Earlier this month, my husband and I went to the Royal Adelaide Show. Apart from our amusing “ad-lib” attempt at news-reading, or rather, advertising hats, we explored a variety of stalls and displays. One little booth showcased basketry. The lady at the display showed me various natural fibres – plants that had died and dried. Spraying it with a little water made the leaf flexible enough to bend and, by twisting the strands over themselves, then around each other, a bracelet, a basket, a hat were made. I was impressed by how strong the finished cord was. This formed the basis of crafting so many different designs, yet it consisted of two thin, fragile leaf segments, twisted over one another. It reminded me of this verse in Ecclesiastes 4:12 –
“Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
This verse reminds me of the strength we have when we are united with Christ and with each other. Once dead in sin, we have been given living water in Christ. Once weak, we have been made strong. We were not made to stand alone, but Christ desired that the church would be one together and one in Him [John 17:20-14]. When this happens, we see the beauty of His kingdom manifest on earth.
I have been thinking about what Biblical fellowship looks like, and I have come to appreciate what it does to strengthen our character, bind us in Christ and build up His kingdom. While catching up with one another and sharing life together is part of it, fellowship is also much deeper. It is more than just being friends, it is about being brothers and sisters, partners with Christ, and fellow warriors in His army. So, here are some strengthening qualities of Biblical fellowship.
1. Biblical Fellowship inspires intimacy with God
Throughout the Bible, we see many examples of believers encouraging one another in God. Fellowship in the Bible is seen in some of the following ways. We can:
- Remind each other of our God-given identity and purpose
- Encourage one another in tough times
- Praise God together in victories
- Sharpen one another in loving rebuke
In this way, fellowship helps us to grow in Christ-like character – intimacy, perseverance, worship and humility. Here are some examples of this we can see in some famous Biblical friendships.
———– DAVID AND JONATHAN ———–
King David’s life was filled with many ups and downs – the greatest victories, the deepest despair, the most jubilant celebrations, and the most heart-wrenching tragedies. People loved him, hated him, helped him and tried to kill him. He had great blessing from God, but also endured rebuke. He experienced the greatest betrayals, but also had the most loyal friends. How David, through all of this, maintained a heart after God’s own heart is incredible. One of the significant relationships in David’s life was his friendship with Jonathan. This was a friendship which reminded him of his destiny, encouraged him to pursue it, and continued to grow him in character even after the two friends parted.
David and Jonathan’s friendship was marked by some significant moments (read more in first and second Samuel):
- Jonathan’s soul was knit to David’s so that Jonathan loved him as himself [1 Samuel 18:1-3]
- Jonathan defends David’s righteousness before His father, King Saul, and restores him in service [1 Samuel 19:1-7]
- Jonathan confirms his loyalty to David, even when his father opposes it [1 Samuel 20:3-5]
- Jonathan and David make a covenant that David will forever show kindness to the house of Jonathan, even when he is established as King in place of Jonathan’s father, Saul [1 Samuel 20:12-17]
- Jonathan and David part ways as David becomes a fugitive [ 1 Samuel 20:38-42]
- Saul and Jonathan die in battle and the news is conveyed to David who honours them both [2 Samuel 1]
- David actively seeks to keep his covenant with Jonathan and is able to show kindness to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s surviving son [2 Samuel 9]
Jonathan showed great humility and courage in how he treated David. He saw God’s plans and was willing to lay himself down so that God’s will would be done. Jonathan, in doing the things he did, allowed David to fulfil his God-given destiny. He was not envious, and he was not selfish. He loved David dearly, but he let him leave to pursue what God had in store for him. Jonathan knew the throne would pass to David, and discerned the hand of God in this. When David doubted, Jonathan reminded him of his promise and encouraged him. The covenant Jonathan makes with David allows David to demonstrate character in actively seeking to fulfil his word, and wisdom in administering it.
The friendship between David and Jonathan was fellowship in that:
The two friends truly loved each other
They encouraged one another to fulfil their God-given destiny
This love and loyalty to God and to each other was tested, and stood strong
The outcome of their friendship was a closer personal relationship with God
———– DANIEL AND FRIENDS ———–
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a friendship and fellowship that impacted their lives and that of those around them. In the midst of Babylon’s culture, they encouraged one another to stand fast in God, and honour him. As a result, they influenced one of the greatest nations of their day, even when they were captives under its regime. All four friends loved God, and all four friends had the same resolve to honour God. They also were accountable to, and honoured one another. Again, there was humility in their friendship and they helped one another accomplish God’s purposes.
- Daniel shared with his friends his decision to ask God for the content and meaning of the king’s dream. They stood with him and sought God together. [Daniel 2:14-23]
- When Daniel subsequently found himself promoted by the king, he petitioned the king so that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were also promoted. [Daniel 2:46-49]
- Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood firm together in refusing to bow to the king’s statue. They were one in their resolve to worship God alone. [Daniel 3:16-18]
These four men of Israel had a friendship that was fellowship in that:
They stood in support of one another, always seeking God in the midst of their trials
Thus, they encouraged one another to fulfil their God-given destiny
The outcome of their friendship was strengthened personal faith in God, and a great witness for God’s kingdom
I have really appreciated fellowship in my own life. In speaking with friends, discussing things, and sharing about our walks with God, I have been encouraged, spurred on and challenged just as I have done the same for others. Fellowship has helped me to verbalise my faith, to discover my spiritual gifts, and to see more clearly where I am and where I am headed in my relationship with God. Hebrews 1:24-25 says,
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.”
So, let us keep meeting with one another – to love, encourage and spur each other on to deeper intimacy with God, and into the fullness of His purpose.