“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:3–5)
It’s been three years since I officially became the pastor here at FBC Willow Park. As I look back over three years (11 years total on staff, if you can believe it!), I’m drawn to this passage from Paul.
I want to say “Thank you.”
First, thank you for partnering in the gospel. Over three years I have seen you (us) grow in your desire & effort to spread the gospel to our community & world. Trunk-or-Treat was a prime example. Can you believe our little church of 130 hosted between 600-700 people in our parking lot for a free community event?! A special thanks to those who put in the extra hours needed to organize and prepare for it. We couldn’t have done it without you. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Each time we have an event like Trunk-or-Treat, VBS, Easter Egg hunt, etc. where we want to be good neighbors & meet people from our community, you step up. Thank you for that!
Second, thank you for supplying for ministry needs. One way the church at Philippi partnered with Paul was financially. They gave him a gift to sustain him in his ministry.
“I am well supplied, having received … the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18).
Because of your generosity, our staff is able to receive compensation for their work in the gospel. On behalf of all of us who work here, thank you. And your generosity extends beyond our staff. Through you, support is given each month to missionaries in Vancouver, and now a local Christian Counseling Center. Not only that, but through special Southern Baptist offerings throughout the year, you support missionaries in Texas, North America, and around the world. Also, 10% of the monies we receive from your tithes we give back to our County Association, and our State and National Conventions.
Lastly, thank you for being a great church family. Families grow together through good times and bad, and from one life-stage to the next. Families encourage and support one another. On a personal note, your prayers, cards, words of encouragement, and help mean a lot to me and my family. Please don’t stop doing that. Some folks think because I’m the pastor, or my family is the pastor’s family, that we have it all together. I’ll let you in on a secret: we don’t. We are human just like you. So thank you for being our church family, and even more so for being the family of God to each other!
There are others who need to experience what that kind of family is like. So let’s continue to partner in the gospel together to know Christ and make Him known. Let’s share the gospel and invite others into the family of God. Let’s give so that the gospel goes forth to the ends of the world, that all families of the earth might worship Jesus (Gen. 12:1-3). God has more work for this church family to do, and He will see we do it!
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
- Pastor Jonathan
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5–8 ESV)
Two of those phrases in particular have stood out: (1) For this very reason, make every effort and (2) For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful. Based on the fact that God has provided everything I need for godly living (vv. 3-4), I am to meet His provision with my cooperation - adding all diligence to increase these virtues in my life (vv. 5-7). The result is that I will be effective & productive in my spiritual walk (v. 8). Paul states it similarly in Philippians 2:12-13 - that we are to “work out” our salvation “for it is God who works in [us].”
Spiritual growth, therefore, is to be intentional. Without effort, discipline, diligence, and intentionally applying & doing what God has told you to do, it won’t happen. Like physical exercise, your spiritual muscles won’t grow stronger unless you “work out.”
At the same time, spiritual growth is mysterious. You can’t track your results like physical exercise. Physically your body changes the more you work out: weight loss, increased strength, longer stamina, faster recovery time, etc. You can track each milestone you hit, or threshhold you break, with a physical workout.
But spiritual growth is different. There is no formula. You cannot input ‘x’ calories, burn ‘y’ calories, and see a guaranteed difference in a matter of weeks. The growth happens over time & through different seasons. Sometimes growth seems easy and obvious. Other times, during a dry spell, it’s not as evident. Then when the season changes, you realize the drought strengthened your roots, and you grew even when your soul felt dormant. Perhaps this is why Jesus used agricultural metaphors to communicate spiritual truths. For example:
“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” (Mark 4:26–28 ESV)
Just like a farmer, we put in “every effort” to grow. We scatter the seed of the Word in our lives through Bible reading, through prayer, through corporate worship, through biblical community. We build in normal routines, putting in every effort to do so. Then growth happens and we “know not how.” That’s because behind our “every effort” it is really “only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6–7).
Are you putting in “every effort?” Do you have regular routines & disciplines in which growth can occur? God has already given you all you need for life & godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, do your part & watch for growth.
- Pastor Jonathan