What God Wants
by Dick Wulf
If God is ever going to get enough of what He has asked for, it will be through
- pro-active, intensive Christian friendships
- marriages that are Christian in deed, not just in name, and
- Christian families that act as families rather than as a collection of kids parented individually.
Because of the tremendously wonderful gift of Jesus, God certainly deserves what He has asked for, but He isn’t getting enough of it from contemporary expressions of the church.
Let’s be honest. It is just not possible to do very well many of the things God has asked us to do when we are alone or in what most of us call church. For example, the reason we gather as a church is described in Hebrews 10:24-25, which says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” [emphasis added].
To encourage means literally to place courage in one another. But courage for what?
- Courage to become more and more like Jesus until death.
- Courage to be a better and better husband or wife until death.
- Courage to be a better and better parent, uncle, aunt, grandparent until death.
- Courage to let Jesus make you His vehicle for reaching your extended family, neighborhood and workplace.
- Courage to obey the Bible in all your relationships with others and with God — following the commands we call The Togethers of Scripture.
- Courage to . . . . (fill in what God is asking from you)
There are all kinds of things we need courage for — courage we just don’t have. Such courage is supposed to come from Christians meeting together. But you’ll rarely find it through church programs, small-group Bible studies or even wonderful worship services. Those gatherings are too large or too focused on some other program or agenda (as wonderful as they are), so any “encouragement’ they offer is vague and general. We need very specific encouragement for whatever it is that God wants from us now.
The person looking for work needs courage to go out and be rejected over and over again until he or she lands a job. The teenager needs courage to go against what he or she wants to do to get a difficult school assignment done. A husband needs courage to point out to his wife something about her behavior that she would benefit working on — something contrary to Christ’s calling. The single person needs courage to rebuff the advances of an attractive person who believes casual sex is okay. I could go on and on.
This kind of encouragement comes only out of a deep relationship with another person, someone whom we trust and who has a thorough knowledge of what is going on in our life. Who else would know when someone needs courage to steadfastly love a relative who treats them poorly? Or when a married couple is growing more and more unhappy and thinking about divorce? Or when a child is lacking in self-esteem and doing poorly in school? If we don’t know what is happening with a person, we are left to encourage him or her only for superficial things. We congratulate ourselves for mediocrity when in fact we are new creations in Christ Jesus capable of far more.
Almost every one of the 65 Togethers of Scripture (depending on how you organize them, there could be more) can be adequately obeyed only in friendships, marriages and families. Only in those smaller, deeper, more genuine and transparent relationships can we interact in truly helpful ways — the ways of the kingdom of God powered by the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, the most wonderful thing about the joys and struggles experienced by friends, spouses and families is that Jesus promises to be there.
Does this mean that Jesus is not present when 100 people gather in the institutional church? Of course it doesn’t mean that. He is there. He is everywhere. “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:8).
But, granting that He is present in the church of 100, He is nonetheless limited in what He can ask each of us to do, because the very structure of larger, often formal meetings prevents us from having the kind of personal interaction we need. It is said that “in every pew there is a broken heart.” But how do we know who those people are? And, therefore, how can Jesus ask us to act on His behalf to soothe a hurt or help solve a problem?
The hurting person needs his or her friends, spouse and other family members to act like the church. Where two or three people gather around the hurting person, Jesus is present with His great help — help that comes from these two or three people obeying the Togethers of Scripture.
That is why we want you to know:
Your friendships, marriage and family are important components of Jesus’ church.
You need to know well The Togethers so you can obediently implement them.