“Not alone.” True Christian Fellowship in Action

Your brother in Christ stands in dire financial need. What is your response?

Your sister is facing a difficult and painful diagnosis. What is your responsibility?

A family in your church has just suffered unimaginable loss. Is prayer your only recourse?

If you are anything like me your Christian walk can feel perfunctory. Life moves along and you become numbed by the rhythms of each day: Get up. Go to work. Come home. Spend time with family. Struggle to maintain some semblance of spiritual discipline and progress throughout that rather mindless process. The daily ebbs and flow of life do their best to distract us from our more important responsibilities. We are here to build the kingdom of God yet we get too busy with the mundane.

All of this makes us feel like failures. It makes our weekly visits to church feel rote and dutiful, rather than a time of vibrant worship and fellowship. We feel disconnected from other believers and even though we long for something more, we have no idea how to make deeper connections.

The how and the why…

I don’t want this article to come across as harsh or difficult. My dream scenario would be for this article to provide hope and encouragement to anyone who is searching for deeper connection with other believers. We do a lot of things to feel connected, but so often, those things leave us more frustrated than when we began. I don’t want this to be like that.

Instead of my usual technique of slowly unveiling my thinking, I am going to just lay it all out right now. I will kick off the focus of the article by using an example from The Lord of the Rings. I’m sure many of you are not surprised by my choice, particularly if you have read anything I have written for Rambling Ever On. It’s a well of inspiration I run to often. I don’t apologize for that. The good professor (and the filmmakers who adapted his works) did a wonderful job in presenting truth in incredibly varied and profound ways.

I will follow that example with some Scripture, another example from a popular Marvel Cinematic Universe film, and then probably close with some lyrics from one of NEEDTOBREATHE’s most popular songs. Nothing revolutionary here. I’m hoping the directness of my approach will help with the reception of my message. Let’s get started.

My hypothesis

Perhaps you are asking yourself what those first few questions have to do with anything at this point. That’s fair. You might also be wondering how those questions fit with the overall theme of this article: True Christian Fellowship in Action. Another fair question. My hypothesis is simple: I believe that challenges, suffering, difficulties, and grief can become the forging grounds for deep and rewarding Christian fellowship and connection. Additionally, I believe that stepping in, stepping up, and helping out when we see a brother or sister in need, can serve as an accelerant in boosting our sense of intimacy, connectedness, and unity.

Enemies at the gate

Towards the end of The Two Towers, the 2002 film adaptation, the good guys find themselves surrounded and near-complete destruction. Our heroes, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and the people of Rohan, have taken refuge at Helm’s Deep, an ancient fortress meant to protect against invading armies. Unfortunately, the bad guys, 10,000 Uruk Hai (think: large and powerful monsters) sent by the evil wizard Saruman are too many and too powerful. They have destroyed the protecting walls and have broken the gates. It is obvious the end is near. Rohan’s King, Théoden, despairs. He sees the awesome and terrible might of the forces of evil and he reaches his breaking point. “What can men do against such reckless hate.”

“At dawn, look to the east.”

Five days prior to this, Gandalf, the good wizard and friend to those fighting for their lives at Helm’s Deep, had left the group in search of Rohan’s army lead by Eomer, the king’s nephew. Not to complicate this story too much, but Théoden had banished the main fighting force of Rohan when he was still under the spell of Saruman. This was the primary reason Théoden had chosen to flee to Helm’s Deep. He did not have the forces to face the Uruk Hai army on an open field of battle. Gandalf has told Aragorn to hold out until the sunrise on the fifth day and to look to the east for his coming. That is the only hope left to the people of Rohan.

The sun starts to rise on the fifth day and Théoden is resigned to defeat. Aragon, attempting to hold off the despair a little longer, convinces Théoden to muster all the fighting forces he has left and to ride out against the Uruk Hai. After all, it is better to go out fighting than to die cowering in a corner. Théoden takes to this idea and decides to ride out one last time. They crash through the Uruk Hai and plow their way to the center of the battlefield where they find themselves fully surrounded.

The rest of the story…

It is at this moment that my entire point of telling this story occurs. Up on the ridge overlooking the battlefield, Gandalf appears. He looks down to assess the situation and sees Théoden and the rest of the remaining Rohirrim, along with Aragorn, doing all they can to survive. He turns to Eomer and makes a simple observation, “Théoden King stands alone.” Eomer responds with no hesitation, “Not alone.” He then summons his mounted army and they plunge down the hill with Gandalf at their head. The Uruk Hai army is utterly destroyed in a moment so thrilling and so beautifully captured, that it stands head and shoulders above any other on-screen battle ever created.

“Not alone.”

Those two words are like a ray of sunlight directly into my soul. “Not alone.” Those two words should be the rallying cry of all believers. Jesus himself has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) We will always have the hope and the confidence that our Savior stands with us. Yet, “Not alone” should mean even more to us. They should be the first words on our lips when we see someone facing a battle too big for them. We should passionately and defiantly cry out, “Not alone” when sickness and death attack our loved ones and the body of Christ.

Scripture commands and exhorts us to “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and to “love each other as [Christ] has loved us.” (John 15:12) Ecclesiastes 4 reminds us that, “two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble…A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” We are also given very clear examples from Scripture of the “Not alone” principle in action. Jonathan and David. Paul and the Philippian church. Esther and Mordecai standing with the Jewish people.

“On your left.”

One of my favorite moments from the recent Marvel blockbuster, “Avengers: End Game” was the moment right before the final climactic battle. Captain America has given everything he can against Thanos (the bad guy), but Thanos is just too powerful to defeat. He has singlehandedly fought and beaten three of the mightiest heroes the forces of good have to offer: Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America.

Captain America is essentially the last man standing. He has just taken a severe beating, his indestructible shield has been destroyed, and he is bloodied and bruised. Thanos has done his part and he now calls his armies to engage in the battle. Captain America sees this and he straps on his broken shield and slowly and painfully gets to his feet. Then, he does the most courageous thing anyone in any of the Marvel films has ever done: He walks towards Thanos and his horde. Alone. The image is striking and incredibly powerful.

But, it’s at that moment that the rest of the heroes make their entrance. Cap hears a voice through his earpiece communication device, “On your left”, a wonderful callback to a previous Captain America film. The full Avengers team then arrives on the battlefield to face Thanos and his army. Captain America does not stand alone. His people, his friends, his family stand with him.

Hands and feet

It has been said that Christians are the hands and feet of Jesus. In some ways, that phrase has been overused to the point of no longer having the impact it deserves. Even so, the phrase has strong Scriptural support. (1 Corinthians 12) We are the body of Christ and that means in a very specific manner of speaking, we are His hands and His feet.

If I ever doubted the truth or power of that statement, recent events in my family’s life have completely driven all those doubts away. If we have ever been tempted to feel alone our church family responded passionately, “Not alone!” The hands and feet of Jesus have been very busy in our lives during our time of loss and mourning. His hands and feet have made multiple airport trips. The hands and feet of Jesus have cooked meals for our children and checked in on them while we were out of state visiting my brother and sister-in-law after the loss of their baby boy. His hands and feet have supported us financially, emotionally, and spiritually. They have covered us in prayer and love.

“Hand in hand, we walk together”

An often-repeated refrain in my small group at church is the need for us to be more connected, more intentional, and more involved in each other’s lives. We sometimes worry we are not walking side-by-side. We fear we are not doing enough to live Biblically in true fellowship and accountability. What my wife and I experienced in the last few weeks has put the lie to those fears and doubts. We are united by more than our church attendance. Our lives are intricately intertwined – a supernatural bond only made possible by our redemption and Redeemer. We are family and that is both beautiful and inspiring. We are now more than ever completely overwhelmed by the beautiful body of Christ.

Hard-earned connection

This outpouring of love and support has connected us to one another in dramatic ways. We were Théoden surrounded by an army of monsters. They were our Eomer. They saw our need and heard our cry, “The Lytle family stands alone”, and they answered, “Not alone”. We were Captain America, alone on the battlefield facing an army we had no hope of defeating. They became our family, standing with us, alongside us, “on our left”.

That is my challenge to you. If you feel disconnected from your fellow believers, find a need and do your best to help. Look for ways to serve, to stand with your brothers and sisters. Jump in. Step up. Ride out and do your part to be the hands of feet of Jesus. You will forge bonds that are not easily broken. Out of the brokenness and pain of living, deep and profound bonds of fellowship will form. We are meant to live our lives in community, with one another. The church, if it is living out it’s calling and purpose, is the ultimate expression of that unity. Striving to ensure that no one stands alone should be one of our primary goals. Let it ever be said of us that we loved, we ministered, and we stood together.

“Not alone.”

“Brother” by NEEDTOBREATHE

Ramblers in the wilderness we can’t find what we need
We get a little restless from the searching
Get a little worn down in between
Like a bull chasing the matador is the man left to his own schemes
Everybody needs someone beside em’ shining like a lighthouse from the sea
Brother, let me be your shelter
Never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call
When you’re low
Brother, let me be your fortress
When the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way
Bring you home
Face down in the desert now there’s a cage locked around my heart
I found a way to drop the keys where my failures were
Now my hands can’t reach that far
I ain’t made for a rivalry I could never take the world alone
I know that in my weakness I am strong, but
It’s your love that brings me home
Brother, let me be your shelter
Never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call
When you’re low
Brother, let me be your fortress
When the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way
Bring you home

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Phill Lytle

I love: Jesus, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my church, Firefly, 80s rock, Stranger Things, the Tennessee Titans, the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, Arrested Development, pizza, vacation, etc...
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Latest posts by Phill Lytle (see all)

Phill Lytle

I love: Jesus, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my church, Firefly, 80s rock, Stranger Things, the Tennessee Titans, the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, Arrested Development, pizza, vacation, etc...

One thought on ““Not alone.” True Christian Fellowship in Action

  • December 12, 2019 at 1:31 pm
    Permalink

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes! Yes!!
    Tremendously encouraging, Phill. How often in recent days have we felt surrounded by God’s love, and the love, support, and encouragement of His people. I wish a million people would read this! Thank you.

    Reply

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