Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “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!”
I am very familiar with encouraging people with a truth I have a hard time receiving for myself. I know what it’s like to say to someone full of regret, “There is hope for you in Christ,” praying they will be convinced of the potential for them in God’s kingdom. Yet when it comes to receiving it myself, sometimes words of truth can slide off of me like water off a duck’s back.
“Full atonement, can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!” I can sing the melody for my dear friends who are treading tragic paths. But for my life, “Can it be?”
There is a particular weight— a divine weight— that is felt when we sit before men and women and testify to the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our eyes locked upon one another, steady and constant, with the age-old truth that God is present with us in our darkness, and He isn’t going anywhere.
In those moments where I have a hard time receiving the steadfast love of The Lord— a love from everlasting to everlasting— I need to see it in someone else’s eyes. I need my sister, my friend, my brother, and my mother.
The gospel message is powerful. It is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. Most of the time, it is easier for us to declare the promises of Christ to those on the other side of the table and forget they apply to us too.
It’s essential to be convinced of the gospel for ourselves. We must learn to marinate in the power of Christ and His love in the lowest places of our lives before being able to portray the wonder of His love to others effectively.
But here’s the thing. That doesn’t come from isolated Christianity. There must be environments where I can go and confess my worst and, with my own eyes, experience the forbearance of the Lord and His mercy through the lens of a friend who stays.
To say, “Here’s the gut-honest truth of what I’ve been going through. It is messy, and it’s unattractive, and I am losing hope.” On the occasion I notice they aren’t going anywhere with their feet staying put, I am transported from the self-focused world of troubles and aches into remembrance of the eternal power of God over every circumstance I face. When confession is professed to a friend who bears with them the hope of Christ in the place I feel most constrained to my sin and blinded by its darkness, forgiveness begins to look really tangible. With my own eyes, I am captured by the mercy and grace of God in the presence of another. Their unflinching posture cements the fact that the power of the gospel is not just for them but for me too.
God’s wrath was upon us because of our sin, and His love provided a sacrifice. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, stood in our place and on the cross, absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf. Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree. Every one of them, including the ones we have feared to confess and the ones that carry the most shame. Those have all been dealt with if you have trusted in the substitutionary atonement of Christ. Raised to life, our Lord stands as victor over His children’s record. His blood cries out for us— “Clean!” We will stand for eternity in His presence as righteous people because of His work. Not ours!
We are heralds of God’s grace, and this news must be proclaimed to one another day in and day out. On some days, I may have a hard time receiving the words. In times of weakness, I may be able to believe them for everyone else but myself.
But to have my beloved friend look me in the eyes and remind me that this good news is not for everyone else but for my soul too? That is when heavenly truth visits my soul, and I can see God’s faithfulness in a very real way. Community is not an accessory to your Christian life. It is the Christian life. The presence of a Christ-loving friend is not a perk to our walk with the Lord. As a collective whole of many members, we have been called into one body (Romans 12:5), Christ being the head (Ephesians 5:23). As head of the church, Christ nourishes and cherishes us that we might grow into a true and reflective body of Who He is. His Spirit’s nourishment is most vividly seen through the outstretched arms of one another, which is why Paul reminds us that above all the gifts we may possess, love is utmost (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Billy Graham once said, “God has given us two hands—once to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”
Growing in holiness is a painful process. Recognizing how far we have to go, the thorns in our flesh pry open our hearts in the most unsettling way. In those moments, we are being championed to continue on by our Heavenly Father. His voice may appear muffled to us, but the loving affirmation of our brothers and sisters in Christ is a primal tool to encourage us on the occasions of our greatest regrets and soul-clouding darkness.
Don’t ever discount the eternal value of those who God has placed in your life and the ministry of being a constant presence to a hurting friend. When our worst unfolds, let it land upon the heart of a trusted companion who believes the gospel enough to demonstrate it through the godly posture of planted feet and open arms. Do not devalue the opportunities given to you throughout your years to share the gospel, in which we stand (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), to those who can’t remember what strength feels like. Be a friend who stays.