We hiked up a mountain yesterday and reached a point with an incredible view of a waterfall. We sat and ate lunch with family and friends, enjoying the accomplishment of the hike as well as the surroundings and the company. The thin air made it a challenge at times, but the reward of satisfaction was worth the sacrifice of effort.
As much as we enjoyed it, our friends Jon and Mary were the main reason why and how we did it. We wouldn’t have known where to go or how to get there without their guidance. They had been there before, knew the path and were aware of the potential hazards to be aware of.
We can’t do this deal alone. Faith and freedom will not be walked out in a vacuum of isolation. Without others to show us the way and encourage us with their leadership, we will not be satisfied.
I’ve served hundreds of men and couples through “Quest” events where we go away and seek the heart of God for 6 days at a time. Those encounters are powerful and real. Men and women who may have lost hope, feigned faith or don’t realize any love within them encounter God as the source and they are filled up with those things and more. One whisper, hint, whiff or shadow of God’s presences changes us.
But what about the ones that go home and struggle? Does that invalidate the encounter they had? If they return and don’t walk it out, it neither invalidates God or the experience they had with Him. It doesn’t change one thing they knew about their identity in Him, even if their knowledge seemed to be only for a moment.
The reason they struggle, almost every time, is they try to live it out alone. Either because of busyness or some other distraction, they fail to live in the transparency that facilitated the encounter. Slowly but surely, they find themselves in the ditch of isolation alongside the road to freedom.
Encounters and retreats can be great catalysts but the continuity of community is what facilitates the destiny of faith. That continuity is found in the local church. More than Sunday services or programs, the church is a place for imperfect people to connect and sharpen one another. It requires authenticity and transparency but the reward is the view that comes from a higher place of greater glory.