I can barely fathom that I have been in ministry for more than half of my adult life. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to serve God’s church for 20 years. God has allowed me to sit and watch His Spirit call people from death to life more time than I can count. I’ve watched as young men and women have grown in their faith as they’re being used by God in all corners of the planet. It has been a great honor to serve the church for all these years.
There’s story after story of what God has done as I have served the church for these two decades, but there are also just as many stories where God has used the church to bless me and grow me. One of the greatest earthly gifts of my life has been the church. It has been there with me in some of the most difficult times of my life to weep with me, pray with me and love me.
Four months after God called me from death to life, doctors found abnormalities in my spine at a routine physical. Two weeks later, doctors at Duke University confirmed that I had scoliosis. I was told that if my situation didn’t improve in the next 6 months, spinal fusion surgery would be the only course of action they could take. Obviously, I was devastated. That surgery would reset the way I did everything with my feet and I would literally have to relearn how to do life.
I was devastated, scared and broken – but I also wasn’t alone. The Sunday following my terrible diagnosis, I went to my typical Sunday night youth worship service. As the night wrapped up, my youth pastor called me upfront and explained to my friends what was going on with my health. He anointed my head with oil and called my friends to gather around me. We prayed together and cried together. In that moment, I saw the beauty of the church.
I got to see the support structure of the church in a clear, living, breathing way. There’s a lot of comfort and hope knowing that Jesus is our cornerstone. He is our anchor and it is His righteousness that holds the church together and upright. He builds His church brick by brick (person by person) so that each brick has support & strength thanks to the other bricks around it. No one brick bears the load alone – it is shared and that is by design.
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” ~ Romans 15:1-7
Like we saw yesterday, we are only strong when we are dependent on the grace and strength of the Father. For those of us who are strong in Him, there comes an obligation to come alongside those who are going through weaknesses of their own. As we support each other and bear burdens we are loving one another in the way that Jesus loved us and as we do that, we are declaring Who we follow in a unified voice.
We don’t have to act like we have our stuff together all the time. We have a God who beckons us to lay our burdens at His feet. We have a collection of loving church family that is there to walk with us through our junk. They want to help you in the worst times of your life but they have to know what’s going on first.
It is a massive step of faith to share with someone about the worst times of your life: the sins, the failures and the fears. But one of the benefits of Jesus dying on the Cross was that He brings together a blood-bought, adoptive family for us to lean on. In the great times and the absolutely awful times – they are right there.
As Proverbs 17:17 reminds us, “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” God gives us a family to support us through our hurt, shine a light in darkness and help pick us up when we fall. He gives as a church that stretches way past our Sundays…and that is a good thing.