"I write to you, youth because you are strong and the word of God is abiding in you and you have overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:14).
We should be strong, especially youth, because we were created in the image of God. God is not only strong and mighty, but Almighty. The Church reminds us of this quality of the Divinity. During Holy Week, we recite each day "Thine is the Power;" we declare "Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory" at the end of the Lord’s prayer; and in the hymns we add, "the Lord is my strength and my praise." The Lord is strong and He wants his people to be strong–not to be strong as Samson, and have "samsonite" bodies. Rather, He was us to be strong in personality, to be strong in facing the diabolic wars; to be strong in preaching, in teaching, in logic; to be strong in your service in Sunday schools or youth meetings.
Truly our Lord God is strong. When we speak about the Incarnation of our Lord Jess Christ, we know that He was very strong in His miracles, in His speech, and in His sermons. For example, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, it was said, "and so it was when Jesus had ended these sayings that the people were astonished at his teaching for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes." He was strong in his authority. We also read about the strength of his pastoral care, "And Jesus went about all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matt. 4:23-24).
He had a very strong personality. In His dialogue with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, He was very strong to convince them. Sometimes they did not dare to say one word. Our Lord Jesus Christ had a strong impression upon them.
He was even strong in His Resurrection. The apostles began to preach about the power and strength. They spoke of hte power of His death, as well as the srength and power of His Second Advent. He will come in the glory of His Fr. and His glory, all the agels around the spirits of the saints coming with Him. Truly, our Lord Jesus Christ was strong.
The person who prepared the way before our Lord, St. John the Baptist, was also very strong. It was said, "And he will be great in the sight of the Lord and shall drink nor wine, strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the Fr. to their children…" He came with the power of Elijah and he could turn the sinners to repentance…
One person like him was very strong in his service that he could guide multitudes of people to the true faith. It was written about in him in the gospel of St. Matthew 3:6. "Then Jerusalem, all Judea, the region around the Jordan went to him and were baptized to him." Multitudes of people came to him, six months before the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. He could prepare the way in front of the Lord as an angel, convincing people to come to the baptism of repentance. He was truly strong. Strong in blaming Herod the king, saying to him, "it is not lawful to take the wife of your brother."
We want such strong person to serve in the church.
The Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ were also very strong. They began to preach and to witness to the resurrection of our Lord in a very strong way. Multitudes of people became Christians. One sermon of St. Peter could convert 3000 and become Christian and be baptized on the same day! Their service, their mission, their preaching were all very strong. The Apostles could guide multitudes of people, among priests also to become Christians. In less than 30 years, Christianity spread in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, in Antioch, in Syria, in Asia Minor, in Egypt, in Libya. They were very strong in their mission.
Not only the apostles, but even the first deacon, St. Stephen. In the Book of Acts 6, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and faith. He could have a dialogue with members of three synagogues so that they could not resist the power of his speech. It is written about him, "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people and then there arose some from there which is called the synagogue of freed men. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke." The three synagogues could not resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke.
We want a single person like St. Stephen, or like St. Paul. We have so many teachers in the church. But one lie St. Paul or St. Stephen may give power to the Church and begin a powerful teaching. Because of their great power, the church spread throughout the world.
For example, when St. Mark came to Egypt , he had no financial support, no church, no believers, no members of the congregation. He began in some years to convert all of the Egyptians to be Christians.
This is the power of the service, or of mission. When he came to Egypt there were many Pharonic gods under the leadership of Ra or Amon. There were many Greek gods since the time of Alexander the great, three centuries before Christ. There were many Roman Gods since the rule of the Roman empire which began 31 years before Christ, many gods under Jupiter the great god. There were also two districts in Alexandria where the Jews settled, there were many religions from the East. And St. Mark came to Egypt without any facility. In spite of this, he could convert all of them to be Christians. This is the power of Service. We call you to be powerful in your service, to be successful in your service.
Also St. Athanasius the Great, the Apostolic, the 20th pope of the Coptic Church. He was so powerful that while he was a youth, perhaps in your age, he published two great books: "The Incarnation of the Logos" and "Against the Heathens." He was very strong while he was only a youth. While he became a deacon and accompanied his pope Alexander to the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea, in which 318 of the church leaders, patriarchs, metropolitans, and bishops, Athanasius was the Champion of Faith. He defended the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
St. Jerome said that a time came in history when the entire world would have been Arian if it were not for the existence of St. Athanasius. He could guide the whole Christian world. He was very strong at that time. When they exiled him 5 times to the west, he began to preach there the true faith that the emperor of the west asked the Emperor of the east to let Athanasius return. He became the teacher of Orthodoxy during that century. A man like Athanasius was very strong in his work.
Perhaps some people think that humility or weakness means a person may be weak. No, our Lord Jesus Christ was humble and meek, yet He was very strong.
In our modern times, we have an Archdeacon named Habib Girgis. He was the head of the Coptic Seminary and the founder of Sunday Schools in the beginning of the 20th century. He was very active, very energetic, teaching in the seminary and giving sermons in many churches. He went from village to village, from town to town, from city to city delivering sermons to the people. He published many books about Christian teaching to be taught in the schools of the government. He even wrote many hymns to express the Orthodox faith. A very powerful man, although he was only an archdeacon, neither a priest nor a bishop. We want people to be powerful.
There are some people who write the history of the church, but here are other people who create the history, who make the history. They are the champions of their generations. A powerful message, a powerful service will have many results.
We may have an energetic servant of the church. He may change the whole spirit of the church. He may change the present and the future of the church. Teaching, pastoring, shepherding; full of faith, full of power, full of knowledge, full of life. This is the type of the powerful Christian servant in the Church. The power of the spirit, the productive power, the creative power, the impressive power, the energetic power, the power of the world, the power of pastoral care.
After this, I wish for you to have the Holy Spirit abiding in you to give you this power. As our Lord said to His disciples after the Resurrection in Acts 1:8, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the end of the earth." As St. John the Baptist from the womb of his mother, he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
May God give you His Holy Spirit and His Power and Glory be to God forever, Amen.