hand of fellowship

TEXT: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all, Amen. II Corinthians 13:14

Fellowship is the oldest relationship. It originated from the spiritual realm before creation of man. When God began creation, He spoke all that He created into existence. “Let there be light … Let there be firmament,” and so on. But when God was about to create man, we learn from the scripture that God opened up a dialogue and said, “Let us make man in our image; after our likeness: let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the ear, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26) “Let us” is a language of fellowship. And God dialogued this way in honor of the fellowship with the other God-heads that was later revealed to man in the New Testament as our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God and Holy Spirit. Although the scripture did not state the response of other heavenly companions in the fellowship, however creation of man in the image of God is a brilliant evidence of their agreement.

After the creation of man, Heavenly Father extended the same fellowship to man. At the cool of the day, He would come to the Garden of Eden to fellowship with Adam. Perhaps it was during one of His so many fellowship He had with Adam that He observed the ordeal of loneliness of Adam, and said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18) Invariably, it was fellowship of God with man that revealed the need of the first man. There is an important lesson to learn about our fellowship with God, problems of our lives are addressed, solutions are devised for solving the problems, and implementation of the decisions are executed. The principal purpose of fellowship is to relate with each other, to devise solution to problems and develop each others.

Before this time, Adam could not perfect the language that God gave him because there is no one he could talk and interact with in the Garden. When a serious consideration is taken into the compatibility in the creation of Eve, it is obvious that God created her in order that they may be supernaturally attractive to each other so that they may continue in fellowship with each other. If they are repulsive towards each other there will not be oneness that exist between husband and wife today. No wonder, when God brought Eve to Adam, he said, “This is now the bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23) That was the beginning of fellowship between God and man.

Before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, man was dwelling in the abundance provision of God. After the fall of man from this pinnacle of glory, man could not exist on his own without the hand of God in his life. In short, there is nothing that God wants to gain from man by seeking for him. The reason why God seeks for man, even in our low estate in our own time, is to fellowship with us. Fellowship is the kind gesture of mercy and love of God that He extended to humanity. In His persistent seeking for man for fellowship, He found Noah, an instrument of salvation He used to save the first generation of mankind. The fellowship of man with God always manifests in instruction from God and obedience from man in order to bless man. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (Genesis 6:7) Noah followed the commandment of God and built the Ark of Noah according to the specifications of God, and when the flood of forty-days and night came upon the earth, the Ark of Noah and all the living things in it, of course, Noah and his family were preserved.

As long as the earth exists, the fellowship between God and man will continue. This was the why the Creator extended His hands of fellowship to Abraham. Out of the then crooked generation He found Abraham and called him out of his kindred and led him to that place He pointed to him. Promise of blessing established the fellowship. God followed up with Abraham in fellowship, He confirmed His earlier promises with a covenant in order to provide a modality for His relationship with him and his generation. The covenant made the fellowship mandatory for the Heavenly God to fulfill His word concerning the fellowship because He is a covenant keeper. Throughout the merciful relationship of God with the generation of Abraham you cannot miss the consistent fellowship of God in the relationship. Even when the Israelites went astray because of sin, God called His prophets to remind the household of Jacob their first love. In love, in rebuking and in judging the erring children of Israel, the fellowship of the Heavenly Father continued in His faithfulness.

Fellowship was the reason why God sent His only begotten son to the world to die. Through our fellowship with God, He could measure how well we are functioning according to His divine intention and He was able to device a lasting solution to our perennial problem. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

At this junction let us carve a definition for fellowship. Fellowship is a forum for an association to share similar interests, ideals, or experiences, as by reason of profession, religion, or nationality. It is a companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms. It is a close association of friends or equals sharing similar interests. Fellowship was the reason why the Creator of the Universe made man His equal and came down from His Heavenly throne to minister deliverance to the Israelites through Moses on Mount Horeb. (Isaiah 40:12-17 Exodus 3:1-9)

WHAT SHOULD BE OUR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD

Has anyone imagine and ask himself a soul searching question? What does God want in return for all He has done and what He is currently doing for humanity? While you are still ruminating for answer, ponder further and ask yourself, “Even if I want to do anything, ‘What can it be?” He does not need our money because silver and gold belongs to the Creator who created the entire universe. He does not need hand weaving clothe, the Heavenly Father daily cloths the lily of the valley. Even if you are a minister in the Church of His Son, Jesus Christ, you do not possess your personal message to edify His children, you are ministering unto others the words He had previously spoke through His Prophets and the Apostles. If you are considering of involving yourself in any labor in His Vineyard, although this is commendable in all honesty, “Who gave you the strength and wisdom to do it? He is still the same God Almighty working through you.

Therefore the content of our fellowship with God should be something that will interest Him. Something that we can afford, although it can be very valuable to us and precious, something special and unique, should occupy our thought at the point of fellowship with God. The list should include our time. A quality time must be set aside everyday for the purpose of fellowship with God. The setting aside quality time is an indication that we are serious, it is an indication that we mean business and lastly, it is a sure assurance that the temple of our heart is available for Him to occupy. In the secular world, almost everything we are doing have an appointed time allocated to it. Most of the offices open between 9 am to 5 pm in United States with one hour break-period. Most of the schools open between 8.30 am to 2.30 pm. We know how to keep appointment for these important daily schedules but do we set an appointed time to fellowship with God and at the same time keep the appointment? The mystery of appointment with God is that He is never too early to meet His children and He is never too late. If you wholeheartedly set an appointment to meet with God for morning devotion 6 am if you sleep and there is no alarm to wake you up, the Heavenly Father will wake you up to keep the appointment. On the very hour, minute and second of the appointment you set with God, His glorious presence would occupy the arena.

And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, ‘Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments. And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with in the way which I went. (Genesis 35:1-3)

Prepare your altar and make it conducive for fellowship with God. This is preparation of self in holiness in anticipation of the holy appointment we are to keep with God. Cancel or postpone any appointment that coincides with the appointment God. Switch off sports event on the TV. Quash any unnecessary argument that can trigger off anger. If there is misunderstanding earlier before your appointment with God, make peace with each other before you begin to fellowship with God. Make your mind open before God to learn from His infinite wisdom. If you come to God with mindset principles you believe it will block the understanding that God would like to impart to you at the point of fellowship with Him.

Open your dialogue of fellowship with praise and worship. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6) At times we think that praise and worship are the same. There is difference between worshipping and praising although we do the same together but our Heavenly Father can pick them apart for His own glory. But as the children of the kingdom that is endowed with the knowledge of truth, if you can separate the two and present them separately to glorify God it will be awesome. The dictionary meaning of the word ‘worship’ is the reverent love and devotion accorded a deity – God Almighty. This implies worship is reverent love and homage rendered to God. We worship God for Who He is. Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) a U.S. Republican politician, president in his speech of July 6, 1922, said, “It is only when men begin to worship that they begin to grow.”

Praise is an act of appreciation that takes its root from deep and sincere feelings in happiness or sorrowful state of mind which is expressed freely and spontaneously in an uncommon gesture that communicate the wholesomeness of our heart-feelings in a spiritual language that only God can decipher. It is an expression of approval of what God is doing in our lives, commendation of the timely way and manners He has done it, or admiration of his faithfulness. We painfully praise God also in acceptance of those trials that come our ways, those inescapable cross that we are bearing with the thought that God is aware of our pains and having known, with strong assurance that His mercy endures for ever. This is the ultimate thanksgiving mature children of God can think of at the peak of his pain. A Scottish author and preacher George Matheson (1842-1906), who was blind, expressed this prayer: “I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my ‘thorn’. . . Teach me the glory of my cross; teach me the value of my ‘thorn.’ Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.” I know that it is not an easy thing to praise God in our afflictions, but it is the ultimate level of praise expected of a true believer. To turn pain to praise and sorrow to song requires a spiritual understanding that the presence of God is with us even in our afflictions.

This includes our heartfelt thanksgiving that expresses our appreciation or pains, testimonies of the mercy of God and His blessing that can encourages others to seek God. And lastly it is an expression in admiration for his faithfulness. Generally we always have reason to praise. Practically we always have a genuine reason to praise God. It is the strong feelings that emanated from an appreciative spirit that triggers off spontaneous thanksgiving. It is the combination of the two holy obeisances — worship and praise — that prepares us a ground to make our needs known unto God

The ‘Our Lord’s prayer’ that Jesus Christ taught the disciples, states: “… Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” (Luke 11:2) The prayer revealed the heavenly standards we are to implement on earth especially amongst the children of God. In our fellowship with God we are implementing the will of God on earth. The host of Heaven are daily praising God and worshipping Him.

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come! Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:. You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created. Revelation 4:1-11

There is something important to notice in the scenario before the Heavenly Throne of God. The host of heaven are praising God and worshipping Him. They do not give thanks to God and they do not ask Him to fulfill any need for them. Why? Because in the presence of God all needs are met and the word ‘automatically’ is not sufficient to express how those needs are met. Think of this. For instance, in what way do we expect the heavenly hosts to express their thanksgiving to God for the glorious body He had given them? Their sustenance can not be compared with the earthly sustenance. Therefore the heavenly host praises’ and worships’ among other things also implied thanksgiving.

FELLOWSHIP WITH BELIEVERS

It is important that the fellowship with other believers should be maintained and nurtured. One of the reasons is the influence that human beings naturally have upon one another. If you are fellowshipping with righteous people, you will be an encouragement in righteousness towards each other and any unrighteous activities you may come across will become strange to you because you do not partake in it anymore. This is how you will grow in your Christian life to maturity. Again there is divine freedom in whatever you are doing among the righteous people, in that If you have cause to rejoice with your brethren and you invite them for a party, you cannot expect beer or any other alcohol to participate in the get-together; therefore you cannot expect any unruly behaviors either. They will pray with you, praise God with you and even if they dance it will be to the glory of God. Brethren I want you to understand that the law of God is for lawless people. The children of God are already dwelling according to the law of God therefore the law is not meant for them.

“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers. For whoremongers, for them that define themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. (I Timothy 1:9-10)

This is why we should not disregard the sweet fellowship of the brethren. It is not only when we come to the church for fellowship alone. You are to choose your best friend among the children of God, make the believers your counselor because they owe a duty unto God to counsel you in the wisdom of God according to the word of God. If you have cause to have a covenant with brethren, whether covenant of marriage, or covenant of business partnership, you will be at rest with yourself that you do not have covenant with evil people. I believe that is why the scripture enjoin us: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together; as the manner of some it; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrew 10:25)

FELLOWSHIP WITHIN YOUR FAMILY – PRACTICAL

The first personal ministry of a Christian man is his family. By natural design, man always initiate the fellowship with a woman by a way of approach and indicate his intentions to establish a family with her. This topic is not about how and why, therefore we shall only concentrate on fellowship aspect of the relationship. Let the married couples at this moment try to recollect their early days of their courtship. Remember how both of you stayed together in any street corner holding hands and talking about anything that comes to mind. Do you remember how much you admired each other? Remember the appointment you always keep then, the way you paid careful attention to study each other and made all effort not to offend each other? When you fully settled with each others in fellowship and having been sure that you are compatible with each other, you bring your relationship to the knowledge of your family members officially and you got married.

Remember the relationship that led to decision of your marital life. Remember the early days to your marriage, the tender loving care, devotion to each other, appreciating each other and respecting each other. Brethren, sincerely compare it with the hustling and bustling of the rat race for dollar and wealth and other activities that had severe the sweet fellowship with life partner. To some men, marriage is the end of their fellowship with their wives. They have in the mind, she now lives in my house and she has no place to go again. Some would say I do not have time to listen to those women talk. All of a sudden, that musical and soft voice of your sweetheart of yesteryears that kept you stocked with her hours all of a sudden becomes ‘women talk.’ Brethren even if the topic of her discussion is nonsensical, unintelligent and useless, endeavor to show interest in it and listen to her because you are her best friend. If there is anything she needs to know it your responsibility to teach her in order to lift her up from the region of ignorance to the region of wisdom. If you fail to listen to her so-called foolish talk, that, at times seems to be boring, God may be structured the so called ‘women talk’ to point out your errors to you in order that you may take an accurate decision, the consequence of ignoring her and her thoughtfulness may be somehow grave.

Some people do not realize that there is a powerful development taking place when there is a strong fellowship between husband and his wife. Especially when the fellowship is center on the wisdom of God, you are indirectly establishing the law of God in your marriage and as a result you are shaping the future of your generation.

Please permit me to go deeper on this subject. Fellowship in family makes husband and wife to sleep on the same bed behind a closed door. Perhaps you are wondering why it takes male and female to become biological parents. Of course it is fellowship! So that family fellowship may be encouraged, expanded and extended to the new member of the family and become a legacy unto them. Therefore, it is expected that nothing contrary to sweet fellowship should be practiced behind the closed door. There should not be a denial of obligation towards one another. Also any squabble that takes husband and wife to the closed door must be ironed out; they must not emerge from the same door with the same negative confrontation with each others. The closed door is the decision room for the family, where ideas are discussed, where the two holds each others hands and cry unto the Heavenly Father in their prayer, where intercessory prayer are made for others. I think that it is because of the holy activities behind the closed door that God limit the quorum of fellowship of His children (Christians) to two. “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20) The closed door is the garrisons headquarter of the family. If there is any battle you cannot win on your knees behind the closed door, you will need the help of devoted men of God to confront the battle. Your matrimonial room (bed room for husband and wife) is only meant for the couple and their children. Your matrimonial room should not be turned to visitors’ room when you have important visitors, and should not be made accessible to all classes of closed friend because there could be envoys from Babylon among them. (Isaiah 39:1-7) It is your prerogative to apply wisdom in this area. Never permit strangers in your matrimonial room, because, although your heart is the spiritual altar of God, your bed room is physical altar of God in your family home.

Wonder why should the sweet fellowship continue? There is danger of lack fellowship between husband and wife. This is how hostility of some women as a result of negative fellowship (nagging) within a family circle turns one of the two partners into the street. The man may pick bad habit from the street where he was looking elsewhere for solace like drunkenness or adultery. Unfortunately, children born out of wedlock may emerge as a result of this hostility. Again the negligence of fellowship of some men with their wives force these women to look elsewhere to bare there heart to strangers. When your wife spends hours talking to her friend on the phone on consistent basis, it is pointer to you that something is lacking in your fellowship with her or there is some element of negligence somewhere that needs to be addressed. When this happen the truth is that, although you may remain her husband, your name has been removed from the list of her best friends. The resultant effect of this is that you will begin to notice strange actions from your wife because instead of her education to come from within an outsider has filled in the gap you have unwittingly created as a result of your negligence of fellowship.

Fellowship is a must in a family. Wondering how to start? That is very easy. Begin from where you left off. Create time out of your busy schedules to fellowship with your spouse. Create a fun between you and your spouse and bring your children into the picture. Desist from negative fellowship. Be flexible in matter about secular life but be firm about spiritual issues that relates to your relationship with God. Set specific times for daily prayer fellowship in your family and keep to it. Your seriousness about this will become a challenge to everybody. Strive for peace in your family. Do not even try to pray for yourself until you settle any misunderstanding between you and your spouse.

FELLOWSHIP WITHIN YOUR RELATIVES

There is always important reason to fellowship. Earlier in this study we discussed that the principal purpose of fellowship is to relate with each other, to devise solution to problems and develop each others. The principle behind fellowship with relatives is in no way different – to maintain attachment to the family tree (otherwise known as touching base), to exchange ideas, to render help within the relative, to be brother/sister keeper to each other. There are important righteous family events that bring the family together that should not be ignored, like wedding ceremony, graduation, naming/birthday events, visiting sick family and lastly burial. Family gathers in these occasions, first of all to witness the occasion, to rejoice with each other, to encourage each other or to mourn with each other. In the time of rejoicing, meals are shared and pleasantries are exchanged. There is an opportunity to discuss with each others to know the state of affairs with each other, to bear each others burden, advice are offered and encouragement are given. It is an opportunity to exchange love towards each other. On the other hand if the purpose of the gathering is as a result of visiting a sick family or there is a death in the family, fellowship is required here to bearing each others pains, showing understanding, heart to heart advice, burial arrangement and constant follow up with each others. A person cannot be an island on his own. We need to relate with each other as long as the association is not an evil one and if it not worldly.

An important question may be: Can a believer fellowship with an unbelieving relatives? Yes and no! Yes, on the basis of the analysis above. This will provide you an opportunity to show them the light of Jesus Christ in the darkness of the world they are living. No, because there are all kinds of fellowship. Do not participate in any unrighteous fellowship. Do not enter into any covenant with an unbelieving relative.

Be not unequally yoke together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? (II Corinthians 6:14)

‘Yoke’ is a crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen or other draft animals working together. A pair of draft animals, such as oxen, joined by a yoke. Better still a yoke is something that connects or joins together; like a bond or tie. Deuteronomy 22:10

There is a guideline here, you must not allow yourself to be influenced by their unbelieving ways of life, rather, you must endeavor to exhibit the beauty of Christ in you. Remember that it was during a family fellowship event of marriage ceremony in Cana of Galilee that Jesus Christ had His first miracle. “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. (John 2:1-2) All His relatives at this occasion are not believers. In fact the word ‘believers’ had not been added to the vocabulary of man. The disciples came with him to the occasion but it was not in the record that the disciples drank out of the miracle wine. Perhaps you are wondering what they did in the ceremony. They witness the occasion and they rejoice with their relatives.

FELLOWSHIP WITH OUTSIDERS

There is a way that the Heavenly Father establishes divine connection between you and the person He made to come across you in life. One of it is through the fellowship you establish with others, not necessarily with your relatives or others that you have previously associated with. It may all begin with a ‘hi and a smile,’ and eternal connection may come out of it. Fellowship is the secret of the success of the Western world – the major business partnership decision begins from a coffee table in the holiday resort, or in the picnic. Therefore never spurn anyone you come across in life, and do not treat any one with disdain at any time. You never know, that individual you want to treat with disdain may be the missing piece of the puzzle of your breakthrough. Nevertheless, be wise as serpent whenever, you come across a stranger but be harmless as a dove and in addition be upright and nice to everybody. You must endeavor to know the person you are fellowshipping with very well. It is your responsibility to set a standard of the type of person you want to make your business partner. There should be no mistake about this. The business partners do check the background of each others before they engage in doing business together. They check the past of each other in order to project to what future will look like. I came across one of my best friends in a Christian picnic in 1991. He is a true American from Texas. While munching barbequed burger and sipping soda we had a brief discussion and we get to know each others better. From there we became friends up till today.

However, in choosing your friends, learn from the Lord the way He chose the apostles and the way He faithfully fellowshipped with them in love. Among the disciples are member of the inner caucus — the disciples that were really close with the Lord. They are Peter, James and John. “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” (Matthew 17:1-2) There are bound to be close friends that you can always bare your heart unto and there are those you have to keep at arm length. There is no perfect person on earth, therefore when you are choosing your friends, prepare for betrayal because Judas Iscariot one of the disciples of Jesus Christ betrayed Him. Prepare for denial because Peter, one of the beloved disciples denied him three times. And lastly prepare to move on because Jesus Christ moved on to be the Savior of the whole world.

FELLOWSHIP WITH YOUR COMMUNITY

Do not forsake the fellowship with your community to discuss to development of the community, to iron out grievances, to gather together for community prayer. This type of community gathering is not always frequent. If it there is no problem in the community, such gathering should not come up. When there was a problem in Jerusalem, Nehemiah called for a Town meeting to iron the problem.

Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. For there were those who said, “We, our sons and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain that we may eat and live.” There were others who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine.” Also there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax {on} our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is like the flesh of our brothers, our children like their children. Yet behold, we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters are forced into bondage {already,} and we are helpless because our fields and vineyards belong to others.” Then I was very angry when I had heard their outcry and these words. I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, “You are exacting usury, each from his brother!” Therefore, I held a great assembly against them.

Nehemiah, a courageous leader, asked the Israelites to set aside the rebuilding work of the city wall and called the assembly of the righteous to address the pressing issue that concerns the poor majority among them. He called a large town meeting that comprised of the noblemen and the poor, the city officials and priests in Israel to deal with the issue.

Because of your responsibility to your community, whatever may be the problem of the community should be of interest to you. Therefore a need may arise whereby you may have a say in the community meeting that can bring about solution to the problems of the community. Therefore do not withhold the God given wisdom that you have been endowed with to solve the problems of humanity by withholding fellowship with your community when it is necessary.


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