And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…
– Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
Many years ago, former American POW’s were interviewed to determine what methods used by the enemy had been most effective in breaking their spirit. Researchers learned that prisoners didn’t breakdown from the withholding of food or from torture as quickly as they did from solitary confinement or from being frequently moved around and separated from friends. It was further learned that the soldiers drew their greatest strength from the close attachments they had formed to the small military units to which they belonged. They were ready to die for those others if necessary.
These insights give us insight into why followers of Christ need the group experience of fellowship with other believers to help them remain loyal to the Lord. Our own personal relationship to God, vital as that is, is often not sufficient to produce spiritual maturity and endurance. King Solomon wrote, “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 The Message). God often uses the right kind of friend to encourage us – to nudge us on – to challenge us in our stagnant walk – to sharpen us and make us more useable in the hand of the Lord.
A pastor went to visit a man who had been absent from church for some time. When the pastor arrived at the house of his wayward parishioner he found him sitting by a fire of glowing coals. The man fully expected his pastor to rebuke him for his tardy attendance at services. But instead the pastor drew up a chair alongside the fireplace where the man was sitting just peering into the fire. With the tongs the pastor reached into the fire and took one of the red hot glowing coals and placed it by itself out on the hearth. Within no time at all the coal began to lose its glow until in a few minutes it was black. The man looked up into the face of his pastor who hadn’t said a word and he said “I’ll be there next Sunday.” I need you and you need me to keep each other glowing and fired up for the Lord.
Sometimes Christians choose to be POW’s, putting themselves into solitary confinement, when they could choose to be a participant in the unit to which they belong. Have you given up the meeting together with fellow believers? We all need the large group in our worship services and we need the small group of our Sunday School class.
Sometimes in winter weather when I have forgotten to wear my gloves I rub my hands together to produce warmth. Now I carry those two hands with me wherever I go, but it is only when they come in contact with each other that the warmth can be generated. It is the same with your life; there is nothing like being joined to other believers in a bond that generates warmth and growth to all involved.
Let’s consider and give a lot of thought to how we can spur others on in their growth and encourage them in the Christian walk. To do that we need to take the initiative to get close to them and enter into life together with them. Why not make a commitment of “I’ll be there next Sunday”? Why not make a commitment to invest your life into a few Christian friends? I guarantee you’ll be the one who benefits the most.
—- Pastor Steve