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
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.
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15: 5-6
You could say that encouragement was very important to St. Paul, as he used the word over thirty times in his Epistles. The Epistles of St. Paul were letters to the early churches in the years immediately following the Resurrection. These new Christians and their respective new communities needed a lot of guidance and teaching. Occasionally, they needed some admonishing. As with any new endeavor, there were growing pains. However, St. Paul was not only careful but purposeful in giving them not only information to digest, and correction when they were making missteps, he was careful and purposeful to give them encouragement as well. After all, if all we received from some new endeavor was teaching, information and admonishing, we wouldn’t stick with anything.
Think back to your school years, how you learned your multiplication tables, as an example. There was repetition, repetition, repetition. There was correction when you got something wrong. There might have been admonishing when you didn’t stick to the task, weren’t focused in getting homework done or when you didn’t do as well as you could have on a test. But without some encouragement along the way, you would have given up on math. Someone recognized when you did well and told you so. Maybe it was a teacher, a parent or a peer. Something positive kept you interested in learning. It wasn’t just self-driven.
Saint Paul knew that the fledgling churches were learning, just the way children learn. His Epistles are still valued to this day because we are still fledgling in our understanding and practice of Christianity, and we need to learn just as the early Church did. We are going to make mistakes, just like the early Christians did. In fact, we are going to make the same mistakes that the early Christians did. That’s why the Epistles of St. Paul are so timeless.
The encouragement found in St. Paul’s Epistles are as critical for us today as they were for the early Christians of the first century. We need to hear these words as much today as they did back then. We need to hear encouragement inside of our church communities and outside of them.
The Scriptures give us instruction on what we believe and how to apply what we believe. We believe in God, and apply that belief through love and service. An important part of love and service is encouragement. Thus, what we read in Scriptures and what we will study in this unit on the heart of encouragement are not just things to know but things to apply in our lives.
Today’s verses from Romans 15:5-6 encourage us to live in harmony with one another, to be with one voice as we glorify God. They call us to unity. Imagine if we invoked this blessing over everyone we meet today, if we encouraged everyone to live in harmony and unity. What would happen? Well, the cynical part of me says we’d probably get laughed at. Can you imagine saying this to your neighbors, your co-workers, or your friends? In political correct circles, someone would probably get mad that God’s name was said out loud. But let’s say you said it once and then you actually lived it out, if you gave encouragement and looked for opportunities for harmony and unity, imagine what could happen in your life.
Let’s take St. Paul’s number of encouragements, conservatively thirty, and took ONE TENTH of that, three, and made it a goal to encourage three people a day. Imagine if everyone reading this message encouraged three people a day. That would be a lot of encouragement.
Saint Paul was very real, and very bold. He wasn’t afraid to call people out. He wasn’t all fun and fluff. However, St. Paul, for all of his boldness, had a great sense of love and compassion. And he knew that encouragement needed to temper admonishment. He understood that one couldn’t be changed only by tearing them down but by building them up. Thus, as we seek to imitate what we read in Scripture and apply it to our daily lives, as St. Paul made encouragement an important part of his writings to the churches of his day, that we still make important to the churches today, we need to encourage one another. We may have to call people out, admonish, correct and guide. However, in all of that, we can’t forget to encourage.
Lord, help me to balance my tone today. Give me the grace to offer even admonishing someone in a way that is constructive and not destructive. Give me the eyes to see three people who could use some encouragement today. And give me the heart and the words to offer them what they need. Amen.
Intentionally encourage THREE people 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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