About a week ago I noticed it again. Over on
my blog, out of nowhere once again a particular post sprung up into my list of ten most popular posts. Actually, this week it shot into second place. This happens regularly about this time of year, and each time I find myself smiling when I notice. It’s almost like God playing a kind of joke on me. Why would this post spring up like clockwork every year? And why would it bring a smile to my face?
I have written a whole lot of blog posts, with a whole lot of words (I dare you to try and read them all!). But this popular post, at first glance looks rather un-promising. Actually there are almost no words in it at all. Isn’t it just like God to remind me that my writing is not as important as my pride would like me to think? In fact this popular blog post is simply a link to enable people to download the audio of a sermon that my pastor, Tope Koleoso, preached.
I remember well a few years ago being very keen to link to this particular sermon on my blog. It was one November, and our church had been rocked by God’s Word. The talk was perhaps a little slow to get going, the preacher wasn’t feeling well, he read a long passage of Scripture and he did a bit of an introduction to help him settle down. But, soon he took off! Everybody seemed gripped by his passionate urging to make sure we expressed our gratitude to God. What the preacher didn’t know was that the prompting he felt from God to preach a Thanksgiving sermon that day was timelier than he knew: it was American Thanksgiving Day! Sadly we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK. There used to be something called “Harvest Festival” when I was young, but even that seems to have largely died a death. So, each November, when I see the blip of interest in this old sermon I am immediately reminded to be grateful.
God did something with that sermon back then and every year at Thanksgiving time he does something in some more people who type “Thanksgiving sermon” into google, scroll through a couple of pages of results and then stumble across this gem. Isn’t this just the way God likes to work? He takes us when we are feeling weakest and uses us to his highest potential. This is the same whether we are a preacher, or whether we work full-time in one of God’s favorite mission fields – yes that’s right, our workplaces. Small so-called coincidences congeal into a “God moment” when it is you or I that can make an impact for good on somebody else. Who knows when you might be used next? Remembering to thank God for all his kindnesses to us opens our hearts to recognize his surprising promptings that can be around any corner. You really can make a difference.
I am very thankful to God for all that he is doing through the Perfecting Church, and I know many of you read this blog. I will never forget my first visit to you. I had met the church’s pastor, Kevin Brown briefly when he had come with another pastor, Bob Roberts to a conference we were holding here in London. Just a few weeks later he kindly invited me to come to the USA a day early for a business trip I had in New Jersey. I am so thankful to God that I said yes! I almost didn’t come on that trip as the week before I was unwell, and there were some urgent family situations that required my attention. Right up to the day I was due to come it looked like I might need to cancel. But God opened the door. I experienced a Philadelphia Cheese Steak on the Saturday evening, and soaked up the worship, preaching, and fellowship on the Sunday. It was just what the doctor ordered.
I am very thankful to God for the way The Perfecting Church served me that weekend. It wasn’t a time for me to bless others; it was a time for me to be blessed. We all have times in our lives like that. Times when we need someone else to help us. Perhaps you found it very hard this week, when it seemed like everybody else apart from you was celebrating and enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday. For some, the holiday season is far from joyful but a painful reminder of broken relationships, or of loved ones that have passed away. For some Christians the normal pain of such loss can be harder because we have somehow believed the lie that says Christians shouldn’t grieve. Earlier this year, after the death of my Father-in-Law I countered this in a post
We grieve, but not in the same way as those who have no hope. If Jesus could weep for his dead friend Lazarus, it is ok for us to weep too, but at the same time to remember we have a future that goes beyond the grave!
God orchestrates times of need in our lives so that we will reach out to a fellow member of his family and be encouraged. How grateful are we for our brothers and sisters at moments like that! God intends for our gratitude at such times when we have been helped to well up into a desire to in turn help others. There is nothing that demonstrates our gratitude to God more than to reach out to others, Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8, KJV).
I was thrilled to hear that my friends in The Perfecting Church have reached out in two very tangible ways in the past few days. You were involved in a concert to raise funds for the many made destitute by Hurricane Sandy. Then, on Thanksgiving itself families without food didn’t just get one of your food parcels (as helpful as they are!) they got an invite to a Thanksgiving dinner! Well done for offering such care to those in need, you are obeying the Apostolic instruction to remember the poor and the God who sees everything will reward you for that.
I am so grateful to God that he doesn’t expect us to wait until we have it all together before we reach out and make a difference in someone else’s life. Even if we are still struggling ourselves we can help others. And, God allows us to go through difficulties so we can help others in the way we ourselves have been helped: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV).
I felt instantly at home in Perfecting Church, as I often do in other churches because it is the same Jesus we all worship. It is because of what He has done for us that we reach out to bless others. This business traveller has also found brothers and sisters in several other cities around the world. Connecting with our family is one of the privileges of my life. I urge you to be open to God’s plans for you to help another Christian, or perhaps someone who is yet to be born again. I look forward to being with Perfecting Church again in February on my way to the “Desiring God” conference. I’m praying that I will be a blessing to you this time or as Paul said it, “. . .that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Romans 1:12).
This weekend take a moment to thank God for the people who encourage you and for those you have had the privilege of encouraging.
perfect God. perfecting people.