This week I wrote the pastoral letter for St Thomas’s
Brothers and Sisters,
One of the reasons for us meeting together as a church is that we may ‘encourage one another’ (Hebrews 10:25). That’s why, (when we are permitted to do so), it is important for us to gather together collectively, however we as individuals may feel. Sometimes we might be tempted to say, ‘I can’t be bothered going to church, because I get nothing out of it’; to which the response must be ‘what do you put in?’. Are we an encouragement to others?
Encouragement is such an important thing. I like the Cambridge dictionary definition – “words or behaviour that give someone confidence to do something” and “words or behaviour that make something more likely to happen”. Praise, witness, service, life, fellowship, renewal, repentance, love, prayer, people becoming Christians; encouragement gives confidence and makes them more likely to happen! The Greek word that we translate ‘encourage’ means to ‘exhort, comfort, encourage’. It’s the same word that is used for the Holy Spirt. He is the Encourager. We don’t do this on our own!
This is so much tied in with the Word. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, they were facing severe opposition, some of them had died, but they stood firm. Paul speaks to them of what happens to believers who ‘sleep’ and tells them to ‘encourage one another with these words’. (1 Thessalonians 4:18). We speak the Word to one another – and we encourage one another – not just with our own words, but with the Word of God.
I was reminded of this in these past days. As some of you will know my father died two weeks ago, and because of the Covid restrictions, we were not able to go home to be at his funeral. That combined with illness and lockdown meant that it was not exactly the most encouraging of times. It is precisely at points like this that we need friends and family. Which is why I am so grateful to all of you at St Thomas’s who prayed, shared and cared. It has been such an encouragement to myself and Annabel.
When I was recovering from severe illness in 2011, a couple of friends came round to the house and they were amazed at the hundreds of cards that were piled up. They wandered how I had so many family and friends. When we explained that this was ‘the church’ from all over the world – they were amazed. “We have nothing like that”. Indeed. It’s good to belong to the biggest family in the world!
My son was able to preach at the funeral and he took these words in 1 Thessalonians 4 to bring God’s word. I have to say that at a deeply personal level it was profoundly encouraging – and I know also that there were non-Christian family and friends who that day heard the Word of the Lord. You can listen to the whole service or just the sermon here.
(If you don’t have time to listen to the whole sermon can I recommend not only the sermon but the singing of Psalm 16 and the beauty of the burial site in the Scottish Highlands – if this earth is just a shadow of what is to come – I can’t wait!).
Can I also make this plea to any reading this who as yet do not know Christ? Whatever else you do find this treasure! You too can belong to His blessed family – whoever you are. If you would like to chat to me about this, please feel free to do you’re your ‘lockdown ‘ would be life transforming if in it you found Christ! Click here.
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now. ‘Yes, says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them” Revelation 14:13.
Yours in Him,
(This is where I sit to read most mornings! )