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. (Hebrews 10:25)
Every year, sometime between August and October, the arid, desert-like region of Namaqualand in South Africa literally erupts into vibrant life for a few short weeks as the Namaqualand daisies bloom. I cannot see this without being reminded that ‘wilderness will once again be beautiful,’ a promise that applies so vibrantly to the saving grace of God as He transforms the wilderness of the believer’s spirit and life into something that reflects His glory.
We also, through our unity with Father, Son and Spirit, transform the wilderness that is the world with our testimony. Like these simple little flowers, we reflect the vibrant life of Christ for a short moment during our allotted time on earth. Each of these little flowers is a masterpiece of colour and perfection, but it is their ‘community’ that creates the breathtaking sweep of life and vibrance that brings visitors back time and time again. Alone, the little Namaqualand daisy is remarkable. Together, they defy the wilderness and captivate the heart and mind with their sheer exuberance.
They reflect the purpose of ‘church,’ something that so many of us have reduced to religious form or accepted ritual. The fellowship – assembling together – is meant to be so much more than our single contribution. We forget that our God is essentially one of multiplication. We lose sight of the ‘exceedingly, abundantly, far more than we could ever ask or imagine’ nature of Him who is our source and sustainer.
In coming together, one of the key purposes is that we encourage one another. The reality is, though, that most believers come looking to receive rather than to give. We thus start our services with self-focus rather than God-focus, and in so doing we limit the purpose of coming together. God inhabits the praises of His people. This is the fundamental motivation of our fellowship – to give Glory to our God through praise, worship and the study of the Word. When we come with this desire in our hearts, irrespective of our circumstances, we find that God is there. Through our attitude and actions of praise, we create the ‘habitation’ He desires, a throne for our King and a temple for our God.
Practically speaking, if we all come looking to receive, we’re going to be disappointed. It’s a spiritual principle – what we sow is what we reap. We need to turn the attitude around. We may have very little to give, but God works much with little. Consider the miracle of feeding the multitude. He takes the loaves and fish and multiplies it, so that everyone has enough and there’s more left over for us to take out into our lives and the world. This is essentially the sacrifice of praise. We give, even when we have no desire to do so, and the blessings that result are beyond measure.
That is the outworking of a fellowship that comes together looking to give rather than receive, despite our need. When we have a communal focus on God, extraordinary things happen. But that should never be the motivation for our attending church or praising God. Like that little daisy, we should look always and only to God. Our giving is to Him – our praise, our worship, our attention, our focus, our adoration. He will then take our simple offerings and transform them into something beautiful.
This has the result of taking our eyes off our selves, our needs, our problems our situations. The minute we look to God, give to God, surrender to God, He is able to work as He chooses in each one of us. He knows our needs and desires to meet them, but most of all He desires that His body come into complete unity and focus with Him. If every member is concerned only with themselves, the body ceases to function as it should. We’re knit together, dependent on one another, and what one gives or holds back will determine what we all receive.
What is this thing we call church? It’s a joyful gathering of the body of Christ, a giving out and giving up of all that we are so that God can work His will. It’s a coming together with one heart, one mind, one spirit, to worship and hear His voice. How He uses our sacrifice of praise is up to Him. But the wildnerness will always be made beautiful, of that we can be sure. And the outworking of His transforming grace as He presences Himself among His people will always exceed our limited expectations.
As the great Day of His second coming approaches, let’s look only to Him. Let us encourage one another to shake off the dust of the world that clogs our senses and distracts our spirits. Let us turn our faces toward our God, determined to live and ‘bloom’ only for His glory, that fellow believers and the world may see Him reflected in the short time we have left, and that His will and purposes would be manifest in our lives and in our coming together as His body.
Father, help us to see You. Help us to fix our eyes on Christ as we come together. Work in us to change our attitudes, to lift our focus from our own needs and desires and to yield all we have in praise and worship to You.