Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
Everyone needs a place to belong. A place that fits you like a favorite pair of jeans or that comfortable sweater. A place where you feel welcome. A place that makes you strong, that supports you, that stirs you up. That’s the way we’re made – to be together — experiencing life with others. And yet, Vance Packard calls America “a nation of strangers” and studies show that 4 out of 10 people experience feeling of intense loneliness. Peek behind the curtain and you’ll find people hungering for fellowship, community, and family.
The Bible uses a lot of metaphors to describe the Church, but the most persistent is that of belonging to a family. In the New Testament, believers call each other brothers and sisters and, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul writes: “Now you…are not foreigners or strangers any longer, but are citizens together with God’s holy people. You belong to God’s family.”
Maybe there’s a pew here that fits you just right. Maybe you’re as comfortable here as you are in your favorite pajamas. On the other hand, maybe you’re here for the first time or for the first time in a long time. Maybe you never felt like you really belong somewhere. Maybe you’ve never known the blessing of being a part of something as big as the family of God! Either way, I’d like to share with you something that Solomon wrote about the benefits of belonging:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lay down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. In his unparalleled wisdom, King Solomon says, “Two people are better than one…” He then goes on to describe three benefits of belonging: strength, support, and warmth.
Strength – Solomon saw a principle that holds — none of us can do alone what all of us can do together. There is strength in numbers. You know how it is when church has events. There never seems to be volunteers to go around, but when a few people join together, miracles start happening. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something. We are strong together.
The Jerusalem church was a hodgepodge of believers from a lot of backgrounds, with different personalities, and sometimes conflicting opinions, yet they found a way to work together. They understood there is strength in numbers. And because they did, lives were changed — history was changed. Our belonging here, our joining ourselves to Christ, makes the same miracles happen today.
Support – belonging to a church family provides support. Solomon anticipated the “I’ve fallen and I cannot get up” commercial. “Two are better off than one, because… If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him.”
Jesus is all about helping people up, isn’t He? He helped the dead to rise, He helped Peter when he was sinking. He helped the woman caught in adultery and publically humiliated to stand again. Jesus set the example and asked us to live it. That’s what we’re supposed to do for one another. Belonging to God’s family provides us with the strength to get more done and the support we need to get through troubled times.
Warmth – Belonging to a church family provides spiritual warmth. “Two people are better off than one, for… two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?” While this is practical advice for a nomadic people living in the desert, it also serves as spiritual metaphor. You don’t have to live in a tent in the tundra to feel cold and alone. When someone is separated, alone, apart from family, our fire starts to go out and our spirits grow cold.
A pastor went to visit a man who had been absent from church for some time. When the pastor arrived at the house, his parishioner was sitting by a fire of glowing coals. The man fully expected his pastor lecture him about church. But instead the pastor drew up a chair alongside the fireplace where the man was sitting just peering into the fire. With the tongs the pastor reached into the fire and took one of the red hot glowing coals and placed it by itself out on the hearth. In no time at all the coal began to lose its glow and in a few minutes it was cold and black. The man looked up into the face of his pastor who hadn’t said a word and he said “I’ll be there next Sunday.”
That warmth you feel as we worship together here today — that’s your coals being stirred. That’s your passion for Jesus, your love for God and for people being rekindled. Belonging to a church family that you worship with and fellowship with fans the flames and keeps you spiritually warm and truly alive.
Everyone needs a place where they belong, where people smile when you arrive and say, “See you soon!” when you leave. Maybe your family is far away, maybe you’re feeling alone, or maybe you could just use a new friend or two. God doesn’t just call us to believe; he calls us to belong.
The entire Bible is the story of God building a family that will support, strengthen, and stir one another up to love — and he created you to belong to it. Belonging, we can say together Bless the LORD, O my soul!