Healthy people have healthy life-giving habits. They exercise, eat right, and rest when they should. Their bodies and minds reflect their habits. In the same way spiritually healthy people have habits that contribute to their spiritual health. They are flowing with the fruit of the Spirit: helping and encouraging others, showing hospitality, and telling others what Jesus has done for them. I don’t think there is enough of that going on, and Christians need to examine their spiritual health and habits. A key habit to talk about is gathering with believers, that is “going to church.” If you are going to be spiritually strong you need to make church a habit. Hebrews 10:25 has very good instruction on this:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet 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)
First we are to stir up one another to love and good works. The word “to stir up” is a great word. It means to provoke. We often think of provoking in a negative sense. For example a kid will misbehave and provoke a sibling to anger. But we ought to provoke each other to serve God and follow his word, to remind each other of truth and his love to us. Who has done this with you lately or whom have you encouraged to follow the Lord? I bet most Christians don’t experience this provoking regularly.
We are to “consider” how to do this. The word for consider means an attentive scrutiny; a careful attention to a person or thing. When I got married after graduating college, a friend told me to study my wife like I had been studying for chemistry class. He also said she is a far more difficult subject than any I had taken and that I needed to work even harder. (He was right!) People are hard to understand and it takes a lot of work. This is what we are to do as believers. We should work hard to find ways to stir others up to love and good works.
Encouraging others is hard because we are trained consumers rather than trained givers. It’s our natural inclination. Even more, we are trained by our culture, by stores, and commercials, to only think about ourselves. People don’t go to church because “they are fine.” They aren’t but they say that. How to stir up others never even makes it into the equation.
If no one is at church, there is no one to help those in need. No one to help others know Christ. No one to greet them or shake their hands or invite them to Bible study. That means there is no place for people to learn about Jesus. And no place for consumers to be transformed into encouragers. Then everyone suffers.
We are told not to “neglect the gathering of the assembly as is the habit of some.” Church is an organized gathering of people committed to making Jesus known. We are to make it a habit. A priority. It should be a way of life. A custom. James Clear in his book Atomic Habits, defined habit as “a routine or practice performed regularly, an automatic response to a specific situation.” Do you have an automatic response to being at the gathering of believers? If not, will you change based on God’s word or continue to neglect it and disobey God?
Interestingly enough, the word neglect is to forsake, desert, to leave in straits or to abandon. It’s used of Jesus being abandoned at his crucifixion (Matt. 27:46 and Mark 15:34). What is amazing is that Hebrews 10 connects abandoning the church to abandoning Jesus. Amazing! Its not a small thing.
And let me just say I know church is hard and people will disappoint you. I am in ministry and have been hurt and disappointed countless times, but no one was more let down and hurt by the church than Jesus, and yet no one was more committed and enthusiastic about the church than Jesus. He gave his life for the church. Will you turn from it? Or will you learn to forgive and help it become what it’s supposed to be, and allow it to help you become what you are supposed to be?
Church is essential to the faith. During the Covid 19 crisis it became clear our culture does not believe church is essential. Liquor stores are essential. Cigar stores are essential. It’s amazing what was deemed essential. But church was peripheral and non-essential. Pushed aside like a bad habit. Many recoiled at the government labeling it as such, but now years removed, what does your life say about the importance of gathering in church? Even more, how is your spiritual health and the health of Christians in your community? I sure think we could all use a great deal more encouragement!