November 23, 2020

Be Encouraged

“I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times. I never remember myself a time in which our history was so full, in which day by day brought us new objects of interest, and, let me say also, new objects for anxiety.” Joseph Chamberlain, 1898, a British statesman and father of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain

Who would have thought over a year ago that we would have been celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years under the challenge of COVID-19? The last five weeks of each year are often a time filled with family gatherings, friends, and celebrations. This year is different. It has been radically different since March as COVID-19 spread around the world.

We have long ago grown weary of the constant reporting of bad news, the threat of illness, sadness, separations, and lockdowns that seem to have defined this year. We are so grateful to those who continue to provide healthcare for us and those who serve us in so many other ways.

This season of strife, discouragement, and emotional separation is new for many of the younger generation. It is the first time that many of them have experienced this sort of massive change in their daily lives. For those of us who are older, we have experienced these disruptions before. Im not aware of anyone still living who can remember the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, but there are still some who have experienced the disruption of the Great Depression followed by World War II,  the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam war, and to a lesser extent, the oil crisis, the Gulf war, and the war in Afghanistan.

These were all times of sacrifice. Some sacrifices were made by all, some by just a few, but they were times when many traditions and customs were abruptly disrupted and forever changed. We are again at a time, in this COVID-19 season, when our cherished traditions of gatherings, parties, and celebrations, are being limited, eliminated, or severely shrunk.

God knows that we are facing these “interesting times” and in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the apostle shares these words of encouragement.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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.  Philippians 4:6-8 ESV

Paul encourages us to pray with thanksgiving and the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. We are to think on these things:

Whatever is true,

Whatever is honorable,

Whatever is just,

Whatever is pure,

Whatever is lovely,

Whatever is commendable,

Is there any excellence?

Anything worthy of praise?

This has encouraged me and I hope it encourages you. Since we are not able to express our gratefulness in the usual ways, let us be intentional in sharing our thankfulness with one another in the ways we can. Write a note or an email or send a text to family members, to those who serve you, to old friends, to classmates, and former work associates, and share with them your gratitude for something they have done to bless your life – no matter how small an incident and no matter how long ago. You may be an instrument of Christ’s love at just the right time.

In this season, let’s pray the words of Paul and give thanks for the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

Over these last few months, we’ve been doing a number of little things to encourage all of us during this challenging time. The creative use of electronics, more on-line TV programs, zoom, food trucks, and small gifts. We will try to continue to do the little things that are different but safe, special and celebratory. Thank you all for your understanding, grace, and patience as we journey through these difficult days together.  Let us pray that we may encourage each other to rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, REJOICE!!