Tag Archives: Like-Minded Fellowship

Lonely? Be Encouraged! – Part 2

I received a couple of e-mails with some questions after last month’s Dad’s Corner on loneliness. This month we will expand that article by addressing those questions.

The first e-mail asked the following: “Although we have many friends and acquaintances, we feel lonely for likeminded families with whom we can relate. Currently, we are looking for a home church. (We live in Houston so if you know of any great churches in the area please let us know!) We have no church family with whom to meet and fellowship, and we do feel discouraged! It does seem to me that the Bible does emphasize that we do have a God-given need to fellowship with others. In fact, one of the first things God did in the Garden of Eden was point out that ‘it is not good for man to be alone,’ and He created Eve.”

The verse that is being referred to is Genesis 2:18, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”This verse is frequently cited as justification for getting married or, in this case, to find like-minded fellowship. There is no doubt that God created “man”with the desire to be with others, especially someone of like-heart, and that is good. Adam said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,”because she was the perfect match for Adam.

However, there is something very noteworthy in Genesis 2:18. Adam didn’t tell God that he needed a companion. God was the One to look at Adam, evaluate his life and the job He had for Adam to do. Then God was the One to say, “It is not good for the man (Adam) to be alone.”Finally God was the One to provide a help meet. Adam was content in the Lord. He didn’t say, “Lord, I’m not satisfied with just You. You aren’t meeting all my needs.”The Lord was the Initiator and Provider of Adam’s help meet.

Our Lord wants us to be most effectively used for Him, and He will provide for all our needs (although not necessarily wants). “Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8). I encourage those struggling with feelings of loneliness to decide to trust that God will give you what He feels you need to be effective as you serve Him.

I believe Genesis teaches us that God’s hierarchy of fellowship is to be first with the Lord, then with our spouses, then with our families, and then with others. In the Garden, God was fellowshipping with Adam, then He gave him Eve, and then children. There was nothing hindering God from creating, Adam and Eve, and Teri and Steve. He could have begun with a whole city in the Garden having created them all at once. They could have had wonderful fellowship with each other from the beginning including the perfect church that we all dream about. However, that wasn’t what God chose for the beginning of His creation.

I have observed couples that elevate fellowship to a high place that I don’t believe God ever intended it to be. There is much time spent fellowshipping, but then little time is spent ministering and sharing Christ. I would suggest that a family that is feeling very lonely be sure they are busy in the Lord ministering and serving Him. It is likely that the level of busyness such service will bring to the family will keep them from a focus on their loneliness. They will find fulfillment in their service that compensates for the lack of fellowship. Is it possible that fellowshipping becomes another form of entertainment when God desires that we are ministering to others and serving Him?

Since the Corner reader had no like-minded Christians to fellowship with, then they could have some lost friends over for dinner. After the meal, they could go into the living room and visit for a while and then have Bible time with them. (This all assumes the family is having daily family Bible time. If they aren’t, that is the first place to start, fellowshipping with their Lord Jesus.)

Our family loves having unchurched people over for a meal. We often will make this choice over fellowship with like-minded believers because our first calling is to minister and to serve, and it sure beats feelings of loneliness because of not having like-minded fellowship nearby. Expect that good fellowship will seldom happen and get busy in the meantime.

Another e-mail reads: “I felt as if I could have written in with the same issues. We have NO like-minded families in our church. My children and I desire to have fellowship with godly Christian families that we may be encouraged when times are tough and that we may be a blessing to them as well. Why are we commanded in Scripture not to forsake the assembling of the saints together? I believe that Christians need each other for sharpening, encouraging, helping, and praying for one another. But what do you do when there doesn’t seem to be anyone in your fellowship that is on the same page with you concerning family issues? Our church promotes youth group, and there aren’t other homeschool families with which we can fellowship. The youth are as the Dad’s Corner described, and the children’s department is much the same. We have so much to learn about building a godly family, and yet I don’t see that being taught in our church, and I desire to learn. I love the people and the leaders, but my heart cries out to the Lord for Biblical teaching in this area and for the fellowship of others who live out a godly family life. Yes, the Lord is enough fellowship, but might He still use believers to encourage, sharpen, and help us?”

The verse being referred to is Hebrews 10:25, but I will quote both 24 and 25. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Verse 25 is encouraging that believers would not forsake or stop worshipping together. Many who are struggling with their churches, and feel the need to protect their families from the influences encountered there, are frustrated enough to stop attending corporate worship. This verse would speak clearly to that situation and instruct us to continue with corporate worship. The question to ask the Lord is whether He is leading this family to worship elsewhere.

If the Lord has put certain convictions on your heart and affirmed them from His Word, He may well be leading you to another place of worship where you will be built up and encouraged. I can’t answer that, but the Lord will.

For the Lord to tell us not to stop worshipping with others (in Hebrews 10:25) means that He has a place for us to worship. It is possible that some families can be quick to leave a church for the wrong reasons, and there are others that stay in the wrong church and try to change the church to conform to what they think it should be. I don’t believe either is good. If backbiting and gossiping about leadership to other members is going on, it is sin and not the way to change a church.

About eight years ago the Lord directed us to leave a church that we had been part of for the previous eight years. It was a difficult decision and what made it worse was we didn’t know of another church that was more conservative than the one we left. We cried out to the Lord asking where He would have us go. The answer surprised Teri and me. We felt the Lord telling us to move our Saturday afternoon (bimonthly) nursing home church service of over ten years to every Sunday morning. I called the activity director and explained what we wanted to do. She said, “Just this week the administrator asked me to find someone who would conduct a worship service for the residents every Sunday morning. Would you really be willing to do that?”Over eight years later, we are still worshipping in a nursing home dining room. We love it. The residents love their church, and they love us. In addition, we certainly have no problems with youth groups.

I’m not saying God has this for everyone, but I do believe that God has a place where He wants everyone to worship because of the teaching found in Hebrews 10:25. The nursing home has been the perfect place for us to minister and serve as we worship. My boys have regular opportunities to develop their preaching skills, and all of us can love, bless, and encourage those who are the cast-offs of our society. James would say that a nursing home church is an example of pure religion. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

I can’t help but wonder whether or not those who are starved for fellowship are fellowshipping first with the Lord and then with their spouses and their children. Are they actively loving and serving others in doing good? May each examine himself before the Lord. He will provide who and what we need when we have the need.

Lonely? Be Encouraged! – Part 1

A family writes and explains how they have no like-minded families with whom to fellowship. The families in their church are very worldly, and they aren’t able to spend quality time with them without wrong influences on their children. As I read the story, I sense a desperation for fellowship.

A mom writes that her husband is complacent about spiritual things. He takes no initiative in spiritually building up his family’s souls such as leading a nightly family Bible time. In addition, he allows the children to be involved in worldly activities such as watching TV and movies. The mom is deeply lonely for a like-hearted teammate with her same passion for following the Lord Jesus.

Another mom writes that her children desire to have friends. The problem is that those they know all seem to be from the “youth group scene” being entertainment and romance focused. What does she do with lonely children?

We have spoken with others who acknowledged they were desperate to get married because of their loneliness. Now they have a spouse, but they aren’t like-hearted, and they simply traded one form of loneliness for another form.

What if you had a terrible stomachache that had lasted two weeks? Undoubtedly you would like relief from the pain, but wouldn’t you really want to know the cause? Physical pain is a symptom of a physical problem. God designed our bodies so that pain would be a warning sign that something is wrong and needs our attention. One of the greatest problems of leprosy is that the nerves aren’t signaling pain when damage is occurring to the body. Hence, lepers will lose their fingers because they are damaging them but not feeling any pain. Pain is the body’s call for help.

I believe that loneliness is similar to pain in that it can be both very real in a person’s life and is symptomatic of a deeper problem. A person who is lonely can tell himself that it is only loneliness, and therefore it shouldn’t matter, but it often won’t go away unless the root cause is dealt with. I do believe the loneliness of those mentioned in the opening of this article to be real and troubling. With pain, one can usually take some form of pain medication, but what does one do with loneliness when there is no acceptable, masking solution? One can’t expect that like-hearted families, husbands, or friends will just miraculously appear.

So what’s the need in our lives of which loneliness is a symptom? The need is for a close, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. When we are focusing on our loneliness, we are looking to others to provide for us what only God can and should provide. The Lord is to be our all in all, our every thing. David tells us that his expectation is in the Lord only. “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” (Psalms 62:5-7).

The Psalmist says, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psalms 73:25-26). The Lord is the One on earth that he desires and Who gives him strength.

Oswald Chambers said in My Utmost for His Highest, “When once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely, we never need sympathy, we can pour out all the time without being pathetic.” The cure for loneliness is to draw closer to Jesus. Our peace can never be in other people because other people are not perfect and will always let us down. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

As Jesus was leaving to return to the Father, He told His disciples that He would be with them always. He said, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20). Through His Spirit, He comes to live in every one who has placed his faith in Him. Each believer always has Jesus Christ within him!

If that is true—and it is—then why would any believer ever feel lonely? The reality is that our day-to-day life involves this world. We work, we interact with others, and our focus is easily drawn to this world and those around us. It is all too easy to have an earthly focus and lose sight of the fact that Jesus is within us, and He is the One with Whom we most need fellowship.

This isn’t “pie-in-the-sky” Christianity, but true life in Christ, the way it is supposed to be. Some might be tempted to say, “Wait a minute. My relationship with Christ is good, but He isn’t real enough to me to keep me from being lonely.” Well, He should be! Jesus said in John 14:21, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” The Greek word for “manifest” means to reveal. The more we obey the Word, the more Jesus is made manifest to us.

I wouldn’t have much of a marriage if I didn’t spend time with Teri. We enjoy being together. Even when there have been times when we were easily irritated with each other, we found that the cure was to spend more time together. The more we are in the Word, the more we are praying, the more we set our hearts and minds on things above (Colossians 3), the more we obey, then the sweeter, the more dynamic, the more intimate our walk with Jesus becomes.

I also think many Christians have wrong expectations. They believe that they will have fellowship with other Christians of like heart, that there will be no persecutions, and that everyone will love them. This is not the life that Jesus promised us. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). The cross could be very lonely indeed if it wasn’t for Jesus being with us. “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22). That neither sounds pleasant nor popular.

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). When we are not following the broad and popular worldly path, Jesus is telling us that on the narrow path there will be fewer for us to fellowship with on that journey. There should be no surprise if our neighbors and those we work with think we are crazy. In addition, it may even be professing Christians in church who also don’t understand us and are not like-hearted.

God’s men were not popular. We can expect that the more we are like Christ, the more those of this world will not appreciate being with us. The worldly and religious both rejected Jesus, and they will reject us as well. Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, the minor prophets, John the Baptist, and Jesus were lonely as far as earthly friends go. They took their fellowship with the Father, will we? “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).