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.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
This concluding section of our study on commissioned to be apostles is stacked with things we can safely conclude about God, the Church and our role in it. Because God is beyond our comprehension, we cannot exhaustively know Him. However, we can exhaustively know His commandments—they are actually rather simple. Love God. Love one another. The whole Bible can be summarized in one word—LOVE. Sin can be defined simply as “failure to love.” Because love and sin cannot occur at the same time. Understanding our role in the church is also rather simple—everyone who is part of the church, through Baptism, is commissioned to spread the message of salvation to all nations, to go, make disciples of all nations, baptize them and teach them. We also understand that before we can go anywhere and teach anything, we have to know what we are teaching. So, first we are students (disciples) before becoming apostles. As we have discussed in the previous reflection, a good disciple WANTS to be a good apostle. We know, based on declining membership in churches of all denominations, and across the jurisdictions of Orthodoxy, that our efforts to be apostles have not been as successful as God wants them to be, and frankly, as they can be. The world is thirsting for something greater than ourselves. At the end of the day, money can buy a lot of things but it can’t buy one a sense of purpose, and it can’t make us immortal. The world is thirsting for meaning and purpose, focus and direction. The world is thirsting for Christ. However, much of the world doesn’t know it. They don’t know Him. They haven’t experienced Him in an authentic way. This is our job, our mission, our commission.
Another truth we can say with certainty is that God does not want His Church to fail. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” I have always found this verse to be every empowering. Why? Because God does not want our efforts to be Christians, either our own individual journeys or the work of the Church to end in failure. And even more important, God is not going to allow the Church to end in failure. Christ tells us that there will be an end to the world, and that at that time, the Church will be under persecution, and it will be hard to remain steadfast in the faith. Nowhere, however, does He tell us that at some point, there will be no Church, or no followers. The followers might become fewer but they will not become extinct. There will always be a Church, until the Day of Judgment.
I sometimes fail in my ministry. I’m human, I have bad days, I make bad decisions, sometimes I give bad sermons, or write articles that are not very good. Not every interpersonal interaction is perfect. But I haven’t failed in ministry. Why? Because I’m still going at it. God doesn’t want me to fail. God is going to sustain my ministry as long as I let Him. The only way my ministry will fail is if I fail. Because He is not going to fail me.
I oftentimes fail in my Christianity. I’m human. I commit sins every day, sometimes unintentionally, and actually sometimes intentionally. I sometimes feel like I fail when it comes to trusting God. And sometimes I even feel that I am failing as a Christian. But here is a key point, I have not completely failed, because I’m still going at it. I’m still showing up. I’m still repenting. God doesn’t want me to fail as a Christian. The only way I will fail as a Christian is going to be because I quit, not because He quits on me.
If you are reading this message and you feel like you have failed as a Christian, or if you feel that you have failed God, you are wrong. Your “showing up” to read about Christ is an indicator that you seek success, you seek understanding. To fail is to stop showing up, and you haven’t done that. Keep showing up, keep repenting, keep focus, even when its hard and God feels distant. It’s very easy to turn your Christian journey around. Just start again. If you’ve sinned, repent. If you feel guilty or lost, go see your priest for confession. If you haven’t prayed in a while, pray today.
Which bring us to another category—what about the people feel that God has failed them? Parents who have lost children, parents of children with serious illnesses, stressful lives where setbacks are a daily occurrence, and other examples. We’ve probably all felt like God has failed us at some point. I know I have. In these times, I try to remember a simple rhyme: I don’t know, but I will show. I don’t know why this is happening, I don’t understand, but I will still show up, even when I don’t want to.
God allows failures to happen. He allows natural disasters, when the earth fails. He allows crime to be committed, this is when we fail. He allows even good intentions to sometimes go south. Why? Because we have free will, and He won’t take that from us. We live in a broken world, which fails as a result of our sinful condition.
One thing that He will not allow to fail, is for us to achieve salvation, if that is what we truly want. I remember that I was failing a high school chemistry class (I eventually dropped it). It’s not that I wanted to fail. I just couldn’t learn the subject. I could not master the periodic table. No matter how hard I tried, I failed. I was not a very good baseball player either. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hit fast pitching. I struggled to throw accurately. So, I didn’t end up a baseball player.
Christianity is different. If we want salvation, it is there for us. He wants us to make it. He doesn’t want us to fail. And if we continue to try sincerely, pieces of our lives might end in failure, but our journey to salvation won’t. A big part of faith is believing this last sentence. Believing that salvation is possible, even when we sustain big failures in life.
God doesn’t want us to fail. He does not want His Church to fail. So keep showing up. Keep learning. Try teaching. You might not get the first person you teach to understand, but keep putting yourself out there for Christ, by example and by direct mention of Him. You are not going to fail.
Be broken, you peoples, and be dismayed; give ear, all you far countries; gird yourselves and be dismayed; gird yourselves and be dismayed. Take counsel together, but it will come to naught; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us. Isaiah 8:9-10
I don’t know, but I will continue to show. God does not want me or you to fail on the journey to salvation, and sometimes that is all I have to cling to. Keep showing up!
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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