Don’t Eat Yellow Paint
You are a product of your relationships. Study after study shows that our identity is largely determined by what we think the most important people in our lives think of us. That’s why you should make sure that our relationships are healthy and that includes the most important relationship: our relationship with Jesus Christ. The question is how do we create and maintain those healthy relationships. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi gives us some of the answers.
Something To Talk About:
Everybody has other people in their lives. Healthy relationships require effort. It requires that you:
- Be grateful for the people in your life: We are serving God by serving other people. We are often encouraged in our service when it is acknowledged by those we serve or by others who take the time to encourage us. We all need people in our lives and we should be grateful for them. It is easy to be most thankful for the things in our life: for food, finances, the house we lived in, the clothes we have worn, and so on. While there is nothing wrong with being thankful for those things, we need to be careful that we are giving thanks for the biggest blessings in our lives. Consider how empty, purposeless, and meaningless our lives would be without relationships. Relationships have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. Without exception, everyone I know has been positively influenced by other people. While it is easy to thank God for the things in our lives, we should remember to be equally thankful for the people God has placed in our lives as well.
- Pray for the people in our life: I always find it amazing (and encouraging) that so many people will pray for me when times are tough. I find it doubly amazing when those people circle back a week later, or a month later, or a year later, and tell me they are still praying and ask how I am doing. Prayer is one of the most intimate ways to connect with God, one of the most powerful spiritual warfare tools, and for me, the clearest way God demonstrates His love. In the same vein, we should be praying for others. But perhaps the most obvious reason we should intercede in prayer for one another is that prayer really works. Praying for other people is not just a religious exercise for very devout Christians seeking to check all the boxes on their spiritual to-do-list. According to Scripture, praying for other people is massively important to their success in ministry, life, and walk with God. We should also spend time praying for each other because one of the biggest benefits to intercessory prayer is that it increases our love for one another.
- Expect the best from the people in our life: Life tends to respond to our outlook. For example, what we expect from others is generally what we get. If we walk into a store and expect the experience to be negative, it probably will be. Before we have lofty expectations we should look inward. What is the character and quality of the person who lives in your skin? God does not demand perfection in you. God is not expecting you to measure up. God never thought that you could live the Christian life, nor does he expect that you could actually meet His holy standards. If He thought that you could, He wouldn’t have come to earth to die for us. But He did. We should expect no more from other people in our lives.
- Love the people in your life: Imagine for a moment what the world would be like if everyone who calls themselves a Christian would really love others the way Jesus does. There would be no gossip, no judgment or criticism, no exclusive attitudes that make others feel rejected, and people’s needs would be met more than they are. While that picture might seem pie-in-the-sky, is it really? Jesus gave us very real, practical examples of how we can love this way. John 13:1 says “Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.” Jesus demonstrates what it means to love others when the Son of God got up from supper, took the servant’s towel, and proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet. His message to them was to love one another by being a servant. Because God wants His love to flow through us and touch other people’s lives. Spend some time studying scriptures about God’s love and pray for Him to show you ways you can love and serve the people in your life. See how many creative ways God puts in your heart to show that love.
- Are there people who have made a significant contribution to your life? What criteria do you use to determine the impact on your life?
- Why is gratitude an important quality in the Christian life? In what ways do you struggle to be thankful?
- How often do we need to reset our gratitude meter? How easy is it to just thank God for things in your life? How easy is it to thank others for the role in your life?
- Is being thankful really our choice? Can we actually decide that we will be thankful people?
- Have you ever needed to pray for someone but just didn’t know how to go about it? How did you overcome this obstacle?
- What does intercessory prayer mean to you? What is the biggest obstacle for you when it comes to praying for others? How might praying on behalf of others benefit you and the church?
- When we place our expectations onto others, we set ourselves up for disappointment. We experience more peace and contentment when we stop expecting others to be who they’re not. Even if we believe they should “be a certain way,” it’s best to release the expectations altogether. Agree or disagree and why?
- Should we expect less from ourselves and more from others or the other way around?
- Demonstrated love for one another reveals a love for God. Agree or disagree and why? Which people in your world are easiest to love, and why? Which people are the toughest to love, and why?
- Do you think it’s easy or hard for the world to see Jesus’ love when they look at you?
- What are some practical ways for you to give others a taste of what the love of God is like?
- What’s one change you can make in your life to put more love into action?
Take one thing home with you:
Another shameless plug for small groups: We were created for community.
Not only were we created to be in community, but we also need community. The truth is, we need each other. We need to trust, rely on, and depend upon other believers. God gave us each other to walk alongside, encourage, and spur one another on in the faith. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” We are to share each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), care for each other’s practical needs (Romans 12:13), and rejoice and mourn with each other (Romans 12:15)