Ministry Team Letter for the Month
I wonder what you associate with the month of August? Is it family days on the beach, or relaxing with friends, or trying to entertain family as the rain streams down, or long weary days on your own at home while everyone else seems to be out having fun? I suspect that August will be different for most of us this year, either because of restrictions, or the need to protect ourselves or family members from risk of infection, or simply because we were not able to make plans earlier in the year. Emerging from lockdown somehow seems to be bringing even more uncertainties.
So how as Christians can we flourish during such times, rather than simply survive?
St Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi that he had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself, whether in need or in plenty (Philippians 4:11-12). He wrote these words while imprisoned and in chains, a more extreme lockdown than any of us have experienced. He does not explicitly tell us how he has learnt this lesson but there are quite a few clues.
First of all, there is the fact that we have his words preserved today. While he was in prison, he kept busy writing letters, sending messages, and praying for his fellow Christians in many different places. He was outward looking, seeking for ways in which he could further the kingdom of God despite his situation. Who might we be called to contact and encourage?
Then there are two clues in the same chapter of the letter to the Philippians.
Verse 5 tells us, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ So that, in the next verse, ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’. Whether we are stuck at home and bored, or too busy doing things, if we find time to pray about the things that concern, worry, or frustrate us, God will give us his peace as we trust in him.
The very next verse (7) advises us to think about the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. To do so will lift our mood and help us to be grateful to God. Each of us has been blessed with many things in this life, even if it is the simple things such as water to drink and air to breathe. But more than that, we are offered the spiritual blessing of a relationship with the creator of all that is. As A. W. Tozer wrote in his book The Knowledge of the Holy, “The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we live under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.”
But I suspect that Paul’s biggest secret to living a contented life is that he did not consider his life as something to be lived for his own benefit, but rather as something to be offered up to God in love and gratitude for what God had done for him. So, he wrote to the Corinthians, ‘And he [Jesus] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Cor 5.15).
If this August gives us any extra space, let us use it to reflect on what changes we might make to help us put Christ’s interests ahead of our own. For in living for Christ and not for ourselves, we will find true contentment and peace in our hearts and be a blessing to those around us as well. Jesus said, ‘For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it’ (Matthew 16.25).
May God bless this month to us.
During the Covid-19 pandemic some of our services and activities have had to be curtailed. With the easing of restrictions most of these have now been reinstated, please refer any questions to the Parish Office.