For many people today, church is a Sunday event that takes place in the morning and ends with lunch on the way home. It includes waking up early, putting on ‘Sunday’s Best,’ driving to ‘church,’ singing a few songs, and hearing a sermon. However, if we limit our Christianity to Sundays, we miss out on many of the purposes and functions of the Body of Christ which we read about in the New Testament. If ‘Sunday church’ is the only thing that people believe they need to do in order to check off the box on their spiritual checklist, then it is no wonder why marriages are failing, homes are falling apart, faiths are becoming shipwrecked, and the church is being viewed as hypocritical. Being a true, healthy Christian definitely includes being at church on Sunday morning, but it is much more than that. Being a member in the Body of Christ is more of a community project, and we need one another in order to finish this race of faith. Over the next few blogs, I will be discussing a few different reasons why our spiritual health involves, or better yet, depends on each other.
Today, we will be looking at ‘being encouraged together by each other’s faith.’ Paul writes in the first chapter of Romans (Romans 1:11) that he longed to see those loved by God who were in Rome so that he might impart to them some spiritual gift that would strengthen them. He then brings more clarity in verse12 as he writes, “that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Do you see that? Paul longed to be with the believers in Rome so that they would be strengthened by the encouragement of one another’s faith. How much clearer could Paul have been in describing his purpose for visiting the Romans?
Paul knew that living a ‘faith-filled’ life is hard and tiresome. In fact, if your life is not a fight, then you should be asking whether or not you are in the race. Think of everything that we battle in this life as believers. First, we live in a world in which all creation groans to be redeemed, so we deal with sicknesses and diseases and earthquakes and yes, even death. That alone would be enough to beat anyone down. But then you add in trials, divinely selected seasons which the Lord uses to strengthen and sanctify us so that we grow in patience and steadfastness and character and which then leads to hope and eternal crowns. Finally, for the believer, there is discipline…for those times in life when we veer off the narrow path – if left alone, we would be like Esau and trade our faith and eternal inheritance in for a bowl of soup! Thankfully, because we have a loving Father who loves and cares for us so much that He chooses to train us for righteousness so that we may share in His holiness, we are disciplined. That’s why, when describing this life of faith, Paul writes at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Have you noticed that all seven letters to the churches in Revelation end with, “To the one who conquers”? That is because this life of faith is a battle. But understand…this creation groaning, trial filled, lovingly disciplined life was never designed to be fought alone, and that’s why Paul goes to Rome…because the truth is, we need each other, and when believers are together, there is a special blessing of grace that we cannot get any other way.
At one point in my life, I was deceived in thinking that I had it all together. Even when I realized I didn’t, I thought, “Why would I share my hurts and pains with others since they have their own hurts and pains to deal with?” But the key word there is ‘deceived’ because the Word of God has taught me the truth of opening up and sharing my life with others in the body, and I cannot begin to tell you of the many blessings I have experienced simply from walking in that truth. I was with a close brother the other day, sharing some of my current ‘trials,’ and I was quickly reminded of this blessing of mutual encouragement. He was able to bring to light a completely different perspective to my situation simply because he was not the one in the midst of that trial. I meet with many different men, as well as couples with my wife, and it never fails that in some way, shape, or form, the Lord ends up encouraging us in these meetings. Through our interactions with other believers, we are strengthened to grow.
In Hebrews 10:25, the author exhorts us to not neglect to meet together. However, it doesn’t end there; the author goes on to write, “but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Why? Because we need each other and because the Lord uses the encouragement of other believers to strengthen us and to grow us and to transform us into the image of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If you feel that you do not need anyone, just look around – there is probably someone that needs the mutual encouragement of your faith.