As was my letter to you five weeks ago, this communication is less of a devotional and more of a commendation. As a father would express his approval to his children, I want to express my approval of you along with my thanksgiving for you.
During this unusual time of COVID-19, I have heard and learned much of you. I have become increasingly grateful for you and all our church family. It has become very clear to me how much you love the Lord and how strong you are in your faith in Christ. You are a beautiful congregation of believers and I want to edify you. As one of your pastors, I want to tell you how pleased I am in you. You are a cause for which I give our Lord Jesus Christ much praise. You are a grace of God to me. You are strength and a bright light of God in a very weak and sin-darkened world.
The Apostle Paul wrote Philemon identifying him as a “beloved brother and fellow worker.” Paul’s letter written to Philemon is quite short containing only 25 verses. It can be easily missed as one thumbs through the Bible. It is but one page long and sandwiched between the Pastoral Epistles and the book of Hebrews.
Herbert Lockyer, in his extensive 21 volume “All” series, identifies Philemon as “a believer in Colossae.” He goes on to explain, “Philemon, the rich, influential and pious Colossian was doubtless led to Christ by Paul … The prayers, love, generosity, and hospitality of Philemon were ever in Paul’s mind (Philemon 5, 7, 21, 22) … “The church met in his home, and, as the leader of the Christian congregation in Colossae, Philemon’s influence must have been considerable. …”
Paul’s approach to Philemon contained a sincere appraisal of character. With instinctive kindness and conscious diplomacy, the Apostle praises Philemon for his Christian life and labors. From the lips of Onesimus he had heard often of Philemon’s love, faith, and liberality. The tired hearts of the poor or otherwise distressed and harassed saints had found in Philemon a pillar of comfort and strength, and Paul, without flattery, extols the one whose life was the fruit of a loving heart.”
Paul commended Philemon, writing in verses 4, 5 & 7, “I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; … For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”
As I read these wonderful words I immediately thought of you. Over the last ten weeks I have been in contact with most of you via email, text, phone, letter, or personal visit. You have encouraged me greatly, for when I asked what I could pray with you about, you in turn asked me what you could pray with me about, while also inquiring about the prayer needs of the entire congregation at Heritage. When I asked what your practical needs might be, you responded by asking me about my practical needs also wanting to know if there are any practical needs in the church. Many of you personally asked me to let you know if anyone in the church was in need. And to be honest, some of the needs I heard about I heard not from the person in need, but after the fact as you had already met their need on your own accord. What father would not be proud of his children when they are like that? Please know that your pastors are very pleased with you; and you are a cause for which we give God much thanks.
In our correspondence, you spoke of your faith and trust in Christ with no one complaining (a bit disgruntled, yes – but complaining, no) about our current Covid-19 situation. As we spoke, it became extremely clear that your faith in Christ is exceedingly strong. Before Christ, you are to be commended. Many of you spoke of our Sovereign God and of your unwavering trust and contentment in Him. Thanks to God, you are amazing and we commend you! Look and see what Christ has worked in you!
Borrowing from the words of Paul as he wrote to Philemon: “My Dear Church Family, I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; …For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”
What great joy, comfort, and encouragement you bring to your pastors! Your salvation is evident. The grace of God is upon you. You are a picture of those who are born again by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Your love, kindness, and benevolence to one another are commendable. You are a most beautiful family of believers. Of course all praise belongs to God for He is the One Who saves and transforms, creating us anew in the image of Christ. We give all praise to Him for you!
May the Lord bless you and keep you as you continue to strive for His glorious excellence. May the Lord smile upon you as you seek to follow Him being the new you He created you to be. I commend you for the progress you’ve made and commend you to Christ that you would continue to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which God called you, and doing that through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit who indwells you.
Grace and peace to you, my dear family,