Years ago, I was sitting with a friend outside of the performing arts center at the university where we were studying. (OK, since it’s been a long time since I was in college, that would be quite a few years ago!) I had set down my baseball cap on the tiles, and was trying to drop playing cards into it. With the distance that the cards had to fall, the air would often catch them and sweep them off-course. (We might have lost a few in the cracks between the paving blocks.)
When I challenged my friend to get the cards into the hat, though, she took the rest of the deck and dropped the entire stack right into the hat! Clearly, she was the winner.
In this world (and, perhaps in the next), we have a lot better chance of hitting the target when we stick together. Although the book of Ecclesiastes may not be the most uplifting book in the Bible, Solomon (in his God-given wisdom) learned the following:
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT
God apparently didn’t expect His people to fly solo through life. Not only are there multiple commands from God that inherently require us to interact with others (gathering together, teaching, serving, and more), but working together just makes sense.
So, as you think about the really big things that God has called you to do, don’t tell Him that you can’t accomplish it alone. Certainly, as God explained to Moses, having God on your side is more than enough to do the impossible. However, history shows that God often directs multiple believers to join together in the same great calling, if they will only step forward and express an interest. Elijah the prophet felt all alone in resisting a pagan influence, but God knew that there were 7,000 more who were doing the same thing (see 1 Kings 19:14-18). God’s help would have more than been enough for Elijah to achieve the purposes that God set out for him, but God’s plan included other people, too.
And, if you are having difficulty hitting the “target” of living a righteous life, as you try to live according to the instruction and example that Jesus gave us, try teaming up! Like a baseball team with just a pitcher, or a hockey game with just a goalie, some challenges in life are going to be nearly impossible if we don’t work together. Find some other followers of Jesus who are interested in doing better. Look for those who are strong against temptations that trouble you, and those who can help keep you on-track by challenging you to resist – and avoid – the snares of sin.
In the adventure of walking on the “narrow path”, one of the most basic ways to join forces is to spend time with a group of believers. This might be a church congregation, or (especially in parts of the world where churches are hard to find…or illegal) a small group of believers who meet regularly. Don’t just make this a social event (although there’s no reason that you can’t enjoy the company of others), but really work to help and be helped. Be honest about your challenges, and give others the opportunity not only to teach you to do better, but also to hold you accountable to your commitments. Don’t settle for a group that lets you get away with the same sins that all the group members practice; seek out those who will raise the bar of sanctification and righteousness, even as they may look for help from you to improve their mastery (of living a life of grace and truth), as well.
Don’t be like the animal who gets separated from the pack, and becomes an easy target for prey. Stick together, and watch the positive results!
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
1 Peter 5:8-9 NLT
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
2 thoughts on “The Whole Deck”
Excellent advice! Thank you.
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We can thank my wife for the inspiration. While I wasn’t sure (when the article was written) if she was the “friend” in this story, she has since confirmed that this was indeed the case. Between God and the godly people He puts in our lives, we have much to learn if we pay attention.
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