First Disciple, Then Apostle

First Disciple, Then Apostle

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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.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable.  Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. I Corinthians 9:25-27

Our long series on Commissioned to be Apostles will shortly be coming to its end.  We’ve covered the Great Commission, life in the early church, our personal foundation in the church (what happened when we were baptized), the work of the Church, core values, our participation in the life of the church, bridging gaps in the Church and transforming the Church.”  These next several concluding reflections will allow us to share conclusion as our study draws to a close.

We are “Commissioned” to be Apostles.  This means that we are to go out into the world as Apostles and spread the Faith.  The “Great Commission” is not a “great suggestion” or a “great idea” but it is a commandment, and order from the Lord Himself.  In order to be an apostle, one first must be a disciple.  This makes sense.  Apostles are teachers.  Disciples are students.  One must be student before being a teacher.  One must be a student before he or she can teach anything.  It takes knowledge in order to share knowledge.

Knowledge, however, is not something that one just holds in the mind.  Knowledge without application is not very useful.  It’s like when we were young and learned our multiplication tables.  These are not very useful in themselves.  Knowing that five times four equals twenty is not very useful.  However, when presented with a real life scenario, such as how much does it cost to buy four hamburgers if they are five dollars apiece, then knowing that five times four equals twenty is very useful.

We don’t just need to know the mechanics of Orthodoxy.  There are some whose knowledge of the faith ends at lighting a candle in church and knowing when to cross ourselves.  They don’t know who Christ is, or how to pray to Him.  The disciple seeks to know not just about Christ but they seek to know Christ.

People who are successful in just about anything in life are good students of what they do.  The plumber looks for ways to be a better plumber.  Same with the engineer, doctor, botanist, parent, and any other career.  The person who wants success in whatever role they play continues to look for opportunities to improve.

Thus a disciple is not only one who identifies as a Christian, but one who studies Christ, who loves Christ, and who looks for ways to love Him more deeply and more completely.  A good disciple seeks to grow in his or her faith and expression of it over time.  Even accomplished apostles are still disciples.  They continue learning and deepening faith over the course of their lives.  I can’t remember the saint but I remember hearing the story of a saint who said he did not want to die because he was still wanting to know Christ better and to repent even more.  We should continue honing our love of prayer and worship, or obedience to the commandments and charity.  In doing so, we will know Christ even better.  There is always room for improvement in these four areas, which really stand as the pillars of the Christian life.

In today’s Scripture verse, Saint Paul compares Christianity to being an athlete.  We know that elite athletes are always practicing.  They never stop trying to improve, even the day before a championship game they are working to improve.  Athletes do not run aimlessly, just like boxers to not swing at the air.  Christians do not just run about aimlessly either.  They continue to improve on their understanding and expression of their faith.  They realize that they can’t “clinch” salvation at a certain age, but must run their race to salvation through their final breath.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!  It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down the beard, upon the bear of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!  It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!  For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore. Psalm 133

The goal is to be a good apostle.  That starts with being a good disciple, which is also a lifelong pursuit.

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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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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