Richard R. Gerber
"God continues to be gracious. God continues to provide.... What a blessing to be part of the Lord's army, working through his strength alone!" Missionary Jim Knox wrote those words in August, along with these: "I have to admit that the past three to four days have probably been the most difficult days since I arrived in Africa." Through Christ's strength, Jim ministers to others while carrying overwhelming burdens.
Summer intern John Sharpe was used to being at the top of his class. But over the summer, he faced regular critiques of his preaching, teaching, and worship leadership that revealed how much he still needed to grow in the use of the gifts for ministry that Christ had given him. At times he wondered whether he should continue. By Christ's strength, he did continueand he grew in his equipping for the ministry.
Worldwide Outreach in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church supports over one hundred Great Commission workers. They are preachers planting new churches. They are evangelists bearing testimony to the grace of God in Christ Jesus. They are teachers opening up the Word of God, so that Christ's disciples might grow in grace and knowledge. They are deacons showing mercy in Christ's name. They are witnesses of the resurrected, ever-living Savior.
The United States or Japan or Uruguay or any one of a half dozen other nations is the setting for their ministries. Each can say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13 NKJV).
At this Thank Offering season, the Committees on Christian Education, Foreign Missions, and Home Missions and Church Extension come to you seeking your gifts for the ministry of Worldwide Outreach. In other words, gifts for the support of these Great Commission workers and their families are being sought.
You are not being asked to prove again your interest in and support of this ministry. Those have been amply demonstrated. You showed your interest and support through the outpouring of gifts earlier this year. The news went out that giving was lagging behind because of the economic downturn. Through Christ who strengthens you, you gave generously and promptly.
Since the earliest days of our church, which was born during the Great Depression, missionaries have been sent throughout the United States and into the world. Sacrificial gifts from needy congregations have sent missionaries "on their journey in a manner worthy of God" (3 John 6).
Thank Offering 2009 gives you a fresh opportunity to present an offering that is acceptable and pleasing to God. You may have taken a personal financial hit. Your local congregation may be in need. But in the strength that Christ gives, you can act in faith.
The church in Philippi had been in a giving and receiving partnership with the apostle Paul for many years. Having received a gift from them yet again, he assures them, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).
The apostle speaks with confidence of "my God." God has captured Paul's heart and mind, drawn him to faith in Jesus Christ, and sent him to the nations. Paul is content, whether he has little to eat or plenty, a warm welcome or a beating, an easy journey or a shipwreck. His soul is satisfied. God, according to his riches in Christ, has met Paul's needs. He will meet your needs too.
Paul was not writing in desperation, looking to extract another gift from a church he could count on. He was thanking them for the gift they had sent. He deeply appreciated all he had received from them time and time again. He assures them that he can carry on the ministry that Christ entrusts to him, whether he has a lot or a little. So too, the Lord will see to it that the Worldwide Outreach ministries have what they need to carry on the work of the Great Commission.
Paul is glad for the gifts. He benefits from them. But the church that sends them also benefits. Paul affirms that he is looking out for Christ's people in Philippi: "I seek the fruit that increases to your credit" (4:17).
What is that fruit? A wider sense of the church universal. Partnership in ministry. Enriched Christian fellowship. An enhanced assurance of salvation. Praise on the great day of accounting.
The Committees seek your gifts to aid the Great Commission ministries of the OPC. Your gifts are deeply appreciated. The ministries of gospel witness, church planting, and discipleship are carried forward in North America and around the world. And, as congregations and individuals, you also benefit. This is truly a partnership of giving and receiving. Giving and receiving flow in both directions.
This partnership is sustained and enhanced through Christ. It can be difficult to give with proper motives. It can be difficult to receive with proper motives. All the partnersin our case, thousands of people, hundreds of churches, and hundreds of Great Commission workersare able to act in a manner that brings glory to God only through the strength that Christ supplies.
The author is the associate general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Christian Extension. Except where otherwise noted, he quotes the ESV. Reprinted from New Horizons, November 2009.