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.
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12
One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the gift of freedom. Freedom means that we have choices. We are free to engage in certain behaviors and we are free to avoid others. We are certainly not robots. One of the challenges to life, then, is how to exercise freedom in such a way that our choices are good ones.
Interacting with other people is something we do virtually every day. And I would venture to say that every day, there is an opportunity to offer both encouragement and discouragement. No one can force you to do one or the other. What you do in these moments is purely your choice.
There is great power in encouragement. Likewise, there is a great power in discouragement. One builds morale and confidence. The other erodes both. So, in forming our own identities, do we want to see ourselves as confidence builders or confidence breakers? When we go and stand in front of the Lord and answer for our lives, do we want to present a life record that is one of encouragement or discouragement? So you see, not only does the choice to encourage or discourage bring a daily consequence to those around us, it brings an eternal consequence to us as well.
Let’s move back to the practical. Not everything that happens on a given day is going to be positive. Someone is going to annoy us. What then will be our response? Will we “rip into them”? Can we correct and still maintain our love and their dignity? Can we be constructive in our guidance rather than destructive? Can we correct misbehavior in a way that actually encourages the desired behavior to happen next time?
In whatever negative situation happens today, as you decide on how you will react, think of this: “What can I say that will encourage a better outcome next time?” And think encouraging thoughts and offer encouraging words even in your moments of discouragement. This not only has potential benefit for your relationships, but it has potential benefit for your own soul.
Encouragement is intentional and purposeful. Encouragement doesn’t happen by accident, nor does it happen by itself. Encouragement is a choice we are each given the opportunity to make probably several times a day. Encouragement is something we have to be intentional about. We have to be deliberate in offering it. Encouragement serves a purpose, which is to build people up, rather than tear them down. Thus, the choice to be an encourager needs to be intentional and purposeful if it is to be genuine and effective.
One final thought and that is on the word “indifference.” Many times we are quick to correct bad behavior but we are slow to encourage good behavior. Sometimes we only correct the bad and are indifferent to the good. In youth ministry, people have pointed out that we are so quick to try to save the “bad kids” that we forget to spend time with the “good” ones. So make sure that when something good happens, when someone makes a positive gesture to you, that you encourage and praise that as well. We need to encourage good behavior in people who are acting badly, but we also need to encourage good behavior in people who are doing things that are good. And how about encouragement for people who are just “there”, people whose names we don’t necessarily know, but if they weren’t in our lives, we’d have some significant things missing? Like the bank teller, or the cashier at the store, the mail carrier or the sanitation engineer. Merely telling someone to have a great day and doing it with a smile, or telling someone that they do good work is encouraging. We can all do a better job of being intentional and purposeful encouragers, for people we know and most especially for people we don’t know well.
Lord, give me patience in my discouraging moments today. Help me to be constructive and not destructive towards those who disappoint me. Create in me a greater desire to encourage the things that I see are good. Open my eyes so that I don’t miss these opportunities. And open my heart to offer encouragement to people who help me, whose names I don’t even know, like the cashier at the store, or the teller at the bank (or fill in the blank with people you’ll interact with today that you don’t know well but can’t make it without). Remember these people that serve me. And help me to remember to encourage them as well. Amen.
Choose to encourage today!
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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