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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2: 46-47 Leave-Taking of Pentecost
Good morning Prayer Team!
There are lots of things to read about the Christian life. First and foremost, there is the Bible, which we should all be reading on a regular basis. There are books on theology and church history. There are self-help books, daily meditations and reflections like these. There are lots and lots of them, beautiful and inspiring and unique messages crafted by very devout Christian authors. The amount of information that is out there about living the Christian life is astounding. And in this age of mass information, just about all of it is only a few clicks of a mouse away.
Sometimes we are victims of information overload. We take in a lot, and sometimes it is hard to retain a lot of it. How can we boil down all the information into useful mantras that we can use to guide our daily lives?
One of the simplest mantras I use in my life is: Do what pleases God. If I use this mantra as a guide in every decision I make, I am going to make many more good decisions than bad ones. Think about this mantra and hold it up to the various decisions you make each day. Does your driving please God? How about your effort at work? Does your marriage please God? Does your parenting please God? Does your obedience to the commandments please God? You could hold up dozens, if not hundreds of things you do on a daily basis to this litmus test. Is what I am doing pleasing to God?
In today’s scripture verse, we read that Christians were attending the temple together on a daily basis. In the early church, it was the practice to receive the Eucharist on a daily basis. Emphasis is placed on the gladness and generosity that was felt in the hearts of the people. This seems to be a far cry from the disposition of the hearts of many today. The people continually were praising God. Having favor with those around one was important as well. For having the favor of God and the favor of others go hand in hand. Just like loving God and loving one’s neighbor are the two greatest commandments. In doing one, the other follows. For if we do what pleases God, we will find favor with our neighbor. And if we extend our love towards our neighbor, this will be pleasing to God.
The net result of all of this was the growth of the church, the Lord adding to the number of Christians each day. Because people saw a faith that people were not only willing to die for, but that people were willing to live for on a daily basis. The genuine love and joy that was lived in the lives of the early Christians was contagious. In modern society, our collective state of angst and mistrust, cynicism and ego make it hard to present a church that is attractive to the one who doesn’t know Christ.
Doing what pleases God is a great way to recapture the joy of those early Christians, who, while not well learned in the faith, still lived with a contagious zeal. We are much more educated than they—we have an ability to read and to acquire information for ourselves that they didn’t have. And yet the church by and large is not growing. It’s not for lack of information. It is for lack of gratitude towards God.
One goal that each Christian should set is to recruit at least one more Christian. For it pleases God when more are added to the number of those being saved. That was true in the book of Acts and it is still true today. So, as we set spiritual goals for ourselves, we should set as a goal recruiting other people to join the body of Christ. We should set goals for how many people we will talk to about Christ, how many conversations a week that we want Him to be a part of.
We should set goals to pray on a daily basis, to read scripture on a daily basis, and to do what pleases God on a daily basis. Certainly our prayers and study of the scriptures are pleasing to god, because these things bring us closer to Him. But we need to set as a DAILY goal, to minister to those around us. For finding favor with others, by serving them, is how one finds favor with God. So, evaluate each conversation, each action, each interaction by this barometer—does this please God?
O Planter of creation, Lord, to You does the entire world bring as an offering the God-bearing martyr Saints, as being nature’s first fruits. At their earnest entreaty, keep Your Church in a state of profoundest peace, through the Theotokos, O Lord abundantly merciful. (Kontakion, Feast of All Saints, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Do what pleases God today!
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