God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
One year at summer camp, after doing an activity where everyone encouraged each other, I asked the campers, “How do you all feel?” They said “We feel really full.” Then I asked them, “What if I suggested to you that we go drink or smoke weed right now? What do you think about that?”
They looked at me a little puzzled. Why would I be making a suggestion like that!
One answered, “No, that would be really inappropriate.” I answered, “Why? Because it’s illegal?”
And the person answered, “No, it would be inappropriate because we all feel full. People do that stuff when they feel empty, to fill empty spaces.”
One of the reasons why encouragement is so important is that it fills empty spaces. It makes people feel full, complete. And when people are full, and not empty, they are less likely to go and do the things that fill the empty spaces—drinking, drugs, over-eating, porn, etc. When people feel discouraged, they feel empty, and they go to unhealthy places to fill those empty spaces.
When a person feels full of food, like after you’ve had a good meal at a restaurant, there is no desire for anything else to eat, because eating more would make a person go from feeling full to feeling uncomfortable. When a person feels empty, they will go looking for food. And if they can’t find food they like, they will go looking for food they don’t like, just to have some food.
Many times, I have asked people “would you eat food out of a garbage can?” And the answer is always “Heck no! That’s disgusting!” To which I respond, “What if you hadn’t eaten in a week?” And then the answer becomes “the garbage can would look pretty good.”
Most people can’t conceive of eating out of a garbage can, but if they were hungry enough, they would.
Most of us don’t think we’re capable of robbing a store, but again, if you hadn’t eaten in a while, and were so empty and in need, you might cross that line and break the law, just to get some food.
When we are “hungry” in the sense that we are in need of something that we can’t get in an appropriate way, that is when we start doing inappropriate things. We go outside who we are in order to fill empty spaces. No one is born desiring violence. Violence is born out of a sense of emptiness—it might be caused by poverty, anger, rejection. Something negative causes violence.
It is negative things drive us to escapes in food, alcohol, drugs, porn, watching too much TV, etc.
Think about this—when you have had a very positive experience, you generally will not run to something negative. I.e. I just got a great grade on a test, I’ll run out and shoplift. You wouldn’t do that. Negative things happen when we feel discouraged. i.e. I just got a bad grade, I’m not thinking very highly of myself, I’ll go get high.
Even words of encouragement can help to stem a negative tide from rising. If someone says “I’m counting on you,” the response is generally not going to be “let me go get high” because when one is high, they can’t be counted on. Words of discouragement make us feel empty and sometimes are even more harmful than a bad action, like a bad grade on a test. Because tests seem temporary, there will always be other tests to take. Words, however, seem permanent. Once they are said, they can’t be unsaid, they tend to haunt us. As encouragers, it is critical that we watch words, and use them to build up rather than tear down, to help fill people rather than empty them.
When we are filled with hope and positivity, things like anger and rejection and their consequences are harder to fall into.
It is important for us to feel full. It is important for us to feel encouraged. And we play an important role in making others feel full by encouraging them.
In closing off our small unit on letting the Spirit lead, it is important that we allow the Spirit to work through us as encouragers. Because encouragement will help fill us and through it we can help fill others. And when one is full, there aren’t the empty spaces that we generally fill with bad things.
If the Holy Spirit is the one who “fills all things,” the Spirit is an encourager, and we in tandem, work with the Spirit and in the Spirit to encourage others, to fill their empty spaces.
It is such a great feeling to be satisfied, to not be in want. Seek out healthy ways to feel full, and make a conscious effort to fill others. There is enough “stupid” things going on in the world today. A little encouragement can go a long way to eliminating or significantly reducing some of them.
Lord, thank You for all the positive things that fill my life and my mind (list some of them). When I feel empty, let Your Spirit fill my empty spaces. And send people into my path who will encourage me and help keep my empty spaces filled. When I feel empty, help me to resist unhealthy temptations. Help me also to fill others. Bring people into my path today who feel empty and beat down so that I can encourage and fill them. Give me the thoughts and the words to help fill others. Amen.
Seek out healthy things and healthy people so that you will feel “full.” Help others feel full by encouraging others.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.
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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