Companionship

“Do two men walk together unless they have made an agreement?”
(Amos 3:3).  
“I am a companion of all those who fear Thee, and of those who keep
Thy precepts”
(Ps. 119:63).  

In God’s economy, spiritual companionship occupies a significant place from the
get-go.  After the creation of man, God said, “it is not good for the man to be
alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen 2:18).  Did God fail to
anticipate Adam’s loneliness that He had to implement another operation to save
him from the pain of loneliness?  Of course not.  He could have simultaneously
created man and woman in one single act.  But then, man would not have known
the pain that stemmed from the lack of companionship and the joy of sharing and
fellowshipping with a counterpart who understood him and was willing to share life’
s journey with him.  

Since God created man a tripartite being with spirit, soul and body,
companionship has to be much more than merely meeting a physical need.  After
Adam carefully examined every cattle, beast and bird that was brought before
him, he found none “suitable” for him (Gen. 2:20).  There is reason to believe that
Adam’s need for companionship was not only physical but also spiritual in nature.  
With Adam’s intelligence, after examining just one cattle, one beast, and one bird,
he would have known beyond any doubt that they were totally incompatible to him
– so far as physical companionship went.  Any further looking would have been a
colossal waste of his time.  

Yet there he was, checking and naming carefully every cattle, every beast, and
every bird!  He must have been looking for spiritual companionship as well.  

It should be noted that many young men and women make physical attractions
their only criteria in their search for suitable companions.   Spiritual
companionship is often neglected.  This has to be a major factor in the many
failed marriages.  May the Lord grant us wisdom to see the importance of spiritual
companionship.  

There is a spiritual significance in creating man first in order to underscore man’s
need for companionship.  From the very beginning, the Lone-Ranger mentality
never entered God’s design.  God made Adam and Eve individually to show how
much He cared for each one of us as individuals, but men were not meant to be
individualistic.  God intended for men to be precious individuals, but not become  
individualistic.  

The word “companion” includes the thoughts of walking together, sharing,
friendship, fellowship, bearing the same burden, and oneness.  In the New
Testament, Jesus sent His disciples out two by two.  In the book of Acts, Paul was
always accompanied, when possible, by traveling companions in his missionary
journeys.  Apparently, having friends along side who share the same vision, bear
the same burden and labor together towards the same goal are important
elements in doing the Lord’s work.  

The only New Testament worker who struck out on his own – Apollos – was shown
to be wanting and in need of being taught “more fully the ways of God” by Paul’s
coworkers Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18: 24-26).  Barnabas, on the other hand,
who separated from Paul still knew the importance of taking a co-worker on his
missionary journey.  

In the temptation of Eve, one of the things that led to her poor judgment was the
neglect in seeking fellowship from her companion.   Paul seemed to underscore
this point when he wrote to Timothy, “And it was not Adam who was deceived, but
the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression”
(I Tim 2:14).  From the strategy to deceive Eve, it is not hard to see that the
Enemy’s way of frustrating God’s purpose was to trivialize companionship.  

Today, the Enemy’s strategy hasn’t changed.  He seeks to trivialize
companionship and fellowship among God’s children by, among other things,
instituting clergy-laity system in which only a select group of seminary-trained and
institution-minded individuals, a.k.a. clergy, are qualified to intimate God’s mind
and speak for Him.  When Christians face important decisions or want questions
answered, they seek out pastors, preachers and ministers for counsel; whether
they have a close companionship with such “men of God” is of no concern.  

There is reason to believe that the trivialization of spiritual companionship which
results in a lack of relatedness among the Lord’s people, is one huge problem
facing the Church today.  

When a minister goes to visit his flock, it is a top-down, clergy-laity, teacher-
student relationship.  This model, by nature and by design, inhibits free flow of
fellowship.  When fellowship is limited, the comprehension of the mind of Christ is
also diminished.  

Companionship on the other hand brings everyone down to the same level where
friendship and intimacy have a chance to blossom.  Likeminded saints can enter
into each other’s travails and share each other’s joy.  Fellowship is usually much
sweeter, prayers are usually more effective, and comprehension of Christ much
deeper.  

The churches are run as institutions much the same way like corporations with
CEO’s, experts, organizational charts, plans and goals, committees, boards,
etc….  Such being the case, it is no wonder that Christians think it normal to rely
on the clergy to counsel and solve their problems much the same way an
Accountant is expected to solve tax problems.  The clergy has become the paid
professionals.  

Christians are unwilling to, neither are they interested in, developing
companionship with fellow-Christians in order to search out and apprehend the
riches and fullness of Christ.  There is a price involved in developing
companionship; it doesn’t just fall into our laps.  The nominal believers tend to be
unwilling to pay the price.  On the other hand, the gifted, eloquent and zealous
believers tend to be self-reliant, if not outright self-conceited.  Surely they do not
need anyone’s help in finding the Lord’s will and getting spiritual answers – least
of all from untrained and ungifted little brothers and sisters.  Or do they…?  

Paul says in Eph. 3:18-19, “[you] may be able to comprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of
Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of
God.”  Clearly, a Lone Ranger who has no regard for “all the saints,” can never
come into full knowledge and experience the fullness of God – it is simply not
meant to.  

Since being “filled up to all the fullness of God” is a result of learning to
“comprehend with all the saints,” then spiritual companionship is obviously the
key.  So, the important question is, how can we be blessed with spiritual
companionship?  

First, let’s consider what prevents spiritual companionship from forming.  Amos
tells us, “Do two men walk together unless they have made an agreement?”
(Amos 3:3).  God, in fact, desires companionship.  He comes to walk with Adam
in the cool of the day but finds him in hiding instead – sin had entered into man,
and sin destroyed the “agreement,” or oneness with God, therefore damaged
companionship faster than anything else.  

Our walking along side with God should never be tainted by sins.  May the Lord
keep our walk with Him pure and grant us a heart which is quick to repent and turn
back to Him.  

It is very important to note that the “agreement” spoken of by Amos does not refer
to a doctrinal oneness that is derived by an arbitrary enforcement of certain
theological teachings.  Unfortunately, many Christian leaders and groups use this
verse to legitimize their sectarian and divisive teachings and practices.  To be
able to fellowship together, they contend, Christians have to agree on vision,
understanding of doctrines and interpretation of the Scriptures….  There have
even been extreme cases where men’s zeal to defend their theology or church
affiliation caused misapplication of this wonderful verse and resulted in
unfortunate divisions among God’s people.  

This type of mindset leads inevitably to the formation of elitist groups.  Each group
thinks highly of its leader and his teachings.   Nonconformity to its leader and
teachings are treated as  outsiders, therefore inferior, and are shunned or
despised.  

Presently, as well as throughout Church history, many precious saints have been
given wonderful revelations with regard to the way an authentic first-century church
works.  Regrettably though, much of the attention and emphasis have been
focused on the outward form of doing church correctly.  Again, making everyone
“agree” on the way church should be done correctly becomes a foremost
concern.   Whether men have allowed the Lord to lay hold of them and instill His
very essence and character into their beings become secondary considerations.  

We need to ask ourselves, what good is the biblically correct way of doing church
if we never learned to allow the Lord to deal with us and change our inner being
into His likeness?  What is the church anyway, is it the result of man’s zeal and
effort to do it correctly?  Or is it Christ lived out and shared among believers?  

Let’s face it, even if the Lord created a perfect church model and plops us all
smack dab in the middle of it, our human nature, religious concepts, and a
multitude of self-related fleshly tendencies will always find ways to destroy each
other and ruin the perfect church.  

Lance Lambert once said half jokingly, “The church is perfect until
you showed
up.”  No truer words have been uttered!  This generic “you” is the embodiment of
all human nature with its various fleshly and religious tendencies.  This un-dealt
with flesh will always destroy the church, no matter how perfect it is!  

The other day, a dear sister made a keen observation: A beautiful and authentic
Ming vase is highly sought after, but there are only a few authentic Ming vases –
the rest of them are imitations (or worse, fakes).  Why would Christians clamor
and split hairs over trying to be an “Authentic First-Century Church”?  There can
only be one authentic first-century church, and it existed in the first century.  The
best efforts of men can only produce an “imitation” of the first century church (or a
fake one)!  

Is this worth all the fuss?  Come on!  

I was reminded of a story I heard about Billy and Ruth Graham being invited to a
banquet in England.  Many government officials were present.  Ruth was seated
next to an official in charge of catching crooks who made counterfeit money.  
Fascinated, Ruth asked, “Sir, you must spend all your time studying all those fake
bills in order to be able to know the difference between the fake and the real
thing.”  “No, ma’am,” replied the official, “I spend all my time studying the real
thing; that’s how I can instantly spot a fake one.”  

Allow me to humbly submit: no one whose sole focus is on the church has ever
found, nor will ever find, the authentic church.  On the other hand, eyes fixed on
Jesus who is the Author and Perfector of our faith will usher us into His church
which is His body that expresses Him.  

The “agreement” between brothers and sisters, whether doctrinal or experiential,
can only be formed as we each focus on the Lord and maintain a close walk with
Him.  The more we walk with the Lord and allow Him to touch many aspects of our
lives, the more we would come into this agreement, or oneness, with Him.  This
agreement with the Lord is
grown into organically.  No amount of teaching, training
and indoctrination will ever make us come into agreement with Him.  

And growth is full of pain and perils.  Each failure is used by the Lord to bring
about repentance and surrender.  Each bruise is tended to and bound up by the
Lord to facilitate healing and renewing.  As the cross deals with our self-life,
yielding to it increases the resurrection fragrance of Christ’s life in us – “it is no
longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).   

A while back, a dear sister forwarded a poem she found on the Internet to the
saints, and I was very impressed by it:

“Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe
It's then we have to remember
That it's in the valleys we grow.

If we always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
We would never appreciate God's love
And would be living in vain.

We have so much to learn
And our growth is very slow,
Sometimes we need the mountain tops,
But it's in the valleys we grow.

We do not always understand
Why things happen as they do,
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.

The little valleys are nothing
When we picture Christ on the cross
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan's loss.

Forgive me Lord, for complaining
When I'm feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it's in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me, Lord
And use my life each day
To share your love with others
And help them find their way.

Thank you for the valleys, Lord
For this one thing I know
The mountain tops are glorious
But it's in the valleys I grow!”  

As each step we take in our journey with the Lord results in further step of
“agreement” with Him, spontaneously, our “agreement” with the saints will become
a true reality.  

The Psalmist declares, “I am a companion of all those who fear Thee, and of
those who keep Thy precepts” (Ps. 119:63).  Notice the intimacy of the Psalmist
here in this verse.  He converses with the Lord face to face.  Yet he is not a Lone
Ranger.  He also has a close relationship with the saints – he is a “companion”
with others.  But his companionship is not the result of horizontal friendship with
others; it is the result of a vertical relationship with the Lord – “fear Thee,” and
“keep Thy precepts.”  

Let’s be very clear about this, unless our focus is the Lord and our relationship is
fresh with the Lord, there can be no “agreement” between two men, neither is
“walking together” possible
.  You can quote me on this.  

Consider for a moment the two disciples walking together in complete agreement
on the road to Emmaus.  Their agreement was based upon physical evidence that
their Savior, Deliverer and Lord was crucified therefore all hope of salvation,
restoration and glory was dashed.  Then came Jesus to walk along side of them.  
As their horizontal agreement with each other began to turn and be aligned with
Him, notice how quickly they shifted their journey in reverse!  

Now their companionship is no longer based upon a horizontal agreement with
each other but on a vertical agreement with the risen Lord of lords and King of
kings.  This, dear friends, must form the basis of
all spiritual companionship.  

Many Christian leaders have pushed a horizontal agreement among their
followers, and there is no lack of zeal in their followers to spread this gospel and
make converts of this man-made “agreement” and artificial “walking together.”  
The sad outcome is a blanket of darkness descending over the minds of innocent
but undiscerning brothers and sisters who were misled into believing they have
been ushered into God’s ultimate purpose and desires.  

With such groups, usually walking in lock-steps with their leaders and with each
other is touted as “oneness” and should be preserved at all cost.  Companionship
is greatly prized, but it is a companionship missing the vertical link – the
relationship and agreement with Christ.  

So, we must come back to rediscovering our “vertical agreement” with our Head
again.  Learn to walk with Him in our daily lives.  Learn to hearken to His still small
voice.  Learn to focus on Him.  Learn to submit to His dealings.  

As we learn to draw near to Him, we will discover the Lord gently placing around
us sweet companions who understand us, appreciate us, forgive us for our faults,
warts, abrasiveness and mistakes; and they are willing to walk with us and bear
our burdens.  There is nothing sweeter than this.  It’s a genuine church life that we
do not deserve and have not labored for.  

Is it “First-Century”?  Is it “authentic”?  Is it planted by an “Apostle”?  

Well…who cares…?  

There is something in every normal human being to desire companionship.  
Meaningful and pleasant relationships with fellow-Christians who understand and
appreciate friendship bring joy and healing to our lives.  Loners, on the other hand,
often resort to either doing harm to themselves or to others.  

Still, there are others who hang out in parties and busily involve in activities or
"ministries" but are unable to develop real companionship.  Activities, ministries
and group rituals can become facades to mask inward loneliness.  

The only answer to these problems?  Jesus.  

Jesus was called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19).  He fondly
referred to Lazarus as “our friend” in John 11:11.  He is ready and willing to be our
Friend and to walk along side of us whether we are rotten sinners or lowly and
ungifted “Lazaruses.”    

So, shall we learn to “agree” with Him, and allow this vertical “agreement” to form
the basis of our walking together in a precious and unpretentious church life?  

Amen.  

Oliver
05/10/2007
The Closed Door
   Gateway to Spiritual Fullness