You Can’t Live Without Them (Relationships)

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    Download Message Resources FEB5Header2 You can spend a few minutes on these reflections and exercises, or you can spend a longer time with them. The more you invest in them, the greater their benefit and the more quickly and fully you will begin to experience change in your relationships. Here is a best practice: Start using a journal. Writing is a way to help you reflect more fully. It becomes a record of your spiritual journey. You will be  pleasantly surprised at how much more you grow when you use the spiritual practice of journaling.

    Day 1: It is Not Good

    It is not good for anyone to be alone (Genesis 2:18). It is not good for you to be alone. And you aren’t alone. There are people in your life. For most of you there are many people. And for all those people the single most important thing is love—you loving them and them loving you. The great commandment is to love God with all your heart. The second command is to love your neighbor/others (Matthew 22:38-40).  How love is expressed and shown will be quite different depending on the relationship, but at the heart of every relationship is the love and service given to one another.

    Use the relationship map provided in the message and jot down the names of the most significant people in your life. Choose several relationships and discern how much happiness and unhappiness is in your life because of them. For the most important relationships, what is the one most beneficial thing you can do for each one that will start to improve the relationship? Remember, it is the people in our lives who are the greatest sources of happiness and unhappiness for us. Choosing to work at making those relationships better is SO WORTH IT! Take the initiative to love them, help them, serve them, and be a source of happiness for them.

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    Day 2: The Vision

    Read Romans 12:9-21 two times. This was the main biblical passage used in the message. It is a description of life together, and it was given to a group of people who had many and major differences. They needed to hear these things because it was hard doing life together. Make a list of words that describe what life together should look like. You should come up with a list of 10-12 relational practices.

    Now, look back at your relationship map. Identify one or two relationships that are not working too well and that create some unhappiness in your life.  Using the themes of Romans 12:9-21, do you get any insight about changes you can make to improve those relationships?

    Take a close look at verse 18. That is a strong statement and a wonderful principle of relationships. No, you can’t always change the other person, but are there things you can do (without being unhealthy or codependent or a doormat) to promote peacefulness in those relationships?

    Day 3: Generosity & Hospitality

    Today we are pulling two themes out of Romans 12:9-21 and asking you to give special attention to those themes.

    Read verse 13. This verse teaches us to be generous people and to practice hospitality. Generosity and hospitality are two ways that we give of ourselves and our resources for the sake of others. We are here to help others. Of course we need to do that wisely, to allow others to reciprocate, and to avoid creating dependency. So, how generous and how hospitable are you toward others?

    We are here to help others. We are here to add value to their lives. We are here to meet their needs. God has given you resources (a wide variety of them). What has God given to you that you can use to be a very generous presence for the sake of others? Keep your eyes wide open because every day God will bring people your way for you to bless. You know what is amazing about this? When you do this it energizes you and your own happiness levels soar. It turns out that God wired our brain chemistry to light up with positivity when we help others. Go ahead: Live a life of generosity and find out just how happy (and joyful) you can become!

    Day 4: Empathy

    Today you will dive into one more relationship quality, and that is the quality of empathy. Read verse 15. Get your dictionary or thesaurus out (apps are wonderful) and look up the word empathy. While you are at it look up the word sympathy. Jot down a few words that best describe what it means to be full of empathy and sympathy.

    Here is advice you’ve heard before: Be kind to everyone you meet, for everyone is fighting battles you don’t see. Everyone is carrying burdens you don’t know about. Everyone has struggles and pains they hide. Everyone needs the kindness and compassion that comes from a heart of empathy. So, who is in your relational network that could use your empathy and compassion? Pray for them. And then pray that Christ would use you as an encouragement.

    Pay attention to any relationship where it is hard for you to be empathetic. Most of us have some people who rub us the wrong way. We become impatient and frustrated, and we find it quite challenging to be sensitive and caring. How would God call you to love this person?

    Day 5: Love in Action

    Tina Turner sang, “What’s love got to do with it?” She was being sarcastic and singing out of her own deep hurt and pain. Of course, the answer is love has everything to do with it. Love is what makes the world go round. Love is what makes life worth living. God is love. Jesus loved us so much he died for us. The love of God fills us and we become people of love. C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors. He is a wise Christian writer from a past generation. Lewis describes real love with these words:

    Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.

    Love is unselfishly choosing for another’s highest good.

    Think about the quality of your love for the people in your life. This is what love is and what love does. Love wishes and works for the greatest good of those who are loved. What will you do today for those you love? (Bonus Bible verse: Read and reflect on 1 John 3:18.)

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    Day 6: The Risk of Relationships

    Here is one final reflection on love. It too comes from C.S. Lewis. It is a longer quote and one that deserves deep consideration. It is life changing!

    There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket --safe, dark, motionless, airless-- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.

    That is the risk of love. It is the way of God’s love. It will have to be the way of your love. It is the way to real relationship. It is ultimately the way to blessedness (and the simple experiences of it that we refer to as happiness).

    I encourage you to keep choosing the risky business of love.

    What jumps out to you in this quote?

     
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