We began our journey through the book of Philippians last Sunday. Not only are we going through this book as part of our sermon series, there is an added layer, that of our ‘CG Open Month’. This time, it’s going to be more than a month because there will be eight sermons in all. So, we are going to get a double dosage of ‘CG Open Month’. And I think a double dosage is what we need, especially with us still being in Phase 2 of the COVID-19 situation, where we are unable to meet fully as a church each Sunday.
As I listened to the encouraging sermon that Ps Luwin preached last Sunday, and as he highlighted that we should learn to appreciate, affirm and be affectionate towards our gospel partners, there were flashes in my mind of Hermon’s gospel partners, both local and overseas. Locally, we have Bethany Methodist Nursing Home, The Helping Hand, Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade. Overseas, we have our partners in Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. On top of this, with our family ties with the Mountain Churches, we have had opportunities in the past to serve in combined gospel events. And with our membership in BPCIS, we have also the privilege of participating in nation-wide gospel work.
In appreciating our gospel partners, Paul reminds us that we need to be thankful to God for them. As we scan the breadth of the partnerships the Lord has given us, are our hearts thankful for each and every one of them? I trust that none of them are unfamiliar. But if they are, an appreciative heart would lead us to find out more about them, their ministry, the people involved, their challenges, their history with us and how we are partnering them. And one very practical yet critical way in which we can appreciate our gospel partners is by following Paul’s model of constantly keeping them in prayer. Now when we pray, we know it isn’t meaningful to just pray general prayers, and so, knowing the details would help greatly. A good way would be to reference the Hermon Herald, where relevant updates are always given. And if that’s insufficient, we can always approach our ministry heads with requests for more information. I’m sure our leaders would be pleased to have members pester them for prayer details.
Praying for them is also our way of affirming our gospel partners. Prayer teaches us humility and thus brings our full dependence upon God. It is God who has begun a good work in all believers and it is God who will bring it to completion. Yet in God’s economy, God has chosen frail, weak jars of clay like you and me to be about His business. The good news of Jesus Christ is to be preached and proclaimed through the mouths of redeemed sinners. The love, encouragement and mercies of the gospel are to be felt through the lives of former enemies of God. As we have learnt from Ephesians 2:8-10, God has saved us by His grace so that we may be about His purposes. In the situation of many of our gospel partners, language barriers and other constraints make it less effective for us to be directly participative. In other partnership situations, we can be effective only after being equipped over a period of time. To this, may I suggest that we can affirm our gospel partners through the act of giving. Giving of our resources in finances so that the most effective people can minister. Giving of our resources of time to be equipped for the work.
Finally, we were encouraged to be affectionate towards our gospel partners. And Paul says, it was with the affection of Christ Jesus. Paul describes how the Philippians had shown such affection for him. They stood right with him both in his imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. The affection Paul and the Philippians showed for each other was modelled on the perfect example of Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s affection is shown in the incarnation of the Son of God. Jesus left His heavenly home to walk amongst His creation. Jesus fully identified with us. Would this be our encouragement to do so for our gospel partners as well? That to show our affection we would be present, be involved in their ministries. We all know that when we put a face to something, it becomes personal. And when that happens, affections will arise.
Church, Philippians calls us to arise and be worthy gospel partners. As we appreciate our partners, let us pray. As we affirm them, let us give. As we seek to be affectionate towards them, let us go.
– Ps Daniel Tan