By Alejandro R. Sino Cruz Jr.
FOR 106 YEARS, the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) has experienced how the Almighty God fulfilled His promises to His Messenger in these last days, Brother Felix Y. Manalo, and to His last work of salvation. He promised to be with His Messenger, to strengthen, help, and uphold him with His righteous right hand (Isa. 41:9-10). And He certainly did so as manifested in the tremendous growth and expansion of the Church.
This same guidance and help have continued uninterruptedly even up to the present administration of Brother Eduardo V. Manalo. Because of this, members around the world offer thanksgiving to God, especially for another year full of blessings to the Iglesia Ni Cristo. They continue to uphold this holy endeavor despite the pandemic that is currently devastating the world.
There is no denying that the situation of the world has gotten worse. The pandemic is bringing grief and fear to many people. At the same time, calamities, social unrest, and widespread unemployment are compounding people’s problems. Despite these, why do members of the Church continue to thank the Lord God when they themselves are experiencing the same? They learned from Apostle Paul what true Christians should do:
“Whatever things may happen to you, continue to thank God. God wants you to do this, because you are united to Christ Jesus.” (I Thess. 5:18 EasyEnglish Bible)
Members of the Church Of Christ are the ones “united to Christ Jesus,” for they are members of His body or Church of which He is the head (Col. 1:18; Acts 20:28 Lamsa Translation). Hence, they continue to thank God whatever may happen to them, for this is His commandment to them. Apostle Paul emphasized that God is the One Who wants true Christians to do this. That is why, amid the difficult situations in the world, they continually fulfill their thanksgiving to God.
The Church has experienced not a few adversities. Ever since Brother Felix Manalo first preached about it in the Philippines, it has encountered various persecutions. In addition, it weathered various crises—the Second World War, local armed conflicts, global economic recessions, and severe calamities. Currently, brethren across the globe are striving to cope with the pandemic disease that continues to claim hundreds of thousands of lives, affecting people from all walks of life.
However, through it all, Church members witnessed how the Almighty God cared for His people in these last days. That is why they remember all the kindness and blessings God had bestowed to them. With His help and guidance, they are able to continue their worship and service of Him. When they cried to God for help, He was always there for them. He healed them of their sicknesses and kept them alive; His favor for His people is for a lifetime (Ps. 30:8, 2-3, 4-5 Unlocked Literal Bible).
What God expects
For their thanksgiving to be meaningful, true Christians fulfill what God expects from them. This is what Apostle Paul exhorts them:
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast and immovable. Always abound in the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Cor. 15:57-58 ULB)
Members of the Church Of Christ strive to “be steadfast and immovable” in their divine election. God expects them to “always abound in the work of the Lord.” That is why, even at the present time when life is so burdensome, they are unwavering in their participation in the multifarious activities of the Church.
In spite of the lockdowns or community quarantine, the brethren do not stop, but instead, all the more dedicated themselves to attending their worship services. And to make sure that all brethren are able to continue worshiping God, the Church Administration decided, for the time being, that the brethren conduct household worship services where either a biblical message is read by the head of the family or the preaching of God’s words can be witnessed through video streaming technology.
In some of these worship services, the Executive Minister himself preaches God’s words—through video streaming—to the brethren gathered in their homes in whatever part of the world they may be. One of such occasion was held on May 10, 2020, in commemoration of the 134th birth anniversary of Brother Felix Manalo, as well as the 40th anniversary of Brother Eduardo Manalo’s ordination as minister of the gospel.
Even with the ongoing pandemic, the brethren remain persistent in sharing the true faith. They use the social media and other online platforms to invite their loved ones and friends who are not yet members of the Church to watch, listen to, or read the materials that convey biblical teachings upheld by the Iglesia Ni Cristo.
Even in the confines of their homes, Church members continue to participate in various activities organized by the Church Administration through the Christian Family Organizations (CFO). The CFO facilitates, through online conferences, talent shows, livelihood and awareness seminars, art and physical fitness activities, to name a few.
The brethren hold such zeal for God knowing that their “work in the Lord is not in vain.” They firmly believe that training in holy living is useful for everything. It has promise for this life now and the life to come (I Tim. 4:8 Common English Bible).
Put all hope in God’s grace
While waiting for the promised eternal life, Iglesia Ni Cristo members understand that they may still experience trials and hardship as they are still in this world. That is why during the thanksgiving worship service on July 19, 2020, the Executive Minister taught the brethren that whenever life is heavy and hard to take, they should “bow in prayer” and instill in their hearts and minds that they should “wait for hope to appear” (Lam. 3:28-29 The Message). Brother Eduardo Manalo emphasized that God’s loyal love is immense and He is good to His servants who patiently wait for and diligently seek Him (Lament. 3:32, 25 MSG).
During the said worship service, the Executive Minister announced the theme of Church activities for its 106th year of establishment: “Put All Your Hope In The Grace That Will Be Yours” (I Pet. 1:13 Easy-to-Read Bible). The sacred gathering was held at the Central Temple with an attendance of only 10% of the worship building’s seating capacity, in compliance to the community quarantine guidelines set by the government. The holy occasion was streamed live, thus witnessed by thousands of local congregations, which also made sure to follow health safety protocols.
As the Church celebrates its anniversary on July 27, 2020, members all over the world will never forget to thank the Almighty Father for all His blessings and lovingkindness. Wherever they are or whatever situation they may encounter, they will be one in heart and mind in offering their sincerest thanksgiving to the Lord God. They are neither discouraged nor upset by life’s setbacks—instead, they “expect God to act”—for even though they went through hard times, they “shall again have plenty of reason to praise Him for all that He will do” (Ps. 42:11 Living Bible).