“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”—Romans 1:11,12
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?—1 Thessalonians 3:7,8
How was your Sunday this past week? Mine was inspiring. Usually Sundays are a bit of a blur for me, but this week I had a moment when the people of God blessed me greatly without even knowing it.
It happened as we were singing songs about how God is good and His ways can be trusted. We sang “Good Good Father,” which at one point says to God, “You are perfect in all of your ways” over and over again. Then we sang “The Goodness of God,” which says “All my life you have been faithful, all my life you have been so, so good.” Those songs are an affirmation that God knows what He’s doing, and everything He does is right, including the things He has done in my life.
What was inspiring to me was the realization that just by turning my head a little bit, I could see several people who were singing those songs from the bottom of their hearts, despite the fact that they have lost children and grandchildren long before they should have. I could see people whose bodies have betrayed them, who live with daily pain and limitation and frustration. If I turned my head a little further, there were people whose hearts are breaking because of the choices their adult children are making. There were people who have suffered divorce, people whose jobs are uncertain, and people who are just beginning to crawl out of a life of addiction and all the wreckage it has left behind.
Yet there they were, with their hands in the air and their eyes closed, communing with the God of the Universe and telling him that He is wise and good, that He knows what He’s doing, and that He has done a perfect job of overseeing their lives. It was beautiful. In that moment, no one was blaming God or others for their pain, instead they were simply recognizing that sin has consequences. They were taking this broken world as it is, and looking forward to a better one. They were affirming that God’s wisdom and kindness and care, His protection and provision, can be seen even in the tangled stories of the messy lives they are living in this messy world. They were saying, “this world is not good, sin is not good, people are not good, I am not good, but God is good, and I trust Him.”
The truth is that it’s often hard for me to get much out of Sunday mornings. Like worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, and other servants of the church, I show up on Sundays to give, not to receive. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sunday mornings. I love preaching, I love worship, and I love being with God’s people. But the responsibility of preaching sometimes makes it hard to relax and enjoy the other parts of the morning. While we are singing, part of my mind is often distracted with thoughts of what I am going to say, and how, and when. Sunday is a time to serve and bless others, and I find other ways during my week to meet with God and get my spiritual tank filled.
This past Sunday, though, I was definitely on the receiving end. It’s humbling to watch someone who has suffered more than me express their love for God with more faith and passion than me. It’s a blessing to be around people who truly trust God.
I think this is why the apostle Paul wanted to visit the Roman church in person (see the above verses), despite the fact that he was already doing well in his spiritual life, and so where they. He knew God has designed things so that when believers in Jesus get together, there is a mutual blessing. My faith strengthens yours, and your faith strengthens mine. We need each other more than we realize. We don’t even have to preach to each other or teach each other, we just need to see each other trusting Jesus.
This is why, despite all the developments in technology, we will still always need real, live, face-to-face worship. I’m grateful for the ability to live-stream our services. It’s a valuable tool God has put in our hands to reach out into the world with the Gospel. But I also know that I am a better Christ-follower when I get to be in the room as you worship. Watching you bear your burdens helps me to bear mine, and it reminds me that I am supposed to be helping you with yours. The broken voice of the person in the next row telling God “You are perfect in all of Your ways” helps me realize that He really is. If that person, with all their problems, can still say that God is faithful, and God is good, then how can I not say it?
So thank you. Thank you for being a worshiper. Thank you for sharing your life and your faith with the church, so we can all be blessed by it. Life is hard, and trusting God is not always easy, so let’s keep showing up for each other. Let’s remember that we need to see Jesus in other people, and they need to see Him in us. Let’s be open to the possibility that God may just want to bless us through other people in ways we can’t always predict, and give Him every opportunity to do it. If you’re able, I hope you’ll come to church this Sunday. It will be good to see you.