Finding Thanksgiving (During the Covid Season)
Pastor Ian reminds us that we have much to give thanks for even in such challenging circumstances.
Next Thursday (26 Nov), against the looming shadow of fresh lockdowns, Americans around the world will celebrate their annual Thanksgiving Holiday even while there is a growing chorus calling for the cancellation of travel and family celebrations. Some have even begun to wonder aloud if 2020 has provided any reason whatsoever to be thankful.
One doesn’t need a Bible School degree to understand the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It is simple and clear. Its simplicity however, does not mean it is easy to apply. The church in Thessalonica had lost her founding pastor and they were suffering from a deep pandemic of persecution. Daring to confess Jesus as Lord was considered a crime against the State, and in the midst of those dark and challenging days, Paul wrote them this simple exhortation: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It is amazing how the nature of our circumstances can powerfully impact the motivation, frequency and authenticity of our thanksgiving! There is no doubt that 2020 has presented us with profoundly challenging circumstances. All of us have felt the emotional drain of social distance. Many of us have lost income. Some of us have lost loved ones. And yet, even in these circumstances we cannot deny the theological truth that it is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus, to give Him thanks!
As we draw near to the beginning of the end of 2020, the Lord has prompted in me a deep personal desire to apply 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Even in these days that I have been without my wife of over 40 years, I intend to make this verse my personal theme and daily ambition. Here are a few of the reasons I cannot help but give thanks to God in these circumstances:
The Motivation Provided by Inconvenient Providence, that has encouraged us to embrace the common grace of technology in ways that not only allowed us to continue to be the church, but that also propelled and accelerated the ministries of our church. WhatsApp, Zoom and YouTube were never a major part of “our ministry reach” until Covid-19 forced us out of our building. Now we have better attendance in Monthly Prayer Meeting, a greater and more consistent number of members active in small groups, and more people watching our services live and online than we could fit in our auditorium. May God be praised!
The Provisional Grace of Living in Singapore. Honestly, is there any other place you would rather be in the midst of a global pandemic? When is the last time you have thanked God for the unusual, provisional grace of living in this country and among these people? We can trust those who lead us, we can sense that friends and neighbours care about the safety of our community. We have peace and order, which is good for gospel witness. Let us bless the Lord for this!
The Comfort of Emotional Surrogates, who hug and hold someone else’s dying loved one, who refuse to allow them to die alone, and who weep with grieving relatives. How grateful I am for the long hours given by our medical front-liners! How thankful I am for those who serve us while we sleep, to ensure there is no shortage of food and provisions, who guard our shores and who keep our streets safe and clean. Let us seek to thank them, and to pray daily for their safety!
The Persevering Faithfulness of a Few, Who Serve for the Benefit of Many. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to those who have joyfully made so many (sometimes weekly) sacrificial adjustments in order to serve the Lord and us!
- Our AV Team, that weekly puts in many hours—constantly having to tweak, and sometimes repair equipment—so that the rest of us can enjoy our worship services.
- Our Children’s Ministry Team that continues to find creative ways to connect and minister to our families and children.
- Our Worship Team that consistently juggles work schedules and practice times in order to prepare our hearts to hear His word.
- Our CG Leaders who constantly seek to draw us into meaningful community.
- Our Elders and Deacons, who though they work full time, continue to carve out personal time to love, care and guide God’s flock!
- And many, many others!
Let us praise our generous God for lending us such faithful saints!
The Mercy of Jesus on Display by Ordinary Church Members who are boldly demonstrating the love and mercy of Christ to our guest workers who are living in the darkness of gospel poverty. Historians have suggested that the terrible Antonine Plague of the second century led to an explosive, mass conversion to Christianity, because Christians refused to isolate, and instead actively cared for the sick and shared good news. May we see God produce similar fruit from the sacrificial service of our Outreach Team in this plague!
The Glory of our Sovereign God, Who—despite this global pandemic—has continued to do His work completely unencumbered. Barna Group president David Kinnaman has noted that their surveys show:
- Confidence among pastors that their churches will make it through the pandemic has declined from 70% in May to around 58% now.
- Even churches that have reopened are seeing smaller numbers of people returning.
- Roughly 32% of practising Christians have also stepped away from “streaming” worship.
- Up to 25% of evangelical churches in America are not expected to survive this pandemic.
At Grace, we have been strengthened by the Lord who said, “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” (Jn 5:17) This Covid season has been a period of unusual growth for us. People are finding us online, joining small groups and requesting membership. Many of these newcomers have never been to our building! As we interview these new folks and ask them how they have come to find us and desire to join with us, several things become clear:
- Though it is indeed evidence of God’s grace to us, no one is coming because we have an awesome building on freehold land!
- No one has mentioned the convenient proximity of the Mattar Road MRT station.
- No one has come to us expressing how they were drawn to us by the professional delivery of our services or the amazing worship.
- And not even one person has mentioned the expository skills of the preaching team!
- They have simply been drawn to us by His gentle prompting and by a thirst for His word.
Truly in these circumstances, our God is fully deserving of all glory and honour and praise!
- All throughout November we are seeking to love our missionaries in very pragmatic ways. If you would like to participate in this Christmas Love Gift you may give to the Missions Fund with a note indicating “CHRISTMAS LOVE GIFT” or “CLG” in your e-giving. If you prefer to give by cheque, please make payable to “Grace Baptist Church Ltd” and indicate “CLG” or “Christmas Love Gift” on the back of the cheque.
- Do make plans to join us for our Monthly Prayer Meeting, Friday, 27 November, at 8pm. To attend the meeting onsite (Fellowship Hall), register here. Alternatively, you can join us via Zoom.