“One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” — Romans 1:10-12
I am looking forward to, God willing, a get together later on tonight. My daughter and son-in-law are coming back from a trip to Israel. They have been gone ten days and took our future grandbaby with them.
This morning, as I pondered such a reunion, I began to think about the times when the body of Christ gets together for what we call “church.” I wonder, is what we’re doing even remotely tied to what the early church did? Are our “get togethers” akin to the desire and heart of God?
This morning in my quiet time God impressed upon my heart several insights into the expectations of the early Christians when they got together. Their lives were filled with distress. Their ministries were fraught with danger but their meetings were filled with delight! There was an air of adventure and excitement that characterized their times together.
Paul’s meeting with the Roman Christians was, first of all, motivated by longing. He said, “For I long to visit you…” (vs. 11). For him, there was such a desire to be with fellow believers. In our day, much of the desire has turned to duty. It’s no longer, “I get to go to church today!” but it is now, “I have to go to church today.”
A second motivation for getting together in Paul’s day was loving. Love marked the early Christians. They had taken seriously Jesus words: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). In all that Paul was writing to the Romans, the love was so solid you could cut it with a knife!
A third motivation for getting together with the early Christians in Rome was for leaving. By that I mean he wanted to give them something—to leave something with them that would benefit them. Paul said, “…so I can bring you some spiritual gift” (vs. 11). Getting together should be about giving! So many today come together and say, “Bless me, bless me, bless me.” When we come together for “what we can get out of it,” we cheapen Christian fellowship and worship.
A forth motivation for getting together was for learning. Paul’s purpose was that they might “grow strong in the Lord” (vs. 11). There is a strength that comes to those who share their mutual faith and love. It is impossible, let me say it again, it is impossible for a Christian to grow to full maturity in Christ without the church. We atrophy and die when we are not a part of the body. God designed it that way.
A fifth motivation for getting together was for lifting. No, not to pump iron, but to pump one another up! The word encourage is used twice in verse 12. This brings to light our responsibility to one another. We are to build courage in one another. We are to lift up one another. There is no room for a bone of contention in the body of Christ!
When we come together this week, we will encounter those who are battle-worn and battle-scarred. Church ought to be like coming home…a place of rest and recuperation…a place to recharge our batteries and gain courage to fight again. With God’s grace it will be that way when we get together!