Welcome to ReCreate Ministry. Our mission is making and growing authentic followers of Christ. In his book The Lost City of the Monkey God, Douglas Preston tells of his journey into the jungles of Honduras to look for Cuidad Blanco, the lost White City. It’s a fascinating book, and the fact that they actually find the city is amazing, but the thing that I took away from the book most was the fact that it took a team of people to accomplish their goal. If any one of them had gone into the jungle to look for the lost city by themselves, they would have ended up dead. It was only because they went in as a team that they were able to eventually find the white city.
This week, we are continuing our Next Steps series, and we are going to be talking about the importance of community. Remember the first Lord of the Rings movie? In the beginning, Gandalf intended only Frodo to take the ring to Rivendell, but he ended up taking three of his friends with him, and that was just on the journey to Bree. By the time the adventure really gets going, he’s joined by nine other companions, and they are known as the Fellowship of the Ring. One of the hobbits, a relative of Frodo named Merry said “You can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.” Each of Tolkien’s stories includes references to the importance of friendship and community in order to accomplish a goal.
This week, we are going to look at three reasons why community is important. Our text this week comes from Luke 5:17 – 26 (NIV), which says “One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’ The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins…’ He said to the paralyzed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’” Now, it would be very easy to overlook this, but I want to talk this week not about the man that was healed, or about the lesson taught to the Pharisees, but about the men who brought their friend to Jesus to be healed, and that brings me to my first point.
The paralytic, had he not had his friends, may never have met Jesus and may never have had the opportunity to be healed. The Bible doesn’t say how long the man had been paralyzed. It just said that he was being carried on a mat by his friends. One of the things our community group does is we set aside a night once every few months where we discuss our strongholds, or the things we struggle with. Guys and girls meet separately, and we discuss our biggest struggles and then pray over each other. At the end of the night, we all remind each other of our accountability to one another in the areas where we struggle, and we are then able to check in on each other in regards to those struggles. James 5:16a (NIV) says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” It’s important to have people around you who know you, who know your weaknesses, and can not only hold you accountable, but lift you up in prayer and encourage you as well.
I like the way Rick Warren puts it. He says “Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren’t rubbed in but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice.” Being a part of a Christian community means that it’s okay to not be okay. That’s something I’ve been very thankful for, especially over the last 15 months, when I’ve needed a place where I could not be okay and still be accepted. What I found is, the more open you are to being honest and vulnerable, the more the people around you become honest and vulnerable as well. That’s when true healing is found. The story of the paralytic is such a great example of this. His friends were willing to do whatever it took to see him be healed. 1 Corinthians 12:24b – 26 (NLT) says “So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” Being a part of a Christian community means you will never have to suffer alone, but it also means that you have others there who will encourage you and celebrate your victories with you. This brings me to my second truth.
Have you ever seen video of a pride of lions on the hunt?
Hebrews 10:24 – 25 (NIV) says “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” This verse is a challenge for us to be more like Jesus. We are never more like Jesus than when we love and encourage one another, even under challenging circumstances. Most of us tend to think of our spouse and our families when we think of these challenging circumstances. Your husband or wife may not always be in a good mood. The kids may not always behave. Love them anyway. The same goes for our communities. Did you know that we actually are called to love our neighbors? Yep, even THOSE neighbors (you know, the ones you thought of when you read this part of the message). Community helps us know how to do that. That brings me to my final truth.
Remember when we talked about lions a few minutes ago? Do you know why they (and so many other predators) hunt in packs? It’s because there is strength in numbers. Most of the time, the animals that they are hunting are bigger and more powerful than they are, so it takes a team to bring that animal down. A study from the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University surveyed married couples that joined the gym together. What they found was that 43% of those couples who worked out separately dropped out within a year, but only 6.3% of those who worked out together ended up quitting in that same year. Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) says “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
When I was a kid, a drag racer named John Force started one of the first multi-car teams in the sport when he added Tony Pedregon to his team to drive a second funny car. John went on to have one of the most dominant seasons ever seen in drag racing, winning the championship just a little over halfway through the season. Tony would finish the season in 2nd in the points, beating out his brother. Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 12 (NIV) says “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Again, going back to the Lord of the Rings, if you remember towards the end of the story, Sam has to carry Frodo into Mt. Doom to destroy the ring because Frodo has nothing left. If you’re really a fan of the books or movies, you’ll recognize that Sam is actually kind of the hero of the whole thing, despite most of the credit going to Frodo. Frodo even recognizes that he wouldn’t have made it far without Sam. C.S. Lewis said “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” We are built for community, and we are meant to do life with others. Let’s thank God for that.
We thank You that You cared enough about us to not let us go through this life alone. We are so thankful that You put people in our lives who can help us carry our loads, keep us accountable, and encourage us when we’re down. Lord, today I pray for all those who are feeling alone, who are under attack from the enemy, or who are facing battles that they will never tell anyone about. I pray that You would put people in their lives who won’t let them isolate themselves. Father, most of all, we thank You for Jesus, and it’s in His Name we pray.
If you are looking for community, or just need some people who will care enough to encourage you and help you carry your load, we have just such a community. Go check out our facebook page, and attached to it is a community group that you are welcome to join. Our next message will continue this Next Steps series by talking about the importance of serving. Have a blessed week!!!!!