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Opening Sports Illustration

As many of you are well aware, I am an avid sports fan.

Nothing gets me more excited than watching those juiced-up millionaires throwing the ball around. Just kidding.

I’m not a big sports guy, when it comes to watching the games, but I will let you know that I was a pretty darn good little league baseball player.

I was in all-stars. So that’s a pretty big deal.

But I do think that understanding sports as a preacher is very helpful because sports provide some of the best metaphors when it comes to life.

Not just people but also place

And one thing that I’m sure all sports fans or players understand is this: The success of a team is not just about having the right people on the field, but it’s about having the right people in the right positions on the field.

Being a little league coach I’m sure is not an easy position, because at every level of sports, you have players who’s assessment of what role they ought to be in is inconsistent with that of the coach.

There’s always players that feel like they should be playing more.

Or maybe it’s the parents “Put my baby in the game”

Or players that feel like they should be playing in a different position.

But it’s the responsibility of the coach to put people not where they want to be, but to put people where they need to be.

Just because they desire a position doesn’t mean they’ve developed enough to occupy it.

Series Intro/Overview

Life Comparison And that’s the same with life.

  • Our peace
  • Our productivity
  • and our progress

Is not just tied to who is in our life, but what position they play.

Sometimes it’s not that we have the wrong people on the team, sometimes it’s that we have the right person in the wrong position.

And knowing how to get the right people in the right places is a skill that we’re calling ‘Relational Intelligence.’

It’s the ability to define and align your relationships.

And the big tagline is this: Everybody should be loved biblically, valued equally, but treated differently.

Just because everyone is equally valuable to God, does not mean every relationship is to be valued equally.

You’re just as valuable to God as my family and my close friends, but if I value our relationship as much as I value my relationship with my wife, I’d be making a huge mistake.

Just because you’re equally valuable to God, does not mean I should value your opinion of me or what I do to the same degree that I value the opinion of my family and my close friends.

And it’s our responsibility to make sure that the people that mean the most to us don’t get the least of us.


I’ve spoken with a number of church members over the past week as I always do, and I don’t know if I’ve been surprised exactly, but I have been taken back by what a struggle having meaningful friendships is for lots of people.

So I want to sorry if I made it seem like close friendships are really easy and if you don’t have close friends that you’re somehow careless or dumb. Certainly was not my intention.

I don’t think friendships are easy, but I do think they’re possible. And I think they’re worth the effort.

And hopefully some of what a church community like this one can provide to you is opportunities to strengthen friendships and create new friendships.

Small Groups An great example of this is BC Connect, our small group ministry here at the church. We’ve heard lots of great reports for people who are finding great connections through our small group ministry. You can sign up for small groups anytime on the website or in the app, but next week in particular, we’re having small-group signups in the foyer after service, so I’d highly recommend getting plugged into one or two or three of those if you haven’t already.

Genesis 13:8

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. (Genesis 13:8)

Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” (Genesis 13:9)

Title: We’re not that close.


Last Week: Friendships

Last week, we talked about what I believe is one of the paramount relationship types which is friendship position.

Today: Associate Position

Today I want to talk to you about the second position and that’s what I’m calling the associate position.

And I’ve been very prayerful this week, I try to be prayerful all the time of course, but this week in particular I’ve asked God to give me the right wisdom, the right words, and the right demeanor to talk about something that I believe is a sensitive subject.

And that’s having the wisdom and the courage to (two things):

  • Not take relationships deeper than they’re supposed to go simply because you’re close in proximity.
  • To back off from or even end relationships that are either unfruitful or produce bad fruit in your life.

And unfortunately, many people do not draw a line of distinction between someone who should be an associate and someone who should be a friend, which is, frankly, dangerous.

I see a lot of damage done and wounds created in and by people who mistake associates for friends.

Doesn’t mean “Bad” It’s important that I’m clear about this. Associate does not mean in any way bad. It’s just different than close friend.

We lay down our life for our friends Jesus said it like this:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

So we lay our life down for our friends.


  • An associate may get your skills but a friend gets you.
  • An associate may get your resources but a friend gets you.
  • An associate may get your company (as in, you spend time together, maybe you work together) but a friend gets you.

There’s a difference between spending your life with someone (let’s say a coworker), and spending your life on someone.

Write This Down: An associate relationship is a result of intersecting schedules, or intersecting interests.

And many people make the erroneous and the incorrect assumption that just because we’re close in proximity, we should be close emotionally. And that may not be the case.

And so if you’re wondering “What does this look like in practice?” I believe our text in Genesis 13 gives us some insight.

Genesis 12 – God calls Abram

Let’s ready our introductory scripture again:

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. (Genesis 13:8)

Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” (Genesis 13:9)

So that’s Genesis 13. But to understand the story, you’ve got to go back in time to Genesis 12.

In Genesis 12, God gives a man named Abram a vision for his life. What does that mean?

A vision is a picture of God’s preferred future

It’s what God prefers. It’s what he wants to do, is willing to do. It’s the future that he wants to partner with you in creating.

  • He’ll knock down the walls of Jericho to make it happen.
  • He’ll part a red sea to make it happen.
  • He’ll make the sun stand still to make it happen.
  • He’ll cause a virgin named Mary to get pregnant to make it happen.

And so God is giving Abram a picture of God’s preferred future for his life.

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2)

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3)

So God not only gives Abram his calling “I’ll make your name great.” – He also gives him the reason “So that all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

It’s not so that Abram can just become wealthy and live in the lap of luxury. God’s favor is always about God’s purpose. It’s not about our possessions. So God is saying to Abram that he will make his name great. So that Abram can make God’s name great.

Abram says ”Great! I love that idea!” And God says “Okay. But in order for me to do what’s never been done, you have to become someone you’ve never been.”

He didn’t say “You’ve got to do something you never done.” He says “You’ve got to become someone you never been.”

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. (Genesis 17:4)

No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. (Genesis 17:5)

Because for I want to do through you, Abram is not enough. You have to become Abraham.

With Vision Comes Disruption

This teaches us something very important about vision. Vision is disruptive. With this amazing call on Abram’s life, comes with it a name change. An identity change.

And I believe God is very patient with people who don’t like disruption. Who like predictability and safety. I believe God is very patient.

But make no mistake, vision is innately, inherently disruptive.

Me Every time God has given me vision for my life, it has always been uncomfortable. Because it’s always been disruptive to what I was thinking.

Standing still is very comfortable. It’s more comfortable than walking and it’s MUCH more comfortable than running.

But if the comfort of standing still is the strongest force in your life, you’ll always miss what God is doing. And I believe people who can not tolerate disruption will live their life without clarity.

Because when God brings clarity, it becomes very obvious which parts of you will carry on and which parts of you won’t.

It’s never easy. It’s not easy when God comes and changes your identity and the people in your life preferred the old you.

Vision brings disruption, but it also brings clarity.

God says to Abraham, _“Hey, I know you had all those plans. Scratch all that, go this way instead.

“I know you had everything mapped out. This was good. You enjoyed that. That was a good season. But that’s over. We going this way now. “

Ex: Moses

”Yeah Moses, I know you said once you got out of Egypt, you never going back. Because they tried to kill you there. You tried to help the Hebrews and they didn’t appreciate it and they disrespected you and you said you were never going back.”

”Well pack your bag, cuz you’re going back.”

Do you think that was at all disruptive to Moses’s plans? Of course.

My Life

I’m up here on this stage right now, because God disrupted my plans. You can go ask my parents if this was ever in my plans. I was gonna be a rock star musician.

And God came and said “Now David, this was fun. That was a great season. And I know you thought you were gonna do this forever but you’re not. I have something else for you. So we’re done with that. And we’re done with SOME of those people. Because they people were fine for who you were, but they’re not fine for who you’re gonna be.”

“They’re not bad people. But they’re not gonna be able to support you the way you’re gonna need to be supported in your next season.”

It’s not that those people were evil. But you can’t become a new person without new influences. Because you’re gonna shrink to the smallness of your circle.

Show You Once You Get Moving

So Abraham’s like, “Okay, cool. Where am I going?” God says, _“I’m gonna show you once you get moving.”

We learn through scripture that sometimes God gives the destination without the directions.

An example of this is Joseph. God said, “You’re gonna end up here, even though you don’t know how you’re gonna get there.”

And other times, like this one, God give you direction before he gives the destination.

Abraham’s like “Where am I going?” And God’s like, _“Don’t worry about that right now. Just go north, and I’ll tell you when we get there.

Ok so that’s Genesis 12.

Genesis 13

Now let’s go to Genesis 13…

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev (Neh-Gev), with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. (Genesis 13:1)

There’s GREAT little details in the Bible.

It just puts that at the end of the verse “And Lot went with him.”

God never tells Abraham to take Lot. And I think it’s reasonable to assume when you read the story that God would have PREFERRED Abraham to not bring Lot.

But this change for Abraham was fundamental. God was fundamentally changing who he was, and I’m sure that it was a comfort for Abraham to bring someone from his past into his future. Even though he probably didn’t belong there.

God did exactly what he said he was gonna do. He made Abraham wealthy and influential.

And interestingly, like we talked about last week, the people AROUND Abraham (so Lot) got the overflow of Abraham’s blessing. And Lot became wealthy too.

So much so, that the land got too small for all of Abraham’s and Lot’s herds. They’re so wealthy.

And then the civil unrest starts between Abraham’s people and Lot’s people. And there’s rising tension.

And in my mind, I picture Abraham, dealing with this situation and thinking “I don’t think I was ever supposed to bring him.”

The Relationship Changes

Abraham is noticing that the relationship is changing.

And that’s what happens when you bring Lot along farther than you’re supposed to bring him. Because Lot is a good relationship for Abram, but not Abraham.

See some relationships are at their best when you’re at your worst. In order for that relationship to flourish, you can’t be who God made you to be.

So Abraham, musters up some courage to do what many people won’t do. He pushes through the awkward, he goes to Lot and says _“Our relationship has changed. And if we want to have a relationship at all, we need to put some distance between us.”

And over the years, I’ve thought of that interaction where Abraham confronts Lot.

And I used to think “Man, Abraham messed up the relationship. That’s your nephew, you’re being rude.”

But as I’ve grown, I now believe what was happening there is not that Abraham was creating distance, but that Abraham acknowledged distance that had already been growing.

Abraham acknowledged that this isn’t what it used to be. That I’ve been treating this relationship like is something that is not. That even though we’re relatives, we’re not that close.

Meaning I’m not willing to lose my herds over you. I’m not willing to sacrifice my calling over you.

So Abraham says “You pick. You go whichever way you want, and I’ll go the opposite.”

So Abraham didn’t mess up the relationship, he just acknowledged what was already happening. “Let’s stop saying we close. We’re not.”

Abraham’s like, “Okay. I’m married. So with Sarah, I got a covenant there. Doesn’t matter what I feel. I’m not breaking covenant there. That’s different. But Lot, you’re not my wife. So if this isn’t working, I gotta move on.”

And many people mismanage this. They end up neglecting Sarah and losing their herds, missing their assignment.

3 Types of Associates

So “Pastor help me flesh this out. What are some traits of associates that distinguish them from friends”. So here it is, number one, I want to give you three real quick number one, the three types of associates number one:

#1 Parasite

And maybe you’re thinking “Now you’re just calling people mean things.” That’s absolutely not what I’m trying to do. But it’s important that you understand this type of relationship.

What’s a parasite? A biological organism that lives and is sustained at the expense of the host.

It doesn’t mean a person who makes withdrawals. Everybody makes withdrawals from your life. If you’re mentoring people, they make withdrawals, your spouse make withdrawals, your friend makes withdrawals, but a parasite lives at the expense of the host.

It means that for this relationship to live, I have to die.

Ok, so what do parasites cause? And this is actual science here.

#1 Sleep Disorders

So if a relationship is parasitic, it affects your ability to rest.

#2 Teeth Grinding

It means you’re fighting battles you shouldn’t have to fight.

With Abraham and Lot, Lot kept getting in trouble, Abraham had to go fight, bring him back.

So he fighting fights he shouldn’t have to fight. He’s grinding unnecessarily

#3 Immune System Dysfunction

That means you become more vulnerable to things you should be able to protect yourself from.

But you’ve depleted your defenses trying to defend somebody you’re not responsible for.

#2 Partners

Some associates are partners. Friends are people that build you, partners are people you build with. See the difference?

Partners are good. You need partners. You just know that these people are here for my gifts, not for me.

And there’s a spirit of friendship, absolutely. But it’s really my gift. And that’s not evil. It’s a fact. Because if you weren’t that good, y’all might not be that close.

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Might have become friends, but if one of them was no good at basketball, they probably wouldn’t have been that close.

I’m sure they were very friendly, but at least at the beginning, they were they for each others gifts.

It’s a transactional relationship.

And there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s different than a close friend.

#3 Pacemakers

Not piecemakers, pacemakers. Anybody get a pacemaker? It’s a device they put underneath the skin to help the heart. It sends electrical impulses to help the heart beat. It’s not sending those impulses all the time. It’s just sending them when they need it.

If that thing was zapping you all the time, it wouldn’t be helpful.

It’s the same way with some relationships.

I have some relationships that are great for me, healthy for me, helpful for me, occasionally.

But if they were there all the time, that wouldn’t be helpful, it would be harmful.

They’re good for you periodically, but not good for you consistently.


As I close

The reason that I’m working so hard to help you position people in your life is not so that you can judge people, but it’s so that you can be successful in accomplishing your purpose.

And if you’re not deliberate about this, you might be so overwhelmed with the upkeep of unhealthy relationships that you never prioritize the relationships that will be instrumental in getting you to where God needs you to be.

Relationships that, at the end of your life you will be able to clearly see were a distraction to your destiny, not a part of it.

And so many people don’t do what Abraham did. They don’t acknowledge the positional errors, they ignore it.

They keep the baseball pitcher in longer than they should have. At the expense of the success of the team.

Because it’s uncomfortable admitting “We’re not that close”. And admitting “This relationship was fine when I was Abram. But God is calling me to be Abraham. And this relationship was fertilized by a season I’m no longer in.”


So I want us to pray for:

1: Healing from the pain of adjustment.

Because whenever God comes and shows you that relationship needs to be adjusted, that comes with pain.

It’s very painful when relationships change.

But that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to.

2: Enlightenment.

Because some of us are in destructive relationships that we don’t even see. And we need God to open our eyes.

3: Wisdom for the Future.

Because the past is not the only time you’re going to have to make these kinds of tough decisions.

Prayer Father, we thank you for your patience and your grace. Many of us have gotten this wrong, we’re not perfect.

  • And we have relational wounds as a result of it. We pray for healing.
  • And we pray for enlightenment, open our eyes to see. And give us courage to act.
  • And Lord, give us wisdom for the future. Give us acute understanding of relational positioning and the impact it has on our future.

In the name of Jesus, amen.