Stay Close to the Fire

Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day and perhaps it’s been awhile since you determined to worship with God’s people because of how badly you are fighting discouragement. Let me encourage you to consider these words from Sinclair Ferguson, which he wrote in response to thinking about the psalmist’s spiritual discouragement described in Psalms 42 and 43.

Many a young Christian sitting around an open fire has been taught an object lesson by an older believer taking a live coal out of the midst of the flames, placing it apart and watching it become dim until its glow eventually fades away. That Christians need fellowship if they are to maintain their spiritual growth is the simple, but perennially important, lesson.

How important the fellowship of the church is to our well-being! Sometimes it is only when we are removed from it that we realized just how much we need it. The Lord has made us for fellowship, after all. He brought us together to need each other’s love and each other’s gifts.

Do not be surprised if being deprived of regular worship affects your spirits. Building individual spiritual disciplines is good; but it is no substitute for the life of the church into which you have been called.

Do not be so proud or self-sufficient as to think that you do not need regular exposure to the exposition and application of Scripture in the context of a living, praying group of Christians. Anyone who belongs to such a fellowship knows the benediction of a life punctuated by weekly seasons of worship, prayer, and biblical teaching. Not only are we thus educated in Christian truth, but our souls are nourished and strengthened. Our whole being is enriched.

When you are downcast—for whatever reason, minor or life-shaking—it takes more effort to maintain the regular disciplines of the Christian life. Even getting out to church is an enormous struggle…and is it really worthwhile…when you return home again to face your discouragement? Is it too painful for you to hear that this is the only way to sustain yourself at your present level of discouragement and not sink into worse? When these basic disciplines go, everything is in danger of collapsing—as this psalmist discovered.

Are you discouraged? Too discouraged to go to church? Go anyway. In fact, there is no more important time for you to fight ruthlessly for your joy than now. Let the Holy Spirit minister enduring grace to you through regular worship and fellowship with others who love Christ. It’s dark now, but morning is coming. Do everything you can to stay close to the Lord. The sun will shine again.

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