Devotional–The Blessings From Attending Church–From The Struggle of Sanctification by S. Johnson
Last Thursday, just before sunset, I heard a knock on the door. Looking through the slanted blinds, stood three women carrying two supermarket bags in each hand. My first thought was a food delivery at the wrong address. Yet, it didn’t make sense, how could three individuals be confused about where they were going? Without hesitation, I opened the door, prepared to tell them that I didn’t order food.
After looking at the smiling faces, I smiled back and said, Hi. They introduced themselves as members of a community church that has a monthly bread and pastry ministry. After receiving two bags, one of the sisters asked if they could pray for me to which I said yes. “What would you like us to pray for?” Immediately, I responded, “Pray for peace.” Following the prayer, the elder asked for my phone number and told me if I ever need anything to give them a call. No, they did not have the wrong address.
The request for a prayer for peace was not due to a personal struggle of inner conflict, it was for the community of Christian believers. Earlier, I was thinking of the detrimental effects of not attending church. God created us to receive happiness and spiritual and emotional strength from socializing and worshipping with each other. Intentional isolation from other believers prevents us from forming vital relationships with the Family of God. And Satan uses solitude to attack our minds with worries and anxieties which prevent us from receiving Jesus’ gift of peace.
Although church hurt is among the top answers for refusal to go to church, the reality is that many Christians do not feel the need to be around the body of believers. Yet, God is not in agreement with that mindset.
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25 NLT)
“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:5
Our spiritual insight is stunted when our daily interactions are limited to unbelievers. The carnal world resents that we believe in and serve an invisible God. What does light have in common with darkness? Without becoming active members of the family of believers, we cannot give or receive the validation needed to stay courageous in a wicked world. Isolation creates stony, self-centered hearts. In-person attendance allows us to become full of compassion as we learn to extend loving kindness not only to those who are in the body of Christ but also to those who resent us.
Yes, there are many spiritual benefits to attending church. In the house of God, we gain spiritual strength while singing, praying, reading the Scriptures, and hearing sermons because we are in the presence of God. Attending church breaks our normal routine and redirects our focus on the Creator. In-person attendance allows us to be around others striving for the Fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23. Our love for God is a common characteristic that gives us a foundation to have healthy relationships with others who also love God.
Fact: Agape love produces spiritual bonding that can only be achieved with Christian brothers and sisters. And we can give and receive words of encouragement from like-minded believers who are also in the daily struggle of spiritual warfare.
I recall a time when I suffered an extremely harsh week at work. On Friday, while at work, I decided to stay home and not attend church on Sabbath. All, I wanted to do was rest the entire weekend. Yet, when I awakened on Sabbath morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to go to church. For my obedience, I received a great spiritual blessing. Still, I was physically weary which impacted my emotional state of mind.
After the potluck lunch, myself and another sister were assigned to clean the kitchen. Sister H., “Sister Sonya, you look tired.” She did not ask me what was wrong but waited for my response before speaking again. On that Sabbath, 10 years ago, God gave me a second blessing. The Holy Spirit used Sister H. to pray with me and provide much-needed words of encouragement and wisdom.
We can easily present several points to debate as to why we fail to attend church. Always pray for discernment. Never be judgmental of others. The struggle is real. “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one…'” (Romans 3:10). Do not carry the weight of a spirit of offense. People will always say and do the wrong things. Not everyone is spiritually mature and some only attend church as a social activity, yet, God loves them as He loves us. Even so, as a follower of Jesus Christ, we cannot stand alone.
Jesus had 12 disciples to help Him to fulfill His ministry. John [the rugged Son of Thunder] eagerly followed Jesus everywhere He went. John, [the disciple that Jesus loved] experienced a total spiritual transformation from his close association with Christ. From beholding Jesus’ character, John the Son of Thunder became John the Revelator.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal a Bible-based church that teaches Scriptural truths and has community outreach programs. When our focus is on Jesus Christ, we will enjoy the privilege of worshipping with others. Forming the habit of joyful fellowship at church prepares us for worshipping God with countless other believers who made it just like we did in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NLT