1. Good Companions
While I was waiting for the ground to get warm enough to plant my garden I was reading everything I could find about the plants I wanted to grow and getting ready. I read a lot about "Companion Planting" online and also in printed publications. I found that many of the vegetables I planned to plant had flowers and other vegetables that would thrive well when planted together. I discovered that there were other plants which worked against each other and should not be planted together. I was happy to try companion planting and so I planted a short space of cucumbers, then zinnias and dill, a short space of cucumbers, then zinnias and dill, throughout the row. I am so pleased with the way the plants are doing together. The zinnias attract the pollinators with their colorful flowers and the Japanese beetles to their leaves. It is easy to walk through and knock the beetles into my cup of soapy water and it seems to be drawing them away from the corn which they attacked last year. The dill sends up a strong fragrance in the air, along with the basil, oregano and peppermint in other sections of the garden, which are supposed to be confusing to critters seeking the scents of the vegetables. The marigolds, nasturtiums, and geraniums also have their special little jobs while adding so much beauty to the garden. I am very happy with my new knowledge of "Companion Planting." As I looked over the colorful flowers standing tall above the cucumbers which run along the ground underneath, I thought about how some people are different but they complement each other and are good for one another. Some people and things in this life make good companions, and I want to look at some of those this week as we begin our daily devotions on "Companions."
2. The First Companions
The beginning is always a good place to start, so let's go back to the creation and see the first companions. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:26-28) We have a little more detail in Genesis 2:21-24. "And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and put them together as man and wife. And this is how God meant for life to continue. If we oppose the beginning of God's Word, then how and where would we stand on any other issues declared in the scriptures?
3. Mercy And Grace
Just as I began with the idea of companion planting in my garden, we see that some things go together, just as some people go together. Today I am looking at mercy and grace. In the Old Testament the priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. When we come to the New Testament, we see that Jesus, God's precious Son, came to offer Himself as our sacrifice once and for all. When we confess our sin to Him, He gives us mercy so that we don't get the punishment we deserve. With that mercy also comes grace, whereby He gives us everlasting life and so much more than we deserve. And there we have it, mercy and grace, all because of God's amazing love.
"14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)
4. When We Go Unnoticed
Sometimes companions are automatically joined together in thoughts and conversations. When we think of Adam, the first man, we usually pair him with Eve. When we look at Abraham in the Bible, we often think of Sarah, and they are both mentioned in Hebrews 11, in the Hall of Faith. Someone may say, "Isaac" and I think, "Rebecca". In the beginning of the New Testament we read of Zacharias and Elisabeth, and Mary and Joseph. But I think in more cases, only one is named, even though the person was married. An example is Noah. Noah and his three sons worked hard to build the ark. They gathered all the animals and food they would need on the ark. I believe that Noah's wife and the wives of their three sons also worked hard to help them prepare for the great flood. We don't have the names of either of these four women, but they were very important in the lives of their husbands. The widow of Zarephath was chosen by God to help the great prophet Elijah but I don't think we are ever given her name. "Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee" (I Kings 17:9) You may be married to a very important person with a high paying job, or great position in society, and feel like you are small and unnoticed. Don't let anyone make you feel like you have no value because you are unnoticed. For several years I stayed home and took care of five children. I was often told, "Oh, you don't work, do you?" I did not know if it was intentional or not, but women who had paying jobs often made me feel guilty for not doing my part to bring income in for our growing family, even though I worked hard at home to take care of our children and keep house. I knew that I was right where God wanted me to be, and bringing my children up was the important job for me at that time. My message today is to encourage those who go unnoticed. You may feel like God is using everyone but you, with friends who are blessed with so many talents and abilities. You may be in a position of watching over children, or your parents, or someone who needs you, which limits your availability to join others for fun times or to volunteer for things at church and it leaves you sitting at home, tired and lonely. Don't let the world get you down and make you feel that you are not important. Talk to the Lord and ask Him to show you the path He has for you and then trust Him to lead you, even when the way seems small and little known. You are important in God's eyes. Just think, He gave His Son for you! And nothing can separate you from God's love!
"31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8)
5. Companions In The Gospel
I want to look at a New Testament couple today that was a great help to the early church, but I don't know that I have ever heard a sermon about them. We first meet these companions with the Apostle Paul in Acts 18.
"1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;
2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.
3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks."
Aquila and Priscilla were hospitable to Paul and opened their doors to him, giving him a place to live while he was in Corinth. They were all tent makers and I can imagine they had some great discussions about the things of the Lord as they worked together. They are mentioned again in verses 18 and 19 where they sailed with Paul until he left them at Ephesus. We meet up with them a few verses later, with Apollos.
"24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly."
Did you notice the descriptions of Apollos? He was "an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures,... instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord,..." But he only knew the baptism of John so Aquila and Priscilla "took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." Paul did not forget his companions in the gospel, as we see in his letters to the churches. We see his endearment to them in Romans 16:3. "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:" We also see that they continued in their ministry by having a church in their house. "The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house." (I Corinthians 16:19) And in his letter to Timothy where he said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:" (II Timothy 4:7) he also took time to remember his dear friends and companions in the gospel. "Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus." (II Timothy 4:19)
6. We Don't Always See Eye To Eye
We talked yesterday about being companions in the gospel, and it is great to work with others to get out the gospel message. But, sometimes even the best of companions and friends don't see eye to eye. Our story today begins at Acts 12:25. " And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark." They started on the missionary journey, but at some point John Mark returned back home. A few chapters later they decided to go on another journey and see how the churches were doing. The disagreement was so strong between them, they parted and sent on their separate ways.
"36 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches." (Acts 15:36-41)
Even the best of Christians don't always agree on everything. But, through their disagreement they split into two groups and we have the results of Paul's journey as written by Luke, but I believe that Barnabas and John Mark were also used by God. And near the end of Paul's life, he recognized the importance of John Mark, as we see in his letter to Timothy. "Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry." (II Timothy 4:11) Even when we don't agree with other Christians we need to see that they are also working for the Lord and not see them as enemies.
7. The Majority Is Not Always Right
As we near the closing of our thoughts on "Companions" I would like to say that we need to be careful when we choose our companions. We can go wrong by following the crowd, because the majority is not always right. Our example today is a very familiar story. Moses sent twelve spies into the land of Canaan. They brought back a good report of the fruit of the land, but ten of the men discouraged the people telling them of the giants of the land. Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to go in to the land God had promised them, but the people listened to the majority and even wanted to stone them.
"6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:
7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel." (Numbers 14:6-10)
In God's order of things, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who were allowed to enter the Promised Land. The ten who brought the evil report died in a plague (Numbers 14:37) and the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years until all the older generation died. Their children, whom they said would be killed by the giants, went in and possessed the great land which flowed with milk and honey. A good verse to remember is Proverbs 13:20, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
8. A Friend That Sticks Closer Than A Brother
We have talked about several different companions, and today we see the greatest companion a person can have. We read in Proverbs 18:24, "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." I want to tell you about that friend that sticks closer than a brother. His name is Jesus and He is the Son of God. He left His home in heaven to come give His life for you. He loves you with an everlasting love. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior? You may know John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The next two verses are just as important. "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:17-18) I hope that you know Jesus. If you have never asked Him to save you and forgive you of your sin, please do so now. He is the greatest companion you will ever know.