Which is most important - solitude and communion with God or being connected to a body of believers?
Jesus gave us an example to follow:
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
15 However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.
16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.
A few decades ago, the church in America seems to have awakened to the need for closer community. This can definitely be a blessing and I have never met a consistent Christian who is not part of a church!
At the same time, I wonder if "connection"and "community" in the church have become substitutes for solitude!
We must never lessen the quality or quantity of our times of solitude with God for the sake of community! Again, I absolutely believe and agree that connection and being part of a Christian community are vital to the Christian life, but I also wonder if community has now ascended above personal time with God in the eyes of many today!
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Notice that Jesus places LOVE OF GOD above love of neighbor!
Does this indicate that if we are engaged in religious activities, we can disregard our neighbors?
Of course not - the Bible clearly condemns this kind of wrong thinking!
Love of God is FIRST because the quality of my relationship with God will determine the quality of my relationship with my neighbor - NOT VISA VERSA!
Many reverse the two great commandments and view love of neighbor as the means to the love of God but that is not so! A multitude of good works to our neighbor, without first knowing, seeking and growing in God will not draw us close to Him! But a close, genuine relationship with God will eventually always result in an increased ability to love our neighbors!
Notice the progression in Jesus' life:
Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
17 And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases,
18 as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed.
19 And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.
Jesus continued all night on the mountain in prayer… When he returned, a great multitude came to hear Him and be healed… power went out from Him and healed them all!
Jesus put His time of seeking God above people! That almost sounds like blasphemy to some! But the result was that many came to hear Him and be healed and power went out from Him!
Do you see how Jesus loved people enough to separate from them to seek God!
Do you want to be more loving? Spend more time with God! Do you want to be a better neighbor? Spend more time with God? A better spouse, parent, child? To prepare for whatever we are called to do, we must FIRST learn to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength!
Afterward, when we do come together in connection with people, the time in secret we have spent with God will be of much greater benefit to those around us!
Human nature tells us to put people first but that is like a physician attending to his patient without first preparing his bag of medical supplies. He might say, "My patient needs me. I cannot spend time checking my bag when his need is so great." However sincere he may be - however much he may love his patient and desire healing for him, he will be helpless to do so unless he first carefully and methodically fills his bag with the proper supplies!
Do you have a desire to reach, help and heal your neighbor? Perhaps you are attempting to do so with an empty bag! If so, go to God FIRST! Love Him and spend time in His presence. Ask Him and He will fill you with the necessary supplies to go out to meet the needs of those around you!
4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;
5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
8 ...you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The progression is clear: WAIT ➔ RECEIVE POWER ➔ GO!