In January I resolved to make this a year of focusing on essentials, using the analogy of going on a trip into our wilderness areas. Given that was six months ago I think it is worth revisiting this topic to consider what really are the essentials.
When I first used the analogy of venturing into the NZ wilderness I was thinking in terms of stuff that is needed, but something which is at least as important as the gear you take are the companions with you on the journey. Being alone in the Southern Alps is fantastic – provided everything goes according to plan. If anything goes wrong, being alone is frightening and may cost you your life.
Walking the narrow way of the kingdom of heaven is similar, being alone in fellowship with God feels nice. However, we are designed to be part of a community rather than loners so attempting to chart a course for heaven as a solitary adventurer is doomed for failure.
Sure, there were some seemingly solitary figures in the Old Testament era; Elijah, Jonah, and John the Baptist. But as Christians we are called into a community of faith, God distributes strengths and weaknesses in such a manner as to ‘strongly encourage‘ us to work together to build up the faith of all. Jesus commands us to love one another (John 15:12).
Church fellowships come into this, though that’s not what I want to discuss here except to say that we need real, face-to-face interaction with other Christians together in a group if we are to grow and bear fruit.
When journeying we need a travel companion. This gives us someone to help us up when we stumble (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10), confront us when wrong (Galatians 2:11-14), encourage us (Colossians 4:7-8), help bear the burdens (Galatians 6:2) and restore us when tempted (Galatians 6:1). In John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian is always on the lookout for suitable companions to travel with, some try to lead him astray and only a few prove to be worthy.
It is also good to simply hang out together – my favourite is to have a cup of tea with my best friend, or coffee with friends is good too. We recently spent all weekend with another Christian family and it was so refreshing to be able to yarn about all manner of things in life with a common understanding that Jesus has to be at the centre of it all.
I am naturally a strong introvert so need to keep reminding myself that I need companions on my journey of faith. God wants me in community and He wants me to share my journey with others. So part of my checklist of essentials is: ‘companions for the journey’.