Strengthen, Don’t Weaken!

Christ is risen!

I love this quote: “A word of encouragement after a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after a success.” By the way, remind me sometime to tell you how I got the name “Barnabas.”

Let’s face it, most of us struggle with feelings of inadequacy and fear. We are afraid of failure so much that we are frozen into never trying. But I’ve known some people who are so afraid of succeeding that they never try as well. Blessed are those who take a chance; take a risk of falling flat on their faces for something great. When we reward an honest effort, even though there may have been some missing pieces, we acknowledge the Holy Spirit working in another to bring them to the place they need to be! That is so very important!

Look at our lesson today in Acts 18:22-28:

IN THOSE DAYS, when Paul had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesos. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

I love the story of St. Apollos. Here is a man who took the risk of proclaiming what he knew, even though it revealed what he didn’t know. But did that stop him? No, he was also humble enough to receive instruction as well as offer it.

What does it take to develop such a spirit of both courage and humility?

First, there has to be a willingness to share AND learn. This willingness can’t be motivated by a desire to display our knowledge or giftedness. It can’t be motivated by a desire to capture “converts.” It must be motivated by love for the other and a healthy disregard for one’s ego. If it isn’t we run the risk of “hating” those who don’t accept our words. And that can never bear the good fruit of a follower of Jesus.

Next, there has to be a real connection. Notice in our story that a wife and husband team are key to the development of Apollos as a true apostle of the Church. Pricilla and Aquilla, (by the way there is something interesting about her name appearing first, but we don’t have time to talk about it now) spiritual children of the Apostle Paul, are listening to Apollos preach about the Messiah and how Jesus is the Savior, but Apollos only knew the baptism of John. Which meant he didn’t have the whole story. He hadn’t been baptised into the Church. Hadn’t been chrismated and wasn’t in Eucharistic communion with the Church. So, what did Pricilla and Aquilla do? They filled the man in on the rest of the story. And how did Apollos react? He embraced this rest of the story and entered the Church, becoming a great saint! Apollos’ willingness to be connected made the difference!

Finally, there will be a good result. When we treat others as the object of our love rather than the objects to be controlled or corrected or manipulated, we open the door to the good result of strengthening others rather than weakening them. Then we create the space where others can receive instruction as a benefit to them rather than mere correction. Then they will, in turn, strengthen the brethren and they will send him on his way encouraged and ready to encourage others!

Today, are you weakening or strengthening those around you? You certainly are doing one or the other. In your everyday life do you have the time to encourage others with fuller wisdom, or are you bogged down trying to correct them? Are you open to learning and teaching, and is that desire motivated by love? All of this is finally leaving the world of dead ends and embracing the eternal life of being Orthodox on Purpose!

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