Ask people their definition of “strength,” and you may get a variety of answers in reply.
Ask at a gym, and they may point to the guy who can deadlift not only his own weight, but possibly that of his wife and kids, too.
Ask at a school, and you may be directed to the teacher who somehow manages to maintain a rostrum of serenity amid a sea of children and the bureaucratic politics of education.
Ask in a business, and you may be pointed to the “closer,” who seems to be able to burn the candle at both ends and never seem to slack off the pace of amassing deals, clients and satisfied bosses and customers.
And the list goes on. (You get the idea.)
Throughout our culture, though, the notion of strength is embodied in certain characteristics. And most of them are wrapped up in the notion of the men (or women) who take on the world, come under the weight of destiny, and yet stand up under it, and ultimately triumph – or die trying.
But ask God about “strength” and you get a very different answer.
Right from the beginning, we see God make an observation about the human being he has created. Shortly after making Adam, the Bible tells us God looked and saw Adam was good, as was the rest of creation. But a little while later, we see God observes that “it is not good for man to be alone.”
While God satisfied Adam’s loneliness in Eve, today, so many of us, including many in believing churches, continue to struggle with the notion of attempting to somehow get around God’s observation, striving on to conquer life on our own (or perhaps trying the strategy of “Me+God vs the World”).
But that was never God’s plan.
Just as it was expressed first in Genesis, God repeated himself in technicolor in the Gospels and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, describing in great detail how he established his church.
Why? To show us the truth. For us who believe, for us who call ourselves followers of Christ, for us who claim to have heard and obeyed the call of Jesus and the beckoning of the Holy Spirit, there is no way to live out that call, to find our destiny, and to find the strength we need to succeed in a Christian life outside the community of the church.
As Pastor Bryan shared Sunday, that community brings great benefits. In community we can find the power of God for our lives, as we grow together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, spurring each other on to good and better works.
In community, we are encouraged to take our eyes off of our own needs, our own problems, our own foibles, and turn our eyes to the needs of those around us, and together, to look to Jesus.
In community, we find the opportunity to forgive and be forgiven.
And in community, we find the strength that comes from having others around us to share our burdens, freeing us to run the race and surmount the obstacles life places in front of us, as we seek our Lord together.
As Pastor Bryan said: “When people love God and love each other, there’s nothing we can’t get through together.”
Today, be encouraged to accept the challenge of community.
Join a small group. Volunteer to serve on a ministry team. Break bread with your fellow church members. Make a commitment to attend Sunday worship services. And get to know those you are worshipping with.
But just stop trying to go it alone. Come in from the cold. Share the warmth and love, grace and hope that is found in a community of true believers, faulty humans just like you, willing to strengthen and encourage each other as together we press in, and seek God’s Fullness.