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
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 53:1
Every human being at some point in life confronts the question “Is God real?” That moment might come on a person’s death bed, when they wonder, very late in the game, “what happens next?” There are plenty of people who attempt to make a case that there is no God. And sadly there are many who can make a case for God, even pretend to live a Christian life, but who inwardly are godless.
The case for God begins with a practical question: Who is the source and center of life? If the answer is “us,” then life is a race against time to get all we can before life gets snuffed out. Life becomes all about us, the ultimate beneficiary of all that we do is us. That doesn’t mean that someone who is self-serving can’t do things that benefit others. But the ultimate beneficiary becomes the self. One either lives for God or for self.
What is the source of the world, the creation—either it is someone higher than us, or it is us. Spend any amount of time in nature, and we’ll realize that there is no way a human being can create a solar system, or a galaxy of stars. There is no way that the complexities of the human body are just random. And certainly humans didn’t create themselves. Even if one ascribes to the theory that humans evolved from animals, the animals could not create themselves. Who created the water? The first food sources? Sure, we now grow our own plants from the seeds of other plans, but who created those first plants that gave us the first seeds to replant?
Society has become so obsessed with the acquisition of things that it doesn’t fit our narrative to be God-focused when we are self-focused, so society tries to eliminate God. When God’s righteousness does not equal our desire to do unrighteous things, the easiest thing to do is eliminate God from the conversation and then anything goes. Or worse yet, to change God so that He is in line with whatever it is we want to do, so that we are the center and He revolves around us.
Many of us are familiar with the Charlie Brown Halloween cartoon when Linus waits in the pumpkin patch all night for the Great Pumpkin to appear. The Great Pumpkin never appears and Linus misses out on all the Halloween fun while waiting for his mythical pumpkin to show up. He even convinces his friend Sally to wait with him, and eventually she leaves. (As it turns out, she makes the right decision). There are lots of people in the world who probably think Christians are like Linus in the pumpkin patch, waiting for our “mythical” God to show up. There are probably some Christians who feel like Sally—they come for a little while, but get tired of waiting while the world has fun. There are probably a lot of people like Linus, who hope it’s all true, but as life drags on, they start to have their doubts.
I believe, to the core of my being, that God is the Creator. Whether He began the creation and then allowed things to evolve, or whether He deliberately created each thing in the creation is not a debate I need to have. Someone greater than me is responsible for my being here. Someone greater than us, made so many things that we see, and gave us the means to create the other things we have built. My desk is made of wood, which came from a tree, and God created the first of the trees.
I also believe that the purpose of life is greater than me. I’m just a small cog in the wheel of one town, one parish, one family. My life’s work is to glorify God in what He has given me, starting off with the day He has given me. My life’s work is to use whatever talent I have, which came from God, to serve others and to spread the Gospel.
Either Jesus Christ and Christianity is all true, or it is the worst hoax ever perpetuated. Either life is all about serving God by serving others, or it is all about serving ourselves. Either someone greater than us made us, or we made us. There is no going around these things.
The fool says that none of it is true. The most devout Christian proceeds without questions or doubts. And the rest of us are in the middle—wrestling with the truth of the Gospel against the secular pull away from it. We believe in God but struggle to understand His plan. We put God at the center but we struggle to keep Him there and not just put Him in a compartment.
Deciding there is no God is foolish. Struggle is good, because it means we are “still in the game.” If you haven’t figured it all out yet, don’t worry. If you are struggling to figure it all out, keep at it. Keep at the struggle. Keep praying, keep worshipping, keep serving.
Linus’ Great Pumpkin was truly mythical since the Great Pumpkin didn’t create anything, nor was there a defined message, purpose or reward for his “followers.” One could look at the story of the Great Pumpkin and quickly dismiss that as a hoax.
Unlike the Great Pumpkin, we aren’t just waiting for God to show up one day. God reveals Himself to us continually. He blessed and inspires us continually. There are too many things in my own personal life that defy explanation, never mind the many amazing things that happen in the world that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen unless allowed or help by the Creator.
Not only is there two thousand years of people living and dying for Christ as a witness to Him, there are the simple, existential questions which I posed at the beginning, which only Christ can be the answer to.
As we read in Psalm 53:2, “God looks down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any that are wise, that seek after God.” I certainly hope that when He looks upon me today, that He will think that I am wise in how I am conducting my life. I pray that He will think that of you as well.
The fool says in His heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none that does good. God looks down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any that are wise, that seek after God. They have all fallen away; they are all alike depraved; there is none that does good, no, not one. Having those who work evil no understanding, who eat up My people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God? There they are, in great terror, in terror such as has not been! For God will scatter the bones of the ungodly; they will be put to shame, for God has rejected them. O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion! When God restores the fortunes of His people, Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad. Psalm 53
There is a God. Only a fool would say there isn’t!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
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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