03/18/2020 - By Pastor Todd Nathan
The American Church is facing an unprecedented time in its history, as churches are restricted from gathering in person. Some, who already offer online services, continue to serve their church families in this way. Others, like us, are scrambling to figure out how we can minister to our church family by creating an online presence. Honestly, I miss being with you all, worshipping together, and enjoying the unity and resurgence of life that God established at EFCB. Even the warm welcome, the hugs and the simple hello before and during our worship service. But then I quickly think about many believers around the world who for years have been restrictedly their governments from meeting. And not only restricted, but facing severe punishment, imprisonment, heavy persecution and even death! We are not at that place. Our government has asked that we not meet together in groups greater than 10 to help in slowing the advance of COVID-19. It makes sense for now. As you feel that longing in your heart to gather again with your church family, take a moment and pray for believers around the world who are facing great persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. We can and should learn from these precious believers how to "do" and "be" the church without having the freedom and ability to meet.
I love the Apostle Paul's letter to the Philippian believers. It was 11 years prior, as recorded in Acts 16:11-40, that he first met Lydia and other God-fearing women, who gathered to pray at the riverside. Lydia and her whole family were saved that day as she opened her heart up to the Lord. Then, after Paul and Silas were wrongfully arrested, beaten, and thrown in jail, they met the Philippian jailer who would be saved as well, along with his whole family. It was these who most likely were a part of the Philippian Church that would receive Paul's letter of encouragement. The Philippian Church was facing increased persecution and as a result were losing perspective and their joy. they needed a "spiritual shot in the arm" of hope. Listen to some of the encouraging words Paul wrote to the church:
"And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6) We all can be absolutely confident that God will do what He set out to do when He first saved us!
"I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." (Phil. 1:12) Paul considered every circumstance he was facing as an opportunity to share the gospel of hope with people, like the Praetorian Guard, who he typically would have no access to. It's the same for us! Our current circumstances are providing for us a unique opportunity to share the hope we have in Jesus Christ with people we may not typically talk to.
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil. 1:21). This is the perspective we all need to have - to live our lives for Christ! We keep an eternal perspective always being reminded of Christ's purpose in coming to earth, in dying on the cross, and in being raised from the grave! So every day, from morning to night, we hold on to the reality of eternity which should be our motivation to live for Jesus!
Then Paul shares these words in Philippians 4:4-8.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
So much valuable insight to the way we should be living our lives in light of our every day circumstances. Paul was writing this not just for individuals but for the whole church. We as a church are called to rejoice always, to allow our gentle character to be evident to all, to not be anxious about anything, even COVID-19, or the potential for job loss, or financial challenges, but instead to talk together to God. And as a result of rejoicing, living with gentle humility and praying, God's peace will guard all of our minds in Christ Jesus. Right now we can't physically do all of these things together. But we can all be committed to encouraging one another through texts, phone calls, emails and handwritten notes. And in committing to these things, our church family will know that they are not alone. That people are praying, rejoicing and staying hopeful while using our circumstances as an opportunity to share the gospel of hope with people we may not normally have contact with!
Be encouraged. Stand firm in your faith together. Embrace your circumstances as a unique opportunity to share the gospel of hope. Keep an eternal perspective. Live for Christ daily. God is good!
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With great love and concern for you all, and with the hope of the gospel that sustains and encourages us,
Pastor Todd (Psalm 46:10)