I am constantly asking him that he will somehow make it possible for me now, at long last, to come to Rome. I am longing to see you: I want to bring you some spiritual gift to deepen your faith; and that will mean that I will be encouraged by you, each of us cheered by the other’s faith. —Romans 1:10-12
That is the way it should always be! When we gather in home groups; home fellowships; Church services—wherever two or more are gathered—we should mutually strengthen and encourage each other. In The Cotton Patch Version, Clarence Jordan renders the above passage as, “For really I am anxious to see you. Maybe I can share some spiritual gift with you that will perk you up. By this I mean that both you and I will be helped by one another’s experiences.”
That’s what we are called to do within the Body of Christ! If Christians could get the vision of how we are to function as God’s ultimate family, the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Day by day, as opportunities arise he will fit us into our roles and fulfill his desires.
It would be amazing to discover how many problems in the physical family could be solved if the spiritual family was really functioning. For instance, a deep prayer life with, and accountability to, some close members of the spiritual family can help make your relationship with your physical family what it should be. That means our personal accountability can keep us from all sorts of personal traumas, sins, habits, etc.
Regardless of whether you have a large church or a small church, you will find people avoid relationships, they simply prefer to “go-it alone.” Why do we do that? Is there something wrong with it? Why do we need to develop relationships, anyway?
Why do we need relationships with other Christians? For a start consider this:
- They Encourage Us:Acts 15:30-32 says, “The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.”Judas & Silas brought with them words of encouragement. I have often heard it said that “Christians are the only army that kill their wounded.” We need to be there for our friends with words of encouragement and strength in their time of need.
- They Help Us: Consider what it says in Philippians: “But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” Philippians 2:25-30Paul sent Epaphroditus back to the church at Philippi, thanking them for the help that he had given—even during an illness where he almost died. Now that is commitment! We all need friends to help us in the natural battles that we face.
Here again, in Philippians:“But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”
Philippians 1:18-19Paul is acknowledging that he will overcome, in part, because of the prayers of the church. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” It is important to have some friends that we can link up with—in the spirit.
- They Correct Us:“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” Timothy 4:1-2I have had to correct friends from this kind of situations before—as I am sure some of you have. More importantly, I have had to “be corrected” in the same way. It is so easy to veer off the road that Christ has for us—we need friends to correct us—and we need to be prepared to correct our friends.
- They Help Keep Us Be Accountable:Proverbs 27:9 says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.”Notice that it does not say that the pleasantness of your friends comes from them telling what you want to hear—but rather from “earnest counsel.” That is accountability. We need relationships to keep us accountable so that we stay on track.We must have the same commitment with friendships that we have with a marriage—the unwillingness to allow Satan to tear it apart—regardless of the differences that we may have.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome