When have you felt “left out”? Choose any kind of situation you like. What could you have offered that you felt wasn’t being asked for or wanted?
On the other hand, when have you been the one who kept your gifts or abilities to yourself? What could you have offered that really was needed, and why didn’t you?
We all have something to offer one another. God has created each of us uniquely, so we can fit together perfectly to accomplish whatever God wants to accomplish through us. And yet, it usually takes some effort to discover what each person’s real contributions are, or can be. It’d be great if we all instantly liked and understood each other, but the fact is, it takes time.
The good news is: It’s worth your time. So let’s reflect on why it’s so important to be connected to each other, especially as Christians, and how we can encourage each other and help make those connections happen. Open up a new tab, check out the following list of passages, and then think about the questions that follow:
• Romans 15:13-14
• 1 Corinthians 12:14-26
• 1 Thessalonians 5:11-22
• Hebrews 10:24-25
• 1 Peter 4:7-11
• Why should we encourage each other, and what should that encouragement look like? Try to come up with some personal examples to go with the biblical ones above.
• How are the examples you came up with we described different when God’s involved, rather than when it’s just us?
• When have you seen people join together for a bigger purpose? How did your examples come into play?
You’ve just reflected on the importance—and the joy—of working together, and bringing all our different gifts to the table. So let’s consider another couple questions:
• What keeps these moments from happening more often in our lives?
• What do you think of Paul’s statement in Romans 15:14, that your “brothers and sisters… are full of goodness”? How would (or does) believing it change the way you approach and work together with them?
We need each other. There’s no way around it. God built us not only to serve him, but to serve him together. Encouragement—openly recognizing that God built the person next to you the way he wanted, and for his good purposes—is a lot of the glue that holds that together. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, puts it even more strongly: “It is the fellowship of the Cross to experience the burden of the other. If one does not experience it, the fellowship he belongs to is not Christian. If any member refuses to bear that burden, he denies the law of Christ.”
So let’s consider some ways to walk it out. Pick one of these options—or better yet, if God’s putting something else on your heart, do that!
• Spend some more time this week with this week’s Bible passages. Meditate on them. Pray about them. How do they impact you? Will it mean getting out of your shell and “putting yourself out there”? Or does it mean letting go of control so others can bring their unique gifts alongside to help you? Or does it mean something else? Spend time using God’s Word as a catalyst to finding (and pursuing) the answers God is offering you.
• Find ways to support others in your church or group who are in need—as you would a member of your own family. Taking a pot of soup to someone who’s sick. Make a phone call to encourage someone who’s hurting. Take a couple of bags of groceries or a gift card to someone who’s struggling financially. Or… what unique way might God be showing you?
• Is there a friend or co-worker facing a difficult choice or circumstance? Commit to praying for that person specifically about those choices, and let him or her know you’re praying. If it’s appropriate, put that person in touch with members of your group or church who have the gifts and talents to help your friend. It would build both sides up, and probably be a pleasant surprise for both, too.
• Think about how you could stretch your boundaries this week. Is there a leadership role you could help fill, either in church or elsewhere? Is there some service project you could get involved in? Is there a ministry in your church where you could give someone a much-needed break this week? Commit to taking that step and how you could join with others to support the gifts they’re already exercising—even if they don’t yet know Jesus.
• Become an ally to an organization or cause in town that really needs support. It doesn’t have to be a Christian organization—in fact, it may prove to be more powerful if it isn’t. How can you support your police or fire departments, or an organization that specializes in showing mercy and compassion to the more “marginalized” members of your community? Be creative, and then be involved.
[W]e may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:14-16, ESV).
Ask God to help you see new ways they you help other Christians, “so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” And ask God to open your eyes to opportunities to build up others who don’t know Jesus, and that God would use you to show those people how Jesus wants to build them, too.