Recently, I decided after a year of not doing much physical activity that it was time to return to the gym. When I was younger, getting up to run or do some sort of strenuous activity didn’t seem to bother me much. I would wake up, go for a run, shower then go off to work. Now twenty five years later I’m not as motivated as I was when I was younger. It’s funny but I can do the same things I did when I was a kid but at a much slower pace. The biggest problem that I have is that the motivation and drive is gone. The thought of waking up and running on a treadmill for forty minutes just doesn’t give me that same spark as it did when I was a kid. In my mind, because I’m getting older and want to improve my health, I would love to be in better condition. Unfortunately my body never got the same message that my mind did. The lack of motivation has put my mind and body on two totally different pages. Lucky for me I have a wife who is very supportive. She will give me words of encouragement that motivates me to put on my sneakers, get on my sweats and get to the gym. Honestly there are times I want to say “I quit,” but have been encouraged to continue just because of the kind, motivating words she speaks. Many times it was just her words alone that have kept me going.
Motivation and encouragement is a big part of serving God. Whenever a person first becomes a new creation in Christ Jesus they go through a period of what seems like “all joy all of the time.” Pastor James fondly calls this the honeymoon period. You may know what I mean. It’s the first time you get saved and everything is fresh and new and you’re running at a spiritual high all of the time. Then sadly as the natural trials and pressures of life start to hit, you seem to lose that emotional edge. Although your spirit may not be affected, the natural course of life’s hardship can be an emotional drain.
So what is God’s remedy for believers when they start to lose that extra something they had when they first got saved? How does He bring His children the encouragement to keep going even in the midst of hardship and trials?
Now, many people will say that God comforts them and motivates them directly. In some cases I do agree that’s possible, but the Bible tells us something a little different and possibly something more practical. In Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV), the author writes this, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we can spur one another on (motivate) towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
The simple remedy that God has provided for all believers in which we can “spur one another on,” is this … That we do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. Whether in church on Sunday, at someone’s home during the week, or just meeting to have a quick meal, there is something powerful when we as believers gather together. And we should be doing it even more, during these evil times, as we see the “day” approaching. Just being in the presence of other believers seems to provide an essential push that we all need. The motivations and encouragement provided when all of His believers are gathered together is an essential key to moving on through tough times. It’s a motivating and encouraging strength that we can easily overlook. God’s key to re-energizing us is simple: Make sure on a constant basis you spend lots of time with your Christian brothers and sisters. Although to some of us this seems easy and practical, unfortunately many have already stopped doing it.
So what is the protocol when believers gather together? Does the Bible give specific instructions as to what must be done or said when we are in each other’s company? Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.” We all have heard that one before. Pastors have used this verse in their sermons down through the centuries. One thing that I never realized when Jesus said this was this, He never said pray, read the bible or sing hymns, He just said “gather together.” Are all of these other things important and have a proper place? Of course. But there is something about just being in the company of other Believers that brings God Himself in their midst. It can be when you’re eating a nice meal or just talking about current events, God is there with you.
This came to me recently when I was with the people I see on Sunday at the church that I attend. Every week we spend an hour together before service just talking or laughing about things that happened to us the prior week. Even something that sounds as simple as that is unknowingly encouraging and building up my spirit. Honestly, there are times that I get more encouragement by just being in their presence than if I were alone in prayer. The freedom that comes when you speak openly with your brothers and sisters and the love that manifests can only be felt through experience. The Bible says that God is love, and His love is felt because he is right there in the middle of us.
So is it just to have a feel good moment or to encourage one another to move on that Jesus told us to gather in groups of two or more? I think there is more to than that. The book of Ecclesiastes says, “If two lie down together they can keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 NIV). In short, there is strength and power in numbers to stand up against any attack of the enemy. When the bible says, “Two can defend themselves,” the original picture in the Greek has two men standing back to back watching out for each other, making sure they can’t be blindsided by the opposing army. Now you may be thinking, “I thought that God was always with me.” And of course He is. He is always there to guide and protect you. But many times He protects you with the help of other believers. This verse is just a reminder that you shouldn’t try to fight all your battles on your own. The Pastor of our church constantly reminds us not to be a “lone ranger.” We all need each other. Can allowing attacks of the enemy be God’s way of encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone and join with fellow Christians? I think so. Not only so we can watch our own backs but so you can keep an eye on theirs as well. There is spiritual power in numbers.
From the very inception of the original first century church, fellowship among Believers has always been an essential part of the Christian life. The book of Acts said this of our Christian ancestors. “They were continually devoting themselves to the Apostles teaching, and to fellowship to the breaking of bread and prayer.” (Acts 2:42 NIV) Notice the importance of fellowship that Luke, the author of this book, mentions it along with sound doctrine and prayer. Never take for granted the time you have with your brothers and sisters because unfortunately we also see that there were many first century Christians that didn’t feel the need to be together. Like many of us today they fell into the deadly trap of avoiding this gathering. To my own shame this is a trap that I stepped into many years ago myself. The verse in Hebrews says, “Don’t give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.” Notice they didn’t have a habit of GOING and meeting with other believers. The habit they created was that they STOPPED meeting with fellow believers.
When I stopped serving God for over twenty years it didn’t come all at once. It happened slowly and over a period of time. Sadly for me I didn’t see the deadly sign that I was slipping away. That sign was easy to see and right there in front of me… The sign for me was this, I stopped going to church. Now we can argue that you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian and I’ll agree with you on that. But let’s be honest, once you’re a Christian, the Spirit He placed inside you has a natural draw to be around other believers. Strangely, you have an uneasy feeling when you don’t see these people for an extended period of time.
If you’re a “lone ranger” and you don’t feel the pull or the need to be around other believers consider this: 1 John 1:17 says “but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” Notice, it doesn’t say we have fellowship with Him (that is already assumed). It says if we walk in the light we have fellowship with other believers. It seems to be the natural progression that the more we walk in God’s light the more we are drawn to spend time with our Christian brothers and sisters. That’s up to you to decide.
I have a dear friend who has a simple rule when it comes to attending church. She says something like this… ”If you miss two consecutive weeks it’s excusable, three weeks is the beginning of a bad habit… As is the habit of some.”
Just Something to Consider