And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.
— Hebrews 10:24,25
When I was growing up, every time the door was open for a church event, the Renner clan was there. But my all-time favorite event of the week involved eating Bobbie Jo’s biscuits. I’m talking about the large, fluffy, butter-covered biscuits that were baked and then served by the church cook each week at our church’s Wednesday night supper before the midweek service.
To a young Rick Renner, there was just nothing in the world to compare to Bobbie Jo’s golden, fluffy biscuits. Although it’s been many decades since I’ve eaten one of them, I can still hear her yelling, “RICKY RENNER — get out of this kitchen and keep your hands off the biscuits!” I was always trying to sneak an extra biscuit before or after dinner was served!
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The Wednesday night church meal included regular servings of ketchup-covered meatloaf, creamy mashed potatoes with heavy brown gravy, and cherry or apple pie. But for me, Bobbie Jo’s biscuits were the “grand slam” of everything on the menu. However, what really indelibly marked my life, more than those biscuits, was the rich fellowship that transpired around those tables each Wednesday night among the people who ate together at our church supper. Those people were pillars in our church — people we knew would always be there; those on whom we could depend; people we knew really loved us. They were such consistent examples to me as a young boy. Around those tables of fellowship, these men and women spoke strength into each other’s lives. Much of what I believe about church fellowship was formed in those Wednesday night suppers. Fellowship — what a gift from God it is to you and me and to our local churches!
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Apparently there were already some believers in the First Century who were skipping church. People tend to stay away from church and other believers when they get discouraged. Perhaps these Christians are embarrassed that their faith isn’t working as well as they think it should. Perhaps they’re ashamed that they’re still struggling with problems that they believe should have been conquered long ago. They don’t want anyone to know they’re still wrestling with the same old issues, so they disappear from sight.
The writer of Hebrews used a Greek word that tells us why most Christians start “forsaking” the assembling of themselves together. In Greek, the word “forsaking” is egkataleipontes, which is a compound of three different Greek words: ek, kata, and leipo. The word ek means out; the down kata means down; and the word leipo means behind or to be lacking. When these three words are compounded, the new word pictures a person who feels out, down, and behind. In other words, he feels like he’s outside the circle of his group; he feels discouraged or depressed; and he feels like everyone else has surpassed him. This word describes someone who feels extremely left out and defeated. He feels like he’s trailing far behind everyone else in his spiritual life or in his life in general. To him, it seems like everyone is succeeding but him. Yet rather than go to church to be encouraged and strengthened, this person allows his emotions to control him and he starts missing church meetings. In other words, he “forsakes” the assembly of believers.
Have you noticed that when Christians need encouragement the most, it’s often the time they start running from church? They decide to skip church, stay home, and do something else instead. They isolate themselves when they’re in their greatest need of encouragement!
Hebrews 10:25 says it’s important that we meet because we need “exhorting” from one another. The word “exhorting” in Greek is parakaleo, a compound of the words para and kaleo. Para means alongside, and kaleo means to call, to beckon, or to speak to someone. When these two words are compounded, the new word depicts someone who comes right alongside a person, urging him, beseeching him, and begging him to make some kind of correct decision.
In the ancient Greek world, the word parakaleo was often used by military leaders before they sent their troops into battle. Rather than hide from the painful reality of war, the leaders would summon their troops together and speak straightforwardly with them about the potential dangers of the battlefield. The leaders would also tell their troops about the glories of winning a major victory.
Instead of ignoring these clear-cut dangers of battle, these officers came right alongside their troops and urged, exhorted, beseeched, begged, and pleaded with them to stand tall, throwback their shoulders, look the enemy straight on, eyeball to eyeball, and face their battles bravely. All these ideas are contained in the word “exhort” in Hebrews 10:25.
If you know someone who is discouraged because his fight isn’t won yet, speak to that person truthfully and forthrightly, the way a commanding officer would speak to his troops. Remind that person of others who have stood the test of time and won their battles. Be sure to remind him of the sweetness of victory when the battle is over. He needs to hear a passionate, heartfelt word of exhortation from you!
I think that this is the real reason I loved Wednesday night suppers at our church when I was growing up. Sure, Bobbie Jo’s biscuits were terrific. But even those big fluffy, buttery biscuits could not compare to the fellowship, encouragement, and love that was exchanged across those tables as people ate together. It was truly a weekly love feast.
Although decades have passed and people have moved away to various places, most of these church members still stay in touch and deeply love one another. They were real troops who encouraged each other — and if someone disappeared, we looked until we found them! We weren’t going to let them fall out of fellowship simply because they were discouraged! That’s when they needed us the most!
Maybe you know someone who has forsaken the assembling of himself with other believers in church. Maybe you’ve even done it. I want to encourage you today: Stay in fellowship, and don’t forsake the assembling of yourself together with other believers. If you’re feeling “out, down, and behind,” confess that to someone you trust spiritually and let that person pray with you. And if you notice that someone has recently been missing from church, realize that the devil may be assaulting his mind. Or perhaps his faith feels a little tired, and that person needs some strengthening from someone like you. So make it your aim today to find that individual and speak words of encouragement to him to get him back to the table of rich fellowship with the brethren!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You for my church family and for the encouragement I receive from other church members. You have called us to be a body. I don’t want to allow myself to be disconnected when discouragement tries to wage war against my mind and emotions. Help me run to fellowship in times like that instead of letting the devil talk me into staying away. The devil knows that fellowship will strengthen me and others. That is why he tries to keep us apart from each other during the times when we need each other the most. So today I take a firm stand against this diabolical strategy and declare that I will stay connected to my church family and other believers — and I will do all I can to keep others connected as well because we are stronger together!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that the enemy’s plan to separate me from others will not work! God’s Word plainly says that I am not to forsake the assembling of myself with other believers, and I will obey what the Word tells me to do. Even if I am under assault emotionally, assembling to fellowship with others is one thing I simply will not negotiate. Nothing will keep me from gathering with other believers to receive and to give supernatural strength. Furthermore, I choose to be a voice that speaks encouragement to others who are feeling outside, let down, or left behind. Rather than focus on myself and my own needs, I will focus on how to become a source of strength to others who are around me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have there been moments in your life when you ran from Christian fellowship because you were discouraged? What happened in your thinking to convince you that you should stay away from other believers in such a moment?
- Do you know anyone right now who has disappeared from church? Have you wondered where that person is? Do you know if anyone has checked on him or her? Is the Holy Spirit speaking to you today, encouraging you to seek out that person?
- Most churches don’t have Wednesday night suppers anymore. What other avenues of fellowship — Sunday school, small-group studies, etc. — does your church offer that you can take advantage of? Have you looked to see what is available for you to attend in order to receive and give strength to others?