Loving God, Equipping People, Mentoring Leaders, Reaching Nations
Loving God, Equipping People, Mentoring Leaders, Reaching Nations
Dad and Mom were generous with the advice they offered as I was growing up …
They would often look at a situation and give me their viewpoint even when I was not looking for input
In hindsight they had a lot of wisdom which they were sharing when they thought it would help
Most times I really was not all that appreciative of their input
One tidbit of wisdom I always remember was from my dad – I remember it because I heard it so often
“You can do anything you set your mind to”
And that has proved true over the years since I first heard it
The other piece of advice came from my mom and dealt with my friends and those I chose to hang around with
“You are who you run with” she would say
Sometimes, I have to admit, I was not sure if she was approving of my buddies or encouraging me to find better replacements
This too was a powerfully wise statement that I should have listened to and taken more seriously than I did
Whether you’re a kid, a tween, a teenager, a young adult, or middle-aged, you will become like your closest friends
Trust me in this – trust my mom
Count on it – the company you keep determines who you become
When we connect with another person — we become a conduit for their values, beliefs, and decisions
We are affected by their behaviour, life-style, and morals
This is not just based on my mother’s advice and is not just some pop psychology gained from a self-help book…
In the Bible, Solomon wrote:
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20)
If you stick close to people who are wise, you’ll become wiser
If you hang out with people who are godly, you’re likely going to grow closer to God
If you become close friends with people who make good decisions, chances are you’ll make good decisions too
But the opposite is dangerously true as well
If you hang out with the wrong crowd, you’ll likely end up doing stupid and dangerous things along with them
If the people you surround yourself with are passive, unmotivated people, you’ll likely do less, not more
If your best friends constantly ignore God, chances are you’re going to drift from Him as well
When I reflect on my life, I realize I rarely got into trouble by myself
Almost every time I did something stupid or unwise, I was running around with people who were equally foolish
On the flip side of that coin,
I rarely succeeded at anything on my own
When I grew as a believer it was because someone was discipling me
When I grew as a leader it was because another leader was mentoring me
People speaking into my life – offering me valuable feedback and their hard-earned wisdom
When I am closest to God, I’m always simultaneously close to godly people as well
THE TRUTH: Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future
Any success I have in life and ministry is the direct result of my connecting with the best, God-loving, wise people I could find
Anything good that I’ve done or am doing comes from God using the right people to influence me and make me better
I am who I am today because of the people I choose to connect with in the past
You are too
The people you know determine the story your life will tell
The people you’re hanging out with today are shaping the person you will become tomorrow
When trouble hits and hard times happen other than a close family member most people either call a close friend
Or wish they had someone they could call
In those moments when bad news is received, we desperately need other people
We need someone who cares to be present with us
We need someone to listen to us vent – to hold us while we cry
We need trusted friends to love us and remind us of God’s peace and presence in the midst of life’s unexpected storms
And not only do we need this type of friend, we need to be this type of friend to others
The kind other people trust and respect, confide in and love to be around
But, regretfully, in our day and age of social media such connections are becoming rare
As a pastor, I often hear the secrets that people are afraid to tell anyone else
They tell me because they trust me
They tell me because they decide it’s safe because I am a pastor
People often bare their hearts to me because they just can’t keep it inside any longer and they have no one else in their lives they trust enough to keep their secrets and to help them overcome whatever they may be facing
And, that is a serious tragedy
Life today are messy — mine, yours, everyone’s
So, if we are going to connect with others, we have to help each other clean up some of the messes
That’s why it’s absolutely essential to have real friends – and the right friends in your life before your life derails in some way
Real friendships, though, take time, effort, focus and an emotional investment, which is part of what makes it so difficult for us to connect
Today it almost seems old-fashioned to hope for the kind of friendship that endures
The kind that sustains you through all the highs and lows of life
In our fast-paced, mobile culture, we have become suburban nomads
It is just not reasonable to expect relationships to last for years and years
Plus, we now have all kinds of great ways we can stay in touch:
You can always Skype or FaceTime or Zoom with those long-distance friends, right?
But few do and the connection is not the same … it lacks depth and the real personal, in-person touch
The relational impact of social media and technology has redefined the word friend
Once upon a time, even just a decade ago, when someone said they were your friend, you both understood what that meant:
Things are no longer that simple
You can have dozens — even hundreds — of friends that you’ve never met IRL (in Real Life)
BBF — but not IRL
They may follow you on social media without really knowing who you are or what makes you tick
Today … the average person has more than 300 Facebook friends, but only one or two that they consider “close friends”
And, two out of three people say they have zero close fiends
Zero, nada, zip, zilch, goose egg, none at all — close friends
There are four reasons people have few friends – and definitely fewer friends than a few years ago…
As a result people are experiencing less and less personal intimacy
And true friendships are quickly fading and even disappearing altogether
The result of these major changes:
Poverty use to mean only one thing
Now sociologists are acknowledging a least three levels of poverty
This third one seems to have taken many people by surprise
But if you think about it, you may realize that it’s true of you as well
Something is wrong
Something is missing
You might even acknowledge that it isn’t actually something but a someone
Most believers need to make a quality decision to connect
Because, believe it or not, you could be one friend away from changing direction
Remember my mom’s wisdom and advice: You are who you run with (hang around with)
When you decide to connect with people — you change the story you will tell one day
That has been true throughout history
Just consider the man who wrote more than 1/3 of the New Testament – the apostle Paul
Paul wasn’t always a Christian
Before he was a follower of Jesus, he was Saul from a city called Tarsus
He was an angry guy who persecuted and killed Christians
But after taking the lives of those who believed that Jesus was raised from the dead, Paul became one of them himself
His transformation was so big, so radical, so life-changing that Saul-turned-Paul immediately wanted to tell others about Jesus
The problem was that no Christians trusted him, for obvious reasons
Luke – a doctor who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts put it simply:
Acts 9:26 “And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.”
You can’t blame the disciples for their skepticism
I wouldn’t want the guy who killed Christians last month leading my house church! Would you?
So Paul had a problem
He’d been transformed by the love and grace of Christ
Because of Jesus, Paul wanted to preach
He knew he was called by God to do so, but he didn’t have an ounce of credibility with the people who had been following Jesus for a long time
So Paul reached out to anyone who would give him a chance to share his newfound passion and love for Jesus
Little did Paul know that his decision to connect wouldn’t just change his story
it would add to God’s Word and change history
You see, Paul was one friend away from altering the course of his destiny
And that friend was a guy named Barnabas
Luke shows clearly how Barnabas lent Paul his credibility and put in a good word for him
Acts 9:27-28 “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.”
Barnabas staked his reputation on Paul’s conversion being real, not just some Trojan horse ploy to infiltrate Jesus’ disciples
Barnabas vouched for his new friend’s faith in Christ, telling the other disciples about the passion Paul had when he preached about Jesus — something that is hard to fake
Because of Barnabas, the other disciples and leaders of the church gave Paul a chance
One massive difference in Paul’s life
An even bigger difference in the world
You may be one friendship – one relationship – away from changing your destiny if you just decide to reach out and connect with the right people
You may be one connection away from changing the world
As you consider what it might mean to risk connecting with people
To reveal your heart
To reveal your real struggles
To reveal your thoughts and feelings
To reveal your crazy dreams
Consider the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential and destiny
To illustrate these three types, let’s look at the life of David in the Old Testament to see the people that God used two make him the man God wanted him to be…
Listen: Everyone needs a good, close friend who makes them better, and makes them want to be better
1> A friend to challenge you and bring out your best – the real you
You don’t need to know much about David’s life to know he was far from perfect
But even with all his mistakes, sins, and shortcomings, David was still described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22)
If you study David’s life, it becomes clear that the right people at the right time helped him become the right man
Although David had many people who made him better, I’d like to start with Samuel
During the time when God rejected Saul as the king (different than the New Testament Saul who became Paul) God chose Samuel the prophet to identify and anoint the next king of Israel
When Samuel visited the house of Ben Jesse (David’s dad), he saw an obvious candidate
The oldest son was strong, handsome, and qualified
Samuel thought that surely this man was God’s chosen king
But God told him not to consider this son’s stature, because God doesn’t look at the same things people look at
Most people judge others by their appearance, but God looks past their appearance and into their heart (1 Samuel 16:7)
When all the obvious sons turned out not to be God’s chosen one, they finally called in the least likely one, the youngest, who was out tending sheep
And God spoke to Samuel and said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one” (1 Samuel 16:12)
Everyone who have been shocked by this announcement
David was just a kid, and a little rough around the edges, camping next to his family’s flock of sheep
There wasn’t a single person in David’s family who would have picked him as the next king
But God used one man, Samuel, to help David see that God’s will for his life was more significant than anyone could have imagined
Samuel made David better — much better
The prophet helped David see himself the way God saw him — as a leader, warrior, poet, and king
He wasn’t just some kid, cut out for nothing more than wrangling sheep his whole life
Samuel told David, “You’re the one! God has chosen you!”
God had a glorious plan, and Samuel helped David glimpse it
Everyone needs a friend who makes them better
A person who encourages you to be the best you that you can be — the person God created you to be
Walk with the wise and grow wise
David’s son Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said,
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17)
Instead of hanging out with people who dull your skills or put down your dreams
It’s time to start finding friends who make you sharper
If you connect with someone who makes you better today, the stories you tell tomorrow will become even more meaningful to you and others
Question: Who sees you, the real person inside you, the way God sees you?
2> A friend to help you find strength in God and to grow in your faith
This second type of friend can help you find strength beyond yourself in the midst of temptation and weakness
Just as Samuel helped David see that God wanted to do more in his life than he ever imagined
A guy named Jonathan helped David find strength in God when he needed it most
David was chosen to be the next king, but God didn’t promote him to the throne immediately
God still had a lot to do before He replaced Saul with David
First, David became a war hero, winning the hearts of thousands
David was so effective on the battlefield that women danced in the streets singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens off thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7)
You can just imagine how jealous that made an already insecure king.
Feeling threatened by David’s rising popularity, King Saul plotted to take David’s life
David was forced to flee to the mountains to hide from the raging monarch’s posse
There, in David’s darkest moments, God sent him an unlikely friend to help him find spiritual strength
King Saul’s own son Jonathan recognized the error in his father’s ways and stood faithfully by his friend David
Here’s how Samuel describes the courageous show of support:
1 Samuel 23:15-16 “While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” (NIV)
I love that simple phrase, which describes so clearly one of the key ways Jonathan served David: he “helped him find strength in God.”
There may not be a more valuable gesture one friend can make to another than pointing them toward God, encouraging them, to seek His power, loving them towards God’s unending strength
Who helps you to find strength in God?
If you don’t have anyone, it’s time for you to connect with someone who can help
God already has that person ready for you
It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help
It’s a sign of wisdom
Everyone needs a friend who helps them get better (#1)
And we all need someone to help us find strength in God (#2)
3> A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it
The third type of friend that we must have is one who will tell us the truth — the whole truth, God’s truth, the truth that brings a reality check into your life
A truth: the more successful and established you become, the more you need this person in your life and, oddly, the harder they are to find
“Established” = Married, steady job, house, decent income, vehicle
King David discovered this the hard way
During the season when kings were suppose to be at war, David decided to stay home rather than go to battle
One night he was out on his rooftop when he saw his neighbour’s wife, Bathsheba, bathing outside her house
His selfish lusts spoke louder than his wisdom, so the king sent someone to bring the woman to him
What’s interesting is that whomever King David sent to get Bathsheba had to know that she was married to Uriah, one of David’s closest friends and one of Israel’s greatest war heroes.
But since the messenger was on the king’s payroll (and he might have been afraid of losing more than just his job), the guy did exactly as he was told
He summoned the woman to the king’s palace
And if you don’t know the story, well, one thing led to another, and Bathsheba ended up pregnant
Recognizing that this could become a scandal, David tried to get control of the situation
He called her husband home, figuring Uriah would sleep with his wife and then assume the baby was his
But when Uriah refused to enjoy intimacy with his wife while his men were still on the battlefield, David changed his tactics.
He issued the order to move his friend to the front line where he was sure to be killed.
And he was!
Unfortunately, everyone in the king’s court was too afraid to tell David the truth.
So God sent a man who cared enough to help David see the way back to the right path
The prophet Nathan met with David and told him a story that went something like this:
“Once upon a time there were two men. One was very rich and the other very poor. The rich guy had an unlimited number of sheep and wealth. The poor guy had almost nothing and only one lamb, who was almost like a pet to him and his family. When the rich man had a guest come to town, he took the poor man’s lamb and had it butchered for their meal.”
When David heard the story, he was beside himself with anger
David ranted, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5-6)
Fortunately, Nathan loved David enough to tell him the truth
“Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’” (2 Samuel 12:7)
That was enough to jolt King David out of his denial and bring him to his knees in repentance before God
Many people around us tell us the things we want to hear, rather than helping us to see the truth
And the more established we become, the more difficult it is to find people who have our best interests at heart
That’s one reason we must connect with people who love us enough to be blatantly honest and “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
David’s son Solomon wisely said, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love. Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT)
When was the last time a friend loved you enough to tell you the truth and even give you an open rebuke?
Has someone loved you enough to offer helpful correction?
If not, you might be missing one or two very important relationships that could help you grow, thrive, and succeed
Everyone needs people in their lives who will candidly tell them the truth
Maybe you need to connect with someone who is willing to show you what you need to see so you can become the person you are suppose to be
Which kind of friend do you need most in your life right now?
Hopefully you would agree with my Mom that you become like those you run with (hang out with)
Many sociologists say that you eventually become the average of your five closest friends
Your morals will be similar to your five closest buddies’ morals
Your finances will look a lot like those of the people you spend the most time with
Your spiritual passion (or lack of it) will be similar to those who have the most influence in your life
Keeping this in mind, ask yourself, “Who am I becoming?”
Be Nathan for yourself
Is one or more of your closest friends battling with dangerous addictions?
Are they struggling financially?
Living risky lives?
Making bad decisions?
Are their relationships toxic?
If so, you’re either right there with them or on your way
On the other hand, are you surrounded by people who know and love Christ deeply?
Are they blessed and generous?
Do they have positive, faith-filled perspectives on life and on the future?
Are their relationships thriving?
Are they using their influence to help make the world a better place?
If so, praise God!
You’re likely seeing many of those same blessings in your life as well
You have so much to give to others who want to connect and discover all that God has in store for them
Regardless of where you see yourself, I encourage you to take an inventory of your friendships (relationships)
Which of your friends are close enough to you, intimate enough with you, that you would want them to speak at your funeral someday?
Who would you want describing the special, close bond you shared and telling others about how you helped each other love and serve the Lord more completely?
It’s not too late to connect (or reconnect) with someone who will change your destiny
Your decision to connect will change the story you tell one day
The truth is, I suck at handling criticism — especially nitpicking, ignorance-based, selfishly motivated, unjustified criticism.
Alright, I admit it — Sometimes I suck at handling any kind of criticism.
At my age you would think I should be able to rise above it.
I hate the way it always gets to me.
This confession reveals one of my greatest character flaws: I probably care too much about what people think.
I know I should be consumed with pleasing God, but I’m often consumed with the impossible – trying to please other people.
I know it’s wrong, but it’s the truth. Read more