Last weekend I did something I would have never done a couple of years ago.
I took a flight by myself for the first time.
It wasn’t easy for me because I deal with a lot of anxiety about not being able to find where I need to go.
But I faced my fear (more about that later) because I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet this group of ladies I’ve been getting to know and pray with over the past few years on the internet.
It’s not always easy finding a group of women you feel safe with and whom you trust sharing life with. We laughed, shed tears and encouraged one another.
There was no competition or comparison.
Instead, I saw a beautiful, weaving-together of different spiritual gifts and personalities.
When we partner together in life, that partnership deepens our understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ because we learn to see how individual pieces fit together to complete the puzzle.
The definition of fellowship is “friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests: they valued fun and good fellowship as the cement of the community. A group of people meeting to pursue a shared interest or aim.”
As Christians, we can have fellowship with each other because we have faith in common.
In Philemon 1:7 Paul is writing to Philemon about this very thing—friendship and fellowship.
I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. NIV 6-7
The Holy Spirit ministers through each person in a different way.
When I met with my writing friends, the Holy Spirit ministered to me through their unique gifts and personalities.
The truths found in Philemon 1:6-7 seemed to play out effortlessly before me.
How does being with other believers strengthen our faith?
1. We begin to see the need for each person and how our gifts work together for the body of Christ.
We become grateful that one person is gifted in making a schedule and another is gifted in leading a meeting. We see how God uses the quiet one to shine peace and calmness to our hurried, anxious soul. How the bold person spurs us on to become more confident. And the encourager lifts our deflated spirit and makes us laugh.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 NIV
The spiritual gift of a friend that we don’t ourselves possess can be a blessing to us when we’re in need of that specific ministry. If we will let each individual stand alone as a beautiful new creation in Christ, we will have an opportunity to worship God instead of comparing and envying other women. It’s only in taking this biblical perspective that we can have the true unity and deeper community we hope for. Christine Hoover: Messy Beautiful Friendship
2. We begin to see our own spiritual gift as something unique that completes the puzzle. There’s no need to compare. By seeing how useful someone else’s gift is, we can learn to appreciate and use our own gift for its unique function and value.
4. We each have our own story and path of brokenness that led us to the Lord. God works in each life in very individual and personal ways.
One evening we each shared about a defining time in our life that turned us to the Lord. There was laughter and a lot of tears as we supported and cared for one another. The blessing of community and friendship can bring healing and restoration.
5. We leave refreshed and encouraged. Paul told Philemon that he refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
Before I left, the group prayed over each person to send them off.
As I wiped tears and said my goodbyes, there was no doubt I left with my faith strengthened and my spirit refreshed.
I know that community doesn’t always work out as well as this.
Close relationships will always require forgiveness because we are all sinners.
Even in this letter, Paul is writing Philemon to encourage him to forgive his former slave, Onesimus for running away. Paul led Onesimus to the Lord from his prison cell and was asking Philemon to not only forgive Onesimus but accept him as a new brother in Christ.
If you are looking for a safe community to share life with, pray that God would lead you to a small group where you can be real and share your heart.
Our host, Lori, wrote about our time together in her Moments of Hope. There we each shared our thoughts and takeaways from our Higher Ground retreat.
Marva also shared about our time here.