A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Not a Solo Journey
Last night we had a surprise overnight guest: a friend we hadn’t seen for almost a decade. Back then Joe was a young Airman stationed in Okinawa, Japan where my husband and I served as missionaries. We spent five solid years with Joe, living closely in community as he attended our church there. He spent countless hours in our home and became so dear to us.
Joe came to know Christ in Okinawa, Mark baptized him, he met his wife at our church, we did their pre-marital counseling, Mark married them, and our daughters were in their wedding. They’ve been married almost 9 years, have three children, and Joe worked his way up to being a pilot. With that much investment in one another’s lives, you can imagine how happy we were to have Joe in our home again for just one night!
Here’s what was so poignant about Joe’s visit: we found one another faithful. After nearly a decade apart we reunited and witnessed one another still walking with the Lord. We listened to Joe talk about his church, what God is doing in his life, how the Lord is leading him and his wife, and his commitment to raising his children in the Lord. He found us doing what he’s always seen us do—opening our home to others for dinner and bible study. It was so natural to introduce Joe to our current Gospel Community and have him share his testimony as we sat by a bonfire in our backyard.
We don’t take such faithfulness for granted. After ministering to the transient military community for ten years, we’ve seen too many men and women wander from the flock. We’ve been saddenedas we’ve heard from or about old friends who’ve slowly faded away from their once seemingly vibrant relationships with Christ. And so we treasure Joe’s perseverance and we praise God that he has enabled us to persevere too.
No one sets out to wander from the Lord. But the divergence starts somewhere. I was re-reading old messages from another friend from Okinawa just the other day. Her words four years ago were, “I just feel so far from God right now.” Once in youth ministry, discipling young people in the faith, today she rejects him all together.
I know there are theological implications here—were these dear ones who now reject Christ saved in the first place? I don’t know. I cannot know their hearts. Perhaps they are now only in a valley, a season of rebellion, and the Lord will woo them back to himself. I pray so.
While I cannot know their hearts, I can pinpoint what led them to where they are now—living in a faith-filled community became less and less of a priority for them. As they moved from Okinawa and from station to station they most assuredly meant to find a good church. But things came up, urgent matters pressed in, they couldn’t find something just right. Eventually, gathering with other saints didn’t seem so important anymore.
My encouragement and exhortation to those who want to be found faithful ten years from now is this, “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” (Hebrews 10:24-15).
Our communities of faith are key to our perseverance and growth. It is essential that we surround ourselves with other Christians. As lifestyles and careers are increasingly globalized it is of utmost importance that Christians find a local church as soon as they move to a new city. We simply will not survive without others stirring us up, encouraging us, and meeting with us.
May you and I be purposeful each year, each month, each week to be amongst God’s people who will help us remain on God’s path for God’s glory. May we be like Joe and be found faithful many years from now by those who introduced us to Jesus.