Encouraging One Another to the Glory of God
Life is hard. Life in covenant community is sometimes even harder. It takes intentionality and sacrifice to love those God has placed in our lives. But what a great privilege it is and how beautiful it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity. We absolutely cannot sustain this type of care for one another on our own. Cultivating covenant relationships corporately is only successful by the sustaining grace of our gracious and loving God, who first demonstrated His love for us while we were still His enemies.
Sometimes we are the one doing the caring, and sometimes we are in need of great care. Either way, as the English dictionary points out, “care” requires “watchful attention.” I love the idea of watchful attention as we think through what it means to practice mutual care in the local body of believers we have the privilege of belonging to.
As believers, we are commanded and created to care for the good of those around us and ultimately for the glory of God. As our souls are quieted by the great love of the Father, through daily intake of His word and regularly meeting with Him in prayer, our hearts are quickened to care well for and give watchful attention to those God has placed around us. The power of the Holy Spirit does this. We cannot manufacture and sustain this type of care on our own. It is a self-sacrificing, humble type of love and care.
Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are to “speak the truth in love” and “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” It is this growing up in Christ that allows us to have a strong and deep commitment to building each other up; and as we build each other up in love, we are exalting and glorifying Christ. Again in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains the body of Christ and helps us see the beautiful ways God has created us all to work together in unity for the common good. In verse 24, Paul gives this beautiful truth: “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (emphasis mine).
How do we do this thing called mutual “care”? The author of Hebrews gives us a great plan of action in chapter 10; three steps to quickening our hearts to care for our brothers and sisters. This has been an encouragement to me as I long to grow in giving watchful attention to these beautiful people around me. First, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, then let us hold fast, and finally, let us stir one another up to love and good works and encourage one another more every day as we await the return of our Lord and Savior.
First, Hebrews 10:22 commands us to draw near. We cannot care well for those around us if we are not first drinking from the fountain that never runs dry. We must spend time in the Word and in prayer. Draw near in full assurance to the throne of grace. Christ has opened the way for us. He is our portion and our cup. He will fill our cup daily so that love and grace and truth can overflow naturally and beautifully onto the people around us.
Then, “hold fast” (Hebrews 10:23). He who promised is faithful. We never have to waver in the promises of God. He hasn’t let us down and He never will. Hold onto that hope as you draw near to Him in the good times and in the hard struggles. Hold fast to Him, knowing He is holding onto you and sanctifying you as you love and care for those around you.
The order of these first two exhortations is not by accident. Once we are continually drawing near to our good Father and holding fast to our hope, we can then begin looking outward and considering how we can stir one another up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).
I have watched this happen in and through the men and women in our sweet body here in Tampa for the last two years. At The Heights Church, we place significant value on community and pray regularly that God would teach us more and more about living and loving each other well. Our actual value states that we believe “the gospel creates a new community where we as the church grow together in grace (Ephesians 4:11-13). Therefore, we will daily pursue deep, transparent, authentic relationships within the church for the purposes of mutual growth, encouragement and care (Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25).”
This daily pursuit, this “watchful attention”, requires work on our part. We must sometimes put aside the schedule and agenda of our day for the good of someone else around us. It can be uncomfortable, and it can be inconvenient, but it is beautiful to behold and so glorifying to Christ.
Recently, God ordained a beautiful transition and merge with a small body of older saints down the street from where we had been meeting at the local YMCA. Members of our body have reached out to others in completely different walks of life, ages, and stages. I have seen many examples of mutual care recently, and I am blown away by how God is at work in these sweet lives around me. As they draw near to the throne of grace and hold fast to their hope, they are being sanctified and built up to be poured out on those around them.
I overheard one 40-year-old mom of two talking recently about how she realized she lives down the street from one of our newest members, an 80-year-old widow. This busy mom didn’t hesitate or shy away from how she could love her sister; she leaves her house early to pick her up and bring her to women’s bible study on Sunday nights.
As you follow the Spirit’s leading, call up that sister who is struggling and ask her if she wants to go for a walk. Rejoice with the brother and sister who had a new baby. Weep with the ones who lost theirs.
Walking through pain and trials with each other is one of the hardest things we will do together. One thing I have learned as I have walked alongside these amazing women at The Heights is that you do not have to have all the right things to say to care well for someone. Yes, we should hide God’s word in our hearts so it comes bubbling out and spilling over onto those around us. But sometimes, mutual care for that sister who had the miscarriage or that sister who lost her mom to cancer does not have to immediately include words at all. We may just need to show up and cry with her. Pray with her. Let her know that we do not understand it all either, and then point her gently and lovingly to the One who knows all things and who cares for even the lilies and the sparrows. How great the Father’s love has been lavished on us. May we pray and grow and beg God to allow His great love to flow out onto those He has graciously allowed us to call brothers and sisters IN Christ.
I pray we all grow more and more each day in giving this beautiful, Christ-like, “watchful attention” to those we are walking together within covenant community. How good and pleasant it is!