Have you ever noticed the energy level of kids when they are playing together? About the only way I can describe it is like this: Imagine you fed them each a double espresso latte with a Red Bull chaser!
Does that aptly describe the energy?
I experienced this personally at the Caravan Campout this past weekend. The afternoon and evening were filled with a lot of running, fishing, playing, and of course, swimming. I prefer to consider myself in pretty good shape at almost 40 years old. But even with that, there was no keeping up. By the evening I was exhausted in front of the campfire. I dosed off a time or two as I watched the flames dance around. In one of the moments when I was more awake, I commented to one of the chaperones there,
“How in the world do those kids have energy to STILL be running around like they are? I mean, I realize they have age on their side, but they played and swam twice as hard as I did! How are they still upright and moving?”
She replied with a very astute answer. She noted that each one of them fed off each other’s energy and that it was their combined togetherness that kept them going and energized.
Pondering what she said, I continued to gaze into the fire, only I didn’t drift into sleep. My thoughts were on what she said as I watched the embers under the firewood glow with intense heat and energy. Each ember in that fire kept the others burning with energy as well. They fed each other. Their combined togetherness kept them going just like the kids did to each other.
Have you ever look up the definition for an ember? An ember is a hot coal made from highly heated wood that remains hot after the fire and is sometimes as hot as the fire that created them.
Interesting definition isn’t it? That’s another post all in itself!
Taking this all in, I wondered if each of those embers kept each other hot, what would happen, then, if I removed just one of the embers. The inquisitive mind that I have needed to know, so I carefully removed one and observed the fire and the ember.
Confession: I already knew what would happen, but I still wanted to observe.
As expected, the fire and remaining embers continued to burn hot. But the one that I removed very quickly cooled to the point that it was lukewarm and easily handled without burning myself. It didn’t take long for this to happen.
You know what? It doesn’t take long for this to happen with us either.
Simply stated, we desperately need each other. Our combined togetherness keeps each other burning for Christ through encouraging, loving, and strengthening each other within the body of believers. It is our combined togetherness that keeps us going! And that’s what God has intended for us. The author of Hebrews write,
“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24–25 NASB
That word stimulate (paroxusmos) is an odd word. Looking at the narrative of the “sharp disagreement” that separated Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) we see the same word used in this passage of Hebrews. In the Acts context it is used almost negatively (sharp disagreement). However in this context of Hebrews it seems more positive. But positive does not mean it comes softly.
The author, then, is trying to convey that he expected this sort of encouragement to be strong, even confrontational if need be. It is strong action taken to keep one another burning for Christ through loving, serving (good deeds), and meeting together!
Can I say it again? We need each other!
The author felt it important enough to not only state this, but state it in such a context that it seems imperative to **survival** and therefore if one seemed to be straying outside the “fire” that we were to do whatever it took to bring them back!
Personally, I cannot count the number of times that I have been struggling and walked into church and those struggles seemed to just melt away. They no longer had a hold on me. Yes being IN church (the building) helped, but it was being WITH the church (the people) that made the difference.
There is a passage that speaks to this concept and is related to **survival**. It’s found in Ecclesiastes.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 NASB
Looking carefully, there are four advantages to the power of others illustrated by the phrase “two over one”.
– Two get a better return on labor
– If one falls the other provides assistance and help
– They keep each other warm (Ha! Embers again! Love it!)
– Two can fight off attackers
The author further adds that this power is even more intensified by the addition of a third person.
The passage uses language that is indicative of travel – that is – people on a journey. Travel in those days was treacherous to say the least. Much more than travel is today. That being said, people who chose to travel by themselves were at much greater risk than if they had traveled with others.
Our Christian journey is no different. It is treacherous to believe we can do it alone. We need each other to help fight spiritual battles and to hold each other accountable (Two can fight off attackers). We need each other to keep each other encouraged and on fire (They keep each other warm). If one of us falls, we need each other to lift us up and assist us (If one falls the other provides assistance and help). And finally, when we work together, we accomplish so much more in our labors for Christ than we could ever do on our own! (Two get a better return on labor).
We may think we do not need others and we can live on our own. But that simply is not biblical. We need each other. Separated, we become cool, lukewarm, and unable to keep ourselves hot.
Back to the campout. As I held the cool coal in my hand, I wondered if it would ever be able to be an ember again – that is – on fire and hot. I tossed it back into the fire. And just as quickly as it cooled separated from the others, the other embers embraced it and brought it back to life, making it glow red hot again just as it was before.
Today, if you find yourself cool and “outside the fire”, I would encourage you to find a church to be a part of. If you have a church, but still feel that way, I encourage you to get involved! Find a place to serve within the church. Find an interest group or a small group to join. Or if you know you are right where you need to be, then I would encourage you to seek the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone who isn’t, but needs to be! He will use you to embrace a cold coal to make it glowing red hot again! Want to know a secret? I used to be one of those cold coals till someone cared enough to encourage me.
The kids finally settled down that evening and climbed into their tents and sleeping bags. And as I did the same, I felt so encouraged by this illustration. I felt so thankful for my church (the people) that keep me burning red hot and encourage me!
And that was my last conscious thought before I crashed into a much needed night of sleep!