Saturday, July 3, 2010

We Can't Do This Alone

A wise man once wrote, “I can’t do this all on my own. No, I know I’m no Superman.” (That’s the Scrubs theme song, fyi) Catchy song it may be, but it does speak to a greater truth. God made us as social creatures. In fact, if you read in Genesis, during the creation of the world, God spends six days making….well, everything. And after everything, it says He “saw that it was good.” But then, in Genesis 2:18, God specifically says “it is not good for the man to be alone.” Here’s God…not quite admitting a mistake, but knowing that He’s not quite done yet. When God says that something’s ‘not good’ when we’re by ourselves, I think we should pay attention.

When we’re on our own, that’s when we’re at our weakest. Consider David. 2 Samuel 11 starts by saying it was springtime, “when kings go to war,” and David stayed home. All of his generals and advisors were probably out on the frontlines, so David was on his own. And, when David was in the wrong place at the wrong time, temptation comes knocking, in the form of Bathsheba. With all of his advisors away at the battlefront, no one is there to knock some sense into David, and he slips into sin.

Or, if that wasn’t enough, even Jesus himself faced this. Twice, He was shown to be (at least physically) alone. The first, in the wilderness before He began His ministry, Satan tempted Him to bow down in worship. Then, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples were elsewhere and sleeping, Jesus was pleading to “let the cup pass,” begging for His life. In both cases, it was because of His connection with the Father that he was able to resist temptation and do what He knew to be right.

So where does that leave us? Quite obviously, we need relationships with other people as well as with Christ. Why is it we need each other?

Firstly, we need each other for accountability. Paul said to the Galatians “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently….Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2) The natural tendency in the world is to point the finger at anyone caught in wrongdoing, make a spectacle, and never any sort of second chance. But it’s very clear, we are to stand by our fallen brothers and sisters, and restore them. This isn’t to say we should let each other get away with sinning, but when it happens, call them on it to bring them into repentance. Then start the restoration process. Ideally, we should even be a ‘voice of reason’ before things get too deep.

Secondly, and related, is encouragement. I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but I’ve had days where it seems like things go from bad to worse. On those days, an encouraging word from a friend goes a long way. That’s why Paul tells the Thessalonians “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” (Thessalonians 5:11) God calls us to build each other up, not tear each other down. This is especially true when a fellow believer has slipped up. The last thing we need is a condescending ‘told you so’ as we’re trying to pick ourselves back up.

Relationship also lends us strength. There are some things we just can’t do on our own. Sometimes that’s called ‘strength in numbers.’ Biblically, that translates to: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) If my car were to break down, I couldn’t push it by myself. Sure, I could put it in neutral and run around behind it, but I can’t guide it, and stopping would be difficult to say the least. One other person could work the steering wheel and the break. And if others show up, that’s less effort I have to exert to get it going.

It also helps us grow. Proverbs tells us “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) This is where discipleship comes into play, learning from one another. We can rely on each other as we walk through trials. And, more than that, we don’t have to walk through every trial, we can learn from someone else’s experience. Paul tells us in Hebrews, “let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.” (Hebrews 6:1) You can learn quite a bit from simply studying, but it’s only through being relational that we get to put our knowledge to work.

Lastly, we need to have relationships with those around us because, well, God said so. Hebrews 10:25 says “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” And then, when we come together, God comes alongside us. Jesus Himself says “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)

We gravitate towards one another as part of our spiritual make-up, as designed by the Maker of the Heavens. Fellowship and relationship are ingrained in our very being, and when we lack these things, we suffer for it. And so I pray that you are blessed with true friendship, friends that will support you in times of trouble, and call you out when you need it. I pray for mentors, spiritual fathers and mothers who value you and shape your destiny, and for willing and moldable spiritual sons and daughters who learn from your guidance. And lastly, I pray that you would take on these characteristics yourselves, and be these things to others around you.

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