Sharing Life With … Our Friends

About a week ago, a friend posted on Facebook that he was going to post something that he was thankful for every day for a certain amount of days.

It caused me to think:  What men have made a difference in my life?  Who has been a positive influence on me?  Who have I had an influence on?
I thought of it in two manners:  First – what men have had the greatest impact on me.  I think there are four:  1st my dad.   2nd my son.  3rd my father in law and the 4th is my son-in-law as he is caring for my daughter.   I am indebted to all four of those men – each for different reason, but all four have shaped my life.
After thinking those four men, I realized that I have been uniquely blessed to be surrounded my great men who I have been able to call my friends.   Tim, a former marine, now construction foreman is just one of many. I will not name them as you will not know any of them, but here is what I want you to do on this Sunday before Thanksgiving.   Take one minute and write out the names of friends who have molded your life.  Ready – go – 60 seconds.

I can guarantee you something – if you would take more time to add to your list, you would find that the friends that are on your list; those friends that share life with you, those friends have really shaped your life.

Proverbs 13:20 (The Message)    Become wise by walking with the wise;

Hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

Pretty straight forward isn’t it.  It seems as if there are two types of people – one you want to hang out with and one group to avoid.   If you want to have wisdom, look to be with people who have wisdom – if you want your life to go in a direction you are not pleased with, be with people whose values you did not wish to obtain.
Here at New Journey Church, I attempt to tell you every week that God wants to go on a New Journey with you.  In that New Journey, we find great life changing insights in knowing that if we seek God, he can be found.  However, this pursuit when we seek God is not a self-serving pursuit.  Every time we seek God he will lead us to people we can serve.  As we seek him and serve others, he also gives us wisdom on how to share life with others.
We are in the middle of a 9 week series on how to Share life.  We have talked about serving our community, being a godly parent and how to have the best sex ever.  For those of you who look shocked, that was the topic last week.
Today, how do we share life with our friends?  How do we become the type of friend that people would want to share life with? (Repeat)   That really is a very important question.  Often, we get the cart before the horse. If we only concentrate on trying to get friends but don’t concentrate on what type of friend we are, then our relationships are very shallow.
So today, we will concentrate on becoming the type of person others would want as a friend.  We are going to consider some characteristics and personal actions that we should live out as well as some we need to avoid.  I will be honest – most of them are not rocket science – we know we should do them or not do them – so today is just a gentle reminder of actions we need to possess.
I great backdrop are some simple, yet profound words given to us by Jesus found in Matthew 7:12, which has been known as the Golden Rule.

12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.

I like the way the Message translates that verse – Matthew 7:12 (The Message)   12″Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them..

Let’s take a moment and remind ourselves of some things we already know – but it is good to be reminded.  Here are four ways every one of us desires to be treated.  If we are going to apply the Golden rule, we need to treat others this way.  Please note the Golden rule is NOT a guarantee of how we are going to be treated back, but Jesus states this is how we should treat others.  So apply these four things in treating others.

Four Positive Personal Actions

  1. – We want people to encourage us.

Every one of us desires sincere encouragement.  To have others approach us and tell us that we have helped them.   Now, if we want to be encouraged, we should encourage others.  In fact, the Bible commands us to do so.  Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Let us remember this – encouragement must be sincere.  If we compliment someone in order to get them to do what we want, that is not encouragement, it is manipulation.   So, since Jesus stated “do to others as you would have them do to you,” then begin by encouraging others.

I am really big at giving people the opportunity to place into practice biblical instruction.  So, here is what I want you to do now.  Look at that list of friends that you wrote earlier.  Think about one or two that are here.  Circle them.  Make a note about a specific way you can encourage them today.  Don’t just say “you’re nice” or “you look pretty today” but try to tell them of a time that they did something which helped you.  Maybe did something for your child, your spouse or your parent.  Helped you with a project or listened during a tough time.  Circle their name now and following the service, go up to them and encourage them.  Remember Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
By encouraging others, we can keep people from believing sinful lies. If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to encourage others.

  1. We want people to forgive us

Every one of us has done things that we regret – most of those things have not only hurt us, but hurt others.  When that happens we want others to forgive us.   So once again applying the Golden rule principle of Jesus – if we want to be forgiven, then we need to forgive others.  In fact, that is also commanded to do that.

Colossians 3:13 (New Living Translation)
13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive?  Forgiveness does not mean you allow them to continually walk all over you, but we do need to extend forgiveness so we are not poisoned by their actions. If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to forgive others
3- We want others to listen to us

James 1:19 (NLT).  Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

Being quick to listen does not mean never talking, but do take the time to value others by listening to them. When we are listened to, we feel valued.
I find it interesting that that verse links listening and not getting angry.  I think when we listen all the way through; we hear the person’s perceptive and do not get as angry.   If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to listen to others.
4 – We want people to take the initiative.

Don’t you like it when someone calls you and says “Hey we are doing this, why not join us?”  Jesus molded that.  Think about Zacchaeus.  Zach and I have at least one thing in common – any guesses to what it might be?  It has to be that both of us wanted to be with Jesus – I can’t think of anything else.

What can we learn from Jesus about being the type of friend that people want to share life with?  He took the initiative.   Think about it for a moment.  In this story, who spoke first?  Jesus did.  Yes, Zach climbed the tree, so that is some sort of initiative, but Jesus called out to him. He said, Zach, let’s do lunch.  In fact, Zach, let’s do lunch at your house.  He took the initiative.

I want you to consider something that is very good in our church, but in addition, something that we need to work on.

Little more than a year ago, we added the café.  I know some were apprehensive, but it has worked out really, really well.  Every week I see people sharing life together.

But something else I see almost every week is people sitting by themselves.  Have you ever been a guest in a church before – honestly, it is not easy.  And to come and sit by yourself when others are around having what appears to be a good time is very difficult.  So, here is a simple thing you can do.  When you see someone by themselves, take the initiative and ask them to join you – even if you have to squeeze people in your table.

The same is true with lunch following the service – ask someone different to go with you.

How much did Zach’s life change when Jesus took the initiative?  If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to take the initiative with others.

Matthew 7:12, which has been known as the Golden Rule.

12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.

We have considered 4 things to do
1 – Encourage
2 – Forgive
3 – Listen
4 – Take the initiative

Now, let’s quickly consider just a couple of things we should keep away from. Just like we considered things we should implement, let’s consider two things to avoid.

Proverbs 13:20 (The Message)    Become wise by walking with the wise;

Hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

The Bible not only teaches us to avoid having people with poor character traits as people whom we share life with, but it also reminds us to not possess those qualities.

1 – Avoid gossip

Why do we talk poorly of others?  Why do we think it is okay to rip others when they are not present?

Proverbs 16:28 (NIV)

A perverse man stirs up dissension,
and a gossip separates close friends.

We may not think we are doing much harm, but the Bible says we are stirring up dissension.  If someone is talking poorly of others, ask them – have you told this to _____________?  (name the person)  Ask, would you say this in front of that person?  Even if the answer is yes, is it spoken in love?

If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to avoid gossip and dissension.

  1. – Avoid being prideful

We like to think our way is right, don’t we?  If people would just do it our way, life would be better.  However, that is a very slippery slope.  It can quickly become prideful.

Proverbs 16:18 (NLV)

Pride comes before being destroyed and a proud spirit comes before a fall.

When you are with your friends, does it always have to be your way?  If yes, be careful.  Pride can ruin friendship.  Pride can ruin churches.

If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to have a proper view of pride.

I have left what I consider the most impactful verse on friendship until the end.

John 15:15 (NIV)

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

I know it is hard to encourage, to forgive, to listen and to take the initiative.  I also know the trappings of gossip, dissension and pride.  But the good news is we have a God who not only wants to go on a New Journey with us, but desires to share life with us as a Friend.

When you are struggling to forgive – remember the God who formed the universe wants to be your friend.  When it is really scary to see someone you don’t know and try to talk to them, remember the God who placed the stars in the sky is with you.  When you have been hurt and want to stir up dissension, remember the one who said “Father, forgive them” is with you.

It is good to know we can be a friend of God!   So, today, as we attempt to live out the golden rule, let’s remember God is with us.

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