Today we begin a new series of messages called REGROUP. We were not created to do life on our own, instead God calls us to build meaningful and authentic relationships and fulfil His purpose and plan for our lives.God’s Design Gen 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him. (NLT)
Application was Adam was given a wife. The principle however has to do with companionship. The solution to life is we need to journey together with others, married or single; it’s not good for us to be on our own.
Relationships are and have always been at the core of social survival. Whether at the family, school, city or even national level, relationships are crucial to achieving happiness & fulfilment. Buddy system. Even movies promote a culture of togetherness, Gilligan’s Island, animal movies; ICE Age, Charlotte’s Web, Babe & 101 Dalmatians. Children are taught from very young to find friends. When a child starts kinder, he/she is encouraged to play with others & get a buddy because it’s not normal to sit by yourself.
Life in essence is not meant to be lived in isolation. God’s design right from the start was for us to live in authentic community.
Hindrances that prevent this dynamic from finding its fuller expression:
We live in a culture that promotes individualism. A way of life that makes an individual supreme or sovereign over everything. It’s a me-centred living. My rights, my needs. Motivational literature promotes self-reliance, personal independence. It says that your own personal interests should take precedence over the interests of others. Self-sufficient. “I will just call the shots by myself. If I am a committee of one, I don’t have to consult anyone. I say it and it’s done.” God says “It’s NOT GOOD…….Not good for you to run your own life, not good when you have a meeting and you are the only one who shows up!
Living busy lives, overcommitted schedules, pursuing career, ambition or other things and giving little or no time to relationships. Work, church, neighbours, sport, school exist in multiple different spaces. People become accustomed to living and working in separate worlds which creates ‘cultural vertigo’. An unhealthy response to this is that people retreat from relationships. God says “It’s NOT GOOD…because one day when you and I are on our deathbed, we will reflect on relationships more than our achievements. You need to balance out both.
- Temperament issues.
Sometimes it could be a person’s temperament. The highlight of their week is when nobody is around them. Extroverts live by the idea the more people the merrier. Others may only have a certain level of tolerance for people in general. Temperaments have weaknesses and strengths. If you are of the temperament that only tolerates others being involved in your life, than…to that God says “It’s NOT GOOD….you will need to make some adjustments and embrace people in your life. For any of us to fulfil God’s plan for us to move forward, we need to get involved in other people’s lives and let them get involved with ours. There is no such thing as doing the will of God without being involved with people. God does not endorse Lone Rangers!
- Bad experiences.
Past dealings with people that have been negative. You might have mistreated, abused, felt betrayed or let down by people. You have been hurt in some way and have a fear of trusting others, that’s understandable. You might have put expectations on some relationships that didn’t quite work out and therefore you want to distance yourself from people, you may have built walls around your life and you do life at a distance because it’s safer. God says “It’s NOT GOOD….the fact of the matter is, that your past negative experiences do not dictate your future. God desires to heal your hurts and He wants to bring others in your life that will do you good and not harm. You must open your life to the possibilities of that.
Whether its individualism, busyness, or bad experiences, all of these eventually contribute to a feeling of isolation and loneliness. A person can be surrounded by many people and yet never experience deeper life with others. Loneliness causes a feeling of incompleteness, and at times can lead to depression, for others it can lead to suicidal tendencies. At other times people want to curb that feeling of emptiness/loneliness by buying more stuff or they pacify it with food. This can happen both within church and outside of church. As a result many people around us end up facing great inner emptiness and bankruptcy of meaningful relationships.
Christian psychologist Henry Cloud says it well “God created us with a hunger for relationship; relationship with Him and with our fellow people. The soul cannot prosper without being connected to others". Within all of us there are two forms of vacuums:
a. God-shaped vacuum, only God can fill
b. Human-shaped vacuum, only interconnectedness with one another can fill.
Our lives are meant to be enriched by other people and vice-versa.
God’s Dream ... is for us to experience the essence of true spiritual community.
Jesus himself modelled the need for human companionship. Jesus often ministered to large crowds but found friendship, and true companionship with the 12 that he spent the last 3 years of his life on earth. He had others Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Jesus knitted his heart emotionally with those who were with him. He drew them into his life, his world. They refreshed him.
Paul was also greatly encouraged by the hand and friendship of Barnabas. He also had a friend Philemon. Paul to whom he wrote ‘Your love has given me a great joy and encouragement, because you brother have refreshed our hearts’.
Daniel lived a remarkable life of faith, supported by his 3 friends.
Acts 2 picture of the early church thrived on this principle of togetherness, followers of Christ relating with one another on a deeper level, both spiritually and emotionally. Praying with one another, encouraging one another, showing hospitality and strengthening one another.
WE too need to experience the same today. Just as God said to Adam I have made you a helper, God would say the same to us, I have provided people in my house who will journey with you, who will prod your spiritual growth, who will help you, stretch you to draw out your potential, who will sacrificially look out for you, who will strengthen you on this journey of life AND with WHOM YOU TOO WILL DO LIKEWISE. It’s mutual!Powerful Word Picture Eccl 4:9 ..Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10.. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11.. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12.. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
In the old days a person taking a journey, which could have been either a business trip, or a pilgrimage to Jerusalem a few times in the year, or travel for family celebrations, like weddings or funerals, would need to consider travelling. The road they travelled was fraught with dangers, nights would be cold. In this environment the wisdom was to establish proper travel guidelines, travel with companions and don’t be foolish to travel alone without proper support and safety. This is a powerful word picture for us today. We too are on a spiritual journey. We cannot go too far without drawing support, strength and safety from others in genuine spiritual connectedness.
We need each other:
- To Work With
Two people are better off than one; they can help each other succeed. We can have increased productivity when we allow ourselves to be partnered with the right people around us. We have a spiritual purpose, a spiritual kingdom dynamic that we are birthed into. Doing life with others with a common purpose to please God is very fulfilling. Think of prayer for a minute. It’s good to pray by yourself but something happens, a multiplied effect takes place when 2 or more are gathered in His Name. In spiritual warfare there is power in agreeing with others. You will find synergy with others, life becomes purpose driven, there are good returns when we combine our efforts with others in the house of God and work for kingdom sake. You will also excavate some gifts. Unless you work with and partner with others, you may never discover your gifts and find some new talents buried within you. God has prepared us for some good works Eph 2:10 tells us that. These works find their expression as we join our lives with others, work with others, pull towards a common purpose, a kingdom goal and become hugely productive.
- To Walk With
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. We cannot walk this walk alone. Take steps now to build authentic community around you, so you can avoid pitfalls. When you hit a crisis, when you lose your job and fall into discouragement, someone gives you a hand. When you are at crossroads making decisions, you can draw on some wisdom from others you are connected with. Just having a committee of one at that point will not do! When you are alone you can talk yourself into anything and regret it afterwards but with others / counsellors Prov 24:6 says you can have wisdom.
- To Wait & Weep With
Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? Ancient day travellers had to camp just off the road, the steep road from Jericho to Jerusalem. The sun would go down and if you are only halfway there, you need to find a place to camp out. In Palestine the nights are cold. If you are all alone, where do you find warmth? If you are travelling with others, you can huddle up and keep each other warm, cheer one another up, sing some songs. It’s a little dark out there but dawn will break in, hang in there till the night is over.
The language of waiting and sharing one another’s concerns. Life has its fair share of tough times, tragedies. All of us will face them or have already been thru some difficult seasons. Maybe it’s an illness, waiting for some medical report, a difficult pregnancy; children may have walked away from home. A loved one passing away, spouse walking away from a marriage. Someone standing on the edge of depression. Others around you can be that pillar to lean on. We don’t need fair-weather friends, this is the time we need friends of the heart, who are committed to waiting with us, weeping with us till we see the darkness turn to light. They are there to warm us up with encouragement. To fuel our faith when its starting to dip. They are camping with you, waiting with you, weeping with you, rejoicing with you, giving support, supplying warmth of prayer, and being a cheerleader next to you. We can have all the scriptures of encouragement put over the entire house and confess them and memorise them on our own but its nice when someone with skin on says “Hey you will make it, it always darkest before dawn but you know what, we will look after you while you are going thru your darkest night hour. We will camp with you, don’t worry”.
Jesus himself demonstrated the need for companionship when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane. He took Peter, James and John with him to be with him whilst he wrestled within his soul and prayed about what was ahead of Him. Likewise we need each other when we are wrestling with certain things.
- To Watch Out For
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Partnering or journeying with others provides a safety for you and you provide safety for others. Together we can face the enemy. If a sheep was wondering by itself, the wolf would tear it apart but you find a flock of sheep together, the wolf would have to get thru a few before it does damage. The Bible tells us there are demonic powers that are out to break our spirit, to undermine our faith. If the enemy is plotting to outwit you and you have others around you, he will have to think twice. When we are in relationship with others, we are able to look out for others and others are able to look out for us.
We also live in a world that can at times be antagonistic towards our stand for Christ. At times people around can ridicule our stand for Jesus; you need to draw support from each other. The early church faced similar situations, they met with persecution, and when they were ridiculed; they drew support, and courage for the journey from one another. They stood back to back, holding strong in the face of trials and opposition from the world.
Passage finishes with “Three are even better, a cord of 3 strands is not easily broken” , point being if two people can accomplish that much good together, how much more can three do! When our lives are knitted together in mutual respect, love and encouragement we are like a net that cannot be easily undone. When we travel in close companionship with each other, we are accountable, our hearts and minds knitted in loving God and loving one another, we are a force to be reckoned with. We can travel this journey of life with a sense of purpose, direction and togetherness.Conclusion
God desires us to have a strong vertical relationship with him and a strong horizontal relationship with others. God says “Its not good for man to be alone”. Get out of isolation. Stop doing life from a distance. If we desire to grow emotionally, psychologically, socially or spiritually, it will take place in the context of human relationships. People play a significant role in our lives most of the time and God uses all kinds of people to shape our lives. It’s time for us to open our hearts and our hands as a gesture of inviting people into our world.Sample Discussion Questions
- Describe a meaningful relationship you have had. What made it so significant?
- Which of the four hindrances, if any, might have prevented you from doing life with others?
- What are the consequences of not living in meaningful relationship?
- Do you know of anyone right now who is not in community because of the hindrances mentioned? How can we as a group help them overcome it?
- Which aspect of Ecc 4:9-12 speaks to you strongly right now?