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.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11
Today we are beginning a new unit, on the subject of encouragement. Over the past several years, this is a topic that I have become more and more convicted about for a few simple reasons:
~Encouragement is something we all need.
~Encouragement is something we can all give.
~Encouragement is something we don’t get enough of.
~Giving encouragement is something that involves low cost but high benefit.
I mention this topic periodically on the Prayer Team, but this unit is going to highlight this subject from many angles for an extended period of time. I hope that in these writings, you will find encouragement, as well as inspiration to encourage others and to make encouragement an important part of your daily life.
Let us begin by defining the word “encouragement.” In I Thessalonians 5:11, the verse that this study will be based around, the Greek word that is translated as “encourage” is parakalite, which comes from the Greek verb parakaleo which can be translated as “exhort”, “comfort” or “encourage.” Different translations of the Bible translate it differently. In the New King James Version (NKJV), the translation is “comfort” while in the Revised Standard Version (RSV, the version most often used on the Prayer Team), the word is “encourage.” Related to the word parakaleo are the words Paraclete which is one of the names given to the Holy Spirit, which is most often translated as “Comforter” and the word Paraklesis which is an Orthodox Christian service of comfort and supplication.
The modern English word for “encourage” comes from an early fifteenth century French word encoragier which means “to make strong, hearten.” En means to “put in” or “make” and coragemeans “courage” or “heart.” So to encourage means to make one strong in heart, or to put in courage in the heart of another. Encouraging others is something we can all do. To feel encouraged means to feel strong in one’s own heart. Receiving encouragement is something we all need.
In Matthew 24, Jesus warns His followers about the signs of the end of the world. And one of the signs, in Matthew 24:12 is “And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.” There is no doubt that wickedness is multiplying in the world today. Almost every day, we read about a mass shooting or other act of senseless violence. It happens so often that we are no longer shocked. We are practically numb to it. The prevalent emotion among many is anger. Angry drivers, angry music lyrics, angry workers, angry arguments. And because of anger and wickedness, as Jesus predicted, hearts are growing cold. Whether the world is about to end or not, none of us knows. We do know that love is growing cold with the increase of anger and wickedness.
Could encouragement be the antidote? I’m not sure if would be right to characterize encouragement as the key to solving all of our societal problems, but it certainly is a step in the right direction. So, I invite you to join in on a journey to better understand something that is beautiful, powerful, needed and most important, accessible, to any person who is alive today—encouragement.
The title of this series is “The Heart of Encouragement”. I chose this title for two reasons. First, we are going to get to “the heart of the matter” and define and discuss the meaning of the word “encouragement.” Second, it is my hope that this discussion on encouragement will change hearts and make us more committed encouragers, and that as individual hearts change, the result is that hearts in our respective little corners of the world change to be hearts that are positive, encouraging, and help build others up.
Perhaps the best definition of encouragement is one I read recently in an article from a pastor named Sean DeMars, entitled “Don’t Flatter, Encourage!” He wrote that “encouragement is pointing out the grace of God in the lives of others.” Encouragement is not only something essential in everyone’s life, but it is actually an essential part of the Christian life. I suppose one can give encouragement and not be a Christian, but it would be hard to be a Christian and not be an encourager.
Lord, thank You for the gift of this day. Help me to better understand the meaning of encouragement, so that I can be a better encourager to others and so that I can feel encouraged as well. Amen.
I pray that our hearts will be changed in this study on “The Heart of Encouragement!”
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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