Proverbs 25:17 NLT
One of the important parts of life as a Christian is being part of a community and enjoying the companionship of others. In Hebrews 10, we read: ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another’ (v.24-25 NIVUK). We need fellowship with others to inspire us and remind us that we’re all part of God’s kingdom.
It’s also important for us to spend time with someone when they need comfort or encouragement. But there are also times when we need to give people space. This can be something we forget, especially if we’re people who prefer company, or if we’re having a great time with someone. Proverbs 25:17 says: ‘Don’t visit your neighbours too often, or you will wear out your welcome.’ Even when we enjoy someone’s company, we should be mindful that we’re not demanding too much of their time. And sometimes people just need to be alone with God.
Luke 5:16 tells us that ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed’ (NIV). Jesus often took time to get away from everyone and the demands of His ministry to rest in God’s presence.
It can be especially difficult to leave someone alone when they’re upset or worried, but there’ll be moments when people need our company, and moments when they need God’s. We need to try and be sensitive to the needs of others, and discern when they need space. And let’s not neglect our own space – however much we love company, we also need solitary time ourselves.
Matt 6:16-18; Isa 58:1-11; Luke 4:1-13
Ecclesiastes 4:10 NIV
God never meant us to “fly solo.” We all need help and encouragement from time to time, but be careful who you turn to. (1) Don’t go to someone who can’t handle your problem. By sharing your situation with them you may experience temporary relief, but what if they’re not mature enough to handle it? Jesus said, “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me…better…a millstone were hanged about his neck, and…he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). (2) It’s okay to turn to a proven friend as long as they’re spiritually mature. The Bible says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). But you must know they’re a true friend. Peter writes, “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV). Someone who truly loves you will pray for you, and walk with you until you have the victory. And when you’re on the wrong path, they won’t cover up or make excuses for you – they will hold you accountable. (3) When possible, turn to a spiritual father. Paul says, “You might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers” (1 Corinthians 4:15 NKJV). Think of a good father’s attributes. He corrects, but never condemns you. He won’t give up on you. He evaluates you based on your best qualities rather than your worst. Instead of reacting negatively to your failures, he recognizes your potential and keeps on working with you. So ask God today for a spiritual father, and stay in regular communication with him.
Soul food: Gen 17-19; Matt 19:1-14; Ps 66:1-12; Prov 6:20-22
Psalm 39:1 NIV
The psalmist has a lot to say about the dangers of the tongue. Apparently he had to guard himself in that particular area. “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 NIV). “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord” (Psalm 19:14 NIV). Just because a thought comes up doesn’t mean it should come out! “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs 29:11 NKJV). You say, “But I didn’t really mean it. I was just sounding off!” You may not think you meant it, but the Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 NKJV). What’s harbored on the inside inevitably shows up on the outside. Put yourself in the other person’s place, listen to what you’re saying, and ask yourself how you’d respond. When you’re talking to someone, their acceptance doesn’t come from your heightened decibel level, but from your ability to listen, understand, care, empathize, and respond with wisdom. And if none of those things work, do what Jesus did when He stood before Pilate: “He opened not His mouth” (Acts 8:32 NKJV). Amazing! He had the power and authority to call twelve legions of angels (72,000 plus) to His defense, but He didn’t. That’s strength, not weakness! Another word to the wise: Never resort to profanity. “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT).
Soul food: 2 Chr 16-18; John 11:38-57; Ps 81; Prov 27:1-3
Ephesians 4:15 NIV
Before you confront someone over an issue, stop and examine your motives. Is your goal to help or humiliate them? Jesus was in the business of lifting and restoring people, and you should be in that business too. Ask yourself, would you approach things differently if you weren’t so personally involved? Are you confronting this person to make yourself look better? Cutting someone else down in order to lift yourself up is the lowest form of ego gratification. Poet Kahlil Gibran said, “To belittle, you have to be little.” Don’t do it! It’s a sign of insecurity. Remember Nehemiah’s response to those who tried to discourage him from rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls? “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Don’t allow your critics to break your stride. Don’t give more credence to the sentiments of a critic than you would to the encouragement of a friend. Before you put somebody else’s life under the microscope, stop and examine your own. Are you grappling with the same issue, or one just as bad? Have you succeeded where you’re accusing somebody else of failing? In other words, have you earned the right to be heard? Paul writes, “Speaking the truth in love we will grow…in every respect.” Could it be that the situation you’re dealing with right now is an opportunity to measure your own maturity and make it a spiritual growth experience?
Soul food: 2 Pet 1-3; John 4:27-38; Ps 87; Prov 24:1-4
Philippians 2:3 NIV
Sometimes we can find ourselves being ‘me first’ people. We want to ensure our needs are met before others. But the Bible says: ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but…to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mind-set as Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:3-5 NIV). That’s how Jesus treated people, and we have been called to do the same. Living this way isn’t easy, or convenient. It requires sacrifice. And it goes against everything our self-centred natures tell us. Each day we have to choose to show grace and value the needs of others. Grace and humility are like items of clothing; we have to put them on each morning and wear them all day. In fact, Colossians 3 actually uses this analogy: ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’ (v.12 NIV). We might wonder how we can possibly live like that, but if we draw daily on God’s grace, it will help us to be able to put others first. Everybody we meet is fighting a battle of some kind, and we may be the one person that crosses their path who is able to speak a word of encouragement to them. The Bible says: ‘Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’ (Proverbs 16:24 NIV). We need to actively be looking for ways to support and encourage others. Let’s be a generation who cares about those around us, and let’s admit that we don’t always have to be first.
Est 4:9-5:3; Heb 4:7-16