“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
From Fear to Joy
Reading this Scripture through the spirit of the law, I use to see this verse as part of a checklist. “I need to encourage others to love and do good deeds, I need to do more good deeds myself, and I should attend church consistently.” This trap of legalism translated into a fear of failure and a fear of disappointing God. There was no peace in this mindset; there was no joy in the journey. But God honored my constant request, “please show me the truth.” His answer to that prayer has affected every area of my life. He has transformed my heart from a burden of overwhelming fear, to a heart empowered by the finished work of Jesus. In Christ, I am able to live out these instructions with joy, because it’s based on the heart, not the law; relationship, not a list of rules.
A New Thing
Last night was our first Small Group get together of the season. Like savoring a favorite tea, with the familiar aroma and flavor, It was an evening of encouragement and gratitude, bringing joyous memories of answered prayer and blessings. My husband and I have been part of a Small Group at our church for the past four years, and wouldn’t trade our Thursday evenings for anything within our control. It is a great time of fellowship and a very effective tool for the Holy Spirit to work His transforming power in our lives, when, of course, we surrender to His process.
I remember the first time we held a Small Group study in our home. We’d inquired about joining a group, and were asked in turn, if we would host. We were quite nervous, but we made a decision to go for it. As we greeted each guest and made small talk, the voice of fear played in my head, taunting me with a sense of failure before we even started.
Once seated and ready to begin, taking a deep breath, I introduced myself and began to share a little about my background; the years I walked without God, followed by the years God drew me back to Him. To my utter amazement, I was not met with crossed arms and scrutinizing eyes. Instead, one by one, people shared their stories as well. We talked into the late evening and as our last guest left, I closed the door and smiled, confident God was doing a new thing in my life.
Rewards of Vulnerability
I made a decision several years back. I don’t want to play church; I want to be real. If I can’t be real, I’d rather simply walk away. I’m not claiming to be an expert on authentic Christian living. In fact, one of my biggest heart struggles in my life has been fear of rejection. It is a daily choice to leave the facade off. I must take fear of rejection and failure to Jesus on a continual basis. But as awkward as it often is, the rewards to being honest and vulnerable are huge!
First, I believe that when we open up, others begin to let down their guard and tend to open up as well. This creates an atmosphere of hope and encouragement, and over time, builds trust. I remember when I first came back to Christ, I had a misconception that other Christians had it all together. I was afraid that if they knew the "real me," they would hate me. The first time a woman opened up to me and shared how she was struggling, I was initially shocked, but most importantly, I was greatly encouraged. That was the first time I realized I was not alone. This dear woman became a life-long friend.
Second, when we bring our struggles and fear into the light, Satan doesn't stand a chance. "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin." 1 John 1:7 The enemy’s greatest weapon is deceit. "He is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44. When we bring our sin and fear out into the light, Satan is completely disarmed. No longer isolated, we are able to see the truth of the matter, and the lies are dispelled.
Lastly, in authentic relationship, we can speak truth over each other’s lives, reminding each other of God's promises and who we are in Christ. Some days, I find myself speaking the truth over a friend. She might be struggling with self-doubt. I remind her of God's promises and who she is in Christ. Other days, that very same friend is found speaking truth over me. It's amazing what a dose of truth can do to empower us to walk in victory in spite of our circumstances.
Through experiencing the joy and challenges of friendship in Small Group, God has shown me the heart behind Hebrews 10:24-25. Whether we’ve been hurt by fellow Christians in the past, or whether we are simply uncomfortable sharing our hearts with others, we need brothers and sisters in Christ to make the journey together. Although God has conquered fear in total victory at the cross, I must choose daily to experience that victory in my own life. I must trust Him when He promises:
“…the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4