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.
Then His mother and His brothers came to Him, but they could not reach Him for the crowd. And He was told “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But He said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:19-21
Learning without application is a pointless exercise. Learning the multiplication tables is valuable when it is applied to a real life situation. For instance, knowing that 4 x 5 equals 20 is of little value by itself. The value to knowing this is when one wants to buy 4 hamburgers that cost $5 each and knowing that one needs $20 for this to happen.
Knowing lots of Bible verses or religious things is just trivia, if these things are not applied to life. Winning the “Bible trivia contest” does not get one into the kingdom of heaven.
This study is going to be based around I Thessalonians 5:11-28. I like to call this section of the Bible, “The Encouragement Chapter.” In these 18 verses of Scripture we find 22 verbs, each one a call to some action. This study is about encouragement, why it’s important, and how we can all become better at it. This chapter which we will study in detail will give us more than twenty specific things we can do. There are many parts of Scripture that seem difficult to interpret. Some of St. Paul’s letters seem to require supplemental material in order to understand them. I Thessalonians 5:11-28 is actually pretty straight-forward. Though we will go into a good deal of depth on each verse, Saint Paul, in these verses, is essentially telling us, “If you want to be a good encourager, do this.”
Christ came into the world in order to change the world. His message wasn’t just a call to learn but a call to action. That’s why we can study even a small piece of Scripture in great detail because each passage of Scripture contains a call to some kind of action. He didn’t tell us to absorb as many of His words as possible, but to use His words to love and serve each other, while giving glory to God.
The few verses quoted above today’s reflection remind us that Christ identifies “His people” as the ones who not only hear the word of God but who do it. When told “Your people (Your mother and brothers) are here,” His response was that His people (His mother and brothers) “are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21) God’s “people” are not the ones who just show up in church on Sundays and who sit and absorb information. They are the ones who leave from the service and go out and apply what they have learned. Of course, some will make the argument that they are good people who do good things and don’t need to come to church to worship and learn. Worship is a necessary component to every Christian life. Worship is where we gather as a community to offer prayers to God as a whole group. Worship is the context in which we commune as well. In the context of worship, in Scripture and in sermon, we learn. But the experience of worship is supposed to extend beyond Sunday morning. It is supposed to lead us to a life of action. Sunday mornings (and on other days we worship) we come to recharge, reconnect, recommit and learn more deeply. Outside of worship, we are to serve, putting into action the things we’ve learned.
In this in depth study of I Thessalonians 5:11-28, we are sure to learn a lot. However, the goal is to apply what we’ve learned, not merely learn for the sake of learning. That’s why each reflection will end with some call to action, something we can do on a given day to be an encourager. By the time this unit is finished, there we will have discussed dozens of small and practical ways that we can encourage others, as well as feel encouraged ourselves.
Shine in our hearts, O Master Who loves mankind, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our mind that we may comprehend the proclamations of Your Gospels. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments so that, having trampled down all carnal desires, we may lead a spiritual life both thinking and doing all those things that are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the illumination of our souls and bodies, and to You we offer up glory, together with Your Father, Who is without beginning, and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Translation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2015)
Let’s open our minds and hearts and allow St. Paul, through this beautiful chapter of I Thessalonians 5:11-28 to help us be more encouraged in our lives and to be able to better encourage others. Let us prepare to both learn and apply what we’ve learned.
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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