The Church Resilient

The Church Resilient

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:1-2).

Every year during the month of November, the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church asks its member congregations to consider giving to the work of the whole church through the annual Thank Offering. The Thank Offering provides about a quarter of the funds needed for the Worldwide Outreach of the OPC. In practical terms, what that means is the Thank Offering enables us to participate in the Great Commission. It helps our Committee on Foreign Missions keep missionaries on the field in places like China, Haiti, Uganda, and Uruguay. It allows our Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension to plant new churches and send financial support to mission works, something we benefited from at RPC until just last year! It helps our Committee on Christian Education to print literature and produce audio/video materials for the use of the whole church, including Sunday School material for children, the new Trinity Psalter Hymnal, the Westminster Standards, and the *Book of Church Order.*

The theme for this year’s Thank Offering is “The Church Resilient” from James 1:2-4. The past year has reminded us that we are a pilgrim people, called to suffer for the glory of God in this world as “salt-shakers” and “lighthouses” of the grace of Christ in the Gospel. James reminds us that we are called not only to suffer, but to suffer in a manner that points others to the hope we enjoy as heirs of everlasting life. We are called to “count it all joy” when we fall into various trials (v. 2). The word *trials *refers to those circumstances in our lives that God sends to “try” or to “test” us, in order that the true heavenly character of our faith might be revealed to a world perishing in hopelessness and unbelief. James says that this “testing” of our faith produces something in us, what we might call the “rare fruit of heavenly patience” (v. 3) The kind of *patience *James has in mind is a submissive waiting on the Lord that steadfastly endures every affliction in this life with the cheerfulness of the hope of heaven. And so, James exhorts us to a resiliency of faith that can only be produced by the Spirit of grace. “Let patience have its perfect work” is not a call to passivity, but a reminder of the power of God at work in us, perfecting us more and more in the likeness of Christ (v. 4). He calls us to consider who it is that is testing us (God), why we are being tested (that the glory of Christ might radiate from our hearts and lives), and what this testing is designed to bring forth (the fruit of holiness and Christlikeness in us). When we strive *by* faith to respond *in* faith to God’s work in us through Christ, we cannot fail to find that we are growing in Christian maturity, which is what James means when he says, “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (v. 4). You have Christ’s Word in your hand and Christ’s Spirit in your heart. The more you experience the fullness of Christ in living union with Him, the more you will learn to “count it all joy” at all times, even in seasons of trial, difficulty, and loss.

The annual Thank Offering gives us an opportunity each year to express the joy we have in Jesus Christ. As Presbyterians, we know the church is bigger than our own local congregation. We feel a connection of unity and love with our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter where they may be in the world. The OPC demonstrates this connectional Christianity every November through sacrificial giving to the work of the whole church.

May the Lord help us to “count it all joy” this Thanksgiving, as we reflect on how He has given us a Savior who “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2)!

 

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