By David Faust
Last year I visited the island of Patmos. This cluster of rocky hills off the Turkish coast marks the spot where John “was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9). In the first century, government officials sent political offenders to remote locations like Patmos to keep them from influencing others. Exile was basically a prison without bars. According to the historian Eusebius, John was in exile for 18 months. While on that lonely island, John received the inspired messages recorded in the last book of the Bible.
John knew what it was like to be isolated and alone. Maybe that’s why, in his letters, he put so much value on relationships with others. John wrote, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:11, 12).
Solomon observed, “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Effectiveness multiplies when believers in God pray and serve together. It’s love’s leverage—increasing our impact through relationships with others.
On the farm where I grew up, Dad took me with him to build fences, move livestock, and work in the fields. I remember standing next to him on top of the barn on a hot summer day, spreading silvery aluminum paint on the roof. On further reflection, I realize those collaborative efforts were Dad’s way of investing in me. He didn’t need my help. In fact, my clumsy presence probably made the work harder for him. But Dad wasn’t just doing jobs; he was raising sons. He loved my brothers and me enough to spend time with us. We learned and grew as we worked side by side.
Why did Jesus send out his disciples two-by-two? Because of love’s leverage. By traveling in pairs, they could employ their unique gifts, encourage one another, and connect better with different personalities they encountered along the way. We make “the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16) when we serve together, not alone. I like to call these partnerships co-opportunities.
If you are asked to lead a small group, could you invite a friend to co-lead with you so he can expand his leadership skills? If you cook a kettle of soup or bake a pie, could your child or grandchild join you in the kitchen? If you visit a shut-in, why not take a friend along? If your boss asks you to spearhead a project, could you turn it into a co-opportunity by including your team of co-workers? Could you make your next mission trip a co-opportunity by bringing someone along who never has served cross-culturally?
It Doesn’t Come Naturally
It might seem easier to go it alone and do the job yourself—to live on an island, separated from others. But John’s letters remind us not to live in isolation. It may not come naturally to invest in other people, but it comes supernaturally. Love originates in the character of God.
So don’t stay on an island. Don’t just do what comes naturally. Do what comes supernaturally. Your influence will multiply when you ask the Lord to fill you with his love.
Personal Challenge: Think of something you normally do by yourself (a household chore, a task at work, or a ministry at church) and invite another person to share the experience with you.
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Image: Detail from the painting He Sent Them Out Two by Two by James Tissot (1836–1902). In the collection at the Brooklyn Museum.