Hebrews 3:13 tells us to “exhort one another daily,” 10:24 says “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” If you do a search on Bible Gateway for “one another” you’ll end up with a list of verses that give us a good start for understanding our relationship to others in the body of Christ.
Some people have honed the art of giving, but have relegated the art of receiving into a rusty heap in the corner. Some people receive love gratefully, but are not sure how to give to others in the same measure. Perhaps it is time to examine why our edification tools are not working as they should. This is an area where it is easy for me to focus on “the other people,” but I know I should probably start by evaluating myself.
Because God has blessed me with an inherent love for teaching, and because God has blessed me beyond measure with a godly heritage, I find it easy to teach, but I find it much harder to learn. In the last year or so, God has been teaching me ways I contribute to the problem.
First, I don’t receive encouragement because I think I can live without it. Our society has imbibed the wine of Emerson and self-reliance, and we Christians often drink, unwittingly contrary to Scripture. It is pride to ignore Scripture that clearly indicates we are to function as a body. I think God delights in giving us circumstances we cannot handle alone, because it is in those times when we must turn to Him and His word. But God did not intend for us to function in our Christian lives without other believers. We’ve got an abundance of Scripture that places a high priority on giving and receiving spiritual encouragement. The apostle Paul told the believers under his authority how they encouraged him, which seems to suggest that even in leadership we have need of each other. In my case, God has used the military to keep me moving, keep me away from relying on any single person I know well. I’ve recognized struggles I just wasn’t getting a handle on by myself. How many times does it take to say “God is sufficient. I don’t need to share this struggle with anyone else” before I realize I do need others.
Second, I don’t receive encouragement because I communicate to others that I can live without it. This too, is pride. There are many reasons we do not share our struggles with others. I am coming to believe many of them are not biblical. Clearly, wisdom would dictate a place and audience for transparency, but if we are never transparent with anyone, we have a problem. How can those in my local church pray for me if I do not ask for prayer? How can they encourage me? Yes, we risk many unpleasant consequences by being honest with others, but I do not see how I can fulfill Scripture without it.
What can we do? For me, I’ve figured out that there are some things, I can deal with without other believers. If I am having a wretched day, and I find comfort and restoration in God’s Word, then I think God has given me the grace to deal with it on my own. Sometimes, though, I’ve realized I’m dealing with the same pattern of thinking over and over, without seeing any real change. Or I’ve gotten discouraged in some area. Or I’m not really sure after studying something what to do. In these cases, I believe, God’s Word is clear that I need the strength of other believers.
I’ve also been examining my motives for not sharing specific spiritual requests with other believers. When I see unbiblical motives for protecting myself, I’ve been convicted about sharing them. I haven’t arrived yet. I still am reluctant to be open with people who love me very much, but God is helping me to grow in this area.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about giving encouragement. Update: Here is the article.