“It’s hard to be by yourself,” said Kyra Christmas, a 23-year-old athlete who plays on Canada’s national water polo team. Like most professional sports players, she was devastated by the emergency lockdowns last year which upended team sports and stifled training for competitions. Water polo is a game that requires team effort and cooperation, just like baseball, football, or any other mainstream sport. She shared her griefs in a New York Times article titled, How to Train for Team Sports Alone, and made the case that there is no substitute for being together. When it comes to team sports, you simply have to train as a collective body.
Individual training is crucial but it is no replacement for conditioning together as a group. She recalled training alone and watching videos of past games—imagining competing in the water alongside her teammates—but it wasn’t sufficient. Finally, in mid-August of last year, her team was able to resume training. “It felt so good to be together again,” she remarked.
Likewise, you must train together with other believers in order to win in the Christian life. To be sure, Christian living is not a game—it is warfare—but it is meant to be lived in the community of faith. In order to live a life of godliness, you must be surrounded by other godly people in the local church. There is no substitute for church membership and participation. When it comes to walking on the straight and narrow, you cannot train yourself or train by yourself—it’s a team effort. As you run the Christian race with endurance, nothing is more beneficial than running that race with other believers.
It is within the local body of assembled believers that you discover and use your spiritual gifts—the abilities God gave you to be an efficient teammate (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:7-16; 1 Peter 4:10-11). It is only by cooperation with other Christians that you may fulfill your chief goal of making disciples—remember, it is called the Great Co-Mission for a reason (Matt. 28:16-20). You need a faithful congregation to lift you up when you fall and support you when your burdens are too heavy to bear (Gal. 6:1-2). True Christian love is expressed exclusively within the gathered body of Christ—loving “one another” requires that you know and interact with “another” to love (1 John 3:11-24). It is solely within the family of God that gratitude and praise reach their highest levels of expression (Col. 3:16). The Bible even says that you are prevented from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin through the encouragement and reproof of the church (Hebrews 3:13).
Friend, it’s hard to be by yourself. Find and join a faithful church where you can train for the Christian life with other “teammates” who are aiming at the goal of God’s glory.
Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).