Proverbs 24:6 NLT
Solomon wrote, ‘The wise are mightier than the strong and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger. So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers’ (Proverbs 24:5-6 NLT). You might not personally be responsible for sending armies into war, but chances are that we all have something going on that we have to have a ‘battle plan’ for. These verses are our reminder that we shouldn’t try to take anything on alone. God has built us to work together.
Think about 1 Corinthians, where Paul explains how we all have different strengths and gifts, how we all fit together to make something wonderful, like parts of the human body fitting together to make the whole. He finishes his analogy by saying, ‘you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’ (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV). No single one of us has every skill that we need to accomplish the tasks in front of us. We are each a part, not the whole body. It’s natural and right that we need to look to other people for ideas and input to be truly successful. But we need to make sure that we listen properly when others present their ideas to us.
Romans 12:16 tells us to ‘live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!’ (NLT). It can be so damaging to our relationships with others if we dismiss their ideas or input without showing consideration. On the other hand, when we show respect for someone’s ideas, it can be the start of an equal, productive, collaborative relationship.
Gen 20-23; Matt 18:1-9; Ps 53; Prov 6:9-11
James 1:19 NIV
Good listening helps us to build relationships, but becoming a good listener requires some effort on our part. Here are a few suggestions to help us improve our listening:
1) Listen without interrupting. We need to resist the temptation to jump in and finish a sentence, or to turn the conversation around to make it about ourselves and our feelings and experiences.
2) Listen to understand. As someone is speaking, we should try to understand their point of view, feelings, needs, and way of thinking. Good listening is hearing what they actually think, mean or feel, not what we imagine they do. If we’re not sure that we’re understanding correctly, rather than guessing, we should ask, ‘Do you mean…? Are you feeling…?’ We mustn’t assume things, and we shouldn’t be afraid of asking someone to clarify or repeat what they’ve said to us.
3) Listen without judging. We need to avoid jumping to conclusions. If someone says something that doesn’t quite add up, we need to keep listening. Proverbs 18:13 says: ‘To answer before listening – that is folly and shame’ (Proverbs 18:13 NKJV). When we hear more details, it might make sense.
4) Listen without correcting, arguing or devaluing. Jumping in and saying things like, ‘That’s not what happened,’ or, ‘If you hadn’t…’ or, ‘You’re just being too sensitive,’ can put people on their guard and stop real communication.
5) Validate the speaker. We should make an effort to accept their perceptions and feelings as the valid expressions of a valued person. They may have misunderstood a situation, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong to feel the way they do. If we try to understand their perspective, we’ll gain insight into why they feel that way.
Micah 1-4; John 20:19-31; Ps 67; Prov 30:29-33
Luke 6:31 MSG
Imagine you’d gone to a top-rated, 5-star restaurant as a special treat, and ordered their most expensive steak. You’re really looking forward to your meal, but when it’s brought to you, there’s the tiniest piece of steak on the plate, just enough for one bite. So you complain, but the server explains that although it’s a small portion, it’s the best steak available anywhere in the world – it’s the quality, not the quantity, that matters. You probably wouldn’t be happy about that.
Sometimes, quality is more important than quantity, but there are some areas of our lives where both are equally important. One of those areas is in our relationships with others. We might think that it doesn’t matter how much time we give to our friends and loved ones as long as it’s quality time. But we can’t grow a friendship if we’re not prepared to invest time and effort into it. The Message paraphrases Luke 6:31 like this: ‘Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!’ (MSG).
We need to think about how we would like our friends to treat us. Would we feel happy and valued if they chose to spend only a small amount of time with us once in a while? Our time is valuable to us, so when we choose to spend it with a friend or loved one, we’re showing how much we value them. If we’re only willing to give them a few minutes, what sort of message are we sending them? They might think their friendship isn’t all that important to us.
When it comes to building relationships, let’s make the decision to choose both quality and quantity, and show our friends and loved ones how much they mean to us.
Jos 22-24; John 18:12-24; Ps 150; Prov 29:22-27
1 Corinthians 7:8 NIV
If we’re single, we might experience people questioning why we’re not in a relationship. This can be frustrating, especially if we’re struggling with our singleness. But the truth is, there’s nothing wrong with being single. It’s better to be single than to marry the wrong person. The Bible teaches that the single life is not only a good life, but it’s a gifted life. Paul wrote: ‘Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.’ When we’re upset that we’re still single, we can struggle to see that it’s good for us to be unmarried. But what Paul’s saying is that when we’re single, we can be solely focused on pleasing God and following His call. Being married means we need to take another person’s thoughts, opinions, and callings into consideration before we make decisions. Being single means we can just listen to God’s voice for our lives. This doesn’t mean being single makes us more spiritual than if we were married. But some people have been chosen by God to remain single. Paul was one of them. Paul spent many years in prison, where he wrote the epistles. His God-given assignment in life was suited to singleness. None of us should ever be ashamed or embarrassed because we’re single. Maybe we’re called to be single, like Paul was. Or maybe we’re called to be single for a season, because God has a job for us that needs our full attention. Whatever the reason, if we’re struggling with being single, or we’re tired of people wondering why we’re not married yet, let’s remember Paul’s words and hand those feelings over to God.
Acts 1:1-3:10; Luke 7:36-50; Ps 123; Prov 16:1
1 John 2:19 NKJV
Every relationship in your life is for a reason and a season. Your commitment to your family should be for a lifetime; other relationships may have term limits. So when someone walks away, don’t try to talk them into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, or staying attached to you. Your destiny is not tied to those who leave you. John writes: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” People leave you because they’re not joined to you. And if they’re not joined to you, you shouldn’t try to make them stay. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people; it just means their part in your story is over. You’ve got to know when a relationship is over, and graciously say goodbye knowing that whatever relationships God means you to have, He will provide. Stop begging them to stay – let them go! Clinging to a relationship whose season has ended will only lead to heartbreak. After Lot left him, Abraham entered a new level of God’s blessing. When Orpah left Naomi and went back home to Moab, Ruth stayed with her, and both Naomi and Ruth were blessed by God. You’ve got to know who belongs in your life and who doesn’t. If you’re holding on to someone who doesn’t belong, and who is not intended to be in your life, the word for you today is – let them go!
Soul food: 1 Kings 10-11; Mark 13:1-11; Ps 82; Prov 12:18-19