Chapter 10 Networking and Support Groups
God said that it was not good for man to be alone, so he created a woman for Adam to be with. We are also instructed in the Bible to always assemble together with one another. (Heb. 10:25) The practice of meeting together is often neglected because of the sacrifices it demands to humble oneself, submit and become vulnerable to a group. This was very challenging to me for years, but I simply had to overcome it if I wanted to grow spiritually. In this section I will explain the purposes, applications and benefits of networking and assembling together in support groups, as well as point out the problems associated with isolation.
There were many reasons why I avoided connecting with and relying on support groups. I was stubborn, unwilling and too prideful to get involved with them. I didn’t want to listen to the advice of others. I refused to expose my weaknesses to anyone else, due to the deep rooted fears and countless insecurities. I didn’t want others to judge me or tell me what to do, because I thought I could do everything myself. However, by the grace of God, that has all changed. It has taken me years to learn how important it is to connect with likeminded people and make myself participate in support groups.
As I continue to daily surrender my life to God, he is transforming all my weaknesses into strengths. The things that I used to hate I am more willing to partake in now. Although I still don’t like to expose my weaknesses and insecurities in front of others, I am learning how to open up and be more vulnerable. Life is not about what I want or like anymore. I realize that I must make myself engage socially in order to experience the level of maturity that God wants for me. The benefits and rewards of connecting with others far outweighs the temporary superficial discomforts. Here are some of the amazing reasons for participating in support groups.
The purposes, applications and benefits:
There are many wonderful purposes, applications and benefits for those who get involved with support groups. The main purpose for a Christian support group is to function as one entity. We operate together as the temple and physical body of Christ here on earth. There is no single person or single group who represents God on earth -- “WE ALL DO!” Every person who holds the “True Faith” is considered a member of the body of Christ. We are all called saints, priests and ministers of God. (Priests: 1 Peter 2: 5-9; Rev. 1:6 ; Rev. 5:10
Ministers: 1 Tim. 4:6 ; 1 Peter 4:10 ; 2 Cor 3:6 All serve in the Body: Eph. 4:11-16)
The structure and internal operations of a good Christian support group can’t be stressed enough. We absolutely need each other because we all have different skills and talents to contribute to the body. Our unique individual purpose is essential for the body to function properly. Some of us function as hands, while others as feet. To be complete we need eyes, ears, a mouth and ears and many other parts.
Some of us are leaders, teachers, laborers, administrators, counselors, givers, helpers and listeners. As one complete body we are able to properly nurture, build, heal, strengthen, teach and love each other. I realize now that there is strength in numbers and I don’t have to face the dark world alone anymore. I don’t have to fight the fight of faith all by myself and I can draw upon the mighty power of God through other people.
Not only does a good support group offer a consistent structure in which to operate, but there are also a number of priceless benefits that are unique to a group setting. One unique benefit is the vast resource of experiences, knowledge and wisdom available for spiritual and mental nourishment. With a collective treasure of resources to draw upon, I have a better chance of solving all my challenges and problems. There will be plenty of encouragement, counseling, education, advice, as well as correction, rebuke and warnings available from all the various members of the group. There is also plenty of love to go around.
The key benefit to a successful support group is the love that is offered. Whether we are involved with a local church, 12 step groups, school meetings or a home groups if we don’t feel the love of God then we might as well go somewhere else. Love is the most important aspect of the Christine life and is the greatest quality to manifest. Love covers a multitude of sins and heals many wounds.
A good support group also has the benefit of providing a safe environment, where I can be vulnerable, make mistakes and basically be myself, without the fear of being ridiculed and condemned. It has changed my life to interact with likeminded souls who have experienced the same kind of pain and trouble that I have; a place where I can get mad, confess my weaknesses, seek help and grow without feeling mocked or laughed at. I can be open and honest about my weaknesses and struggles and share my life with others who understand. It’s comforting to know that there are people that genuinely love me, whom I can depend on.
It is great to receive so many benefits from my groups, but this is a two way street. I must understand that I have an important role to play also. I must give back and serve others as well. It isn’t always about my personal needs. My brothers and sisters need me as much as I need them. There are times when I will be called upon to give my talents and skill to support and love someone else. Let’s take a closer look at these two prominent applications.
Two prominent applications:
Eventually, we will all partake on both sides of the table. At some point in the process we are either going to be “receiving” help from someone or “giving” help to someone else. These are the essential and normal functions of any good support group. It will not be productive if someone is always receiving and not giving back. It will eventually become a problem. We must all find a way to give back to those who are in need also and not become self-centered or unbalanced by serving only our own needs, although we must heal ourselves before we can help someone else.
When we are hurting, weak, empty and feeling attacked, it is crucial that we immediately get help. How can we give help to others if we are spiraling down into trouble ourselves. We must first work on our personal lives before we can positively affect the lives of any one else. When I am hurting, weak and need of spiritual nourishment, I must turn to my brothers and seek their counsel, knowledge and wisdom. When I carefully listen to the words and advice of my loving family I am receiving the spiritual medicine that I need, which God is directly supplying to me through the other members of his body.
Then when the opportunity comes, I am able to pour out my feelings, thoughts, worries, troubles and weaknesses by confessing my heart to the group. I will speak honestly, even disclosing my failures, knowing that in the end I can find healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.
The groups can also help identify and expose any weaknesses that I can not see myself. I must be willing, humble and submissive to the correction, rebuke and teaching of God through the group, so that I will continue to grow and mature properly. By humbling myself and yielding to the sound teachings of godly counsel, I am crucifying my pride and breaking many old self-centered habits.
I have completely surrendered to the notion that I am powerless and weak without God’s power. I also know that God uses my family and friends to help me spiritually mature. Now that God is healing and strengthening me in my life, I automatically desire to reach out to help others.
The purpose of my pain:
I have finally come to understand that the only reason God has healed me is so that I can help heal someone else. I realize that all my pain and suffering, all my troubles and failures, are not only for me to learn from, but so that I can help someone else who has gone through the same things I have. That brings me an abundance of hope and purpose for my life. God has taken the ashes of my wasted life and turned them into a treasure of precious stones. So, it's fair for me to conclude that if I am not hurting or suffering in my life, then how can I ever help someone else?
God is changing us by his power and grace. After we are “Born Again” into God’s family and given his Spirit, we are constantly being transformed into the character of his children. The old self-center behavior is slowly being dissolved and a new loving, selfless, sacrificial character is being developed. It takes years to spiritually mature as we learn to deny ourselves and follow God’s ways, but little by little, we are becoming powerful witnesses for God. We are reflecting his truth and light into the lives of others.
Jesus said it is better to give than to receive. The real meaning of life is discovered when we learn how to give. Life is not about how much we can acquire and possess, but rather what can we do for others. All of our works are based on love and serving others in the kingdom of God. We will not be working for money in Heaven, but our reward will be the joy and satisfaction of giving to someone else. Can you imagine a world where we build houses and produce products just so that we can give them to someone; all because of the great joy that it brings us. Love and joy will be the currency of Heaven.
In our seasons of overflowing abundance, we will automatically desire to share our experiences and resources with those who are in need. I understand now why it is better to give than receive. The heavenly rewards that we will receive for our sacrifices here on earth are tremendous and can not fully be measured.
As we practice giving away what we have to others, God will immediately increase the fruits of our hearts. We will experience a never ending replenishment from God for all of the spiritual nourishment that we give away to others. As long as we stay connected to God, he will supply us with plenty of his daily bread and living water. But the moment we disconnect from him, we will begin to slowly wither away. We must never allow ourselves to become isolated from God and the body of Christ.
Problem of Isolation:
The main problem with living in isolation is that we are very limited in our own power and abilities. We need God and the body of Christ in order to stand strong and function properly. It is impossible to live in victory and overcome our weaknesses without a strong relationship with God and fellowship with other believers.
As mentioned earlier, we are not created to be alone. Mankind is designed to be with God and the body of Christ at all times. I found out the hard way that I can do nothing without God. I am overcome by all my weaknesses and become easy prey for the Devil when I stand alone. (John 15:5-6, Prov. 3:5) We are like lost sheep and the Devil is a wolf roaming the earth to see whom he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
We don’t have the ability to be self sustaining. Isolation is like having your hand cut off. It will die if separated from the body. How can we receive the life giving nourishment that we need if we are disconnected from the body of Christ. We will eventually starve without the spiritual food of God. We are merely leaves on the tree and if we fall off we will dry up and whither away. I’ve tried to manage and fix my own life, but it always ended up worse than before.
By honestly examining my life, I have been able to confess my dependency on God and others in my life. I have forced myself to connect to several support groups and outreach ministries by finally surrendering my pride and fear to God. Now that I am humbly participating in the body of Christ, he is transforming me into his child. He has given me everything that I need to walk in victory, which I wouldn’t have been able to experience if I remained isolated and independent.
In conclusion, we are not meant to be an independent island, isolated in the middle of an ocean of troubles, trying to take on the whole world all by ourselves. We are designed to connect with others and until we respond positively to this innate need, we will remain defeated, battling a universe of pressures without the proper resources. There is no reason to be victimized and destroyed by this world when we have God and each other to depend on. We must depend on the strength and encouragement of each other. When we do what God expects us to do, we will receive the amazing promises of God. Next, we will discuss the many wonderful promises of God, which are free and available to us all, “IF” we have faith and diligently seek after them.