I’m a planner. I’m not a lifter. Need something planned? I’m your girl! Need something lifted? Find someone else. I’m not a lifter. This has never been more obvious to me than during my recent cross-country move. My husband and I had moved before (in fact, we moved three times in our first two years of marriage!), but the move from Memphis, TN to Seattle, WA was on a completely different level.
When moving day came, everything was planned. I had made all the lists and packed up our little apartment. My plan was to help load all our earthly belongings into the moving truck. Problem: I’m not a lifter. Every time I tried to move a heavy box or piece of furniture, I realized how useless I was in the situation. Thankfully, our friends and family were there to “bear with the failings of the weak” and do the heavy lifting.
Just as we are all at different places in our physical strength (me=not a lifter), we are also at different places in our spiritual strength. Some of us know our Bibles well and are great at drawing out practical application for our lives. Others of us may be new believers who may not even know where to start in studying God’s Word. Some of us know what it is to live a holy life and make wise choices daily. Others of us, however, aim for Christ-likeness yet fall into temptation regularly. With such a wide spectrum of spiritual strength, how are we to best help one another grow our spiritual muscles?
Romans 15 sheds some light on how we, the Church, should relate to one another at our different phases of spiritual strength. The church at Rome was made up of both Jewish and Gentile Christians, bringing a wide variety of biblical literacy and spiritual maturity. Some would have been new to the idea that there was only one God. Others would have been able to quote several books (not verses, books!) of the Old Testament from memory! Paul has this diverse church in mind when he writes, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” If the first century believers in Rome were called to “bear with the failings of the weak,” we must certainly have a similar obligation toward one another to grow toward spiritual strength together.
Let’s look specifically at Romans 15:1-7…
The Obligation of Believers
When each of us becomes a believer in Jesus Christ as Lord, we are placed into a community, or a family, called “the Church.” As part of this community, we have an obligation to the strength of the community as a whole and to each of its members. Paul gives us several practical ways to see to this strength: first, we are to endure with one another. Paul writes that we are to “bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” This means patience and endurance with one another through any number of doubts, questions, stupid decisions, or late-night phone calls. Secondly, we are to encourage one another. “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” We build one another up by loving and putting courage into (encouraging) one another. We aren’t just supposed to love one another through failings because it’s the nice thing to do. We are obligated to one another because the blood of Christ makes us family.
The Example of Christ
Why would Paul speak so strongly about this? Why use the word, “obligation?” He gives his reason in verse 3: “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’” Jesus bore our reproach, our failure on the cross. Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus humbled himself into lowly human form, even lower to be a servant, and lower still to die a criminal’s death on a cross. For this reason, we can “count others as more significant than ourselves” (Phil. 2:3). Because Jesus bore our reproach, we can endure with weaker Christians and encourage them toward spiritual strength.
The Importance of Scripture
So, how do we endure with and encourage one another? Verse 4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” We build spiritual muscles in ourselves and in the people around us by the power of God’s Word. “Whatever was written in former days” is talking about the Old Testament! Lucky for us, now we have the entirety of God’s Word to guide our spiritual growth! Encouraging another believer with Scripture is like handing them a spiritual dumbbell with which they can exercise their muscles. We will never find a better tool to grow our faith!
Scripture gives us hope to endure with the failings of others. We can have incredible patience with a struggling brother or sister when we remember who we “once were” (I Corinthians 6:10-11). Scripture also gives us hope to encourage one another by lovingly pointing out sin and joyfully encouraging Godly actions and attitudes. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
In my recent spiritual walk, I have struggled with doubt in a way I never have before (long story for a different post). Thankfully, God has surrounded me with some Godly women who have pointed me straight to God’s Word. Do you have a friend who is struggling with doubt or temptation? God’s Word speaks to their problem! Encourage them with Scripture!
For the Glory of God the Father
What’s the end result of all this endurance and encouragement? It’s the same end goal of everything else in a believer’s life: the glory of God! Paul tells us in verses 5-7 that enduring with one another’s failings and the encouragement we give one another through the Scriptures will produce unity in the Church. Then, we will be able to “with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This, my dear friends, is our most holy goal.
Who can you encourage today with God’s Word? If you feel weak in your spiritual maturity, who is a Godly woman you can reach out to for some encouragement today? If you are spiritually strong, how can you practically “endure with” a brother or sister? May we daily endure with and encourage one another in the Church, building up our spiritual muscles for the glory of God!
Heavenly Father, I know You desire spiritual strength for me and for the believers around me. Help me draw strength from Your Word daily and encourage others to do the same. Give me patience to bear with the failings of others, and give others patience to bear with my failings. May it bring great glory to Your name!
I Corinthians 6:11
2 Timothy 3:16
I Thessalonians 5:11