For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12 ESV
Paul writing to the people of Rome tells them one of the reasons why he wants to visit with them. He wants to strengthen them with a spiritual gift. What kind of gift can Paul impart? Is he the Holy Spirit that he can provide gifts of the Holy Spirit? Not exactly, but the answer is interesting. Paul is calling the encouragement that comes from believers hanging out with each other a spiritual gift that strengthens all involved. This is a law or an order that God has ordained. Believers interacting with other believers (relationships) talking about, demonstrating, and praying about the things of faith build encouragement and in turn strengthen mutually the believers involved. Exactly what does this look like and how do we in the church today grasp ahold of such a spiritual gift?
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 ESV
The author of Hebrews tells us that we need to meet together, even though some people neglect to do so. If you want encouragement from other believers then you will need to make time to fit them into your life. How can anyone encourage you and your family if you fill your life with things that separate you from the body of believers? I would challenge everyone to evaluate how their week is organized? How many evenings are spent watching some television show in isolation when there is a group meeting to study Gods word in the Church or home right down the street? How many of us with children fill our time with sports, dance, or academic clubs yet never see the value of a community group of believers meeting in homes to strengthen our knowledge of God? How many of us because of our sins sit in isolation afraid to become part of a body of believers out of fear of judgment?
I love how the author of Hebrews uses the word “stir” to describe the interaction with the community of believers. The KJV uses the word “provoke”. Let us consider how to provoke one another… to love and good works. This word “stir” means to irritate or incite. That is a provocative word for the author of Hebrews to use. Let us consider how to “irritate” one another… to love and good works. Maybe we have experienced that irritation with other believers and that is why we are now in the habit of neglecting to meet together? There is good irritation and it makes one restless to no longer accept the status of the current path. Just as an alarm clock irritates one to get out of bed so does the fellowship of believers irritate or stir one to join God in His work.
There is a second part to this irritation that needs to be addressed. That is the irritation that other believers cause in relation to sin. We all are sinners. Some sins have been forced upon us due to circumstances (it is not your fault what others have done to you). Some sins we choose because those desires are strong and to be honest we enjoy them even though they are destructive to us and those around us. Both of these can be overcome by the fellowship of believers where Christ is at work. First you are not so unique that your sins are one of a kind. In a small group that is encouraging one another about the things of faith one will find that others share similar struggles. Behind the exterior of appearing to have it all together the truth is exposed in the community group, and the Bible study of other struggling right along with ourselves. Be encouraged and remember that Jesus came to fellowship with the hurting and the sinner.
I have been hosting a community group in my home through the local church for several years and I have enjoyed getting to know those that venture out to of their isolation into the body of believers. We have had lively conversations on all kinds of topics, and I have seen believers grow and strengthen their faith through these small groups. If the fellowship of believers for you is Church for an hour on Sunday morning anonymously hiding on the back row then you have missed the purpose of Church and a spiritual gift of strength that comes from God by way of relationship with His children. Step out receive this spiritual gift of strength and be stirred to join with God in His work.