would be a C-grade and would indicate one is average, gets by, but has significant room for improvement.
1.0 Would be a D-grade and would indicate one is on the verge of failing and better improve quickly.
GOD—The idea here is that God is the source and center of life. Salvation is the main goal and our relationship with God is our main focus. Our decisions are based on His commandments. We let Him lead. We trust in Him, especially when life is difficult. Relationships, money, hobbies, power, fame, fortune—none of these is more important than Him. And not only our thoughts reflect this, but our actions do as well. What grade do you give yourself on this? (Honestly, I’d give myself a 2)
PRAYER—Christ told us that there were two great commandments, to love God and to love one another. One of the best way to show love for God is to spend time with Him. This means daily prayer, (at least) weekly worship, and daily reading of Scripture. Why are these things so important? The same reason that it is important to spend time with your spouse or children or close friends. Bonds of love and caring are built with frequent interaction. It will be hard to have a strong bond with God if we do not interact with Him frequently. All three can be challenging. It is a challenge for many to get to church on Sunday, a day when we could choose to rest and relax. It is a challenge to pray. We’ve discussed that many times. It is so easy to forget, or just not slow down. In a world where we are bombarded with sensory stimulation, it is a challenge to shut it all off and sit in silence. The Bible intimidates people, and they give up without ever really having started. Praying and reading Scripture in small bursts works best if you’re not used to doing it. And worship, well, that’s just a commitment one needs to put on the calendar every week. What grade do you give yourself on this? (Honestly, I’d give myself a 3—worship is excellent, prayer and scripture could stand some improvement)
ATTENTION TO OTHERS—This reflects the second great commandment, to love our neighbors by serving them. This means putting others before us, it means intentionally going out of our way to help others, to listen, to be kind, to include the person who has no one to talk to, to be a courteous driver, to not gossip about others, to encourage others, etc. It also means to be generous. It means giving time to listen, to help. It means giving a portion of our income to charitable causes. It means volunteering for things for which we will receive no reward. What grade to you give yourself for this? (Honestly, I’d give myself a 3, and that’s being generous)
What’s your GPA based on these three “classes”? Mine is a 2.67 (2+3+3 = 8, divide that by 3 and you get 2.67). What does a 2.67 GPA get you in high school? It probably does not get you into college. It certainly does not make the honor roll.
What GPA is required to get into heaven? No one knows. Thankfully, our GPA can be “weighted” through repentance and confession, and also through God’s mercy. There is no one who is going to get a 4.0. There is no competition, no curve. And thankfully, there is no limit to the amount of seats in heaven. God wants us all to make it. However, just like getting in to college, we are going to need at least a decent GPA (God-Prayer-Attention to Others grade). So, if your “GPA” is not very good, get busy. As school gets back into session (and traffic picks up in the mornings), we are all affected. And just as students will start obsessing about their GPA’s at school, it is a great time for us to think about our GPA’s as well.
Rejoice in the Lord, O your righteous! Praise befits the upright. Praise the Lord with the lyre, make melody to Him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the Lord is upright; and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. Psalm 33: 1-5
What’s your GPA? And what do you need to do to raise it? Are you motivated to do it? Your school GPA does not matter as much as your spiritual GPA. Because the worst an academic GPA can do is keep one out of college. A bad spiritual GPA can keep us out of heaven. A great academic GPA will lead to college where we will spend several years. A great spiritual GPA will lead to eternal life!
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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