Sunday Reflections – Connection is Crucial for Victory

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The topic of connection is not a new one for Struggle to Victory. Just type the word “connect” or “connecting” or “connection” into the search box on the right hand side, and quite a few posts show up. Some, like No Man is an Island, directly addresses the topic of connection, while other posts address it indirectly or as a sub-topic.

The reason for this topic coming up so frequently lay with my belief that connection is crucial to finishing the race victoriously. Without connection, even people with great spiritual insight can still be turned from God.

In James 5: 13-20, James emphasizes the importance of connection to God and to other Christians. In this passage, connection specifically through prayer stands out as the way in which “a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.”

But the importance of connection shows up in a lot of other ways too. In his many letters, Paul continually expressed longing to be with those he knew would encourage him and who he knew supported him. And members of the early church met daily because they needed the encouragement to endure persecution that only connection with each other could bring.

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Conversely, an avoidance of connection often indicates a larger problem. Jonah did his very best to avoid responsibility by running away and disconnecting.  Moses gives another example of someone who ran away and disconnected in order to avoid the consequences of his mistakes. Fortunately, God still used them. Notably though, one got reconnected and went on to be used even more by God, and the other didn’t and was never heard from him again.

Not only does the importance of connection evidence itself in a person’s spiritual life, connection with others on a regular basis is crucial to a person’s physical health too.

On a very personal level, this melancholy introvert must deliberately seek out regular connection in order to keep depression, both a significantly mental and physical battle, at bay.

Need hard proof? Here’s what the experts at Psychology Today have to say about the importance of connection.

  • Social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being.
  • Lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesitysmoking and high blood pressure.
  • Strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity.
  • Social connection strengthens our immune system, helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life.
  • People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression.
  • People who feel more connected also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.

2-13-13 connect 3See the article Connect to Thrive for more startling information on the importance and power of connecting. Don’t you love it when scientific research supports what God’s Word has shown for so many years already?

As Christians, we are called to fellowship (connect) with one another regularly. Luke said of the early church, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

Just as Christianity grew out of connection among its individual members as they connected to Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9) and fellowshipped with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14), so too will the church be strengthened and grow in no other way but through connection and fellowship.

Connection creates a strong base that allows for greater effectiveness that is significant, long-term and sustainable. Want to increase your faith almost instantly? Connect with others. Want to feel more encouraged and motivated? Connect with others.

DISCUSSION: How has the importance of connection evidenced itself in your life?

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How to… Get an Alignment

While I don’t specifically know how a car is aligned, I do know alignment is very important. When a car is severely misaligned, the driver can feel it pull toward the side of the road even while holding the steering wheel. Slight to moderate misalignment is more difficult but not impossible to notice.

Why is alignment important to a vehicle? Misalignment in an automobile causes uneven and rapid tire wear as well as lack of steering feel and responsiveness. In addition, misalignment causes added vibration throughout the vehicle which can increase the wear and tear on the vehicle as a whole.

I’m sure a mechanic (or most guys) could explain it better, but you get the idea.

How does this idea of alignment transfer to a person’s life? When a person is out of alignment, he has difficulty listening to others and giving focused attention. She may appear to be listening, but she is not giving 100% of herself. A misaligned individual gets frustrated easily and might feel constantly worn out.

Signs of misalignment include being easily or quickly worn out, neglecting important parts of life such as exercise and healthy eating, and drifting from usual habits like regular meals, a good night’s sleep and daily devotions. Other signs include struggling to keep up with the routine of work and career as well as noticing a severe decline in attitude.

Why is alignment so important? When a person is out of alignment in any area, they are headed for a more serious situation such as significant illness, depression, and destruction of relationships. In other words, misalignment is a warning sign that we must heed if we expect to prevent some of the more serious situations that can take us completely out of commission.

The following 3 guidelines can help assess your alignment as well as steer you toward a straighter path.

1. Plan for inclement weather. Since I live in Michigan, I know the weather can change in a heartbeat and often does so half a dozen times in one day. Similarly, life can change instantly, and we must be as aligned as possible when struggles, trials and tragedies hit, because they will eventually hit. Keeping up with basic maintenance – healthy eating, exercise, daily prayer and devotions, etc. – can help keep you between the lines when the road gets rough.

2. Ask for help. Just like we need a mechanic to align our vehicles, we also need others to help keep our lives aligned. First and foremost, establish your marriage as a place of safety, refuge and help by using solid Marriage Maintenance Tips. Second, learn How to… Be Accountable. Third, place yourself under a Bible-believing, preaching and teaching minister. These are just for starters with the basic point being that No Man is An Island.

3. Develop a preventative maintenance plan. My family and I get monthly alignments at our chiropractor with the belief that this allows our bodies to function at their highest potential. Your preventative maintenance plan should include the above two tips as well as a continuing education (more on this in future posts). Each individual’s plan is unique, but each individual needs to have a plan.

As 2012 quickly nears an end, consider taking time to assess your alignment. Evaluate the various areas of your life – spiritual, physical, mental & social – to identify any areas of misalignment. Begin this evaluation process with a time of prayer asking for God’s perspective on each area.

We are so limited in our capacity to fix things, yet we focus so much of our energies trying to do just that. Let us instead focus on making our relationship with Christ our primary concern and then follow His plan for staying aligned.

DISCUSSION: What additional suggestions do you have for getting aligned?

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Sunday Reflections – No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each piece is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor or thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne wrote the poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in 1624, and it inspired a famous book (Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”) which then inspired a song by a well-known rock band (not my kind of music… my brother’s).

The poem also well illustrates Luke’s words in Acts 2:42-47 where he stresses the importance of connection. Once becoming a believer, an individual joined with other believers and “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing the in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.”

Being united by faith in Christ, the early church focused on connections to strengthen and encourage each other. Connection was crucial to the survival of the church in its infancy.

Connecting with a body of believers still remains crucial in our challenging culture today. Yet the onus lies with the individual to connect and be connectible. But how does one cultivate healthy connectivity?

  1. Connect to God. Without this connection, all other connections are futile. Begin with the basics of consistent Bible study, fellowship and prayer as the individuals in the early church did. Add to that foundation as led by the Holy Spirit.
  2. Be connectable. Make time in your schedule for others. Let the Holy Spirit work in you and give you an attitude that draws instead of pushes others away. Realize you can’t change others, and focus on the one person you can change.
  3. Develop broad shoulders. No one is perfect. People will say and do stupid things. Finding ways to support and encourage through imperfection creates connection. (See post Do You Have Broad Shoulders? for more on this point.)
  4. Be willing to share. While sharing possessions certainly fits here (an example set by those Timothy spoke about in Acts), the point of sharing burdens must also be made (Galatians 6:2). Some burdens are obvious. Others not. Allowing someone to bear your burden may mean being brave enough to share it. Of course, this is a lot easier when healthy connections already exist.
  5. Submit to the process. Connecting exists as an ongoing process. Making good choices to cultivate the process is crucial as each individual does his/her part by connecting to God, being connectable, developing broad shoulders and being willing to share.

Donne’s poem not only so well emphasizes the idea that no person exists to live life as a lonely island, it furthers the point by saying that “each man’s death diminishes me.” In other words, each person brings something unique to the body and has a “plan and a purpose” (Jeremiah 29:11). The body functions most effectively and with greater efficiency with all its parts connected and healthy.