Get Connected Part 4: Accountability
On Sunday 6th November at our morning service, we finished our series 'Get Connected'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
There are times when you want to be alone. Some people choose to live as hermits but they are the exception. From the very beginning, God said that it was not good for man to be alone. People are enriched when they have support and friendship from those they know and trust. If we are to grow and change and become more like Jesus, we need to be connected, and it can be valuable to have one or two other people in a relationship in which we don't hide but can be held accountable.
Ecclesiastes is one of the “Wisdom” books in the Old Testament part of the Bible; its title means “the Teacher”. We don’t know for sure but the writer might well have been King Solomon, famous for his wisdom early in his reign. A recurring theme is that everything is meaningless, the writer influenced by his observations of how many people lived, worked and died without achieving anything. However, he also shows how applying some God-given wisdom can change things.
To read the verses we used in our talk, please click here. In Chapter 4, verses 7 and 8 we read: Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless- a miserable business!
Many people are so focussed on what they can get that working is all they do, pointless if in the end there is no enjoyment from possessions or no-one to share pleasure with. In our Christian lives, it is futile to struggle on our own because we miss out on so much that God can give us when we are living alongside and with others.
In verses 9-11 of the same chapter, he writes: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no-one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
With two, work is more productive; one can help if the other falls; two can support one another; two can “keep warm”. (In the Teacher’s day, sharing a bed or blanket was a commonplace way of keeping warm overnight, nothing to do with sex). In our Christian lives we need someone who is close to us who can share our burdens, provide support when we need it and who, by being available and encouraging, can “keep us warm” when our relationship with God is weak or we are experiencing doubts.
Two is good, but three can be better: verse 12 says: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. The extra strand in a cord spreads the strain so that all three are less likely to break. Jesus, although He spent time alone with God, chose twelve people to be his close followers, to spend time with him and learn together. But he also had a smaller group – Peter, James and John – who he shared special times with.
So, with us, we need one or two individuals who we know that we can trust to listen to things which we would not want to talk to others about: friends we can rely on to support us and check back from time to time to see how we are getting on. And for who we do the same – we can grow through helping and encouraging others in this way. This is what we mean by “accountability”.
Accountability means taking responsibility for how we develop. Ultimately, we are accountable to God but we also need human help. By having those around to give support we can be accountable to them. We don’t just talk, but walk as well. For some, this can be threatening so we “bubble wrap” ourselves, hiding behind a barrier that restricts growth. We are reluctant to admit to struggling with things like addiction to porn or alcohol, difficulties with relationships or doubts in our life of faith. Going beyond the superficial is hard unless you are sure about who you are sharing with.
We should take seriously this idea of having one or two to help us be accountable. Not to lean on so that we pull them down and make ourselves a burden, but those who can walk with us, help us get up when we fall; someone to help make a cord less likely to break. And you needn’t live in each others’ pockets – just meet occasionally to talk, check how you are getting on, pray together.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)
1. Can you identify something in your life where you are struggling on your own?
2. How might it help to have someone to share some of the load, help you to carry it better, make you stronger?
3. What areas of your Christian life do you need to develop?
4. Who do you know who might be able to come alongside to help with those things? It might be someone already close to you or a few individuals with whom you serve in a small team – maybe you could help them too?
Is there anyone you could support in an accountable relationship if they were to ask you? Are you willing to help?