I thank my God in every remembrance of you, always offering every prayer of mine with joy [and with specific requests] for all of you, [thanking God] for your participation and partnership [both your comforting fellowship and gracious contributions] in [advancing] the good news [regarding salvation] from the first day [you heard it] until now. I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. It is right for me to feel this way about you, because [you have me in your heart as] I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the good news [regarding salvation], all of you share in [His matchless] grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus [whose great love fills me]. And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and in practical insight, so that you may learn to recognize and treasure what is excellent [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences], and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ [actually living lives that lead others away from sin]; filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God [so that His glory may be both revealed and recognized].
Philippians 1: 3-11
The above words express my and Sherry’s heartfelt thoughts of you, our church family. I hope each of you know how much we love all of you. It has been and is our privilege to serve you as your pastors. For each of you we give thanks. Thank you for celebrating us as your pastors. The cards, kind words and gifts are special and certainly more than we deserve. We want to say that every day we feel your love and prayers and hope you know how much that means to us. In the words that Paul wrote to another congregation many years ago, we thank each of you for all you do in “advancing the good news.” All of you and each of you are vitally important to all that God is working to accomplish. No church rises above its participation and commitment of the congregation. We pastors may be given the credit, or blame as the case may be, but truth is, the work of God is mostly done by the congregation. Every study has found that 70-80% of people who attend church do so because of a friend or family member. That means that each of you are vitally important to the future of the church. We, like Paul, thank God for “your participation and partnership[both your comforting fellowship and gracious contributions]. I hope that all of you know that your labor, generosity, love, and prayers are noticed and highly valued.
The second thing that Paul says, and I believe applies to you is this powerful promise of God toward His people. He says, “I am convinced and confident it this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perfect and complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” All those years ago, before any of us were born, God called Peter’s Creek into being, but that beginning wasn’t and isn’t all that He had nor has in mind. We may not always understand the working or the will of God, but one thing is for sure, God isn’t finished with His work at 5333 Cove Road. Whatever comes or goes, nothing has the power to thwart God’s plans for His church . For those who have prayed and searched, and labored, often wondering if things would ever change, don’t give up hope. Hold to this powerful promise of God and believe that someway and somehow God will complete the good work in us since He is the one who started it in the first place. I urge us to set our sights on what God has yet for us. Let us search for the activity of God and become participants with Him in His work.
Paul’s prayer echoes the prayer of Jesus for His church: “And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more.” Living in a world filled with hatred and violence, we are the antidote for there is no power on earth(or anywhere else) that can overcome love. Love is a choice and not a feeling. We all know that for every reason we have to love someone, we also have equal reason to not love. This love that God has given must transcend above and beyond who we are, or our perceptions and views. Agape- God’s love goes beyond the surface or first impressions- or second or third- and chooses to love sometimes in spite of flaws. Notice Paul prays that our love increases continuously. In truth we grow to love others more or if we stop, it isn’t long before love ceases. All of us have the need to be loved, but all of us also have the need to love. It is for reason that Jesus taught us that when we give, we receive “full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over”. That principle truth applies to everything, not just money. We will discover that as we give out love, we will find it returning with overflowing.
Finally Paul prays that the glory of God may be revealed in us. I think if the community could really know the love and care that we know to be in us, they would want to belong to such a group. May God grant a glorious future, filled with blessing and may He so move upon us that we see people coming to know Christ daily.
The future can be bright if we choose to allow these scriptures to permeate our souls.
I believe in that future and I invite you to join me in that belief. More than that I believe in you. I hope you will believe in you too.
Dr. John Thompson