Paul admonished the Corinthian church saying,
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. (1Cor 11:17, ESV2011)
Often we take our coming together as members of Christ’s body for granted. Recently when I needed fellowship, the time was spent talking about the things of this world (weather calamities, mass murders, terrorism, politics, etc.) instead of lifting one another up in Christ. I have been as guilty of this as anyone else. I woke up to this fact when I saw the fruit of my words pulling another dear saint down. She was brave enough to tell me about the effect these words were having on her. As I prayed about this, I came across the following excerpt by T. Austin-Sparks, which I later shared with her and apologized.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” [Acts 2:42]. There is a tremendous means of grace, a tremendous enrichment of Christ in the fellowship of the Lord’s people. I believe the enemy will get believers, when they are together, to talk about anything under the sun rather than about the Lord. It is easy when you meet together with the Lord’s people to be carried off with all kinds of matters of interest and not to begin to talk about the Lord; but if you do there is always an enrichment, always a strengthening, always a building up; it is the Divine way. Fellowship is a means of imparting Christ to the believer. And wherever spiritual fellowship is possible, you and I ought to seek it, look after it, cherish it. There are all too many of the Lord’s children today, who have no chance of spiritual fellowship, and who would give anything to have it. The Lord would have us at least two together. That is His order, and there is something in ministering Christ to one another. There will be something lost unless that is so. These are ways in which we feed upon the Lord. (1)
Fellowship in Christ is necessary–even if it is just two or three gathered together in His name–if we are to grow and prosper in Him. Our times of fellowship should be sought out, nurtured and cherished. We should start out our days in prayer instead of being pulled down into the affairs of this world. Satan will do whatever he can to weaken us so that we are not effective to lift others up and encourage them in the Spirit, and we should not be ignorant of his devices.
I often find that the Spirit can use me to speak to others through a scripture He brings to my mind while we fellowship, but like Peter I can be speaking the very words of God and later in an unguarded moment be speaking for the devil (see Mark 8:27-33). James addressed this very thing.
Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing [Grk. katara – literally “downward prayer” or communications]. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (Jas 3:10-11, KJ2000)
I always thought of this word cursing as something more overtly done with words of anger toward a fellow saint. But as we look at the root meaning of this Greek word, it means any communication that pulls us or others down. How often does both bitter and sweet water come from the fountain in our hearts? This should not be so. Jesus said this to the woman at the well in Samaria:
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14, ESV2011)
If we have the Spirit of Christ abiding in us we should always be speaking word of life to one another. As for prayer and how necessary it is to get us on the right track in the Spirit, Sparks went on to explain.
We do feed upon Christ in prayer. To put that in another way, there is an imparting of Himself to His Own in prayer. We may go to prayer in weariness, and rise in freshness; we may go to prayer exhausted, and rise renewed… really seeking the Lord, reaching out, taking hold of the Lord, giving ourselves up to the Lord in prayer, never fails to have renewing, uplifting, strengthening results. You say prayer may wear you out? Yes, but there is a wonderful strength that comes by wearing out prayer. There is vitality given to the spiritual life even in prayer that tires us physically, and we go in the strength of it. Yes, prayer is a way in which Christ is ministered to us by the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a way in which we feed upon Christ; He becomes our life. (1)
Prayer, time spent meditating on the scriptures and fellowshipping in the Spirit is what made the early church such a powerful force in spreading the gospel and lifting each other up. Dear saints, may we all do the same.