By April Motl, Crosswalk.com
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” – Ruth 4:14-15 NASB
In this story, Naomi returned to her hometown, greeted by all her old friends and neighbors—only to lament her current state and understandably grieve her losses.
But within a few page-turns for the reader (and a few months for Naomi) her circumstances completely changed to become more joyful and hopeful than she could have ever dreamed.
One of the beautiful pieces of Ruth and Naomi’s story is that they lived it out amongst their spiritual family. Throughout the account, it is mentioned that word of Ruth’s faithfulness had spread all over the community (Ruth 2:11-12, Ruth 3:11).
And when the Lord’s faithfulness was tangibly poured over them, the whole town rejoiced together with them. Seeing their burdens lifted was evidence of the Lord’s hand in their lives. Together, they experienced the real-time rewards of fellowship.
Fellowship Is an Important Spiritual Discipline
Sometimes fellowship is the viewed as the “lesser” of the spiritual disciplines. We work hard at Bible study or developing deeper prayer lives, but do we also apply that same desire and effort to grow in the area of fellowship?
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore. – Psalm 133
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The Risk of Sharing Life is Worth the Rewards
God designed the sharing of lives to be a funnel for joy and abundance; and source of sweetness in our life. In truth, it can be hard to share life with others, despite the design for it to be a blessing.
It surprises us when our efforts at friendship are met with hurt or misunderstanding.
Those painful relationships can feel like a car wreck. Many of us have been in car accidents. We’ve seen them and whispered prayers for those involved. And when we’ve been in one, it can be hard to get back in the car again. But if we never get in a car again, friends would likely say we need therapy—and they’d be right!
Yet when it comes to fellowship, we act as if just because someone was broken in their treatment of us, we can skip this part of being a Christian. We can end up acting as if it’s perfectly reasonable to never again “get in the car” of closeness and relationship.
With all compassion, for your benefit, I urge you to reconsider the value you’ve set on this part of your faith journey. Consider this passage in Scripture:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47
Can you imagine this passage describing the early church if we just deleted all the references to “together” or “sharing?" Seems to me it would most certainly lose a significant part of its value. Our lives also lose some of the treasure God meant for us to have when we miss out on cultivating fellowship in our lives. The church as a corporate body misses out as well.
Fellowship Fuels Worship
For the early church we can see that it was theirfellowship that fueled their worship.
Just as sharing life’s burdens led to a community praising God in the book of Ruth it was the fellowship of believers that stirred worship in the early church.
Some of the times I have been most filled with praise have been shared moments. Corporate worship at a women’s retreat—with so many of God’s daughters singing to their Father—is indescribably sweet. Elation and praise fills the hearts of friends and family after praying for a long-awaited baby, or a much needed job that finally comes through.
Shared moments of seeking God together and then seeing His faithfulness have been such a significant part of shaping my Christianity; I can’t imagine my faith journey without them. And I can’t imagine how much it would rob from how I’ve come to know and worship God.
Like Ruth and Naomi, like the early church, we are called to live our faith in the view of the “cloud of witnesses” for the very precious purpose of fueling others’ walk and worship. We can be honest like Naomi, and confess our bitterness of soul and circumstance. Yet we must never lose sight of the eternal purpose our life-sharing holds.
Share your journey so others can sing for joy at the standing stones God sprinkles in your path.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
– Psalm 34:3
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7 Practical Ways to Develop Deeper Fellowship
1. Invite: Prayerfully invite someone to lunch after church to get to know them.
2. Pray: When you hear someone’s prayer request, be faithful in praying for them. Send cards of encouragement or other tangible reminders that you are standing “with” them during their hard time (or during their joyful season).
3. Get Together: Grab coffee or a neighborhood walk with someone to connect and find out how you can pray with them.
4. Bless: Look for ways to bless others. Maybe a mom with little ones just needs a little support in church with her children or understanding when her baby cries. If someone in your church is out of work or in the hospital, deliver a meal or send a card to say “I’m with you” in this.
5. Attend: When there are “work parties” or other service opportunities at church, go! Be part of them, share your gifts, skills, energy, whatever you have! As you give of yourself, your life and your story will have the chance to be woven into the tapestry of others’ faith and joy.
6. Include: When the holidays are coming up, keep your eyes open for opportunities to include and bless those who might not otherwise have people to share them with.
7. Forgive:When you are hurt by someone in your pursuit of fellowship, remember who God has called you to be, and faithfully be that person, regardless of someone else’s weakness.
April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April here and here.
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