Being better together is part of the Brand New life that God invites you into, and one he wants to help you live.
I don’t want to harp on about the 50km run I did last weekend, but, I don’t ever want to do it again so allow me one more illustration.
There were 9 runners who went the whole 50km distance. Another 3 runners ran different parts with us. And 7 others on bikes met up with us along the way.
But the whole event, the #50b450 in honour of Campbell Smythe running 50km before he turns 50 next month, wouldn’t have been possible without our support vehicles. Two cars drove the whole way, even doubling back for an hour and a half to meet us at one point because gates were closed and they couldn’t get straight through. Our friends Joel, and Pieter & Darrelle in their cars were with us almost the entire time with extra water, food, nutrition, bandaids, tape, etc. And then another friend Nigel met us twice on the back half of the run with his kids with an aid station of water, food, panadol, an ice bucket with sponges and music.
I remember running up the hill out of Copperlode Dam, the beginning of the hardest part of the run (it didn’t get much easier from then on), realising I was running out of water and food, the support vehicles were doubling back at that point because of the locked gates, the group had spread out because of the hills. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own.
The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, once wrote:
7 I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. 8 This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing. (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8)
As I was dying on the hill climbing out of Copperlode Dam, my friend Hannes appeared halfway up a hill and gave me a banana. A banana he’d had in the back pocket of his bike jersey for the previous 60kms of his ride on dirt tracks from Kairi, but I didn’t care. And then half an hour later, around a bend at the top of the hill Nigel’s aid station appeared.
King Solomon who I quoted earlier kept writing:
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT)
Who is with you?
Running 50km was impossible for me on my own. I needed the other people I was running with. I needed the support crew. I needed that banana. And the water, sports drink, snickers, lollies, chocolate milk, ice water, shade, music, moral support and panadol I got at the aid station.
If you fall alone you’ll be in real trouble. But if someone is with you, the other person can reach out and help.
As you run your own race of life, who’s with you? If you fell, who would reach out and help? If your family fell, who would reach out and help?
Don’t let your answer be: the hospital, or the insurance company, or ‘the church’. What is the name of the person who would reach out and help?
Who is with you?
We have been working through a letter in the Bible that the Apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians in a city called Colosse. It is the letter to the Colossians, which is who they were. We’re right at the end of the letter where Paul is about to finish up by saying See Ya to a whole bunch of people. After writing about the brand new way of seeing God, seeing Jesus, seeing themselves, seeing their relationships. Paul finishes by reminding them that they can’t continue to live this Brand New life on their own. He doesn’t explicitly say that, but listen as you read for how much Paul depends on all of these people. He needs them. They are with him.
It’s not just “thanks church for being there for me.” It’s thanks to you and you and you for this and this and this. Have a listen.
7 Tychicus will give you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. 9 I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here.
10 Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way. 11 Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!
12 Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. 13 I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
14 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas. 15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.
16 After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too. And you should read the letter I wrote to them.
17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.”
18 HERE IS MY GREETING IN MY OWN HANDWRITING—PAUL.
Remember my chains.
May God’s grace be with you.
Did you pick up some of the things Paul said about needing each other?
Of Tychicus he said he is “A beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work.” Who do you have serving together with you? Who sets up the chairs with you? Who prays with you for your workmates? Who plans youth with you? Who leads life group with you?
Of Onesimus he said he is “A faithful and beloved brother.” Who do you consider your faithful and loved sister or brother? Not by blood, but by faith. Who would consider you that person?
Of Aristarchus and Mark, “What a comfort they have been.” These two guys were a comfort in Paul’s suffering. When he hit the wall, these guys comforted him and helped him. Who was there for you when you hit rock bottom? Who have you been there for when they’ve hit rock bottom?
Of Epaphras, “He always prays earnestly for you…he prays hard for you.” Who do you know who is praying earnestly for you? Who could you ask to pray for you? Who are you praying for earnestly?
Of the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, “After you have read this letter, pass it on…” Who passes on to you what they are learning about God and their Brand New Life? Who are you sharing with? How are you helping each other grow?
Of Archippus Paul said, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” Who challenges you and holds you accountable to what God is doing in your life? Who will keep you on track when you’re struggling and drifting and getting distracted? Who do you help stay on track?
Of himself Paul said, “Here is my greeting in my own handwriting.” There were some fake letters going around by people pretending to be Paul. He probably had Timothy write this for him, but he signed off with his own signature. He was real and authentic. Who are you able to be real and authentic with. Who is in your life that you give the rest of the answer to? How are you? Good…but. Good…and. Who gets the real answers? And who gives you the real answers?
And of himself Paul finishes with, “Remember my chains.” Who inspires your faith? Who do you look to that keeps you going in this Brand New life? Who encourages you by their story and what they are going through? Who are you able to encourage by your story and what you’re going through?
Who are your people?
Let me tell you about some of those people in my life.
I could tell you about Matt. He is like Tychicus to me. Week in and out, Matt and I are together in ministry. As the team and the church has gone through lots of change in my 4 years here, Matt & I have been on the ministry team together that whole time. “A beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work.”
I could tell you about Jireh. The Senior Pastor at Mareeba Baptist. He is like Aristarchus, Mark and Justus to me. We’re both young Senior Pastors and we have been a comfort for each other. It’s a steep learning curve for both of us, but we have an appreciation for the unique joys and challenges of our roles and this stage of our lives.
I could tell you about Margie. She is like Epaphras to me. She has recently moved to Sydney so isn’t part of our church community anymore, but I would regularly get text messages from her telling me how she was praying for me and Laura, our family, our ministry. She sends bible verses and encouragement.
And I could tell you about Bruce. He is the pastor to pastors for Churches of Christ in QLD and we spend time together throughout the year. He asks lots of hard and insightful questions. He is Paul to my Archippus. Keeping me on track with my own Brand New life, my marriage, family, job and calling.
And there are dozens of other names, many sitting here this morning, who are my Onesimus, Luke, Demas, Nympha and the brothers and sisters in Laodicea. I know that when I fall there are text messages I can send, phone numbers I can call, doors I can knock on and people will reach out and help me up.
Who is on your list? Who are your people?
I want to be this person for other people. I won’t tell you who because of confidentiality, but I could tell you about the conversations and time and support I give wanting to be the ‘other person’. The door I answered when someone said, “I’m not coping.” The message I replied to and prayers I prayed when someone said, “I’ve got a big meeting at work this week and I need you to pray.” The time I’ve ‘wasted’ with people getting to know them.
This is part of my job but it’s also part of my life. I don’t want to talk myself up but let me tell you one little story about something that helped make this real for me. A family friend of mine has chronic fatigue. Years ago when she was early on in her struggle with this she was going to get her license. I didn’t have heaps to do with her or her family at that point but when she told me I made a mental note of when her driving test was going to be. Later I put it in my calendar to remind me to pray and ask her how it went, which I did weeks later on the day.
I heard some time later how helpful and significant that was for her. It was simple and easy for me, but it was a small way of reaching out when someone had fallen over.
This is what I try and do for others, and what others do for me. Not everyone, that’s impossible. I can’t do it for all of you, and you all can’t do it for me. But, we can all do it for each other. We can be the other person for each other. We can be the one with the black and sweaty banana from the back of the cycling jersey. We can be the aid station set up in the back of a 4wd with chocolate milk and panadol. We can be Tychicus, Onesimus, Demas, Nympha, Paul for each other.
Some of you cook meals for other people. Some of you stay in touch when the other person has withdrawn. Some of you ‘waste time’ in friendship and conversation. Some of you help move furniture. Some of you listen while problems are recounted again and again. Some of you pray earnestly every day.
Who are your people? Who would be on your list if you wrote a letter like Paul did?
Make space to be better together
We are better together.
Paul knew it. The people he was writing to knew it. And I bet you know it too.
CREATE SPACE TO BE BETTER TOGETHER
If you find your list lacking, there is something you can do about it. God wants to shape your list like he shaped Paul’s. But it will take time.
I don’t know if you’re actually prepared to make the time to add to your list.
You’ve got other things you’re trying to do. Other things you’re getting done. Other things that fill your time. You’ve got other friendships that are great, but aren’t here in Cairns, and aren’t the kind of people God is using in your life to pick you up. Some of you are so busy you don’t have any relational space for God to add face to face people to your list. Some of you are so tired from being busy that your life is filled with stuff, but not with life giving people.
You’re guarded because you’ve been hurt before. It hasn’t worked out before. You’ve been dropped before.
You can try and go alone, and it will go ok for a while. But when you fall over, who will reach out and help you up?
Creating the space doesn’t always come easy though. I’m tired. I’ve got too much to do. I can’t be bothered. I don’t have the time or the energy.
My list of people are the relationships I value and give time to. Meeting with Bruce for example, takes about 3 days a year spread throughout the year. Setting aside time when he is in town. Jireh and I call each other regularly, we cultivate and keep our friendship going.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Because we are better together.
HOW TO BE BETTER TOGETHER
This is really about relationships. One to one. Coupe to couple. Family to family. Family to one. Couple to family. One to Couple. But there are some ways that we together as The Lakes Church can help.
- Connect BBQ. Next Sunday. Come and meet some people. Step out of your comfort zone and turn up. Get to know some people. Follow up with them later.
- Serve together. Join a serving team. Connect Corner can help you with that or I can. Start preparing your life to serve next year.
- Life Group together. Join a life group or start a group meeting together talking and praying together. We’ll get better at this but Connect Corner and I can help. We can help train and equip you. Start preparing your life to be part of a group next year.
- Invite someone to coffee or dinner or sport or something.
The best way: Pick a person or a couple of people and spend more time with them. Invite them to lunch or coffee rather than waiting for an invitation. Introduce yourself rather than waiting to be introduced. And keep doing it.
“I wondered if you’d like to … sometime.”
This is how my friendships and my people started. Would you like to hang out sometime. We should chat sometime. Call the phone. Send the message. Go out of your way to spend the time.
We are better together
Being better together is part of the Brand New life that God invites you into, and one he wants to help you live. This is a prayer God answers:
“Help me find someone I can be there for and someone who can be there for me. Even just one. Over the next few days, weeks, months and years, God expand my list of people. Add people to my life. And help me to be that person for someone else too.”
We are better together. So let’s keep stepping into this Brand New life of being better together.