Growing in Christ Day 2: A Good Support System
Tychicus will tell you all about my activities… and with him Onesimus… Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark… and Jesus who is called Justus… Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you… Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. (Colossians 4:7-14, ESV, abbreviated)
I love to watch football. Apparently, I have made horrible decisions on teams to cheer for, though, because teams I like rarely accomplish anything great. Such is the life of a Carolina Panthers and North Carolina Tarheels football fan! For most of us who watch football, we simply watch to enjoy the game. We watch without understanding all that goes into a single play, especially at the professional level. Even the offensive plays that might look “boring and easy” are far from it! Just take a relatively simple running play, where the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back. Have you ever stopped to think about all the teamwork that goes into it? The center must snap the ball clean, and the entire offensive line must wait for him to snap it. The offensive tackles, the guards, and the tight ends all block the defensive line. Maybe a fullback blocks ahead of the running back. The wide receivers disguise the play to make it appear to be a passing play. The goal is for the offensive line to open a hole for the running back to sneak past them. Some of the offensive linemen will try to push beyond their block to open room near the linebackers to gain more yardage. It all must be done seamlessly, quickly, and, most importantly, completely in sync. If one person misses their assignment, the play dies. Every player supports the other to get the yardage, the first down, or the home run play—a touchdown. Some might say the runner is the most important player in that play, but it isn’t true. They all support each other with the goal of winning the game.
The life of a Christian isn’t really a team effort. I would point to this passage: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We will not appear as a team or with others. We must all individually appear. We will not be able to blame mistakes on others or claim the victories of others. We will be responsible for our individual lives. But while that is true, it doesn’t lessen our need for a strong support system of other believers. If I want to grow in my relationship with Jesus, I need to surround myself with other people who have that same desire. Paul certainly understood that need, based on the way he closed many of his epistles. The one from which I quoted above, Colossians, was written from prison. Even in prison, Paul strived to surround himself with like-minded believers. He named eight of them here. It must have been rather difficult to keep close with his support system, but you can tell by his writing that these men truly meant so much to him.
As we look to grow as Christians, having the support of others will go a long way in helping us along the way. The football analogy still works. There are times when a particularly strong player can help weaker players. A great offensive lineman can finish his block and move on to help another achieve his block. When there are outside influences working hard to keep us from growing as believers, it can be helpful to have other believers walking alongside us to keep these negative pressures at bay. They can help keep us accountable, nudge us in the right direction when we stray, and celebrate our spiritual victories. If my support system is weak, consisting mostly of unbelievers or spiritually weak believers, it will make growth more difficult. Who will be there to call me out when I make decisions that are counter to what is beneficial as a Christian? Who will challenge and push me when my spiritual growth plateaus or stagnates? That support system is so important, and it’s something I fear too many Christians are missing today. We’re okay with easy friendships, never wanting to offend anyone and tiptoeing through life. It shouldn’t be that way! Instead of moving forward together, this only encourages stagnation and moving backwards together.
But make no mistake—they are only a support system to help us. My spiritual growth is up to me, and yours is up to you. I can’t chalk up my own spiritual weakness to the ineptitude of others. While we can encourage growth in others, it’s up to them to actually grow. So, what’ll it be? Whom will we choose to help us and support us along the way? Paul chose wisely, and we should, too.