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.
Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. Proverbs 3: 9-10
Do we give God the first fruits of the leftovers? This is a critical question.
Many people say “Family comes first.” And they are quick to defend or help family no matter what. I dare say, even sometimes, in front of God. Sometimes families do things that are contrary to God’s expectations and we don’t speak up against it, because it’s family first.
Others put jobs first. They have no problem working 80+ hours a week. Some still find time for families and many do not. But do these find time for God, and if so, is it the first and best time or the leftover time?
Others have been sucked into the riches and cares of life. Weekend trips to the beach house have been “earned.” Sunday baseball games make attending church impossible. Surely God “understands” right? It’s family time.
I heard a preacher say one time “You know what’s wrong with praying only at night? It’s because the prayer goes something like this: ‘Lord, you know I love You. I’m tired. I’ll talk to You tomorrow. Amen.’”
To give God the first fruits of something says two things about our faith: First it says that our relationship with God is the most important thing. It doesn’t say it is “one of the most important things,” but “THE most important thing” in our lives. Secondly, it says that we trust God. Imagine that two people wake up and immediately get dressed and go to work. They both work for themselves so they don’t have to punch a clock at a certain time. One decides to spend 30 minutes in prayer and reflecting on the Scriptures. The other dives immediately into work. Initially the one who has dived into work looks like he is ahead of the other. And he is, no doubt about that. The one who goes to prayer and Scripture first, ahead of work, is making a statement that he trusts God, to give away precious time and fall behind, trusting the God will bless him and that he will still get his tasks for the day accomplished.
A parent recently mourned that fact that his children were no longer interested in coming to church. Looking at the upbringing of those children—weekends spent at sports, summer spent travelling, very infrequent church attendance, no prayer time at home—should it be a surprise? When parents consistently model for children that God gets whatever is left over, if anything, they are not going to make God their priority. He may not even get the leftovers.
I can personally say that in the times when I have most fully surrendered to God—giving the first fruits of what I have and giving them sacrificially, and joyfully—these are the times I have enjoyed God’s greatest blessings. When I’ve spent the night in a hospital with someone and gotten little to no sleep, these are actually the days that I’ve had the best Liturgies and given the best sermons. Because I gave God my first and my best and He in return gave me the best blessings. No, He didn’t rain down money on me. He didn’t take away the fatigue. But He brought uncommon wisdom and clear thinking when I needed it. And I can personally say that in the times that God has felt the farthest away from me, it is definitely in the times that I have pushed Him to the back burner.
Trusting is hard. It means ceding control. And we all like control. I like control. The only way to the Resurrection was for Christ to go to the cross, for Him to give His whole life in order to pave the way to Paradise for us. The only way we can be given salvation is to give our whole life to Christ. This is why we pray in the petitions in our services “Let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.” If the ideal and the goal is to commend our whole life to Christ, then we need to give Him the first and the best, not the leftovers.
God is with us, know it you nations and be submissive, for God is with us.
Hear it to the ends of the earth, for God is with us.
You mighty shall be defeated, for God is with us.
Even if you should prevail, again you will be defeated, for God is with us.
Whatever plan you conceive, the Lord will destroy, for God is with us.
Whatever word you speak shall not abide among you, for God is with us.
Your terror we shall never fear nor be disturbed by it, for God is with us.
The Lord, our God, Him shall we bless and only Him do we fear, for God is with us.
And if trust in Him, it shall be a blessing to me, for God is with us.
And I shall trust in Him, and shall be saved by Him, for God is with us.
Lo, I and the children which God has given to me, for God is with us.
The people that walked in darkness saw a great light, for God is with us.
Upon us, who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, a light shall shine, for God is with us.
For a Child was born unto us, a Son, and was given to us, for God is with us.
Whose government is upon His shoulder, for God is with us.
And of His peace there shall be no boundary, for God is with us.
And His name shall be called: Messenger of the Divine Will, for God is with us.
Wonderful Counselor, for God is with us.
Mighty God, Master, Prince of Peace, for God is with us.
Father of the age to come, for God is with us.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, for God is with us.
Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. For God is with us.
God is with us, know it you nations and be submissive, for God is with us.
(From the Service of the Great Compline, taken from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website)
Give the Lord the first of your time 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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