In the best and worst of times, people tend to gather. We come together to celebrate beginnings with the birth of new babies and to grieve losses at the funerals of people we loved. We unite in bringing families together through marriage and also in comforting dear ones who never dreamed of divorce. We cherish being together for holidays and family reunions, and we may also bond with family in dreading the time with “those” crazy relatives (we all have them). Regardless of the situation, we gather to multiply – not just the number of people, but also the prevailing sentiment.
This coming together matters to God. How can I so confidently make this statement? The word, gather, is mentioned more than 250 times in the NIV Bible (more than 300 times in the ESV version). Starting from God’s creation of the very first man, He quickly said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God stated right there that we are better together and that we miss some of life’s fullness in isolation. With a rib taken from Adam, He created Eve and forever, inseparably linked them as one flesh (Genesis 2:18-24). The first gathering. And throughout the Bible, He offers reminders again and again why it is, indeed, not good for man to be alone.
In the book of Hebrews, the author is speaking to the Jewish Christians, who were being persecuted (physically and socially) by both the Jews and the Romans for their faith. Some were growing quite weary and thus, considering returning to their former faith. Some were immature in their faith (not fully comprehending the price that Jesus had paid for them) and therefore having difficulty justifying the cost of persecution. They needed encouragement, and that was the driving motivator for the authorship of this book.
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 (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).
On tough days (or in this especially difficult year of 2020) I’m so grateful to gather with friends and be reminded of the gospel: God loves us so much, He sent His only Son to die for us. Jesus paid the price for our sin, so we don’t have to live in fear or work to pay a penance. He died, rose from the dead three days later and now sits at the right hand of God.
When I hear this, I am, indeed encouraged by the power, grace and love of God. If this is His character, I can trust that He will get me through any and all situations that life can throw at me. In fact, on Election Day, I met with dear friends, and we prayed together for our country, leaders and people. It was the highlight of the day for me, and it gave me fresh hope that God is in control, regardless of any election outcome. He will ultimately use any person or situation for our good and His glory. My time with friends reassured me of this truth: we can rest in Him.
There is Power in Numbers
While Jesus was walking the earth, fully man and fully God, He was often found teaching others. On one such occasion, He was training people of faith how to deal with conflict. First, He suggests going directly to the person and addressing the issue openly and honestly. If that doesn’t work, then He suggests bringing other church members into the conflict to help resolve it. He goes on to say, “…if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Continuing, Jesus says,
“For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:19-20).
There are two ways power is multiplied when we gather. The first is that we can help each other clearly discern the will of God and the Word of God. Jesus suggests bringing others into conflict, so we can help guide each other to His ways, rather than our own. Our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ can help us see clearly what might be unintentionally blocked from our personal point of view. These true friends are trustworthy guides to help us back onto the right path, walking in alignment with the power of God.
Additionally, Jesus alludes to the Holy Spirit’s presence within a believer. When we come together in earnest prayer, the Spirit of God within each Christian will convict us individually to pray in harmony according to God’s will. When our prayers match His will, God grants those requests (John 15:7). Our individual prayers are amplified through Him, rippling up to the heavens. Power!
This is precisely why Christians gather for prayer meetings and events. It’s why we come together and lay hands on people in need. It’s the impetus for things like the National Day of Prayer, as well as the corporate prayer of a local church body. Our gatherings channel more of God and His will.
Today, More than Ever
Has the world ever felt crazier? More splintered? Adversarial? Celebratory of selfish desires? Are we drawing closer to or further away from God and His perfect will?
I wonder what will change the trajectory?
Would you be willing to gather together to discuss solutions and pray? Would you commit to being a leader of unity in this divisive world?
Will you gather?
Because, truly, our country needs to be reminded…not of Old Glory, but of His glory.
Father, God, we humbly come to You, begging for more of You. Forgive us for where we have left You out or come to You as a last resort. Thank you that, because of Jesus, You don’t hold anything against us. Empower us, Lord. Strengthen us as leaders, and give us eyes to see the leaders you want us to encourage. Convict us to gather and remind us of Your goodness, so we can be part of revival, Lord. We need to be revived in Jesus’ name, Amen.