Devoted: What's It Mean?
The redwood trees in California are amazing. Some are 300 feet high and more than 2,500 years old. Walking in the midst of them is an awe-inspiring wonder.
To attempt to comprehend the marvel of their height and age can cause a brain to spin a bit crazily. Each tree is stiff and straight, displaying a military bearing that conjures up ideas of guards standing at attention.
Their immensity is staggering. One would think that they must have a vast root system that goes down hundreds of feet, but no—redwoods have a very shallow root system.
However, the roots are crisscrossed and entangled in a complex, ingenious web. With an interlocking root system they support and sustain each other—they require connection and rely on each other to survive.
There’s a lesson for us here—consider what a first-century physician turned reporter wrote about the fledgling church in Jerusalem.
Acts 2:42-47 - NIV
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Fellowship & Community
It wasn’t easy to follow Christ in the first-century—all these years later it still isn’t easy to follow Christ and truly live for him.
We are confronted by so many obstacles, yet we are not alone. God’s design is for us to need each other—since he’s the manufacturer there are specifications hardwired into us. Like the redwoods, we are to be bound together by intertwined roots of fellowship and community.
Each cell in the body of Christ ought to be a family of disciples devoted to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and prayer. What does the word devoted mean in the twenty-first century?
Is that about the same as the word commitment? We are devoted or committed to the interwoven fabric of fellowship and community as long as it lines up with our priorities, hobbies, interests, and schedules. Of course those all too real behavior patterns are contrary to the definition of devoted.
Here's a short-list of synonyms for devoted—dedicated, faithful, true, committed, loyal. The bottom-line is that there is desperation in our need for each other—God expects us to be devoted, loyal, and committed.
A Catholic priest and writer, Henri Nouwen, put it well: “We are unified by our common weaknesses, our common failures, our common disappointments, and our common inconsistencies.”
Not sure why the church never gets this—we are all in this mess together. We all face the same weaknesses, the same failures, the same disappointments, the same inconsistencies.
We all experience the highs and lows of the human condition, and we need to be honest with each other, for when we are, we learn and grow together. We must consistently take off our masks and quit pretending that everything is just fine and dandy, thank you very much.
When we sincerely share our struggles, then God connects us and can guide us regarding proper priorities, values, and morals. Through our interactions God can help us make the right choices and good decisions, and make no mistake about this: God yearns to guide us.
It’s within the context of community we come to understand God’s Word. The guidance and help we receive in community is essential to our well-being, especially in the relativistic times in which we live, when right is wrong, and wrong is right—when words mean whatever the user wants them to mean.
Being The Church
To be authentically involved in a community of faith is crucial to our spiritual well-being.
As we face the inevitable trials, troubles, and tragedies of life, God intends that we be encouraged and empowered by the community of believers. When we get slammed by the storms of life we should receive succor and sustenance from each other.
Here’s an often forgotten truth: God works in our lives through other believers. When setbacks smack us down, and we doubt God’s love and purpose—when life stinks and the whole world smells like baby poop, that’s when we urgently require God’s people to be the church.
When we are loved and cared for by other believers, especially during hardships or heartaches, we gain a new sense of God’s love. We cannot stand alone—we need each other—we need the community of faith.
Every cell in the body of Christ must continually put into practice being the church to and for each other—not sure why that message is mostly missed by church leaders and lay people.
Doing church seems to have become much more vital than being the church, when the command is radically different: We are actually called and commissioned to be the church.
There are expectations placed upon every individual believer in Jesus Christ—we all have a God-given responsibility to reach out, serve, care, and minister to each other. What set the early church apart from its surrounding culture was love—outsiders were blown away by how those first believers loved each other.
We are to love with selfless abandon. Love acts—it serves God and others. The early church shared much more extensively as a result of economic and social sanctions imposed upon them—shouldering burdens together is still God’s plan for meeting the needs in the body of Christ.
Being part of a caring community is not without its problems and complications. After all, we’re a bunch of recovering sinners who experience relapses more often than we’d like to admit.
The mark of community—true Biblical community—is not the absence of conflict but the presence of a reconciling spirit. There can be union without unity—tie two cats together by their tails and throw them in a burlap sack. In the hissing, screeching, and thrashing there’d be a forced union, but certainly not unity, and definitely no reconciling spirit.
In our humanness we all do things to rub others the wrong way—we all have our moments when we trespass against others. Nevertheless, we must not back away from the fellowship of faith. We must make an unwavering commitment to a community of believers. It’s not optional.
Our reality is not unlike a pack of porcupines marooned one bitter cold night in the middle of a large frozen field. There was no way to escape the biting wind. They could not burrow into the frozen ground. Their choices were limited.
Out of necessity they formed a tight huddle to keep warm—in doing so their sharp quills began to pinch. The closer they moved together the more the pain increased, but the confining discomfort was accompanied by an accumulation of body heat that kept them alive. Some of the animals could not bear the annoying pokes, and drew apart to sleep alone—those that went off on their own froze to death.
In closeness our prickly humanity is ever-present—there are times when we offend or distress each other. Our tendency is to withdraw and go it alone. We must resist that predisposition for the profoundly simple reason that God created us to be in community.
Life & Faith
The journey of life and faith is often trying, difficult, and painful. We must all deal with the cold reality of discouragement, temptation, failure, debilitating sins, doubts, ridicule, heavy burdens, along with a host of unanswered questions.
Is it any surprise that God has given us the fellowship of believers to prop us up and help us along our way? Do we take these relationships for granted or do we cherish them?
In Christ we are a community of faith—are we devoted to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer?
Suppose it is entirely dependent on the meaning of devoted.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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