Unexpected: Stronger Together

Unexpected: Stronger Together

This morning, we’re continuing our series entitled, “Unexpected” where we are going to recall the truly unexpected ways in which God worked in the past and some of the unexpected places and times where He showed up. 

These reminders of God’s faithfulness and miraculous power and authority will serve to encourage us in our present and give us hope toward our future.

Last week, we were challenged with the reality that bad things happen to good people most often because others have not yet surrendered God’s gift of free will back to Him.  God’s will is accomplished through us as we surrender our will to God’s.  Even Jesus struggled with this in the garden the night that He was betrayed praying three times, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

The struggle for us to surrender our will becomes very real and obvious when we choose to work together with others.  Anyone know what I mean?  If you’re not sure about this, I’ve heard that you should try to work together with me in an escape room…  🙂  It wasn’t exactly God’s will be shouted and demanded.

Now we were created with the need for relationships.  In fact, we were made in the image of God and God exists in relationship.  He is three-in-one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We need each other and we are stronger together!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

9 Two are better than one,

    because they have a good return for their labor:

10 If either of them falls down,

    one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

    and has no one to help them up.

11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

    But how can one keep warm alone?

12 Though one may be overpowered,

    two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

You, me, and God – an unbreakable and unstoppable bond!

God created this unexpected thing that we call church.  It’s described in God’s word as the body of Christ.  Each of us has a unique role to fulfill from each other, but only together can we fully function and fulfill our purpose.  We’re not going to go into details this morning, but this is what the church looked like at its beginning shortly after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

God’s plan for church was togetherness, unity, and growth.

Our unity comes not from conformity to some man-made mold, but by maintaining our God-created diversity unified by the Holy Spirit within us.  We are all uniquely created by God on purpose and for a purpose.  God doesn’t take that uniqueness away from us when we are saved, but rather uses it for its intended purpose.

A heart can beat on its own, but what good is that all by itself?  It needs veins running to and from it, blood flowing through them, and other organs connected to them for it to fulfill its purpose.  The heart needs the rest of the body just as much as the rest of the body needs it.

My weaknesses hurt your feelings and your weaknesses annoy me, but your strengths are my weaknesses and my strengths are your weaknesses.  When we intentionally join together, covering and complimenting each other’s weaknesses with our own strengths, we become stronger together!

It’s an unexpected way in which God works, but He intentionally created me incomplete and also you incomplete so that only when we join together pursuing after Him do we become whole.  Only together can we represent Christ more accurately to the world who needs Him!

Ephesians 4:1-6;11-13

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Us, together, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Wow, what an unexpected way for God to work!  He chose us, the church, His people to be His hands and feet here on the Earth.  He chose to work in and through us to accomplish His will and to represent Him to the lost around us. 

Jesus prayed for you and I and this was His prayer:

John 17:20-23

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

The world will know and experience the love of Christ when we choose to work together in unity.  You, me, and God – an unbreakable and unstoppable bond!

What an unexpected way in which God works!  He pours out His Spirit and His glory on us so that through us, the world will know Him.

It’s great that we have technology and can stay connected even when we are apart.  However, there is absolutely no comparison and no replacement for physically being connected and working together as a church body. 

It’s so important for us to live our lives together, but it is so easy to just go our own way.  We get so busy with so many things that it’s a challenge to even make it for a few hours a week to a service let alone living out our faith the way that God really intends for us to.

We must be intentional about staying connected.  Every day the early church was meeting.  Whether in the temple courts (at the church building today) or eating in each other’s homes, they lived life together.

The result?  Daily people were being saved and joining them.  And this was all occurring in the midst of extreme persecution when it meant being imprisoned, flogged, stoned to death, having your property confiscated, and worse.  The church was growing!  Yes, they were offending the religious and civil governments over them, but they were gaining favor with the general public.

We each have a role to fulfill in the body of Christ and when we aren’t connected with the rest of the body, the entire body suffers in some way!

1 Corinthians 3:5-9

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

We all have a purpose and a role to fulfill in the body of Christ.  What we are able to do may seem simple and unimportant, but it could be critically important to leading people to salvation through Jesus Christ and further into their growth in their faith in Him! 

Simple acts of service, simple words of encouragement, simple prayers are what God uses to transform lives!  They are what demolish the works of the devil and fulfill the will of God here on the earth!

You, me, and God – an unbreakable and unstoppable bond!

We can understand the need to work together with others from our perspective.  We are imperfect people with plenty of weaknesses.  When my car breaks down, I need a mechanic.  When my sink is clogged, I need a plumber.  When my car needs gas, I go to a gas station.  We’re very interdependent on others for quite a bit in our lives. 

God has a purpose for us working together in cooperation.

Even Jesus, God in the flesh, chose to minister with others.  Jesus didn’t need to repent of any sin, could have very well announced His arrival as savior all on His own, but He chose to submit to a simple man to do all of this.

Matthew 3:1-6;11-17

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

    make straight paths for him.’”

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

Unexpected is an understatement here as John just expressed.  Jesus getting water baptized by John?  Jesus didn’t even have anything to repent of!  John needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit by Jesus.  However, Jesus said that it was right thing to do to have John first water baptize Him.

There is a lot of theological speculation about why this had to take place, but what we know for sure is that Jesus did not begin His ministry until this water baptism and that His choice to submit His own will in this way invoked an unexpected and amazing event!  Here we see God very clearly as three distinct persons in one.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now, next week, we’re going to take a look at the very next event that took place because it’s a jaw-dropper that makes you scratch your head.

John preparing people for the launch of Jesus’ ministry reveals much about how God desires to work through people together, but each with a unique role to play. 

From the time that John and his cousin, Jesus were in the womb, they knew each other.  John’s mom was filled with the Holy Spirit when she heard Jesus’ mom’s voice before Elizabeth even knew that Mary was pregnant.  She started to prophecy all about Mary and Jesus!

Even from the womb, God knew us and knew His plans and purposes for our lives!  Alright, enough of that flashback.  🙂

Shortly after Jesus was baptized, John was imprisoned and beheaded.  There was a transference of ministry that happened when John baptized Jesus.  He essentially “passed the baton” to Jesus.

The message that John was preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” continued.

Matthew 4:17

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

In fact, Jesus later explained:

Luke 17:20-21

20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” 

Some translations say that the kingdom of God is “within you” or “already among you.”  The Kingdom of God is here and now!  Today is the day of our salvation!  Eternal life began the moment that we put our faith in Jesus!

Jesus, we pray as you taught us to pray to let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done here on the earth even as it is in Heaven!  Jesus, help us to live that prayer out here on the earth as you did. 

Help us to see every challenge as an opportunity for Your kingdom to trump the kingdom of this world.  Help us to work together with our fellow believers just as you sent out the disciples in pairs to share the good news that the Kingdom of God is here (Luke 10:11).

What an unexpected way for God to work! 

You, me, and God – an unbreakable and unstoppable bond! 

We are truly stronger together!