Gather

Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 4:9-11

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

The last time I lived here, I lived on the coast. My husband and I were dating at the time, and we spent the summer trying to visit all of the local beaches. (We were unsuccessful; there are too many!) He would come by my place in the morning, we would scoop up lunch from a local deli, and then we would head to the beach.

Gather

We would lay out our gear, get nice and ready to have lunch, and then a bird would stop by. The first one never made a lot of noise, but you would see him (or her) out of the corner of your eye just strolling leisurely a few feet away from our blanket. Just casually checking us out. Then, within a minute or two, there would be more sea birds, as if the first had sent out some invisible alert that “possible lunch at this location.” I do not think the birds ever really bothered us (we later in life had to teach the youngin not to feed seagulls), but it was always impressive to see how quickly they would gather just in case we wanted to share our lunch.

Paul, in his time of imprisonment, was not afraid to send out the signal to gather his people. He found himself deserted by some and left alone by others who were attending to ministry. So he petitioned his friends and co-laborers for support.

Are you willing to ask for help when enduring in the faith?

Paul was attended to only by Luke as he wrote this letter to Timothy, and at least one commentator wonders if Luke’s role as a physician was especially important at this period for Paul’s health. It begs the question—who do we surround ourselves with? Paul said a lot in these chapters about the types of people to avoid and look out for, but this perhaps gives us more insight into who should be in our circle. So far in this letter we see the importance of faithful ancestors/legacy leavers as well as disciples who we can lead and encourage. This section of the letter inspires us to think about people who are good for our health and who are good co-laborers in serving the Lord.

I took a few moments to sort through some other verses to reflect on how the Bible describes people we should keep company with. I focused in on Proverbs because there is so much there on relationships. Here are a few that I looked at:

Proverbs 17:17— “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
When we gather our people, we must gather close those who love us in all times, the good times and the bad times. Some of our closest bonds will come out of relationships during our times of adversity. We have this social idea now of “bothering” others or intruding on their time, but the reality is that our best friends, our true sisters and brothers, are exactly the people we need near by in the tough moments. And those true friends will come quickly—they will not see it as a bother.

Proverbs 17:22— “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
I love that this verse follows in this chapter of Proverbs as well. This was one of my son’s memory verses this year, and they learned a cute song that goes with it. When our hearts are in need of healing and company, we must pull close to us hearts that are joyful and full of laughter. I do not know about you, but I have a few people who I keep on my team because they make me laugh. As a matter of fact, I was talking to one of them on the phone last night and my husband walked by and said, “It does my heart good to hear the two of y’all giggling and laughing together.” Joy is contagious! Gather your friends who are full of contagious joy when you are enduring in the faith!

Proverbs 27:17— “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Speaking of my husband, this is one of his favorite verses, and it is apropos for this reflection. We must have by our side someone who is made of the same stuff we are. Someone who challenges us and pushes us to be better. My husband’s best friend is his iron. They call each other on their mess but also are there for comfort and fun. I love that they maintain healthy competitions. I think I have mentioned my husband’s affinity for grilling. He is a good griller in part because his best friend is a good griller. They exchange ideas and tips and when they are together, their skills are elevated. What if we gathered by our sides friends who share our passion for Christ, for prayer, for giving? How much more could our skills in the faith grow and be amplified!

Proverbs 27:5-6–“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
I noticed this Proverb for the first time when I was researching a 19th century Black woman activist. This verse was used by a newspaper editor as a note to one of her speeches. What a fury her audience must have been in for the editor to leave this as a note! Being held accountable with hard truths from someone we think is advocating for us is not easy. We want the people on our side to say the things we want to hear sometimes (or all of the time). But when we are trying to grow and push forward in the faith, we need a Paul. And even Paul needed a Paul. Someone who is willing to speak the truth of God in the open in those moments when we needed it. Perhaps that is why Paul called for Mark who was helpful in the ministry. Perhaps he was the friend willing to stand with him not just in the tedium of church business but also kept a principled voice when he needed it most. Maybe you have that one friend that makes you cringe a little bit with those truths that cut close. Do not avoid him/her—gather.

1 Samuel 18:1,3— “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”
Of course, no consideration of gathering our people and calling on our friends is complete to me without Jonathan and David. We all need someone in our life who is willing and available to knit their soul with ours. Through love, through prayer, through experience, there is often that one special person who God has given to us as a gift to be our covenant companion in the faith. Don’t do life alone—call on that soul partner and tell her what is happening in your faith, in the good times and the tough times.

What are some of your favorite verses on the company we keep? Who do you send out the signal to in those times of weakness or hardship?

I pray that if you have not found that flock to gather with yet, you will. You need each other.

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