–by Allan Pole
When the American space program chose its first seven astronauts, an essential part of the screening process involved their answers to the simple statement, “I am …” They asked each candidate to complete this sentence 50 different ways. After using the common responses “I am a man, I am a test pilot, I am from Florida,” they quickly discovered how penetrating this question can become. How would you complete this statement?
The Bible teaches that our identity is first and foremost in our relationship with our Creator and Saviour. Once we settle this, we can engage in eternally productive work.
God invites us to be friends.
We are told in the first few verses of John 13 that Jesus was enjoying an evening meal with His disciples. Having spent three years travelling, preaching, teaching, healing and serving with these men, He opened His heart to them. Judas Iscariot left the room to go and betray Jesus to the authorities. Jesus opens His heart to the 11 remaining disciples in John 15:12-17 calling them His friends and commanding them to love each other.
Jesus tells His closest earthly companions that He wants more than a working relationship. He wants to be their friend! Likewise, He is not just asking us to serve Him. He is asking us to be His friend and to fellowship with Him (1 Corinthians 1:9). God calls us to be human beings first, not human doings.
Someone has pointed out, “What this country needs, is a person who knows God other than by hearsay.”
Our Lord values friendship before function—where the worker is more important than the work. It is about more than just getting the job done. Our health and strength flow out of our relationship with God. Likewise, our “collective” health and strength flow out of our relationship with Him and one another.
In his book, “Celebration of Discipline,” Richard Foster compares the characteristics of service focused more upon us, versus service focused more upon Christ. Self-focused service looks for impressive gains, recognition, results, feelings and needs—while Christ-focused service stems from waiting, hearing and obeying.
Do you want to know Him more than anyone else? Do you want to be with Him more than anywhere else? Do you want to build strong friendships with others that follow and serve Jesus?
Christ’s call is first and foremost to be with Him, but it does not end there.
God invites us to be partners.
After Jesus calls His disciples His friends in John 15, He explains in verse 16 that He chose them and appointed them to bear fruit that will last. They were not just to enjoy each other’s company. He was sending them to a world that desperately needs to see and hear the changes that Christ brings into the lives of those who know Him and walk with Him.
We see another aspect of fellowship in Luke 5:1-11. Jesus calls Simon Peter and his partners to let down their nets once more, even though they had fished all night without success. When they obey the Master, they help each other to bring in a massive catch. Jesus invites them to fish for men from that day forward and they leave everything to follow Him.
In Luke 15:10, Luke uses the Greek word koinonoi, translated as partners. The singular form of this word, koinonia, is often translated as communion or fellowship. We frequently use the word fellowship in church circles to describe our visits around coffee and cookies. Such an application does not begin to express our fellowship with other followers of Jesus. Fellowship is large enough to encompass friendship and partnership as well as being and doing.
People had work to do before Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell. And, there will be work to do in heaven. Adam was lonely in the Garden of Eden, so the Lord concluded that it was not good for him to be alone. He needed a companion. He also needed a helper, which the Lord gave him in Genesis 2:18. God made us for relationships and service.
The Lord invites, “Come and be with me.” Then the Lord invites, “Come and do with me.” Throughout the Bible we see this pattern—to be with God, then to work with God. Finding this rhythm of being with Him and working with Him is essential to our health and longevity. You might say, “Ministry is our love for Christ dressed in working clothes.”
This call goes out to each of us individually. However, God calls us to live it out as partners or team members in a community. The Lord calls us to enjoy a relationship with Him and one another—but there is more. We are not just a social club. Yes, we are called to the Great Commandments—to love the Lord and love one another (Matthew 22:37-40), but the Lord calls us to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We find satisfaction in being together and joy in reaching out and serving shoulder-to-shoulder.
Do we yearn to serve Him more than anyone or anything else? Are we willing to lay down our ambitions for His plans? Do we want to partner with co-labourers in Christ in reaching out and caring for others?
God invites us to be friends and partners. God calls us to be with Him and work with Him.
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