“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14: 19).
Mutual benefit associations and similar organizations exist like mushrooms in this country. These are associations in which the profits are shared by the members who are themselves the policyholders of the association. These associations makes meeting emergency financial needs easier and convenient for the members. I can cite among these the BJMP Mutual Benefit Association or BJMPMBAI or the AFP Mutual Benefit Association Inc. of the military and other uniformed services.
Mutual benefit pursuits had long been known and practice about two thousand years ago. It is called mutual upbuilding. It is not primarily for financial security but for the unity of the faith, or for the knowledge of the son of God, or maturity; “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness and deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4: 14). Also, mutual upbuilding will aid others to not fall or stumble (Romans 14: 13- 17).
We can attain to that state of mutual upbuilding if we take the time to consider our ways and our hearts. Our ways; because the world has all the right to expect the supposed brother of Christ to act differently (Read Mt 6:24 and Ephesians 2: 19: 21); and our hearts; because “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
In a sense, mutual upbuilding is something said or relating to an act done directed by each towards the other or the others, to develop gradually or promote the development or growth of the faith of another. Notice that mutual implies a shared objective for another not for self and with a sense of intimacy or personally or of private nature, which means not everything is done with the intent to impress the world. Anyway the world will know of it so long as it was done for Christ’ sake because “…a city set on hill can not be hidden” (Matthew 5: 14). Mutual upbuilding is developing the other before your own.
If this message or our text brings to anyone a realization of that important role one has towards his brother, then how should one conduct his ways or his heart to cause an upbuilding (that is, mutually) in his midst or in the world?
In search of an answer, we can always go back to that old question WDJD- What Did Jesus Do? Fortunately, that question was answered long time ago for our benefit.
In Mark 3: 13- 14 we can read, “And He went upon the mountain and called to Him those whom He desired, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach”. The implication of the act of the Lord calling those whom He desired “so that they might be with Him” is teaching us the manner by which we could cause mutual upbuilding, that is through fellowship with Him.
John 1: 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. Continuing further in verse 14 we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”. By the Word of God, we can still “be with Him (the Lord Jesus Christ)”, fellowship with Him and be nourished and grow or mutually upbuild each other.
The call of God to all whom He desired remains through our days till He comes again. We can “be with Him” by listening to His Word, consulting His Word and making His Word come alive in our lives. Tough call? Think again. Psalms 1: 1-3 beautifully assures “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His Law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers”. If it is not possible to “be with Him” continuously or “day and night”, then there would never have been this promise. So by consciously allowing the Word of God to have His way in our lives, we are unconsciously mutually upbuilding one another. Bible studies, fellowships, personal meditations and listening will help us to “be with Him”. “So that they might be with Him” is a phrase that underlines the importance of the Word today in causing mutual upbuilding.
The holy requirement of “being with Him” or relating with our Lord, is no tough call either. Because the Lord Jesus provided a way, the only way, when He said “…It is finished” (John 19:30). So we are all here today acknowledging His holy presence not because of our own but of His grace and Spirit. Others that we want to be with in our desire for mutual upbuilding may have that thought that fellowshipping with the Lord in anyway we can is an activity for the righteous. But it is not so, because no man is righteous.
We can mutually build up others with His Word, that is without doubt! The Word is not devoid of power to guide us into upbuilding each other especially that is was written “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3: 16- 17).
Mutual upbuilding like worship is a Christian lifestyle. But it has to be acted out repeatedly and continuously. And anchored or founded on the eternal.
The American behaviorist B.F. Skinner has this belief, as stated in his bio in essortment.com, that the environment is the molder of behavior to which many would not completely agree (including me). However, I agree with him in that principle he had helped espoused called operant conditioning or that which we now call “carrot and stick” method of dealing with our people, children, or learners. In short, for the desired behavior to be induced or become part of the individual’s lifestyle positive reinforcements had to be administered repeatedly. And you give the exact opposite to achieve pruning of undesired behavior. The question thus arises, who decides which is desired and undesired? The leader, teacher, parents or we can simply say another man. Are we then ready to leave our mutual upbuilding at the mercy of another man? But how about the environment by which Skinner would subject the behavior? Will it always be there, or will it be able to stand the test of time? Think about it for a moment.
Now since we recognize the centrality of the heart (speech) and ways (actions) as a sort of nuggets to mutual upbuilding, we can take the time to adorn them with the Word of God.
Concerning the heart or speech, if it only leads to quarrels then the Word advises “avoid” (1 Timothy 6: 20- 21; 2 Timothy 2: 14- 17) or have nothing to do with” it (2 Timothy 2:23). Noteworthy also is the advice of the Word in 2 Timothy 2: 24- 26 where we read, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will”.
Perhaps, there might be need to further study the word “avoid” use in that advise of the Apostle Paul to Timothy. Among other relevant definitions, avoid means to keep away from; keep clean of; or shun. Such meaning of the word would make us to conclude that turning away is an option. It is not, for three reasons.
First, Ephesians 6: 13 states ” Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm”. Resist and stand firm in other translations is stand your ground.
Stand your ground is of military usage (Notice that the Apostle Paul relates to soldiering in some of his advises to Timothy- 2 Timothy 2: 4). It is an order for a soldier to stand his ground against the onslaught and rampaging advance of an enemy. It is not an order to evacuate position or retreat to fight another day, but stand. Sometimes we come to the question, why am I not seeing any change in my brothers? In fact, my Lord and my God, they have gotten more pathetic? Most of the times we do not really see, because that is not our job. It is ours to stand our ground. Praise God if He allows us to witness the Word come alive in living color. But if He does not, then rejoice that you have shared the Good News and cause an upbuilding in your midst. It is no reason to depart from the Word when we can not appreciate results. So, after “having done everything” or after having spoken the Word, stand firm in the Word. Continue to believe that it is working in your midst.
Second, since Paul’s advice is for a fellow man of God, actually his protege, the young pastor, as he is referred to by many writers, Timothy, we can then take those advises in context to mean that the apostle wants the young distant pastor not to depart from the Word. He was to stick to the Word in all circumstances during discussions, and in all the other works of the ministry. He was to continue to stand in the Truth and not resort to himself, his own “knowledge”, or what is now referred to as “head knowledge”. Such act bears the danger of reducing him to an “irreverent babbler” (Read 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16). And since “head knowledge” is of this world it will always find an equal, an opponent, a contradiction. While if he remains standing in the Truth of the Word, the reverence accorded him remains because the Word remains forever (Isaiah 40:8) and that God’s thoughts and ways are way above that of man (Isaiah 55:9). Thus, the Word has no equal and impossible to contradict. In the final analysis, “avoid” is not to avoid opposition but to avoid reverting to “irreverent babble”- a speech devoid of the Word, a prayer lacking in Spirit, an answer that ascribes nothing to the giver of wisdom, a message not from the garden of love or a talk devoid of the zeal for the eternal.
Last, we can also see in the Word that there is a prescribed manner of correcting or teaching like the one in 2 Timothy 2: 24- 26. So it is ironical for one to provide a way out and then advises to turn away anyway. If there is a way, then there is no turning away. Besides, Jude 1: 3 also appeals for believers to “contend for the faith”. I have heard that if there is one thing that causes believers to contend, it is “faith issues” or “faith doctrines” while quoting this Word in Jude. Well, I thought that’s it. But behold this. If believers “walk by faith and not by sight” then “contend for the faith” has no qualifier. There is no such a thing as contend for the faith issues or contend for the faith doctrines only sort of things. What is there is that every step will be contending as was written “walk by faith and not by sight”. Squirm if you will, but can a believer not contend every step of the way? If you are thinking “Rambo” day and night, then it really is not possible, either that they will be asking around what to write on your epitaph or you’ll end up in jail. As clear as there are prescribed manner of teaching or correcting, there are as well ways to contend, and forget “Rambo”. Instead, remember a God hanging on a tree yet pierced and mocked. I would rather fill myself with an unsung victory that last forever than glory for a moment.
If there is a way to properly contend, the Word has it (Read also Titus 3:9- 11 and John 1:9- 11). The things is are we still in the mutual upbuilding track? Obviously, that is a question on delivery not the Word owing to the latter’s infallibility. So if the delivery is through speech, then remember “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18: 21). I then ask again, are we to contend for glory or for mutual upbuilding? Are we to answer or talk to save face? To display knowledge? To gain the approval of man? Other advices regarding the manner of how we condcut our heart/ speech, we can read Lamentations 3: 28- 33; Proverbs 21: 23; and Proverbs 22: 11.
I remember being a new believer. My mentor obviously have the zeal. And I supposed he rightly guessed I am not as gifted as he is in talking or expressing anything. Or that I have not a Word in me to really share. So that after meetings and towards home he would just let me sit beside him in his car in my usual silence. In those numerous times, I thought I was mutually upbuilt in faith. I am not saying silence works similarly in other personas and situations, but it has value in others.
Concerning ways, the Word is not devoid of reiterations for us to consider. Haggai 1: 5-9 states, “Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house”. Have we attain anything by ourselves? Will we ever consider it enough? A way that seems good for the moment and that proves inutile till the life that comes can not build up. For how can a way that has no place in that life be ever useful in it.
Another answer to the WDJD question that helps us to cause mutual upbuilding by our actions is the story of the Lord Jesus healing a paralytic in Matthew 9: 2-8, “And behold, some people brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; yours sins are forgiven’. And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming’. But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’- He then said to the paralytic- ‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men”. There is nothing that could hinder a man to display good deeds. And God allows man to show good deeds for the upbuilding of others into Him. If there is an effective way of causing mutual upbuilding, then it must be by one’s display of everything good. We are to be encouraged once again by His Word in Matthew 5: 16 where we can read, “…, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”. But again, let us all be reminded that we are allowed by God to show good deeds for His praise and perhaps, for others’ sake.
As brothers of Christ in this world, we do have a responsibility towards others. Fortunately, the Word is here for our benefit. Let us continue to pursue the Word, and be in his presence or be with Him.
All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version.