Imagine a blazing campfire on a cold night. Despite a relentless assault, the darkness and chill cannot overcome the light and heat of the flames that illuminate your face and bring you warmth. Your eyes are drawn to the heart of the blaze where the coals glow white, orange and red with intensity. Then you take a stick and separate one of those coals from the fire. At first the lone coal continues to glow brightly as the darkness and coldness closes in. But it is a death struggle that cannot be won and it is only a matter of time before the coal becomes black and cold. The fire it once contained is gone. So what does the picture of a campfire have to do with us? In our independent nature, we emphasize our “personal” relationship with Christ. Our personal spiritual discipline does matter. But from God’s perspective, our community with other believers is not optional and is just as important in our spiritual growth.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-16
God’s Word makes it clear that all of us together are the BODY OF CHRIST. All of us together have a purpose . Without all of us together, the body will not be healthy and effective. Regardless of how we might “feel,” God has intentionally placed each of us in the body of Christ with important positions to play. Therefore, we must take responsibility to act on this awareness. God is not interested in our excuses; he expects us to bow before his truth.
Fellowship with other believers gives us the opportunity to use our gifts and to help encourage and support each other in our faith. Fellowship is not just being together or having our needs met to our satisfaction, but as Ephesians 4 declared, it is a responsibility we each have:
- to prepare others for works of service,
- to build up and encourage one another,
- to serve others,
- to be truthful,
- to forgive each other and perserve unity, and
- to submit to the authority of Christ.
We can talk about spiritual maturity and our personal needs for spiritual growth. We can teach biblical doctrine and profess the “right” theology. We can “shop” for the “ideal” church that meets “our” needs. But unless we commit in grace to live in fellowship with other believers and empty ourselves in that service as God intended, we will be nothing more than a lonely coal with little impact on the darkness and coldness of this world. Soon our faith will become cold, perhaps with a form of godliness, but one that denies God’s power.
The darkness and chill that surround us are relentless, but cannot overcome the Light of Life. We need each other to stay strong and burn brightly in that Light.
Are you in the fire or on the outside looking for excuses?
(Written from the book Running With The Grasshoppers - Mark Webb)