Welcome to January---a great time for winter sports. The truth is that I’m not a huge sports fan. In fact, the only sport that I actually pay any attention to at all is figure skating. Whenever a major figure skating competition comes on television, that’s my version of the Super Bowl.
Within the sport of figure skating there are 4 main disciplines: men’s, women’s, pairs, and dance. (If you’re bored already with this topic, just imagine how I feel when you try to explain football to me.) My favorite is the dance.
Over the past few years, the dance competitions have been particularly interesting because the two teams battling for the top spot are from Canada and the United States. Both teams have won Olympic gold medals, (In 2010, the Canadians won gold while the U.S. won silver; in 2014, they swapped positions with the U.S. taking gold and the Canadians settling for silver) The truth is that both teams are so good that when they are both healthy, either team could take home the prize on any given day. They are both that talented.
What’s even more amazing is that for many, many years these two competing teams trained together. They had the same coach and choreographers, and practiced side by side in the same rink day after day after day.
During this time in their careers, reporters would often ask them questions like, “Tell us about your relationship with the other team---it must be difficult to train with your fiercest competitor’s day in and day out.”
Over and over again both teams’ answers would be pretty much the same: “It’s good for us to train with the best because it pushes us to be even better.”
Proverbs 27:17 says it this way: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
This is why it’s so important that each of us includes getting and staying connected to a healthy, Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Spirit-filled church as part of our plan for the New Year.
There’s no doubt about it: Being involved with other believers who are whole-heartedly loving and serving Jesus, growing in their walk with God, overcoming areas of struggle in their own lives, supporting each other through the good times and bad, and reaching out to the world around them, will challenge you to grow in every one of these areas in your own life, too.
On the other hand, it’s very easy to fall into a trap of complacency when you’re disconnected from other believers. When you’re viewpoint is the only perspective that you can see, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “Oh well, that’s good enough.”
However, when you’re interacting with other believers who are actively growing in their walk with Christ, you start to see that there are areas where you need to grow as well. Soon, they are sharpening you and you are sharpening them, causing the whole body of Christ to grow and build itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:16)
For example, a few weeks ago I was telling someone about a particular area where the Holy Spirit was challenging me to change and grow. As I thought about what was sparking my hunger for change in this area that I’d previously accepted as normal, I came to the conclusion that the catalyst was being around other believers who had were functioning in health in this area.
Health was breeding health; life was breeding life; and freedom was challenging me to walk in freedom. I was truly being sharpened by other believers in Christ within my local church.
This is one of the amazing benefits of being part of a healthy, thriving body of believers. It makes us better, stronger, more productive believers who are together able to advance the kingdom of God.
So this New Year, I challenge you to put yourself in a position where you can be sharpened by other believers. If you’re not already consistently committed to a healthy church, then find one and start attending.
If you’re in an unhealthy church environment that is controlled by abuse, bitterness, hatred, or envy, then I encourage you to make a change and find a healthy church. There are lots of them out there. Don’t abandon the whole institution of church just because of a bad experience. You wouldn’t stop eating just because you had bad food at a bad restaurant. Don’t let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch. Instead, choose to start your new year off in a healthy church that will challenge you to live a spiritually healthy life.
Perhaps you’re already attending a spiritually healthy church, but for one reason or another you haven’t allowed yourself to become “connected”. In that case, I want to challenge you to find a way to get involved.
Attend a social event and start getting to know people better.
Start attending a Life Group.
Volunteer to help out.
I know that sometimes it’s frightening to let your guard down and let other people into your world (especially if you’ve been hurt in the past). Still, I can tell you from personal experience, it is worth it.
We were not meant to live the Christian life alone. There is strength, support, encouragement, and inspiration in ‘doing life’ with other believers. As we walk together we all become better, stronger, healthier followers of Christ who can make a positive impact in the world around us.