We Get Hope.
By David Murray
What Do We Get in God’s Book Club?
God rewrites our story with his word. But he also rewrites our story with his people. He does this through his people sharing his word with one another. If you’re unfamiliar with church, or if you need to view it through a new lens, why not look at it as something like a book club?
A book club is a group of people who gather regularly to discuss a book they’re reading together. They usually meet at the same time and place each week or month. Usually someone leads the discussion, but the best groups are those where everyone participates. It’s a good way to meet people, learn together, get questions answered, and keep one another accountable for reading the book. At times it may even lead to chatting with the author. (I’ve Zoomed into a number of book clubs that were reading one of my books to answer questions and take part in their discussions.)
What do we get in God’s book club?
We Get Hope.
Paul connects churchgoing with hope-getting: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).
This world gets us down at times, doesn’t it? We can feel hopeless about ourselves, our families, our job, and our country. How can we get hope? Paul says to the dejected, “Come to church to get an uplift of hope.”
Our hope grows when we see others who’ve been hopeless and are now hopeful. Our hope rises when we see and hear people who’ve been through worse than us singing songs of joyful hope. Our hope develops when someone comes up to us after church, hugs us, and says, “I see you’re a bit down today. Can I help?” Our hope matures when people tell us how God is helping them through a miscarriage by his faithful promises of heavenly hope for their little one. Our hope ripens when we see older believers still hoping in God without wavering even though they waver as they walk.
All these sights, sounds, and touches help me hold fast the confession of my hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
We Give Hope.
Sometimes our life goes so well that we can forget it’s not going well for everyone else. We are flourishing and prospering in our families, work, or studies, making us self-satisfied and self-congratulatory.
Then we come to church, and we see people we would not usually see. We notice they weep during the prayer or have their head down during the singing. We see a harassed young mother trying to raise her kids and feeling like such a failure, wondering if she will ever not be tired again. We glimpse a man distracted during the preaching, someone who used to be super-engaged but now looks anxious and fearful. We catch sight of a young teen standing by herself, feeling lonely and unloved. We see so many people needing so much hope, and God brought us to church to help them recover hope with the faithful promises of God.
Church fills me with hope to fill others with hope.
“OK, I admit, more hope for me and others would be helpful. What else does church offer?”
At Church We Challenge One Another.
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). We’ve already considered one another. People have observed our hopelessness and helped us. We’ve noticed their hopelessness and helped them. But Paul asks us to go further, to spend some time thinking about how to challenge one another. “Why should I come to church?” Paul answers, “So that people can think about how to challenge you and so you can think about how to challenge others.”
We Get Challenged.
If you want to avoid being challenged, don’t come to church. If you want to be just left alone, don’t come to church. Some people’s primary purpose is to challenge our souls, but they can’t do that if they’re in the pew and we’re in the recliner.
We all need to be challenged. All of us default to slowing down and slouching our way along the Christian path. We cool in our love and zeal. Sometimes we can’t see it ourselves, because we chill so slowly. That’s why we need to be in the place where people can observe changes in our spiritual speed, health, energy, and activity, and spur us on.
We Give Challenges.
But while accepting the challenge of others, we also want to be challengers of others. We don’t do this out of retaliation; we do it out of love. Who can we challenge to follow Christ, serve Christ, be more like Christ, live more like Christ, and speak more of Christ? How can we stir up someone to love and good works? is a question that should be on our minds as we come and go from church. It takes a lot of thought to do this wisely and winningly. We don’t just go around criticizing everyone else, but prayerfully ask God to show us someone to challenge and help us do it in a loving way that is clearly out for the person’s good.
Church challenges me to be a challenger.“But I don’t need challenge. I need comfort.” Come to church for that too.
At Church We Comfort One Another.
Confessing our hope to one another and challenging one another can happen only if we’re “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” (Heb. 10:25).
We Get Encouragement.
Sometimes we need to be challenged; other times we need to be comforted. Sometimes we need to be kicked out of bed; other times we need to be tucked in. Sometimes we need a poke in the eye; other times we need an arm round the shoulder.
We need that encouraging arm especially when we see “the Day drawing near.” This may be the day of persecution, the day of death, or the day of the final judgment. Whatever it is, there are seasons when we need special spiritual encouragement.
We Give Encouragement.
“Who can I encourage today?” That’s a question we should ask God as we enter church. “Lord, show me those who need me to come alongside them and share what I’ve been reading in the Bible or something that blessed me in the sermon.” This cannot be done via livestream or through books.
Church encourages me to be an encourager.
Why should I go to church? What do I get from church? Use the confession, challenge, and comfort of church to rewrite your story and others’ stories.
Excerpted from The StoryChanger by David Murray, ©2022. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.