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
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4
Many of us are anxious these days. One of the most encouraging and reassuring chapters in the Bible is Philippians 4:4-13. For the next several days, I’m going to put the Heart of Encouragement Unit on hold to give us some encouragement using these beautiful verses from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The Heart of Encouragement will resume in a few days. No, it will not be filled with messages about the Coronavirus, but rather focus on calming anxiety and fear.
Today I’m going to begin a series focusing on a mere ten verses of scripture, Philippians 4:4-13. (The Scripture for this unit will be taken from the New King James Version or NKJV, of the Bible) Each one of these verses is a powerful affirmation in itself. And taken together as a unit, can become foundational for how to thrive in this life, with Christ at our side, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty. Each weekday for the next ten weekdays (since on the weekends, we will continue to discuss the Sunday Scripture readings), I will be focusing on one verse from Philippians 4:4-13.
Leading off today, we are told by St. Paul to “rejoice in the Lord always.” So convicted is he that he makes the statement a second time “Again, I will say, rejoice!”
Having joy is a mindset. It is a mindset learned over time that finds an opportunity for joy in everything. It’s a mindset that sees challenges as opportunities, which sees the glass half full rather than half empty. I’m reminded of the story of the blind man in John 9:
And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. John 9: 2-3
The lesson here is that it was NO ONE who sinned to cause this unfortunate cross for the young man. But even this terrible situation was an opportunity for God’s work to occur, a cause for joy in itself.
St. Paul tells us in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” It’s not always easy to have joy in your life.
If your life is not joyful today, be patient.
If your life is filled with joy, be thankful.
But whichever place you find yourself today, be prayerful.
It is difficult to find joy in difficult times, yet this is a mindset we are supposed to have. Why? Because we are God’s people, God’s children, and any setback is temporary, in the space of eternity. And the joy of God and the hope of eternal life, even on our worst day, in our worst circumstance, is what is supposed to carry us through. Here is an assignment for today: Take a few moments and write down 5 things in your life that bring you joy—even if they are things like TV shows. Every life has some joy. For the life that is filled with joy, build on that joy. And for the life that doesn’t have as much joy as it should, take the things that DO bring you joy and ask God to help you build on that base today.
With the uncertainty of the coronavirus, here are some things we can be joyful about:
1. If we are unable to attend church in person, we have livestream capabilities which we did not have years ago.
2. With our phones, it is possible to talk, text or email at any time. We can get alerts, updates, and news with the push of a button.
3. With fewer things being open and fewer people going out, it is a great time to spend more time with family.
4. With so many things available electronically, we can order things like movies and not have to leave home to do it.
5. If we are not able to visit someone, through the technology of facetime, we can still see one another anytime we need to.
6. Many of us are able to work from home, eliminating the commute time that takes up so much of our time.
Even in a time of uncertainty, there is cause to rejoice.
Heavenly Father, help me to be a person who is positive. Help me to find joy in things both large and small. Help me to see the good in people. Help me to see hope even in the midst of sorrow. Be with me during this time of uncertainty and help me to find joy every day. Be with me today and help me find joy throughout the day. Help me grow closer to You today. Amen.
Choose to have some joy today!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
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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.