Well, we’re in a series called ‘Put People in Their Place’. And it’s about relationships. It’s about not just having the right people in your life, it’s about having the right people in the right places in your life.
I realize that a message on relationships can seem a little rudimentary. Like ‘What is this? Youth Group?'
And I totally understand that, because I feel the same way.
When I’m browsing someone’s sermon archive, their teachings on relationships are not usually going to be the first one’s that I click.
I’m like “Thanks, but I’m gonna be 40 this year. I learned that in youth group."
Shepherding But Part of shepherding (that’s what pastoring means by the way, a pastor is a shepherd) is recognizing things that are killing sheep. And then addressing it.
And so while you may feel like relationships are an area of your life that you’ve long since figured out, I can say with confidence that as one of the people who are on the other side of the desk during counseling, that relationships are one of the primary ways God moves you forward AND relationships are one of the primary ways the DEVIL comes and steals your purpose and your peace.
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, I think I have proven to you that I can do “deep” theology, whatever that means. And some people like that and others don’t.
Greek Verbs I can parse Greek verbs till I'm blue in the face. But at the end of the day, if I’ve given you all the tools the understand the multi-layered metaphors of Daniel and Revelation, but you don’t know how to tell the difference between a life giving relationship and a toxic relationship, I haven’t done what I’m supposed to do up here, which is to teach you to live the Jesus way.
Shirley and Lauren in BC Kids have been doing what they’re calling “Social Rehabilitation”. Post-Covid. Where these kids have been so pent up in their houses and isolated from each other so they’re having to reteach them how to be kind, how to be generous, how to share.
And I think that’s not just for kids.
I even see myself sometimes going to somewhere where there’s lots of people everywhere and my first response is like “Ewww.”
Whereas before I don’t think I was like that. And I’m not saying be careless with germs and all that, I’m just saying some of us have been isolated for so long that it started to feel normal. It’s not normal.
Got Weird in Lockdown Some of you experienced firsthand the detrimental effects of being unsupported during lockdown. You were just in your house all day. You were just on your computer all day. You were just with your immediate family all, or alone all day if you live alone. And some of you got weird.
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)
My title this morning is a question and the question is this: Where are your friends?
Friendship defined poorly
I want to spend a couple minutes on what a friend is, because it's so poorly defined in our culture.
Case and point here is facebook. You all know I hate facebook with the wrath of a thousand suns. I'm not 'on' facebook. We of course have a great media team that puts stuff up for us, but as of 2019, I don’t have a personal facebook account.
Prior to that, I had Facebook, but I just never checked it.
The little notification icon, just stayed at 99 all the time for me, I never clicked it.
The problem was: I was the most casual user of facebook you can be, while other people were more 'hardcore' users. And sometimes that was awkward.
I'd get a facebook message "Pastor David, I need help, my best friend committed suicide and now I think I may want to as well." And then I respond 3 months later "Hey sorry, hope everything turned out alright."
To this day, this happens to me, where some will post something on facebook, not even TO me, just on their own wall and they expect that I've seen it.
I'm a pastor, so I preach on Sundays and then just walk around the mall the rest of the week, aimlessly. Just walk around the mall and check facebook.
You all know that you can submit a prayer request on our website and in the app and it bings our phones immediately, right?
But I do think it's starting to redefine what a 'friend' is. How do you know many friends do you have? Well there's a number right there on facebook. That's how many friends I have, I have 3400 friends.
I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but you're aware that those people are not all your friends. They don't all care about you. And you know what, you don't care about all of them. You don't care about all your facebook friends. You love them in the way we're supposed to love everybody with the love of Christ, bla bla. You know what I mean.
I think facebook is starting to change the meaning of the word friend, where now, friend is this huge category of anybody we know or anybody we like. And again, they are not all your friends. They're people you're trying to impress, which is, in a very real way, the opposite of friendship. Friendship is where you can put your hair down, not where you need to put your hair up.
The Bible says, He who has unreliable friends SOON comes to ruin. Maybe not today. But soon.
The assumption that the writer is making is this: SOON, You will hit a season in life that requires support outside of yourself. That at some point, you will encounter an obstacle or opportunity that you will not be able to carry on your own.
A Friend helps you carry your burdens and carry your blessings.
First, a friend will help you carry your burdens.
You know, there are kids and teenagers in this room that have never experienced real pain.
I mean, maybe they got a tattoo or something so they understand physical pain, but they have never experienced the emotional pain that will take your breath away. Some have. Some have experienced worse pain than most of the adults in room, but lots of young people think the worst pain you can imagine is being dumped by your boyfriend. Which is painful, relatively speaking.
But if you manage to survive 40, 50, 60 years on this planet, you will experience heartbreak where you have to remind yourself to keep breathing.
And when that happens, your God-given coping mechanism will kick in, and you’ll start talking to anyone who’s listening.
You will pull up to Chick-Fil-A, and they will say, “Can I help you?” And you’ll say ”Yes, I need some help! What's your name?”
At some point, the pain builds up to a point where the relief valve pops, and you’ll start looking around for who to tell and you’ll ask yourself this question: “Where are my friends?”
Just because you don’t need a support system today doesn’t mean you won’t need a support system tomorrow.
And the reason you end up talking to the Chik-Fil-A guy is because you’ve haven’t prioritized having the right people in the right places in your life.
God provides assistance in the form of friends.
See, we carry each others burdens. Who is gonna help carry yours?
But you know what? You also need friends to help carry your blessings.
In the Bible, we read about a man named Peter, who was a fisherman.
And one night, he was fishing, all night, and didn’t catch anything.
And in the morning, Jesus comes up and tells Peter “Throw your nets out again”. And Peter, a fisherman, looks at Jesus, a carpenter, and says _“Hold on now. You build houses, I fish. I know how this works. You’re telling me to fish in the middle of the day. That doesn’t work. We don’t have the technology that they’re gonna have in the 21st century, if we fish during the day, the fish will see the nets and swim around them.”
But he recognizes something in Jesus and so he does what Jesus says.
The Bible says that when Peter dropped the net, he caught so many fish that his net started to break. And his boat began to sink.
When Jesus brought Peter success, Peter’s current system couldn’t contain that level of success.
It was success at such a high level, that is began to sink the boat.
Because without proper support, success will sink you.
I’m sure I don’t need to give you the thousands of examples of this happening in pastoral ministry. When a preacher is preaching and God brings them success. And their success outweighs their accountability, and now we’re all looking at the guys mugshot on the news.
Because without a support structure, success will sink you.
But Peter, had partners on the water with him. So he calls the partners over and the partners filled their boat with the overflow.
Let me say that again: The friends got the overflow of their harvest.
You could say it like this: One who has unreliable friends is living life unsupported.
And I know there are people in here who was thinking, “I don’t really need that. I’m good with just me and God. For as long as I can remember, it’s just been me.” I want to tell you that the Bible, which was compiled to point us to Jesus and to teach us how to live the Jesus way, says you should reconsider.
But some people, they’ve been functioning like that for so long, that they’re adjusted to it and have learned to function without it.
So even when they need help, they don’t know how to receive it.
“Can you use some help?” “No, I got it.” You don't have it.
Where are your friends? I’m amazed as someone who talks to people in all kinds of unfortunate situations how often I’m thinking in my mind: “Where are your friends?” (Examples of situations people find themself in. And how I can’t imagine that happening to me, not because I’m so great, but because I have such a strong support system around me).
Some of you have been carrying too much for too long.
The Bible says there IS a friend that sticks closer than a brother. It doesn’t say WHO that is, it just says they exist.
And some of us need to rediscover old friends that can help us carry our burdens and our blessings, and others of us need to find some new friends, with God’s help.
When the Bible describes friendship very differently than culture does.
Like, in culture we call people friends that we like. That's the only criteria for a friend? We just have to like each other?
In the bible, to call someone a ‘friend’ is to say they’re like family. Sometimes even closer than family - “Closer than a brother.”
They may not have your same blood, but you have a bond that goes just a deep a blood.
And we learned something very important last week and it’s this:
Everyone is to be loved biblically, valued equally, but treated differently.
So I have to know where my friends are so I can put them in the right places.
And once you identify who your real friends are, you can begin to treat them differently. How? 3 Things.
Love is freely given, access must be earned.
You owe everybody love. But you do not owe everybody access.
And people who are reckless with access are reckless with their life.
Be authentic with everybody but transparent with people you trust.
People become very cynical when they have what they think are close friends betray their trust.
You’re like “I can’t believe he told her what I said."
Look, people aren’t bad, you’re just making bad placement decisions.
You’re like, “I wish she’s stop telling everybody my information.” God’s like “I wish you would stop telling her.”
Love is freely given, access must be earned.
And you'd be amazed at how many people are more guarded with their house than they are with their heart.
“Guard your heart with all diligence”. They get a different kind of access.
Some people feel owed access. “I’ll tell you stuff about me. You don't ever tell me anything about you?” You're not owed that. You tell me stuff because I keep it to myself, I don't tell you stuff because you don't.
“Well, I just I've got to tell them because they tell me” No you don't.
Friends get a different kind of access.
You have a right to expect things from friends that you don't expect from everybody else.
Think about when Jesus was praying in the garden of gethsemane. He took the inner circle with him. Peter, James, and John.
Jesus goes into the garden to pray and after a little time, he sees his 3 closest friends are all sleeping. He says “You guys really can’t pray with me for one hour? When I need you the most?” He's gets frustrated. He says “I’m not expecting you to do for me what I do for you. But the one time I need something, you fall asleep?”
The one time I'm stressed, and I need you to be here for me. I have an expectation that there's some type of reciprocity in this relationship.”
And if there is no reciprocity, meaning, if the giving and serving and helping are always only pointing in one-direction, from a biblical perspective, it’s not a friendship, it’s an assignment.
And that’s totally fine, just don’t get frustrated when in your time of need, your assignments aren’t there for you the way you are for them.
Friends get a different kind of expectation.
Meaning, when you know who friends are, you invest more of your time, your energy, and your resources to those people.
Write this down: “Do for some what you wish you could do for all.”
So what is that for you?
Maybe you wish you could send thoughtful texts checking on people, you wish you could do that for the whole world. Well that’s not possible, but can you check on your 5 closest friends? Of course you can.
Maybe you wish you could make a meal for everybody in Albuquerque. That’s not possible, but can you make a point to cook a dinner every other month for your close friends? Of course.
Not every need is your responsibility.
I mean, you can only adopt so many cats and dogs, before you’re the one sleeping on the floor.
I tell people this often: You have to be at peace with what you can do and you have to be at peace with what you can’t do.
So with friends, there's a different kind of investment you make. You've got to know who they are because if not, you’re gonna spend all your time on the urgent and neglect the important..
Jesus teaches: discern when to make an investment.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)
And so we have got to be able to properly define our relationships so we can align our relationships.
The Bible says the way we define and align not by feelings but by fruit.
The Bible teaches that you can’t live your life just based on feelings. Because feelings are deceitful. The heart is deceitful.
I bet a lot of you could think back to a time in your life when you had a boyfriend or girlfriend, and you just thought they were heaven-sent just for you. And nobody could tell you any of the warnings signs that they were seeing. You’re just like “I love them and my opinion is the only one that matters.”
And now here you on the other side thinking “What was I thinking?” - Well that’s probably what the problem was. You weren’t THINKING, you were FEELING.
Jesus said You’ll know a tree by it’s fruit.
You're not judging the tree. You're discerning its fruit.
Like if somebody is allergic to peanuts, they shouldn't judge peanut eaters “I can’t believe you’d all eat those peanuts. You’re so nasty. You need to put those peanuts down. I don't know why you always eat those peanuts!” No, you just need to know what peanuts look like. You need to know what they smell like so that when you get around peanuts, if you’re are allergic to them, you put distance between you and them. I'm not judging peanuts, peanuts just make me sick.
There are people in my life, that I’m not judging them, (I have my own issues), I’m just not working really hard to be around them because what they have, will make me sick.
And I can’t afford to be infected with your issues considering where God is taking me, and the attitude I need to have while he’s taking me there.
I need to see it so I can separate myself from it.
So again, I’m not judging, I’m discerning by a persons fruit.
And if you're going to inspect fruit then you need to know this: Fruit inspection must be done seasonally. Every season, you have to go to the tree and see if it still bearing that fruit.
Just because that relationship produced good fruit last season doesn't mean it's going to produce good fruit in this season.
Sometimes people are fine for where you were, but are not fine for where you’re going.
An example of this is in 1 Samuel 16:21:
1 Sam 16
David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. (1 Samuel 16:21)
Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.” (1 Samuel 16:22)
Ok, don’t miss this. It says Saul, liked David very much.
He liked him so much he sent word to his dad that he was letting David live in the palace. “I want to stay here because we’re cool like that.”
That's chapter 16. You got it? Okay, two chapters later, in 1 Samuel 18:8.
1 Sam 18
Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” (1 Samuel 18:8)
And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David. (1 Samuel 18:9)
The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand (1 Samuel 18:10)
and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. (1 Samuel 18:11)
Ok so how do you go from chapter 16, Saul saying “We’re friends, let’s do a sleepover.” To “I’m gonna impale him with this spear and pin him to a wall?”
What's the difference? The difference here between chapter 16 and chapter 18 is Chapter 17.
What happened in Chapter 17? In chapter 17:
And Saul is cool with David so long as Saul is #1 and David is #2.
As long as David is #2, Saul is like “This is David, he’s my friend, isn’t he so little and cute.” But now David is becoming more popular. And people are singing songs about David being greater than Saul, what happens? The fruit of the relationships changes.
And you can tell the fruit of the relationship changes because now instead of throwing kindness, Saul starts throwing spears.
And you can see this happen in our relationships too. Where before your friend was throwing support, now they’re throwing comments.
They throw comments. “I see your little job”. Whenever they put “little” in front of it.
I can't imagine how it must have felt for David to navigate his new life without support. And that's what life has been like for some of you. You've been carrying it by yourself for so long, that you don't even realize that a different kind of living is available to you. Where you experience the blessings and the burdens alongside people who can help you.
I’ve been living my life alongside close friends for so long that it’s about the only life I know.
That when something hits me, I’m only carrying that myself for as long as it takes for me to make a phone call.
Some people think it's brave or courageous or something to suffer alone, I don’t, I think it’s stupid. I think it’s ignoring how God made you.
And because I’ve opened myself up to close friends, I suffer more often in smaller ways.
Because when my close friend is suffering, I suffer with them. That’s what the word Compassion from it’s Latin roots means “To suffer with”.
But I believe that ultimately it results in LESS suffering, because I’m able to carry some of their burden when they don’t have any strength and I do.
And in those times when I’m going through hardship, they can help carry that for me, when I don’t have any strength but they do.
And if that seems like an unspiritual way of dealing with pain, let me remind you that all throughout scripture we see God sending helpers in the form of friends to help carry burdens and help carry blessings.
John Wilbur Chapman, who was famous evangelist in the 19th century talks about how the New Testament records of forty people, each suffering from what is most likely the same disease, who were healed by Jesus. Of this number, thirty-four were either brought to Jesus by friends, or Jesus was taken to them by friends. In only six cases out of forty did the sufferers find their way to Jesus themselves..
And when I think about you. In 2022, and what I hope you as the world starts to reopen again, and we find our way back to regular lives, what I hope you is that you would see clearly the difference between fruitful relationships and unfruitful ones. And that you’d begin to experience the grace that God gives us through REAL friends.
It's like “Man, when I get around you, my life gets better. My mind gets better. My heart get better. My life is better because you're in it.”
Closing Statement: A Friend is someone who helps carry your burdens and helps carry your blessings. Friends get a different type of access. Love is freely given, access must be earned. Friends get a different type of expectation. You can expect things from friends that you don't expect from everybody else.
Friends get a different type of investment. Do for some what you wish you could do for all. So we need God’s help to discern where to make time investments.
All throughout scripture, we see God extending grace to his people through the powerful gift of a trusted friend.
Pray So Father, today we ask that you supernaturally send us people that will be a support to us in this season, whatever season that it.