|Vol. 14 No. 2 February 2012||
Several years ago as I was leaving a place of business, a friend engaged me in a conversation regarding the difficulties that were facing our nation at that time. He mentioned that during the depression years people were closer together as friends and neighbors. He emphasized the need existing in the hearts of people for one another. There seemed to have been a closeness prevailing among the citizens of our nation during those trying years.
This brought to my mind a lesson relative to those things that tend to bring people nearer together. First of all, it might be good to mention those things that do not necessarily contribute to a closer relationship with others. Whenever money, material and physical blessings exist in abundance, people are apt to feel self-sufficient and self-reliant, and they become very selfish. A person who has everything feels no need of leaning on others for assistance. The tendency is not to be close to neighbors, friends and even family at times. In a marriage relationship, husbands and wives who both have professions may feel so independent that there is not the need of interdependence. Many are often prone to stay ahead of neighbors regarding the obtaining of the material and the physical. Such blessings can become a curse if an individual feels no need of God and others.
Much to the surprise of many, it is during periods of trials, tribulations, sorrows and adversities that we are drawn nearer to one another. Consider the early years of marriage when the abundance of money was indeed a rare commodity. It may have been during those college years or while in the military but the memories linger concerning those lean years. Yet, you would not trade those years for anything. Why? It is because such difficulties brought you nearer to one another as husband and wife. Think of the times when a baby was sick or a mate was confined to bed for a lengthy period of time. It was then that the family felt the need of one another. It is when a loved dies that the family leans heavily on one another for strength. Even during a national crisis like the destruction of the Trade Center buildings, there was good to be found. There was the tendency for people to feel the need of others for strength and comfort.
The Lord has taught in the Holy Scriptures that members of the church should feel the need of one another. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” He also stated “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:25). The Hebrews writer spoke of a time when Christians “endured a great struggle with sufferings” and others “had compassion on them that were in bonds” (Hebrews 10:32-34). The Jerusalem church suffered persecution, but such adversity caused the members to be “of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). We are taught to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). It is when the odds are terribly against us that we should be strengthened and stand together.
Finally, the admonition is given in James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This involves all of a person’s relationship with God. When we trust in God and obey Him He will surely be with us. He will never fail us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
He is not a member of the Lord’s church. He has expressed on more than one occasion his admiration for his wife who is a faithful and dedicated Christian lady. He admires her for her example and helps her find a congregation of God’s people with whom she can worship when they are out of town.
He used to go with her. He used to listen to the Bible being taught in a class environment. He used to hear Gospel lessons being preached. He used to have repeated opportunities to hear a preacher extend the invitation. He used to have to think about his spiritual condition when the “invitation song” was being sung.
None of those things is true any longer. He no longer joins his wife as she faithfully makes her way to be with her brothers and sisters in the Lord and offer worship to Him.
When I talked with him, he did not indicate that he really had anything against the church. In fact, he was very complimentary of many of the Christians he knew. He called some by name and expressed to me how much he thought of them.
As we talked about his spiritual condition and needs, I became aware of the fact that, like so many others, there is not just one reason why he no longer makes the effort to be with his wife when she worships. There hardly ever is just one reason in situations like this.
However, in most situations, there is a “tipping point.” There can be that one incident that is the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” In this man’s case, that point involved what many would consider a very insignificant event and maybe even a less significant amount of money.
He watched a man whom he knew to be a Christian and a preacher drive into a convenience store and buy $19.00 worth of gas. Instead of paying $19.00, he wrote a check in the amount of $20.00.
Do you have any idea what happened with the other dollar? What could a preacher have done with only $1.00 that could cause somebody else to think that it was not worthwhile to hear him preach? He bought a lottery ticket!
When I heard this, I thought of a couple of applications for all of us. First of all, I hear the argument from time to time that gambling should not be opposed because it is “victimless.” In the sense of somebody being killed or injured when the man bought the lottery ticket, I suppose that a case could be made for that. The case would be much more difficult to make when we consider things such as a person’s spiritual wellbeing.
The case would also be more difficult to make when we consider influence. Somebody is watching each and every one of us (not just the elders and preachers). Some action that I take, some words I use or some attitudes that I have which I do not consider to be a “big deal” may be being carefully scrutinized by some precious soul.
I do not want somebody to be able to use me as their reason for not being interested in the Lord and His church. While, is some instances, their “reasons” may be totally unjustified and based on unrealistic expectations of what a Christian is supposed to be, they are still valid to the ones who are observing our lives.
How ironic: the same person who I am sure has preached repeatedly that one soul is worth more than the entire world (Matthew 16:26) helped with one “insignificant act” push a soul further from the Lord for $1.00! I wonder how many I have had the same effect on for far less! “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Colossians 4:5).