I’ve been there…done that…got the scars and have enough t-shirts to open a re-sale shop. I have allowed burn-out, offenses, preferences, apathy, and valid soul wounds to make me want to step away and “take a break” from the fellowship of Believers…or at least slip in after worship starts, sit on the back row and not be an active participant for awhile. At least that’s what I “tell” God I want to do…usually about once a year. It typically goes something like this:
Me: God, I am so hurt by/frustrated with/tired of blah, blah, blah...
God: (Silence as I feel His gaze…)
Me: But it’s just not fair, God! Why do so many who profess you get to sit back and float through their saved journey on a life preserver while they watch a much smaller number of Christ-followers towing them along behind by a rope as they simultaneously swim against the current and fight off sharks?!?
God: (Still silence as I feel His gaze more intensely…now with a raised eyebrow.)
Me: (squirming now as I always, almost immediately feel the turning of my heart back to His Kingdom) I know…I knoooowww…I have tasted and seen that…You. Are. Good. You are goooooooood, God, and I would be miserable in that back row [and distracted].
God then usually speaks to me about keeping my focus on Him and not on those around me. And He boldly, tenderly, firmly, lovingly leads me to where I need to be. He sustains and strengthens my spirit, encourages and instructs my mind, counsels and heals my heart, and establishes my position in His perfect will.
Taking a Texas-sip-swig of ((COFFEE)) and opening my Bible to Hebrews 10…join me?
As Believers, we are not excluded from experiencing hurts…even within the church body…and especially if we are engaged in Kingdom ministry and spiritual warfare. While involvement in God’s Kingdom plan is fruitful and fulfilling, there are moments…days…seasons of tribulation. In ministry, we put up/contend/serve with people. Heck…if we are living life, we put up/contend/serve with people. We deal with people who are broken, wounded, and at all different levels of maturity in their faith…if they have a living faith at all! This will often provide times of frustration and makes us more “vulnerable” to hurt because when we minister, we are in relationship with others…and sometimes others’ broken places bump into / collide with our own. And even more (not) fun is the truth that as we actively and intentionally engage in spiritual warfare, we will become a favored target of the enemy.
Hebrews 10:23-25…”Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some…”
At times, it may be tempting, inviting to “give up” and raise the flag of spiritual service surrender. Often, too often, Believers get weary, hurt, or angry, and just quit church – church as they understand it – altogether. What they may not realize is that they have not quit going to a destination at an address on a scheduled day at a scheduled time. Rather, according to the translation of this text, they have given up and “abandoned, deserted, utterly forsaken” the population…the “assembly of Christians.”
This is not saying every Believer is bound to attend every assembly every time the church building’s doors are unlocked. This verse is not addressing the LOA (Leave Of Absence) that is sometimes merited or necessary to attend to family needs, physical healing, personal spiritual retreat and restoration, but this verse is about going AWOL (Absence Without Leave) out of disobedience or rebellion.
Hebrews 10:25b, 32…”…but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching…But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings:”
Gathering together with a population of Believers to worship God and study His Word – no matter whether the address is a building OR a parking lot OR a home OR in a shelter OR under a bridge – serves a most vital purpose in the health and growth of a Christian. It provides us an opportunity to encourage each other, equip and be equipped, practice accountability, pray [not prey, that’s for another post], fellowship, and meet the needs of others. Verse 25 not only exhorts us to encourage each other, but to a greater degree, more willingly, and more consistently as we recognize these latter days.
This is a sample of what you are missing if you are not assembling.
I. love. My. Church.
Instead of remembering where God has brought us from, what he has brought us through, and where He is taking us to, we too easily get distracted and discouraged by the day’s (or season’s) training ground called testing and tribulation. Hey, I have not ever enjoyed or been successful at eating healthy alone, exercising alone, doing life alone. Same precept, my friends. We assemble with other Believers to encourage each other in the Word, in deeds, and in love (v. 24). We. Were. Never. Meant. To. Do. Life. Alone.
Finally, Hebrews 10:35-36…”Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:”
If we do not throw away free and fearless confidence…cheerful courage…boldness…assurance…He promises that our faithfulness will be rewarded. As we respond to and walk out God’s revealed will for our individual and corporate lives…we patiently endure and remain constant – even and especially in moments of hurt and seasons of trial – then we will receive the promise () of eternal rewards in His presence.
Should you find yourself today in a position of isolation…not attending the assembly because of past hurts or offenses…set apart from other Christians instead of set apart for the Lord…don’t waste another breath of eternity () and repossess the territory of your heart and mind and will that you have surrendered to the enemy. Evict satan and take it back! Reclaim and resume your intended and most valued purpose for the Kingdom!
Learning and growing with you…
Oh yeah…our current series…click ((here)) to listen to the first three messages!