Exchange Loneliness for Fellowship

Many years ago I had the opportunity to go skiing by myself.

I had a 20-minute responsibility to share a devotional at Park City Mountain Resort, but after I fulfilled my duties, I was free to ski the rest of the day.

But you know what? After a few runs I headed home.

Why? Because something was missing. I was skiing alone, and I realized that, for me, skiing is just as much a relational activity as it is a physical activity.

Bottom line, I felt lonely.

Prior to the fall loneliness didn’t exist for Adam and Eve.

  1. They had relationship with God
  2. They had relationship with each other

But the fall did a number on us when it comes to feelings of:

ALIENATION

DISCONNECTION

ISOLATION

Sadly, there are hundreds of unhealthy ways to deal with these types of feelings, aren’t there?

Many of which can lead to greater pain and difficulty.

The truth is we were made for relationship. The great commandments of Jesus centered on two basic directives. Love God. Love others.

Now, there are times in life when it is God’s will that we be alone.

Jesus often peeled away from the crowd to spend time in solitude.

There may be seasons in our life where it’s meant to be just us and God.

But, by and large, we are meant to interact with others. The problem is that we may be tempted to salve our loneliness in some pretty unhealthy ways.

So what are to do?

God’s Word prescribes something called fellowship.

Fellowship can be defined as:

A companionable relationship that includes sharing deep personal experiences, giving and receiving love, experiencing joy with others as well as being united in times of need.

Truth be told, the concept of fellowship as defined above is not easy for most Americans.

Combating our feelings of loneliness are attitudes of independence.

As a result, we cam be surrounded by people, but our relationships are often shallow and superficial!

For example, in America if you ask someone to define success, most people would speak about careers or making money or achieving goals.

But very rarely do Americans define success in terms of relationship!

The Bible offers some great descriptions of the importance of relational fellowship. Here’s a set of verses I often include when I perform a wedding ceremony:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

The writer of Hebrews offered this advise to Christians who were being tempted to try and go the Christian life independently:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Let’s be honest, though. Relationships can be risky! There are a lot of reasons to avoid them.

But a lack of relationships is worse. Because we were made for relationship.

We just need to pursue our relationships in a way that honors God and His Word.

 

Trade Fear for Trust

Not all fear is bad.

For example, fear of injury or death keeps us from jumping off twelve-story buildings.

A healthy sense of fear can protect us from things that would do us harm.

But not all fear is healthy.

Interesting, the Bible calls upon us to fear the Lord, but not in a cowering, trembling sort of way.

A healthy fear of God is marked by respect and submission.

But some people go through life afraid of God and what they think He will do to their lives.

So they avoid Him. Or even curse Him.

But here’s a bit of instruction the Bible gives in regard to our relationship with our Maker:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

So, we are to fear God (respect Him) and trust Him (rely upon Him).

Here’s what I see to be our challenge: to be less consumed with the worries that cause our uncertainty, and more consumed with living openly in the ways of decency prescribed by God.

See, when we live in fear, we often resort to hiding from God or playing games with Him. We aren’t open or transparent.

But trust draws us out to experience confidence and openness.

I believe it is God’s desire that we live less of our lives in crippling fear and enjoy the freedom that comes from relying upon Him for guiding our path and meeting our needs.

The apostle John made this powerful statement about how we can see less gripping fear showing up in our life:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. ( 1 John 4:18 ESV)

And what is the basis of our relationship with God? It’s love! As John 3:16 proclaims, God’s love was the motivation to send His only Son to earth to save us from our sins.

And God’s love is also the basis of our life in Him.

He loves us enough to direct us, guide us and even warn us.

And when we listen to Him, and apply what we hear, we can give fear a quick kick to the curb.

The fruit of fear is often seen in defensiveness or inflexibility or insecurity.

But when we trust in God, we can actually transform to be a person of peace and confidence.

Romans 8:28 is a powerful verse of scripture that speaks to the value of trusting in God through thick and thin:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)

When our relationship with God is rooted in fear, it often means we can’t see how, in all situations, God is in control and has our interests in mind.

As a result we end up questioning God or even doubting Him.

But when we love and trust God, it is amazing how He can open up our eyes to get a glimpse of His great sovereignty and hand of providence.

May we always find ourselves firmly in the grip of our great, gracious God.

 

Replace Pride with Humility

Pride has been called the root all sins.

Perhaps this is because the first sin ever committed found its foundations in pride.

When the serpent tempted Eve, he sought to provoke her ego.

And it worked:. Eve was tempted, and then Adam deliberately disobeyed God.

Ever since that fateful day, mankind has universally struggled with pride.

The Bible never gives pride a thumbs up. On the contrary, pride is always shown in a negative light. For example:

Proverbs 11:2: When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 26:12: Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool tan for him.

Galatians 6:3: For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Both James and Peter wrote this: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

So, without a doubt, pride has to go!

But rather than just leave a void, we have to replace our pride with humility.

Humility is God’s answer for our problem with pride.

Humility is defined as lack of self-preoccupation and modest appraisal of one’s self.

It’s viewing ourselves as we really are.

It’s simply getting real.

Over and over the Bible prods us to embrace humility as the antidote for pride.

Jesus Himself gave this exhortation to his disciples:

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

So often we like to exalt, promote and inflate ourselves before others.

But God challenges us to have a realistic evaluation about ourselves.

And ultimately, our confidence ought not lie in ourselves, but in our God.

About 100 years ago, a London newspaper challenged its readers to mail in responses to this simple question. “What’s wrong with the world today?”

As the responses came back, they typically had people pointing fingers at others for the worlds ailments.

But one theologian by the name of G.K. Chesterton stunned the editorial board with his brief, concise analysis:

Dear Sirs:

I am.

Sincerely Yours,

G. K. Chesterton.

That response came from a mind that was firmly focused on a humble approach to life.

Pride likes to puff us up. Humility brings us back to earth.

The only way we will slay an out-of-control ego is by wholeheartedly embracing humility.