Fellowship: We Need it to Prosper Spiritually (and Relationally)

First of all, what is fellowship? It’s not just about “fellowship” dinners in a “Fellowship” hall.  Fellowship is spending time together in a caring atmosphere. So we “fellowship” on Sunday morning when we shake hands, look our brother or sister in Christ in the eye, and earnestly say, “How are you?” We “fellowship” when we notice “Mr. So and So” is missing and we call him up after services to see if he is OK. We “fellowship” when we send a card, make a call, or visit someone on their birthday, because their sick, or just to say hi. Fellowship is how we prove to the world that we are one, united.

Ardant du Picq, a 19th century French colonel and military theorist, once said, “Four brave men who do not know each other will not dare to attack a lion. Four less brave, but knowing each other well, sure of their reliability and consequently of mutual aid, will attack resolutely.” We cannot fight off the difficulties of this world without the aid of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

How are you “aiding” your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? How many brothers and sisters in Christ can you say you know well enough to care for? Are you making yourself known to them? How’s your “fellowship?”

We Can’t Stop the Wind and We Can’t Create It

When I was a kid my parents bought me a “wind breaker,” a light jacket that I could wear in spring or fall that would take the edge off any cold air blowing. It served its purpose. But it didn’t stop the wind.

As Billy Graham preached, “Can you see God? You haven’t seen him? I’ve never seen the wind. I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.”  You can’t stop the wind. You can’t stop God. Now you can hinder what He might do in your life. You can hide in your shelter. You can put on your “wind breaker” but you really can’t stop God.

Growing up in Michigan we didn’t have central air or air conditioning. When summer came it wasn’t as hot as it is here in Kentucky but sometimes it would get up into the 90s. And when it did we would cool our house by turning on our attic fan. It did a tremendous job of blowing air OUT the attic and sucking in the air through the open windows of the house. It was effective but it wasn’t as powerful as wind. It couldn’t blow a tree down or help bring down the leaves from the trees.

Jesus said in John 3, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Sometimes we think we have to act for God. We turn on the fan of our spiritual lives. But it doesn’t work very well. Or at least not as well as God Himself.

We can’t stop the wind and we can’t create it. We can’t play God and we can’t stop Him. Let Him blow you where He may and obey that call.  hat’s where you’ll live a life of no regrets. God is unstoppable. So stop trying to stop Him.

Perseverance, not Perfection

Life’s occasional setbacks are simply the price that we must pay for our willingness to take risks as we follow our dreams. But even when we encounter bitter disappointments, we must never lose faith.

Hebrews 10:36 advises, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.” These words remind us that when we persevere we will eventually receive the rewards which God has promised us. What’s required is perseverance, not perfection.

Chronic Negativity is Highly Contagious

It is easier to criticize than to correct.

It is easier to find faults than solutions.

Excessive criticism is usually destructive not productive.

James 4:11 is clear.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another.

He obviously understood that chronic negativity is highly contagious. The cycle can only be broken by positive thoughts, heartfelt prayers, and encouraging words.

Jesus Never Comes “Next”

If we are to be disciples of Christ, we must trust Him and place Him at the very center of our beings. Jesus never comes “next.” He is always first. The paradox, of course, is that only by sacrificing ourselves to Him do we gain salvation for ourselves.

19th century writer Hannah Whitall Smith observed,

The crucial question for each of us is this: what do you think of Jesus, and do you yet have a personal acquaintance with Him?

Indeed, the answer to that question will determine the quality, the course, and the direction of your life today and for all eternity.

If You Follow Jesus You Will Be Persecuted

Fellowship with Jesus will inevitably lead to 3 things:

  1. Bearing fruit (John 15:2, 4, 6, 8)
  2. Loving people (John 15:9-17)
  3. Persecution (John 15:18-25)

We like the idea of bearing fruit. We put up with the responsibility of loving others. But we generally loathe the prospect of persecution. If you follow Jesus, you will be persecuted.

If this is true, then why is the Church in America not persecuted?

  1. It’s not just physical (Matthew 5:11-12). Slander, ridicule, rejection.
  2. We’ve escaped by concealing our salt and light to “fit into” the world’s patterns.

So What Shall We Pray For?

What Jesus said in John 14:13-14 is hard for people to understand, yet believe. Jesus promises that he would answer our prayers no matter how great the request. This is not a blank check to satisfy our whimsical desires. There are parameters around Jesus’ promise from parallel passages.

We must ask:

  • in faith (Matthew 21:22)
  • in agreement with other believers (Mt. 18:19)
  • in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-16; 16:23-26)
  • according to His will (1 John 5:14-15)
  • while obeying His word (Jn. 15:7; 1 Jn. 3:22)
  • and bearing fruit for Him (Jn. 15:16).

The promise does not apply where we ask selfishly or with the wrong motives (Mark 10:35; James 4:2-3).

So what shall we request?

Jesus told us to ask for at least three things:

  1. The Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)
  2. Workers in the harvest (Mt. 9:38)
  3. and wisdom (James 1:5).

Our greatest error is not that we ask inappropriately or that we ask for the wrong things, but that we don’t ask at all (Luke 11:9; Ephesians 3:20).