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
Let your gentleness be known to all man. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5
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, this message will not be filled with messages about the Coronavirus, but rather focus on calming anxiety and fear.
Today we continue a series on Philippians 4:4-13, by examining verse five. I remember a Protestant praise song from my elementary school days at a Christian school, which said “And they’ll know we are Christians by our Love.” And gentleness is one of the ways that we show love.
If someone was to evaluate your life on a daily basis, would they describe you as more gentle or more harsh? More gentle or more judging? More gentle or more abrupt?
When you have to say something that is less than positive to someone, do you do it in a way that gently speaks the truth in love, or do you speak the truth in a condemnatory way, in a way that cuts someone down unnecessarily?
Striving to be an empathetic person is one key in how to be gentle. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Most of us have had the experience of sending a less than positive email to someone. It’s almost impossible in a job to NOT have to do that at least occasionally. And many of us are called to do this on a weekly basis. Do you ever pray for the person who you are about to send a less than positive email to? Do you ever stop and put yourself in their shoes, wonder how they will feel when they open it? Try to be a little more empathetic, speak the truth with love (and try to stay away from speaking it with judgment or condemnation), be as gentle as you can be with people today. Read today’s verse as an affirmation throughout the day.
As for the Lord being at hand, imagine that the Lord is standing next to you all day today (because He IS!). Imagine that He is present at every meeting, that He sits next to you at your computer as you type your emails, that He is sitting at your kitchen table at meals, that He’s next to you in your car as you stress out in traffic. Walk with the Lord today, conscious of His presence at all times, and you will be well on your way to being gentle with people. And the people you meet, even if they are not Christian people, will have a sense that a power is at work in you. They may not see it as God, but they will not mistake it. People know a gentle person when they see one. And people appreciate a gentle person more than a hostile one!
Yesterday we discussed choosing joy. I want to make an appeal to everyone, if we cannot be joyful, let us choose to not be angry with one another. Everyone is nervous. Everyone is tired. Everyone has an opinion. And many of us have to make decisions we’ve never had to make before. If you do anything today, have an extra measure of patience with everyone, and give everyone a little bit extra grace. That is something we all need and something we can all do. Let’s watch our words, and use our mouths to encourage rather than fly off the handle.
Also, there are many people, as I said, who have to make decisions about a situation none of us has ever confronted before. There is a great temptation to comment and to judge, even judge harshly, based on what people are doing or not doing. People are criticizing our President, civil authorities, departments of education, the Church and many other people. Let’s also refrain from judging one another. Instead, let us pray for God to give wisdom to those who have to make decisions.
Lord, thank You for walking with me every day. Help me to have a greater sense that You are beside me in all places, in all the things I am doing. Help me to be a more empathetic person today. Help me to be gentle to everyone I encounter. Help me to always speak the truth, but to always strive to speak it with love. Help me to be gentle today, and strengthen my faith that You are always at hand. Amen.
In addition to a prayer that I add, I will also be adding each day a prayer that His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios, my bishop, has asked each of us to offer on a daily basis.
Prayer of Protection from the Coronavirus
(Prayer by Grace Bishop Alexis (Trader) of Bethesda)
O God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation visible and invisible, in Your ineffable goodness, look down upon Your people gathered in Your name. Be our helper and defender in this day of affliction. You know our weakness. You hear our cry in repentance and contrition of heart. O Lord who loves mankind deliver us from the impending threat of the corona virus. Send Your Angel to watch over us and protect us. Grant health and recovery to those suffering from this virus. Guide the hands of physicians, and preserve those who are healthy that we may continue to serve You in peace and glorify Your most honorable and majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
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.