If you had told me a year ago that 2020 would have included all the challenges and changes that we have seen, I would have never believed you. From our high-school missions’ team being stranded in Peru, to livestreaming worship from different families’ living rooms, to the introduction of a tweaked format for Sunday morning worship, 2020 has been defined by the idea that ‘nothing lasts forever’. Major, lasting changes can happen, and we have tasted that fact these last ten months.
And yet, despite the changes in our everyday lives there is so much to be thankful for. I remember our first time back at church after lockdown on Father’s Day in June, an elderly congregant was the first attendee to sit down, tears streaming down her face as she did. She was so grateful to be there, with her brothers and sisters in Christ, worshiping our Lord together. Since then, we have been blessed to hold weekly Sunday morning services – albeit with a new sense of normal – to hear the preaching of God’s word, and to worship corporately as His people. Praise the Lord that He has seen fit to bless us in this way.
In addition to our Sunday morning ministries, we have also been blessed to continue ministering to the younger people in our congregation. Jon Magwood has continued running Tuesday Jr High and Wednesday Sr High program, and the Sunday evening Young Adults gatherings have continued to take place through the Fall.
Over the last year or so, we have been studying through Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Recently, we completed chapter three of the second letter, which closed our study, but left us with a profound challenge as we head into the Christmas season. Paul has just finished addressing the small, fledgling church in Thessalonica, taking the time to work through misunderstandings about the end-times, warning those who refuse to work of impending church discipline, and reassuring the church that the persecution and harassment that they are suffering at the hands of the surrounding culture will certainly not go unpunished.
It is a time of severe challenges, confusion, and interpersonal conflict. In the midst of it all, however, Paul makes it clear what he expects of the church in the closing verses of chapter three. In verse 13 Paul says, “As for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good.” Paul exhorts the church to continue in their practice of loving, sacrificial benefaction – no matter what the church is facing, they were to continue doing the noble thing and live charitably. “Do not lose heart in acting honourably” is the literal translation of this seldom-used Greek phrase, with Paul encouraging those with the means to generously bless those around them, especially within the church family. I believe that this is an admonition our church needs to hear in this present age.
We, as a church family, are also facing unprecedented challenges in our present times. COVID-19 has proven to be a global crisis, with the end not quite in sight. The pandemic has introduced economic, social, emotional, and mental challenges to our church family and the wider population. Political unrest south of the border has manifested itself in not only physical violence breaking out, but also revealed deep cultural and social divides that threaten to splinter our continent. We live in unprecedented times of social upheaval and uncertainty about the future. People are short-tempered, weary, scared and lonely. We are facing many of the same challenges that the church has faced over the centuries, dating all the back to the aforementioned group of believers in the city of Thessalonica. The words that Paul used to challenge and comfort the Thessalonians within his pastoral letters almost two thousand years ago should ring in our ears today: “Do not grow weary in doing good.”
As a church, there are a number of current initiatives that are trying to do just that. Graham Buchanan, our Director of Community Life, has spearheaded a WLA Cares Christmas Initiative and a future Community Impact Team. Jon Magwood, along with the youth, have sent numerous Christmas boxes overseas as part of Operation Christmas Child. Behind the scenes, Life Groups are continuing to meet a variety of needs in the church family and neighbourhoods that they live in. As needs spring up, church congregants are there to meet them sacrificially and with great joy. Many beautiful things are happening amidst the challenges of our present situation. Let’s continue in this, together, as family.
As we move closer to the Christmas season, a time meant to be spend celebrating the birth of Christ with family and friends, let’s challenge ourselves to heed the words of the Apostle Paul. Let us not grow weary in doing good. Let’s look for opportunities to serve our neighbour. Let’s be proactive in generous, sacrificial benefaction. And as we do so, I believe we will find great joy in diverting our eyes from our own wants, to meeting the needs of those around us. Our greatest need, the need for a Saviour, has been met in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and now our admonition is to act honourably and sacrificially, in obedience to our Lord. WLA family, let’s not lose heart in doing just that.