Pastor Rick: Full Speed Ahead

by Pastor Rick Henderson

We’re one month into 2021, and I’m electric with optimism. I want to be clear: there hasn’t been a sudden shift in circumstances or external factors. 2020 was the most challenging year in ministry I’ve ever faced. Every pastor I’ve talked to says the same. This past year was flat-out hard. And yet, I’m struggling to keep up with all for which I have to be thankful.  

Sunday was my first annual meeting as the lead pastor of Autumn Ridge. I don’t know if anyone ever truly loves a business meeting. To my surprise, I did. I was almost overwhelmed as we paused to look back at God’s faithfulness and your collective faithfulness. 

I’ve read that the single common factor among resilient people is gratitude. Gratitude is powerful. In a process I don’t fully understand, gratitude transforms us into confident people. It transforms us into people who have the mettle to meet challenges staring us in the face. We’ll never understand someone like the Apostle Paul if we don’t understand gratitude. 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving [emphasis added], present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Paul didn’t prod them to rejoice, reject anxiety, and give thanks because of the absence of difficulty. Quite honestly, he was mired in many external factors that would naturally catalyze fear and doubt. Yet, for followers of Jesus whose perspectives are calibrated by a gospel-defined worldview, gratitude will always surface because it saturates them to the bone.

There are many good qualities that define Autumn Ridge. My hope is we will always be a grateful church. My hope is we will always be a church so confident in what Christ has done, and is doing, that we don’t flinch in the face of ___________. You can fill in the blank with whatever worries you, challenges you, or wears you down. The God of the universe smiles on us and calls us his own. He is with us and in us. He is actively at work and wants us to join in that work. 

Before you move on to whatever you have to do next, take 60 seconds and catalogue your reasons for gratitude. Rejoice. Reject anxiety. Give thanks.