The Body of Christ
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25
These verses have been my primary prayer request for one of our children during the past several weeks. Today as I write this article, I am overwhelmed by how the events of the past week have allowed me to see clearly how God is answering my prayer and caused me to reflect back on my own short history and how the Church, the body of Christ, has affected my life and the life of my family. By sharing some of these reflections with you here, I hope to encourage you in Christ to consider how to use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given you to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
Hospitality to Strangers
Our 18 year old son is 4 weeks into a 4 ½ month adventure of hiking 2,190 miles from Mt. Katahdin in central Maine to Springer Mountain northeast of Atlanta, GA on what is known as the Appalachian Trail (I can spell it now). Although we knew he spent over a year in much planning and preparation for his journey, including a significant amount of educating his parents, there has admittedly been a certain amount of uneasiness for us due to the unknown. One of my chief concerns for him in doing this has been the unknown of how it will be for him to be outside of the normal week to week assembling of his church family and the potential opportunity that gives to our enemy who is seeking to destroy us as Christians (1 Peter 5:8). So, the Holy Spirit has led me to these verses in Hebrews 10, asking Christ to assemble His church along the trail as he travels it.
One morning a couple of weeks ago, we received a call from Matthew informing us that while packing his just purchased supplies out in front of a store in a small town in Maine, an older gentleman approached him, told him there was a 90 percent chance of rain over the next 2 days, and offered him a place to stay until the inclement weather passed. He wanted our advice as to what he should do. An hour later, he called back and reassured us that he had taken the man up on his offer and that he was “legit” and has served A.T. “thru-hikers” in that way for ten years. Matthew spent the next two days and nights at Tom’s house along with six other hikers, enjoying shelter, a place to do laundry, and some great food (t-bone steak? Are you kidding me?!) He also enjoyed getting to hear interesting stories from a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain. This week, we received a letter from Tom. In it, Tom shared with us about Matthew’s stay with him, some of which was reassuring about Matthew’s physical well-being, but more significantly was the part about his spiritual condition. He described to us how Matthew boldly and concisely shared the gospel with him and the 6 other hikers who were there each time he was asked about the tattoo on his forearm (a tool Matthew got in June of 6 colored blocks of black, red, white, green & gold that he can use to share the plan of salvation). Tom reassured us that Matthew “is physically, emotionally and spiritually ready to complete this long hike” and he vulnerably shared that Matthew’s boldness left him reevaluating his own spiritual life and how he can better share Christ with others.
Many Members, but One Body
As I read and contemplated Tom’s letter, with tears in my eyes, I was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of our Father to answer my prayers and give me such a clear explanation of how He was answering. I reflected more on all that has taken place over the past months, even years, leading up to that moment of reading Tom’s letter, and I was brought directly back to thoughts of the Body of Christ: each member doing its role in love for the glory of Christ. I thought about how God had used Tom’s gift of hospitality to serve ambitious yet weary hikers, and how in doing that, he had provided Matthew food, rest, shelter, comfort, and the opportunity to spend time with 6 other hikers with a chance to share the gospel with them. I thought about how God used Matthew’s boldness to answer the questions about his tattoo to encourage Tom to share Christ as he serves hikers in his home. I thought about how a young brother in Christ took my son under his wing and mentored him during the months leading up to his departure for the A.T., even unknowingly planting the seed for the desire to get a tattoo down his forearm (although I am not a big tattoo fan), but then admonishing Matthew to not shrink back from sharing the name of Christ when the questions about the tattoo come.
I went further back still remembering how Christ used His church to change the course of my life as a young husband with young children, struggling in my flesh with the events of life that exposed my weaknesses and intensified my self-doubt as I constantly wrestled with gnawing questions about my manhood that were left unanswered by a silent, emotionally imprisoned father. I thought about how at a time when my heart was so embittered, God took hold of my right hand and with His counsel, He guided me (Psalm 73:21-24). He did this with brothers in Christ who came alongside me in those years to speak truth into my life, to encourage me into serving God and to serve along with me like soldiers in spiritual battles for God’s kingdom. He also has used older saints, men of God, who humbly and wisely listened to me and instructed me in truth, encouraging me to press on in serving Christ.
I thought about the timeliness of how when our oldest daughter was only a few months old a sister in Christ came along side Stacy and recommended a tape series for parenting based on Biblical principles (Growing Kids God’s Way) that completely changed the course of how we parented all three of our children. I remembered a scripture that I had come to treasure and pray back when our three children were first being born: “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;….Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;…” (Psalm 127:1, 3-5).
Suddenly, the significance of all of this seemed to come into focus as to what God has done through His church during the years leading up to this kind of “watershed” point in our lives as our children are becoming young adults and beginning to leave home.
So, why have I taken you on this walk down memory lane with me? Well, as I said at the beginning, I hope to encourage you to be an active part in the Body of Christ. Consider the gifts God has given you to serve in the Body of Christ, but also, allow yourself to be vulnerable so that you can receive the ministry of the gifts God has given the parts of the body that He uses to help you along the journey.
Press on Church.
Joel and his wife Stacy have been married since 1992 and are the parents of Macy, Matthew and Mallory. Their family has been part of FBC Canyon since 1992. Joel works as a CPA for a local accounting firm in Amarillo. Joel enjoys spending time with Stacy and visiting the adventures their kids are involved in. He also enjoys serving “men in white” at a local prison.