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
An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:5 (Epistle on the Third Saturday of the Souls)
Good morning Prayer Team!
I have some very good news for you—God is more concerned with effort than with result! “How can that be?” you are probably thinking. Because sometimes effort doesn’t yield results. Let me give you an example. Let’s say I prepare a meaningful sermon for Sunday, and a huge rainstorm hits on Sunday morning so only a few people are in church to hear it. The result is that only a few people hear a meaningful sermon, not the hundreds I had hoped for. On the flip side, it is Palm Sunday, the church is filled, but I give a mediocre, unprepared sermon. The results say “the church was filled,” but what about the effort?
Many of us are frustrated in our jobs because we equate success with numbers and dollars, rather than with effort. Sometimes we cannot control numbers or dollars. We can always control effort. Another example—a teacher cannot control whether students learn or not. A teacher can motivate students, can encourage them, but can’t force them to learn. A student who just doesn’t want to learn is not going to learn. The teacher should focus on “creating an environment that encourages students to learn.” This a teacher CAN control—he or she can make interesting lessons, send positive messages to students, etc. The teacher can’t control the results if half of the students don’t want to learn, any more than a priest can control if half of the people don’t want to listen to a sermon. “Creating an environment” and giving a good effort are things we all can control, and these are the things for which God is concerned.
Let’s say that a businessman reaps great financial rewards but he does it through unscrupulous business practices, cheating, lying, extortion, etc. He may look like a successful businessman, and he may earn the paycheck of a successful businessman, but the Lord knows the effort he is making, and how he is making that effort.
It’s interesting that in modern times, sports is all about winning. In ancient times, sports was all about competing. It seems as though we are willing to crown champions even if they cheat. In ancient times, cheating was a mark of dishonor and wasn’t done. Athletes were crowned for good effort on the field. When a person lost an athletic contest, he went and shook hands with the winner, tipping his hat, so to speak, to the other person. There was no trash talking, no appeals, no bashing others at press conferences.
In our Christian lives, it doesn’t matter if we memorize long prayers or only short passages—it matters that we make the effort to pray. It doesn’t matter if you feed the hungry or tutor the student who has trouble learning—HELP SOMEONE!!! When you give money to the church, you shouldn’t demand to control what is done with it. Your effort in giving is what God rewards.
You don’t have to have the perfect marriage, the perfect children, the perfect home or the perfect anything else. God expects an effort. And in prioritizing what to do, it doesn’t matter if your laundry sits in a pile on the couch for a few days if you have had to take care of sick children, or have had a difficult week at work. God doesn’t expect perfection—He DOES expect effort.
Let’s say that you have a beautiful, expensive car. And everyone compliments you on the car. But you know that you got the car through dishonest means. The compliments might make you happy, but you know deep down that you didn’t put out an honest effort to get the car. On the other hand, let’s say you drive an old, beat up car, but you work hard and pay for it with honest means and people make fun of your car. At the end of the day, you might not be happy or popular, but you’d know that you’d made an honest effort. I’d rather have honest effort with less success, than success coming with less than honest effort.
Remember, an athlete up until recent years, was not crowned because he won but because he competed well. The ideal of the Ancient Olympics was to push YOURSELF faster, higher and farther. And so the ideal of the Christian life is for each of us to make an effort to grow in Christ on a consistent basis. The effort is the crowning achievement in the eyes of God.
The stadium of virtue is now open; those who wish to compete, enter therein, girded for the good contest of Lent, for those who compete according to the rules shall receive their laurels rightfully. Taking up the full armor of the Cross, let us do battle against the Enemy. As an impregnable wall, we have the Faith, prayer as our breastplate, and acts of mercy as our helmet. Instead of sword, there is fasting, which cuts every evil from the heart. He who does this shall attain a true crown from Christ, the King of all, on Judgment Day. (From the Praises of Cheesefare Sunday, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Make a good effort today!
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