By Pati Page
Perhaps it is the season of life I am in—the time in between. My daughters are young adults well on their journey. My parents struggle through the trials that come with old age. It is a time that draws a special interest in reflection. I’m reaching for the baton and preparing to pass it.
It causes me to look to the women around me and the women of history who have stood faithful in pouring themselves out for the sake of others, for the sake of Christ and his glory. As women, we lock arms with those who, for generations, have nurtured, strengthened, and modeled their faith amid life’s celebrations and challenges.
Have you considered the unique place and ministry women hold in the body of Christ? Our guiding influence stretches from the home and neighborhood to the workplace and church. As we manage busy days, face overwhelming trials, or navigate life’s changing seasons, our testimony of faith can set the pace for others as we model the life and character of Christ. But it isn’t a ministry we take on alone.
There is power in pairs, and Scripture gives us examples of women whose partnerships in the gospel demonstrate our need for one another. I have come to love the women of the Bible who inspire in me the value of running the spiritual race together. Their stories are our stories. They are part of the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who have proven perseverance of faith is greeted with the Lord’s reward; but we must run together.
Lois and Eunice: Mothers
We need only look to the life and ministry of Timothy to understand the powerful role these women had in his life. The few words that describe their influence carry the weight of a persevering dedication and commitment to God and his Word. Two generations of women, a grandmother and mother, illustrate the reward of raising a child in the teaching of God’s Word. Theirs was to train up a child in the Lord against both cultural and family traditions.
Jewish women who embraced Jesus as Messiah often had to distance themselves from their families and culture. Eunice was a Christian Jewess whose marriage to a pagan Greek would have brought its own troubles and heartache. But she was faithful to God and his Word (see 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15, Acts 16:1, 2).
What gave them the stamina to persevere? How did Timothy grow into a man who was spoken well of by fellow believers and described by Paul as self-sacrificing in his service and love for others? This future leader of the church and kindred spirit to Paul grew up under the watchful care of these godly women.
I can imagine they were women with a sincere, personal faith that was lived out daily before Timothy— women strong in prayer who knew their God, women who had a high view of God’s Word and sought to ground Timothy in the truth.
Family can be a challenging ministry field. Some of us may not have a mother or daughter who shares our faith. But within the body of Christ are many godly women with wisdom and experience. These spiritual partnerships become invaluable as we seek to make our homes a sanctuary for teaching, training, and worship. We need to be women who walk together, drawing on the strength and grace of God and each other.
Mary and Martha: Sisters
To understand the influence these sisters had on each other and what they can teach us about growing in our faith, we need to keep in mind the full scope of their lives. Their story began with one feeling the weight of hospitality and service which led to misguided priorities. The other was drawn to the words of life as she sat at the feet of Jesus, her teacher. In our introduction to these sisters, Mary set the example from which Jesus taught Martha to value the needful and eternal things that cannot be taken away (Luke 10:38-42).
In a later story, it would be Martha who would undergird with strength of faith her sister Mary, who was overcome with grief in the loss of their brother. Martha had much to learn about Jesus, but her faith in what she had come to know was what she acted upon as she called for her Savior to come in their time of grief and need. Martha exhibited a beginning knowledge of the resurrection of the dead signaling to us that she had learned from Mary’s example. Martha had taken in the teachings of Jesus and valued the needful things (John 11).
Imbedded in these stories is a powerful example of sisters with different personalities striving to know and love Jesus; both needing the example and perseverance of the other for encouragement. Sisters by birth or sisters in Christ, we need each other in our spiritual growth; sometimes pointing the way and other times undergirding and supporting, reminding one another of the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus.
The relationships forged in Christ that provide prayer support, biblical counsel, and compassionate service can become the spiritual partnership that propels us forward in our pursuit of Christlikeness. We need each other as we ebb and flow in the growth of our faith.
Euodia and Syntyche: Friends
Possibly one of the more painful struggles in life occurs when conflict strains relationships within the body of Christ. The sorrow inflicted when friendships buckle under the weight of dissension, hurt, or misunderstandings can initiate devastating results. But these conflicts don’t have to lead to a break in fellowship. Instead, they can become an opportunity to model reconciliation and restoration.
Only two verses are dedicated to these ladies who were known to be colaborers in Christ. Paul affirmed their shared struggle in the gospel but urged them to live in harmony with one another (Philippians 4:2, 3).
As the body of Christ, we are a family. It is inevitable that family disputes arise for a variety of reasons. It is how we navigate through our differences that will set us apart from the world and model true biblical unity and love. Ministry partnerships that demonstrate Christlikeness amid conflict become powerful tools in leading others to face these challenges with love and grace.
In addition, the healing that comes with a restored relationship bears fruit in our personal spiritual growth. The beautiful fruit of forgiveness, forbearance, humility, and peace will not only yield a deeper walk with Jesus, but offer the opportunity for a closer walk with your ministry partners. As women of faith, we are to be the front runners, setting the pace for others who need to be encouraged to reconcile broken relationships and live in the harmony of the Spirit.
As women of faith, we are mothers, sisters, and friends. Our spiritual partnerships provide the strength and courage we need to grow personally and nurture others. Walking together, upholding one another, and pressing into the lives around us bring the love and grace of Christ into every level of ministry. Whom do you know that needs your spiritual partnership?
Pati Page is a Bible study teacher and freelance writer in Bargersville, Indiana.