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Two months ago (can you believe it?!), I wrote an article (“Commands We Can Keep”) addressing the fact that, though we are unable to gather as a congregation, nevertheless, we can still keep the command to exhort one another to good works (Hebrews 10:23–24). Well, be encouraged that is happening. From texting to phone calls, from Zoom Grace Group meetings to emails, from providing food for the ill to providing financial gifts to those in need, from sharing insights from God’s word to praying for one another, it seems, from what I can assess, that BBC has been loving each other well. And I have been encouraged by this.

Recently I was sharing with someone that, when I see the membership of our church loving on each other, it encourages me that, in spite of our many imperfections, we nevertheless enjoy good spiritual health as a congregation. This heartens me that, when the Lord takes me from this body, perhaps by taking me from my body, it will remain well with the church. God has built a healthy local church for nearly fifty years and we have good reason to hope that he will continue to do so, long beyond our present crisis. Thank you for the encouragement. This morning, I want to encourage you.

I have been exceptionally encouraged that, in the midst of what are increasingly trying times, so many are growing closer, rather than away from, God. Rather than bitterness and wrongheaded finger-wagging at God, a holy submission seems to be the majority response.

I spoke with a father yesterday who told me that, in spite of he and his wife’s concerns about employment and expenses, they are using this as a teaching opportunity with their children. Another father shared two days ago that lockdown has been wonderful for their family and that family devotions have taken on a more meaningful place in their home. Their children are memorising Scripture and they read through the passage of the Bible that will be preached the following Sunday (sometimes that is not a very long passage!). He too is facing employment uncertainty and yet I detected a true shalom, a sense that is well with his, and his wife’s, soul. I communicated yesterday with a woman in our church who is facing enormous pressures and yet she could say, “Even in these strange and stressful days, it is still well with my soul. For I know that I serve a living God. He is so faithful, and God doesn’t change and will never change. The Lord is good always.” Dallas Willard wrote, “Joy is not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of well-being.” The more I interact with church members, the more I am aware that this is the sense of many in the church. I desire this joy for us all.

Being a rather transparent guy, I confess that there are times when I struggle with joy. There are times when I physically sense anxiety and it seems that my heart picks up a beat or two. But when I interact with brothers and sisters, like those above, when I hear the lessons the Lord is teaching them, my faith is encouraged, my heart is calmed and I with them can say, “It is well with my soul.”

Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church knowing that they were facing extreme pressures, spiritually, socially, politically, ecclesiastically, and even physically (1 Thessalonians 2:13–15). Yet the tone of the letter reveals their joyful perseverance, a sense of well-being arising from their ministry to each other. This is summarised in the exhortation, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (5:11). By God’s grace, keep it up.

Brothers and sisters, thank you for doing this to me.

Grateful for you,