If we are left to ourselves with no proper oversight and accountability, then we won’t have anyone to call us back when we go astray or to correct us when we make a wrong turn (whether formally or informally). The Christian life is a struggle, as we wrestle with the world, the flesh and the devil. Trials and temptations of all sorts may draw us away from the Lord. Sin, particularly when it is allowed to roam freely, will harden our consciences, blind us to the truth about ourselves and put us on the road to apostasy.
Although it was over twenty-five years ago, I still remember a track race one of my older brothers ran during his senior year. He was scheduled to run the final 800m race at the Nova Scotia Provincial Track Meet. There were two heats for the final and unfortunately, my brother was placed in the slower heat. This put him at great disadvantage, because he wouldn’t have the strongest runners to push him to the end. He would have to do that by himself, which isn’t easy.
My brother knew that he had to run the race of his life if he was going to win. He wasn’t the favorite, but he had a chance. Being placed in the slower heat disappointed him, yet I think it also motivated him because he ran with grit and determination. He essentially ran the entire race on his own, finishing far ahead of the other runners in his heat, accomplishing a personal record, and setting a time that put the runners in the last heat on notice. They knew they would now have to run a strong race to win.
To my brother’s chagrin, his time was not good enough. The top runners in the second heat knew they had to beat not only each other but also my brother’s time, which they did together. Since they were close in ability, they ran together, spurring each other on to the end and to the medals. I can’t remember what place my brother came in, but I think it might have been fourth.
My brother’s race illustrates the importance of running in a pack. Running by yourself puts you at a severe disadvantage. The same is true with the Christian race. You don’t want to run alone. It is all too easy to slowly drift away or fall into temptation, heresy, and apostasy when we isolate ourselves from the church. Jay Adams rightly says, “It is doubtful that, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, for which God sends extraordinary grace, one will firmly maintain his faith apart from the stimulation he receives from being a vital part of a vital congregation.”
Being an active member of a faithful church enables us to run well because it provides us with help and encouragement. Hebrews 10:24 says that we are to consciously think of ways we can stir up one another to love and good works. We are to motivate and inspire one another to trust and obey the Lord. We are to be each other’s cheerleaders. One way we can do that is by being an example to others. The principle “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” works both ways. As we faithfully serve the Lord, we will positively encourage, and influence those around us.
A second way we can help is to provide aid and comfort during trials and tribulations. Paul was in prison, awaiting his trial before Nero, when he wrote to the Colossians. He did not know if he would live or die. Moreover, he had fellow Christians work against him, who even preached the gospel to make prison life harder for him (Phil. 1:17). Paul, however, did not have to endure his suffering alone. He testified to the Colossians that Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus were a comfort to him (Col. 4:10-11). The Hebrew Christians showed compassion to those who were in prison and helped those who were mistreated (Heb. 10:32-34). We can make a tremendous difference in someone’s life by coming alongside them in their time of need.