Nevertheless there are times when, for His own wise purposes, the Lord does not provide many companions to travel this pilgrim journey together – and sometimes, not even one. Peter had a wife, but Paul had none. Daniel had his three friends, but Jeremiah, Joseph, Samson and many others had none.
One of the purposes of the local church is to provide fellowship and friendship to believers. Of the first church ever established, the church in Jerusalem, it is written, “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42); and “And all that believed were together” (v.44). Such fellowship is a wonderful blessing. David recalled with joy how he used to go with the multitude to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise (Psa. 42:4); and there is that lovely passage which says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24,25).
And when we look at Church history, we see wonderful periods, times of heaven-sent revival, when local churches consisted of large numbers of believers, all coming together to worship the Lord, fellowshipping together, encouraging one another. Pentecost was such a time (cf. Acts 1:12-15 with Acts 2:41,42). Of Jacob it is written that “he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous” (Deut. 26:5); and in times of revival, churches have gone from consisting of a few sojourners, a few strangers and pilgrims, to numbering hundreds or even thousands of converted souls. What times those must have been! For the saints who lived through them, it must have felt as if heaven had come down to earth.
But our time is not like those times. In our time in history a true local church, seeking to live according to the Scriptures, may often consist of no more than “two or three” (Matt. 18:20). And sometimes a child of God may not even have the joy of belonging to a church of two or three. He may be entirely alone. Such is the dreadful spiritual state of these times. There has been such a departure from the truth that genuine Christians are very few in number, and true churches are even fewer.
So what should the child of God do, who finds himself in such a situation? What should he do, when he finds himself alone, craving the fellowship of other believers but only having a handful, or none at all, with whom to travel the pilgrim’s pathway?
The first thing he must do is turn to God’s Word. Does it have anything to say about this, for the encouragement of the lonely Christian? Oh, very much indeed!
The Bible shows us that there were times in history which were even worse than our day; and there were other times in history when it was at least as bad as our day. And by studying the lives of those who lived in such times, we can find so much for our own encouragement and strengthening.
One of the times when it was even worse than today, was the time of Noah. But it is important that the reader clearly understands what I mean by this. We have every reason to believe that we are living in the days just prior to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to this earth. And it is true that the Lord Jesus said, “But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37). Thus, as we look around us at the world today, we should expect to find it as bad as the days of Noah were – and indeed this is precisely what we find. As regards the wickedness that abounded in Noah’s day, the times just prior to the second coming of the Lord will be as bad as it was then.