I had just come home with my family from a great weekend of fellowship with other believers. It had been a great time of spiritual refreshment. That’s when I got an email that contained some unwelcome news. My spirit of joy was almost completely gone. I was quickly discouraged about the news I had just received. It was Saturday night and I went to bed knowing I had to preach the next day. Even though I was completely exhausted from the long, full weekend I laid awake with a heavy heart. I prayed, asking for God’s wisdom. I also prayed for hope and peace as I was feeling quite discouraged.
The next morning I prepared myself for church and continued praying. But I could hardly overcome the discouragement. I felt like staying home. But I couldn’t. For some reason a few folks were expecting me to show up, lead in the services and preach. I was their pastor.
I felt like I was doing what was right–asking the Lord for relief from the disappointment and discouragement I was feeling. But at the same time I wasn’t feeling like I was getting any relief. I was a bit puzzled about why the Lord wasn’t boosting my spirits as He had many times before.
I’m often telling people to take their discouragements to the Lord in prayer. I’m often encouraging others to lay their burdens at Jesus feet. And I believe it’s the best thing we can do when discouraged–when we’re facing the trials of life–to go to Jesus in prayer and acknowledge His power over the situation and His care for our needs.
The Lord did answer my prayers for encouragement that morning and gave me peace about the situation but He did it in a way I hadn’t anticipated. He answered my prayers through the first person I spoke to at church that morning. And then the next person encouraged me a bit more. And then the next and several more folks encouraged me greatly that day.
No one else knew of my discouragement but by the time the morning services were over and I began my walk home I had been thoroughly encouraged. My spirit’s had been lifted and I realized that God had chosen to answer my prayer for peace and hope through the encouragement of other believers.
That day I learned once again why we need each other as believers. I learned again to take my own advice and go to church even when I don’t feel like it. We need to face the fact that life can be tough at times and that we’d use any excuse to stay home and feel sorry for ourselves. But God meant it for our good when He placed in scripture the reminder that we not fail to meet with one another in worship.
There will be times when you are God’s answer to my prayer. And there will be times when that person who greets you when you arrive at church is the one who will be the answer to your prayer. There may be times when I am God’s answer to your prayer.
Part of loving God and loving people is understanding that we don’t only go to church for our own benefit. Think of your family at church the next time you feel like staying home. We often view church in light of how it will most benefit ourselves when we’re there. But when was the last time you went to church because you knew someone would need your encouragement?
We don’t often think of church on those terms but God intended the church–other believers–for our good. And sometimes God will use you or me in answer to someone’s deepest need. We need each other.