This is our last announcements email of 2021! I have been thinking about the fact that only a year ago we were waiting for our tent to arrive. That seems like an eternity ago.
Our encouragements this year have been many: new members, new children, new converts, days of fasting, opportunities for outreach and service, and a strong financial situation. We have had some challenges too: saying goodbye to those moving away, witnessing our society’s increasing hostility to God, and bearing each other’s burdens of loneliness, grief, unemployment, spiritual trouble, and illness.
God’s gifts of encouragement are little sermons, preaching the truth of 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” The challenges are little sermons, too, preaching the truth of John 15:5, where Jesus tells us that “apart from me you can do nothing.” Of course, these two texts are really saying the same thing, each with a different emphasis: our labor is not in vain in the Lord, and it is in vain apart from Christ. Either way, the key thing is that we are working out of our union with Christ: relying on him, obeying him, and lovingly aiming to please him.