When we read the story of the New Testament Church, we might get caught up in the excitement of its explosive growth and amazing miracles. But here’s a part of the story we shouldn’t miss: ‘No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had…There were no needy persons among them…those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money…and it was distributed to anyone who had need’ (v.32-35 NIV). It’s easy to think we’d be happier if we had more money. It’s true that money can give us security, and having plenty of money would probably kill off quite a number of worries too. But it wouldn’t necessarily make us feel happier. In the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers looked at what made quite happy people different from less happy people. They found that there was one thing that consistently separated those two groups: meaningful connections with other people. It’s not about how much money we have; it’s not about our health, security, attractiveness, IQ, career, or success. What seems to distinguish consistently happy people from less happy people is having rich, deep, joy-producing, life-changing relationships in their lives. That doesn’t mean we have to have lots of friends to be happy. We can know a lot of people and still be lonely because we’re not connecting with any of them in any really meaningful way. But the people in the New Testament Church got it right: it’s in sharing with each other spiritually, emotionally, financially, and relationally that we discover high levels of joy.
Monday 3 October
‘We are like the various parts of a human body.’ Romans 12:4 MSG
Paul wrote: ‘We are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvellously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be…If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them’ (v.4-8 MSG). Real connection isn’t found in having a mobile phone full of numbers or having hundreds of followers on social media. Those things might be nice to have, but real, powerful, transforming connection is found in sharing our lives with others. So where can we start making connections that enrich us, stretch us, and maybe even challenge us to grow? By visiting a lonely, forgotten person in a nursing home. By volunteering to work in a food bank once a week. By saying to our pastor, ‘Please give me a job that involves helping others.’ These might seem like small things, but we’ll be amazed how much they can enrich life.