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, 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.
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
It is easy to dismiss I Thessalonians 5:13, as “pie in the sky” i.e. how can we hope to be at any kind of peace in this stressful world? Even these verses from Philippians 4 may cause us to shake our heads, I mean, how can we not have any anxiety about anything?
For those who know Christ, there is a peace of God, which as Saint Paul writes, “passes all understanding.” This is the kind of peace we can experience in the midst of conflict. Most often, people think of peace as the absence of conflict. God’s peace is a peace that comes in the midst of conflict.
It’s kind of ironic that even in times of peace, we may struggle with inner conflict. There may be peace all around us and yet we will not feel peace, or we will feel insecure or struggle with our confidence.
The peace of God is what allows us to feel calm and secure even in the midst of chaos all around us. The peace of God is what allows us to stay above the fray, so to speak, to keep our focus, to feel confident and secure even in the midst of a storm.
In Tampa, Florida, where I currently live, we get a lot of rain in the summer. We get afternoon thundershowers that dump large amounts of rain quickly. The wind sometimes picks up during these thunderstorms and blows trees and scatters leaves. The rain is so hard that I could get soaked walking from my car to the office, a space of not even ten feet. When I’m driving the car with the radio on, in air-conditioned comfort, with the windows up, sealing out both the water and its sound, I feel at peace. The car is like a little cocoon. It keeps me safe and dry in the midst of the squall.
The peace of God is a lot like this scene. It protects us and makes us feel warm and secure in the midst of conflict. The peace of God is like the cocoon that protects us in the middle of the storms and stresses of life.
When I have to leave the office and it’s raining, I run to the car as fast as I can. I can’t wait to shut the door and enjoy its protection. And in the midst of life’s storms, ideally, I run to God as fast as I can, so that I can feel protected by Him. I write ideally, because honestly, in my weakness, I don’t always do that, or don’t always do it fast enough. I try to go against the storm on my own, and for anyone who’s experienced a thunderstorm in Florida, when the rain falls sideways and soaks everyone and everything quickly, we know not to linger on our own or even try it with an umbrella, but rather get to shelter and covering quickly.
When St. Paul wrote to us to “be at peace”, he wasn’t naïve enough to suggest that there will never be conflict in our lives, that every day will be sunny and have no storms. Rather he is encouraging us to seek out the peace of God, so that in the midst of life’s storms, we can truly be at peace.
Finally, he writes that this peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. If we seek after God in prayer and in the way we conduct our lives, it will be easier to keep our hearts and minds on Christ, to stay hopeful during setbacks, to stay upbeat when we are down, and to stay faithful even as the rest of world seems to go away from God. The ultimate stress in any life is when it comes to an end. Those who have the peace of God see the end of life as the greatest triumph. So, focus on the peace of God, which comes through prayer, repentance, obedience, and effort, so that setbacks are kept in perspective and so that the end of life can be viewed through a lens of anticipation rather than trepidation.
Lord, thank You for this day, regardless of what the day will bring. Today is another day to glorify You, to live for You, and to serve You by serving others. Bring peace into whatever stresses I will encounter today. Help me to stay focused on You even when I’m tempted to get angry or frustrated. Pour over me Your peace, which passes all understanding. Give me peace with the things I do not understand. Bring peace into the situations I will have a hard time understanding and knowing what to do with today. Help me to be a person of peace, and may I radiate Your peace in the way I conduct myself today. Amen.
Be at peace! Share God’s peace with others!
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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