John 15:13

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

One of my favorite songs is called “The Riddle” by Five for Fighting. If you’ve never heard it, I encourage you to take four minutes on YouTube and listen to it. The beginning lyrics are:

There was a man back in ’95
Whose heart ran out of summers, but before he died
I asked him, “Wait, what’s the sense in life?
Come over me, come over me”
He said, “Son, why you gotta sing that tune?
Catch a Dylan song, or some eclipse of the moon
Let an angel swing and make you swoon
Then you will see, you will see”

Then he said, “Here’s a riddle for ya
Find the answer
There’s a reason for the world
You and I”

At the heart of encouragement are some basic questions which we will uncover in this concluding part of our study. Because in order to be an encourager and to receive encouragement, there are some fundamental truths one must understand and accept. The song “The Riddle” states one of them, well it states it in part. The song says that the reason for the world, is “you and I.” This is true in part. The reason for the world, the reason why God created the world was out of His love. No one who hates life would ever want to have a child. On some basic level, a person who chooses to have a child loves life and wants to bring a child into the world to share life and love with. Of course, this is sadly not true in every instance, but ostensibly, most who want to bring a child into the world love life.

God created us because of love. He is love. He created us out of love. And He created us to love. To love Him, for Him to love us, and for us to love one another. The reason for the world is a collaborative one. It’s not just about me. It’s about God, you and I.

The song reminds us that life is not about individuals. It’s not about individual successes or even failures. Seeing the world as “you and I” as opposed to just “I,” means that we have the capacity to celebrate the success of someone else, to encourage someone else to success, and to help encourage and pick up the one who is failing.

At summer camp, there is a rule that every cabin goes everywhere as a group. So if it is time to go somewhere and one cabin mate can’t find his shoes, the others do not continue on and hope he catches up later, they stop, help him find the shoes and then they go together to their next activity. In the ideal world, this is how it would work. Of course, the world is far from ideal, as some neighbors don’t want help, and there are other neighbors we feel unsafe around so we are hesitant to help. Ideally though, we help our neighbor. Life is about collaboration and cooperation, rather than constant competition.

“You and I” sounds good. However, even that is not the end goal. It’s you and I and God. It’s you and I growing towards God. It’s you and I encouraging one another to grow towards God.

There is nothing wrong with encouraging oneself. Positive self-talk is a good thing. Many of us engage in negative self-talk. Thinking positive thoughts about ourselves is a good thing. But it can’t be the only thing.

Encouraging someone else to be the best version of themselves is a good thing. Encouraging someone else will help build their self-confidence. However, to what end are we encouraging? So we can get along better with others? So others can feel good about themselves? So that we can feel good about ourselves? So that others will return the favor and encourage us?

The ultimate encouragement goes beyond “you and I” and points all of us to God. There is a reason for the world—it’s you and I and God. It’s you and I encouraging one another to grow towards God.

Many people spend a lot of time pondering the meaning of life. If we are honest, like the song, we may look at life like we are trying to decipher a riddle or solve a mystery. The mystery is not what life is about—it’s about you and I and God, and getting you and I to God. The mystery is how to get us all going in that direction.

Lord, there is a lot of confusion in the world today. Help me to remember the simple truth that this life is about You first and foremost. It is about loving you and serving my neighbor. Help me to remember that today and always.

Give me the eyes to see the neighbor who needs help. Give me the heart that desires to serve my neighbor. Give me the eyes to see You in my neighbor. And give me the heart that desires to serve You.

Thank You for loving me and bringing me into this world. Please continue to love me and lead me through this life, so that I may one day experience eternal life. Amen.

Love God today. Demonstrate love for someone else today. Do both every day and you’ll be well on your way to living out the reason for the world—You, and I, and God!

+ Fr. Stavros

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    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


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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

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