Over the past several weeks, we have had several prayer requests at the church that have testified to the reality we live in today. It’s a reality that has been brought on by the circumstances of the world that have caused separation from other believers. Fears centered around the pandemic has made it easy to get disconnected from fellow believers.
At the same time, Gallup put out a poll this week that stated that those who went to church every week reported being stronger emotionally in 2020 than in 2019. Despite the circumstances we find ourselves in, those who stayed connected through church actually felt better! Why is this?
How do you foster joy through the relationships you have in the body of Christ? Why is it so important to stay connected to the body of Christ?
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Koinonia can be defined as a close association with others and participation centered around common interests, spending time together, and sharing resources. This is a description that is often used to describe a group of a healthy body of believers. Through a common relationship with have with God through Jesus Christ, we have a spiritual kinship!
Paul often used this term to describe his relationship with the churches that he wrote to. In Philippians 1, he used the idea of Koinonia to describe the elements of the joy that these believers brought to him. It is what sustained him during a difficult time in his life. Additionally, it will be the same elements we can develop in our own relationships.
Over the years, I have thought of so many in the church that I have had the privilege of building relationships with people who impacted me greatly and believed in me. Individuals who stood by me during difficult seasons always did what they could to provide encouragement and strength.
I cherish those relationships because that is what I have chosen to dwell upon. Yes, there have been difficulties that have arisen in my relationships with other believers. However, we have the freedom of choice in what we think about most often.
Choosing to think about the goodness, kindness, generosity, and love of others doesn’t deny their weaknesses. Rather, it is looking past the failures of others to see the value of that person in our relationship. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit will prompt us to continually appreciate the love, care, and compassion of others.
If we choose to focus on the negatives, faults, shortcomings, and slights of others, they are not controlled by the Holy Spirit and are perhaps an unbeliever. Holding on to bitterness, resentment, a critical spirit, grudges, and the like are works of the flesh, not of the Spirit.
Intercession begins with a desire that someone else deserves the best possible outcomes for their lives. As Paul is praying for the Philippians believers, he communicates to them that he is prioritizing them over his own personal needs.
For the believer who is filled with joy, their focus tends to not be on themselves even during difficult circumstances. They tend to be more concerned about the pain, difficulties, hardships, failures, and sorrows of those around them. When believers do so, they joyful pray for God to bless others in every way.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 (ESV)
Partnership in the Kingdom of God is one of the cherished gifts that God has given to us. As a body of believers, we have a common purpose, mission, and responsibilities that we work together to accomplish. The ability to walk this journey with one another brings joy!
As a body of believers works together to love people through promoting the Gospel, meeting needs, interceding, and working for a common purpose of making disciples, we gain joy in knowing we are not alone. The common work of the Kingdom reminds us of the importance of every part of the body of Christ. This includes us!
When a believer willingly forsakes fellowship with other believers will inevitably be without a genuine and Spirit-given joy. We can’t live faithfully or happily apart from fellow believers in Christ.
However, the believer who is regularly in the company of fellow saints, fulfilling the responsibilities that God requires and provides, will just as inevitably be filled with divine joy.
Believers have the great news of the Gospel that reminds us that this life is not all that there is! Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for those who believe! Heaven is more than a pipe dream, but a reality that we live in expectation of seeing and experiencing!
It is easy for believers to fall into a place of discouragement when they are focused on the problems and failures of others around them. Unfortunately, the standards that most believers place on others is often greater than what we expect of ourselves. However, when we have the right perspective of human weakness, overwhelming grace, and unlimited love for others, we see things more clearly.
The failures of others should never overshadow the reality of the future perfection of the body of Christ. This frees God’s people to not live under the constant pressure of condemnation, but in the freedom to live an abundant and fruitful life!
Paul writes of his deep affection that he had for the Philippian church. It was a feeling that was deeply seated in the love he experienced from God. For Paul, God’s love was to be shared generously with others because he received it freely.
Believers have a common love that the Father has freely granted to every one of us. This love goes beyond our failures and is extended to us as a gift through the supreme sacrifice of Jesus. When we realize how generous our Heavenly Father has been with his love for us, it becomes a natural response to share it with others.
Now concerning brotherly love you do not need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. 1 Thessalonians 4:9–10 (ESV)
As a believer, you cost joy in the relationships you have by remembering, praying, working, expecting, and showing affection to other believers. This is why God encourages us to be together as the body of Christ. He knew we could not do life separated from one another. We were designed to be together!
Fellowship with other believers produces true internal joy in our lives. While the world is dependent on circumstances to make them happy, believers are gifted with joy internally through the Holy Spirit. We can truly live joyfully despite what happens in this world!
We need one another. So beyond attending worship together, what are you doing to foster the relationships you have the privilege of having in your local congregation? Do you think we should do more together as believers? Comment below!
Check out my previous blog post here: A Letter of Joy in the Midst of Anxiety, Fear, and Sadness.
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