logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

Daniel Plan #4: "Why We Need Each Other" [The Group Factor - Community]

Nov.1, 2015 Eccles.4:1,7-12

(adapted with permission from Rick Warren, Saddleback Church)

This is a radical counter-cultural message - opposite to what you've been taught most of your life. But if you'll do it God's way rather than society's way, you'll never again have to struggle with loneliness. You'll be able to overcome things like fatigue and fear and frustration and failure, and have that replaced with hope. It's the concept of community.

Now, Canadians ought to be good at this: we've been described as "a community of communities". From Jacques Cartier, the name of our country developed from "kanata", which was simply the Huron-Iroquois word for "village" or "settlement." But sometimes our neighbours to the south have attempted to brainwash us with the idea of being totally independent - the myth that the key to happiness is independence - relationally, financially; if I don't let anybody get too close to me but I'm totally self-sufficient, then I'll be happy. Yet that's a lie: isolation can be dangerous - the suicide rate has risen from about 7 per 100K back in the 1950s to 11 per 100K in recent years. God says that the key to happiness is not independence but inter-dependence. We need each other, we belong to each other, we need community in our lives. God wired you to go through life not as a solitary individual but in community. Romans 12:5 "Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others." We need each other. God says community is not optional. You may not feel it: you may feel like, "I'm very self-sufficient.I don't need other people in my life." One song of Simon & Garfunkel that dangerously stuck with me as a teen said, "I am a rock, I am an island." But the truth is you absolutely have to have other people in your life if you're going to be all God wants you to be.

You cannot fulfill God's purposes for your life by yourself. There's no way you can be or do all God wants you to, or fulfill the purposes that you were put on this planet to fulfill, just on your own. You have to do it in relationship to other people. We need each other and we belong to each other in the body of Christ.

The greatest lesson in life is learning how to love. Why do relationships go bad? How do you turn a bad relationship into a good one? What is it that God does when He uses other people in our lives to make us what He wants us to be? What's it really mean to develop true, intimate relationships?

There are 5 reasons God says you need other people in your life and why you need a small group.

1) I need others to walk with me

I need you to help me grow spiritually. Colossians 2:6-7 "Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." One of the key ways that God tells us to walk is this: you were never meant to walk through life alone. You may like walking alone - freedom to go at your own pace - but you need others to walk with you. It's safer, it's less risky. It's supportive, it keeps you from giving up. An old Zambian proverb says, "When you run alone, you run fast; but when you run together, you run far." Perhaps recently this fall you've seen a flock of geese flying south (or getting ready to) and they're in "V" formation. Why? It creates an uplift in the back draft and it makes it easier and they can fly farther and longer when they fly together. You're in danger of burning out in life if you go through it without any meaningful intimate relationships. And - walking with others is smarter: you learn more by walking with others than you do by yourself. Proverbs 28:26 "Only fools trust in what they alone think." Proverbs 11:14 "In a multitude of counselors there is safety."

If you go through life isolated, never let anybody get close to you - you don't learn how to cooperate, how to "get along"; and that's one of the great lessons of life. As in walking together with different strides, you have to adjust; we have to learn to compromise. Genesis 2:18 "It is not good for man to be alone." That's the first thing God said after He created Adam. God hates loneliness - "not good!" So what's His antidote? He created two groups - a physical family (which may disperse through distance or death) and a spiritual family, God's church, which is going to go on forever. God wants us to be connected in His family, the church. Hebrews 10:25 "Let us not give up the habit of meeting together…Instead, let us encourage one another." You're created for community: God wants us to encourage each other by meeting together. That's done best in a small group where you can not only be taught but also discuss and share and pray for each other.

Community is God's answer to loneliness. We all need a place where we can practice love. We can't grow without others, because life is about relationships not achievement. God is love and He wants me to learn to love Him and to love others - those are the two greatest lessons in life. 1 Corinthians 14:26,30f [MSG] "When you gather, each one of you be prepared with something useful for all.Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight…Take your turn, with no one person taking over.That way you all learn from each other." That happens best in a small group. To be a healthy believer you need both large group worship and small group fellowship: temple courts and house to house.

Ephesians 4:16 "As each part [talking about the body of Christ] does its work, it helps the other parts grow, so Christ's whole body is healthy and growing and full of love." That's what God wants in your life and He wants it for all of us - to be healthy and growing and full of love.

You can't learn community without being in a close community: not a "crowd" (our Sunday morning larger gathering) but in a community. 1Peter 4:9 "Open your homes to each other without complaining." What's your complaint, your excuse for not opening up your home? "My home is dirty!" Who are you kidding, have you seen OURS?! "My home isn't big enough." Can you put three people in it? Then you can have a group. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 "Where two or more are gathered in My name, I'm there in the midst of them." Invite your friends, your coworkers, your family. Everybody has a longing for belonging. The worst kind of punishment is solitary confinement. We're made for relationships. The people in your neighborhood would love to come to your house. Community is God's answer to loneliness.

2) I need others to work with me

God put you on earth to do a certain work that only you can do. Ephesians 2:10"God made us to do good works, which He planned in advance for us to live our lives doing." Before you were even born God decided the talents that He was going to give you; the background. He even chose where you would be born, who your parents would be, when you would be born, and all of this. Because He has a purpose for your life and part of that purpose is: He has some work for you to do.

Anytime you use your talents or your abilities to help somebody else, that's called ministry, or service. All of us who are in Christ are ministers; not "pastors" - ministers. When you use your gifts and what God wired you to be to help others, you're doing what God wants you to do, your 'good works'.

Life on earth is practice for serving God continually in heaven for eternity. What happens often here on earth though is you get worn out, exhausted, burned out. Why? Because you're trying to do it all by yourself. God never meant for you to go through life walking alone or working alone: you need to be in relationship with others who help you get done what you need to do. Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us why we're supposed to work together: "Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together." They get more done by working together! You get more done as a team than you do as just one person. It's also a whole lot more fun! And it's less tiring. You learn to cooperate together; there's all kinds of benefits to working together.

Community is God's answer to fatigue. If you're tired it's because you don't have the relationships built in to support you that you need in what God has called you to do. The movie Witness shows how the Amish build a barn together: they do it in a day! The whole community shows up and where there was nothing, at the end of the day there's a barn standing. How? Everybody has a little part to play. Galatians 6:10 "Every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." What's 'the community of faith'? It's our church family.

I need people to walk with me through life and I need people to work with me through life, but also…

3) I need others to watch out for me in life

People who'll defend me, stand up for me, protect me; who'll help me keep staying on track, watch my backside, warn me...We all need this because we all have blind spots. Philippians 2:4 "Look out for one another's interest, not just your own." If you want a counter-cultural verse, that's it! In North America, the general idea is, "It's all about me; it's all about my needs, my interest, my wants/desires/ambitions.Forget everybody else! I live for myself." This verse says don't just look out for your own interest: look out for others too.

Suppose you're going away on vacation for a couple of weeks and you ask your neighbour, "Would you keep an eye out on my house?" We all want our stuff looked out for! But more important than someone looking out for your "stuff" - is anybody watching out for your soul? Is there anybody in your life who helps you stay on track spiritually? Who loves you enough to say, "I'm not going to let you get discouraged, let you drop out or get tired.I'm here with you.Let me support you." And they encourage you in your spiritual life. We all need that desperately, because we all have blind spots. Things we can't see - a tail light out, you're unzipped, your tag's sticking up on the back of your collar, your friend comes up and says, "You might want to use your hanky - you've got something hanging off the end of your nose!" We need to watch out for each other because there are things we just can't see. Hebrews 13:1 "Keep being concerned about each other as the Lord's followers should." We should care about each other. We're family - we're in God's family. As brothers and sisters I should defend you and you should defend me and we help each other stay on track. "Keep being concerned" - not just once: you're vigilant, like soldiers taking turns on sentry duty.

You have a personal enemy who hates your guts and wants to defeat you: his name is Satan. He'll just try to get you all messed up - through habits you can't break, hurts you won't let go of, hang-ups you can't change in your life, through problems and circumstances, relationships that break your heart and hurt you. Too many Christians live in defeat because we try to fight him on our own. And that's stupid; you need other people who will watch out for you and help you. Ecclesiastes 4:12 "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." That's a small group. He says you watch out for each other.

Is there anybody watching your backside? Anybody who's watching out for your spiritual welfare? Do you have anybody close like that? A small group of folks who are saying, "We're there when you're going through the tough times.We're not going to let you get discouraged or depressed.We're going to be here with you." If you don't have anybody like that, you're to be pitied; you've got a big bull's eye on your back for Satan, who's like a lion following a herd of antelope, just waiting for one to weaken and fall back from the others where it can be picked off. It's like, "Here's a loner.They're not connected.They're away from the safety of the group."

Community is God's answer to defeat. Ecclesiastes 4:10 "If one person falls, another can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble." You need other people. Some problems in our life only get solved by a team tackling it together. I need people to walk with me and work with me and watch out for me.

4) I need others to wait and weep with me

To wait and weep. They wait while I'm waiting for the bad news. And they weep when I get the bad news. I need people with me in the inevitable crises of life, when the tragedies hit. We don't want to face that alone.

Nobody should ever have to wait in the hospital alone while a loved one is in a life-or-death surgery. No woman should ever have to wait alone waiting for the lab report back on a problem pregnancy. Nobody should have to stand at the edge of an open grave alone; to wait at home alone for the coroner to come and publicly identify the body of a loved one who just died; to spend the first night alone after their husband or wife has died. Or when their wife or husband has just walked out.

The fact is, some of these things are going to happen to you; they're inevitable. You're going to go through tragedy; you're going to get bad health news. You need other people in your life for just such times. The time is now to build the safety net, the network of supportive friends, because at some point the tragedy is going to happen. The time to prepare is now.

What is God's safety net? It's a group of other believers. You only need five or six, a handful - a group of other believers who are committed to you. 1 Peter 3:8 "You should be like one big family, full of sympathy toward each other." When you're in the hospital you don't want the whole church to visit you. It'd be a tad overwhelming if all of us came! But it would be nice to have four or five come see you and say we're praying for you.

Small groups are there to wait for each other, wait with each other, weep with each other when we need support. God's plan is seen in 1 Corinthians 12:26 "If one member suffers, all suffer together." Com-passion! Community is God's answer to despair. Romans 12:15 says "Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep." Healthy small groups do that. Somebody has a good thing a promotion or celebration, a graduation - you party. Somebody has a tough time - you weep with them. A tear is often a sign it's time to stop and pray. Like, "Let's stop and pray for Bob right now - he's given 22 years of his life to this corporation and they just laid him off with one week's notice.And he's pretty devastated.Let's pray for Bob right now." You don't have to fix anybody's problem in your small group; they don't want you to fix it - they just want you to sympathize. When you're going through a crisis you don't want advice, you just want somebody to be there. Just sit there with them, silently hold their hand, put an arm around their shoulder, cry with them; be there with them. 1Thessalonians 5:11 "Encourage each other and strengthen one another."

The fifth and final reason we need other people in our lives is…

5) I need others to witness with me

You have a life message that God wants you to share with the world. God put you on earth to do a mission. There's great power in group witness: God never meant for you to do your mission alone. God would never send a soldier out by himself; Jesus sent the 72 out in pairs, "two by two" (Lk 10:1). His pattern is for us to go out together.

What's the way to witness best to people who don't know the love of God? God says it's by loving others in the family of God. Jesus said in John 13:35, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples." What impresses the community the most? When Christians - believers - love each other. The one thing that most markedly proves to the world that you're in the family of God, that you've stepped across the line and are headed for heaven, is that you love other people in the family of God.

That's what impresses the community: "See how they love." That's what we want our church to be known for: not our size, our buildings, sermons, or music, but - "That's the place where you get loved.That's where it's OK for a guy to stand up and admit, 'I've got a sex addiction.' Where it's OK for a woman to share, 'I just lost my husband - he walked out on me.' The place where you're not perfect but they love you anyway." ...That's what we want to be known for.

2 Timothy 1:7 "The Holy Spirit doesn't want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and to enjoy being with them." And we might add, "And invite them into your home." Enjoy being with them and invite them into your home.

We can do it together: God's answer to fear is community. Philippians 1:27 "You are working together and struggling side by side to get others to believe the Good News." Working together - deepening community within our church. We all need each other, to walk and work and weep and wait with us, to watch over us; and to witness with us - "get others to believe the Good News." We really need a group so we can "struggle side by side".

Of all the people that God could have chosen to be here at this time and this place, He chose YOU; He wants to use you. He wants you to be involved in what's happening here, rather than left sitting on the sidelines. Join us as together in Christ we learn to become more truly inter-dependent. Let's pray.