For those of you follow me on Instagram or on my Facebook ministry page, Reflections On The Word, you’ll recall I’ve spoken a bit about my heart for building fellowship in the Body of Christ.
Over the years as society has changed I don’t think fellowship is something we easily maintain. In these days of busyness and distractedness it now has to be intentional. I also believe we have to want it bad enough to go after it.
I’ve heard recently from several women that they long for fellowship with like-minded women. They long for deep connection. They just don’t know how to go after it.
Women feel disconnected from one another in their busyness. Some feel lonely. Misunderstood. Even rejected which really breaks my heart.
Earlier this week a younger woman sat in my kitchen with tears in her eyes because she doesn’t feel like she has any friends. Life has been rough for her. I cried with her. I held her hand. I prayed with her. I’d like to think I encouraged her.
Because I know what that feels like. When you don’t feel like you’re part of an inner circle. We need to remember that even Jesus had an inner circle. He had many followers but only 12 apostles and of those 12 He had 3 that He kept very close to Him and poured a little bit more of Himself into them.
This inner circle of men Jesus chose were not found in the temple courts or on the palace steps. They were ordinary men that we might not have given a second glance, but Jesus looked deeper. Past the rough exteriors and rugged demeanors. Past the dirt and grime. Past the sun-kissed faces and leathery skin. Past their present life course and past lifestyles.
Jesus saw who these men would become after He poured His life into them.
We have this idea in our heads that there are certain kinds of people we want in our inner circle. We don’t always look deeper. Sometimes we don’t even take a second glance and heaven forbid when we let first impressions be our only impression!
Thank You, Jesus, that first impressions don’t impress You.
I get it, though.
In the past, I watched from afar the way certain women would talk and act and laugh together and I’d think, They’re having so much fun together! I would love to be friends with them. What’s wrong with me?
How vain is that.
Sometimes I think we become so comfortable with our little “in” groups that we become protective. We like things the way they are. It’s hard to open our arms and hearts to let in anyone new. Because of the trust issue.
It takes time to build the kind of trust needed to develop true fellowship with one another.
It takes time.
I’ve been involved in women’s ministry in some way for a while. I’ve led prayer groups, taught Bible studies, mentored, shared fellowship meals in my home, participated in weekend retreats with other women and hosted weekend retreats of my own so I’ve heard often enough that women truly are longing for genuine connections.
One of the things I’ve discovered is that we all need someone we can trust in our lives who will listen to our hearts’ cries, who will be vulnerable enough to share personal experiences, who will strengthen us in our walk with the Lord, who will pray over us, and who will help us keep our eyes on Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve battled some serious discouragement in my own life and it’s just an awful place to be all alone.
Discouragement means, “a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness.”
I’ve been discouraged about family situations, about finances, and about ministry. To name a few. There’ve been times I just plain wanted to give up on my passions and forfeit my joy.
We are so easily discouraged. That’s why we need encouragement.
I’ve been reading through Paul’s letters in the New Testament and highlighting passages that refer to this fellowship and encouragement of which he so fondly wrote. I’ve been amazed how often the two are united.
There are several different words used for encourage in the original Greek language which the NT is translated from.
Some of the various meanings are: To call to one’s side, to summon, to call near; to come together, to exhort; to cause one to excel, to superabound (don’t you love that!); to speak to, to console, to calm.
When I think of the encouragement I’ve received over the years I can honestly say I’ve received all of that goodness in some way at some time and in just the right measure.
-I’ve sent out SOS’s for prayer knowing my prayer partners will pretty much stop what they’re doing and pray for me right then and there. I trust them completely.
-I’ve had these same women come together and spur me on, telling me not to give up on the promises God has given me.
-I’ve met with women in coffee shops, cafe’s and parks to talk, cry and pray together.
-I’ve had women in my home to share a meal and Bible study.
-I’ve even had pity-parties, y’all, and I’m so grateful God has given me a few girlfriends who will come to my parties. They let me get it all out, but they don’t let me stay there. They speak comfort over me. They speak calm over me. They speak the Word of God over me.
They make me feel all superabounded! This word means to prevail in greater measure or to excess.
Wow. I don’t know about you, but this kind of encouragement has a way of making me feel all Wonder-Woman-like.
Because encouragement renews my courage and gives me the holy boldness to keep on keepin’ on!
We’re not all wired the same, but I love that Paul tells us all to be humble, be gentle, be patient with each other and always keep ourselves united in the Holy Spirit so that we bind ourselves together in peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)
I love how he tells us to let everything we say be good and helpful, so that our words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29)
Paul reminds us we’re in this fight together (Philippians 1:30) and he tells us not to be selfish and don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than ourselves. Don’t think only about our own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Paul tells us his goal for the Colossians and his friends who never knew him personally was that they would be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. (Colossians 2:2)
He mentions more than once in his letters that he received encouragement and that he gave encouragement. He was also gracious to thank those who encouraged him. I can’t help but think so many of us are being short-changed.
We just don’t encourage one another enough and I wonder how many times we take it for granted when we do receive it.
Encouragement is a priceless gift when given from the heart.
Even though Paul didn’t write the book of Hebrews I sill love this passage:
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward 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,” Hebrews 10:23-25
The word consider is a very intentional word that means to consider attentively, to fix one’s eyes or mind upon, to observe or to understand.
We are to intentionally fix our eyes or minds upon others so we can spur them on–or persuade them–to love and do good to others.
Encouragement is like a chain reaction…we encourage so that others will be inspired to encourage. Yet, how can we be an encourager if we don’t spend time with one another in fellowship?
…let us not give up meeting together…be intentional…
Be. The. Encourager.
Follow hard after fellowship.
Draw someone into your little circle.
Take a second glance.
Go make someone superabound. Like Wonder Woman.
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