Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Last week, the head of our food ministry terminated our operations. Nine people lost their jobs and The Road Home lost its office and meeting place. In one swift move, life took an unexpected detour! Why shut down a ministry which last year resulted in over 78 people putting their faith for the first time in Jesus, hundreds of families receiving food and free dental assistance plus prayer and encouragement? Better yet, why treat a ministry like a business and let the fear of lawsuits trump eternal investments? I felt like telling the owner, “When you die, you won’t stand before lawyers, you’ll stand before God, so lead accordingly!” But he was acting according to what he felt was right. He generously gave to help us move on. Rather than protest, it was nobler to pray and seek God’s leading.
I feel badly for the folks who lost their jobs. But I learned something valuable. I got to see firsthand how people handled disappointment and who rose up to encourage. And, somehow, a chapter closing brought to the forefront something else that has bothered me for a long, long time.
Someone should write a paper on the honorable way to leave a fellowship. It is sad how many disciples don’t know how to leave the company of believers they have interacted with for a protracted time, in a God-honoring way. Rather than talk to the leader(s) and share their concerns, or seek the blessing of the body, they just stop coming. Fellowship is broken with words unspoken. Too often, the reasons for leaving are rationally pious but bereft in kindness; judgmental and graceless, self-oriented and not self-sacrificing. Church deficiencies, problems in the body or better-services-elsewhere logic somehow warrants the notion that fellowship can be severed. Do you know of any Scripture that extols fellowship hopping?
I think the unexpected termination of jobs is easier to absorb than the unannounced ending of shared worship. I do understand why so many leave the ministry in droves. The severed cords of interaction without explanation become too painful. The cost to the spouse and children of watching “friends” just leave creates hurt and fear in them of ever trusting or making the effort to be close to those who say they are committed. While it would be nice to see God’s people act Christ-like, the fact remains that as long as there is global sin, we will experience flaky commitments. I am not being trite in writing that the only solution is to keep our eyes on Jesus!
Consider two ministry-saving, morale-boosting, joy-producing truths. First:
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
God supremely loves us. If we will follow Him and rest in the assurance that He is in control, knows our troubles and truly cares about us we will experience His phenomenal comforting. He is the blessed Comforter.
Second, God raises up people who are faithful fellowship builders. “Now I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon so that I also may be encouraged when I hear news about you. For I have no one else like-minded who will genuinely care about your interests; all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:19-21). True comforters have three qualities. First, their primary focus is in meeting the interests of Jesus Christ. Second, they have an ongoing concern for the welfare of their fellow saints. Third, by virtue of humility their own interests are secondary to Jesus and others (2:3,4). God help us to be like Timothy!
Comforters are an awesome reflection of the Father of consolation. How deeply blessed I am when brothers and sisters care. Listen! “What’s best for me” Christianity never impresses the world. The way we will reach those who don’t know Christ is by building strong, committed relationships with those God places around us—maintaining accountability, forgiving, edifying and modeling loyalty for the expansion of His kingdom and the advancement of His glory! If you’ve left fellowship with no explanation or blessing, you’ve hurt people. Trust me on this. Make it right and honor God; heal the wound and regain favor. Don’t make excuses or put off reconciling as the leader’s responsibility—that’s selfish and unfair. By repairing fellowship, you become a comforter. In the process, you gain peace. Something to think about . . . in reveration!
The place for the comforter is not that of one who preaches, but of the comrade who says nothing, but prays to God about the matter. The biggest thing you can do for those who are suffering is not to talk platitudes, not to ask questions, but to get into contact with God, and the “greater works” will be done by prayer (John 14:12-13).—Oswald Chambers in Baffled to Fight Better
©2008 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)