Recap: Purpose and Context of the, Go and See, Series
Go and See, Part 8 Introduction
In Session 7 we took the time to consider and examine how taking inventory of our relationships, understanding the impact they have had on us, and then setting forth to invest our lives by investing in relationships with others is not optional--it is fundamental to living out the role we have been set in this time and place to fulfill. We also looked at the significance and impact that should come from believing that we are made in the image of a relationship-centered God. Then you walk through the steps of recalling key people in your life and creating a Faith Family Tree to reflect the ways God has used relationships to grow and guide you.
In the last session, most of your time was spent looking back to reflect on and record those people who have built your faith, passions, dreams our courage--honoring and summoning gratitude for those who have been instrumental in you becoming the you your are today. In this session, you are going to turn your reflective eyes forward and use them to create vision. In addition, we will take time to recognize the powerful role encouragement plays in investing in the lives of others.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6, NIV).
If we believe there is a God who set us in our specific time and place, and divinely sets our paths to cross the paths of those around us, then we can believe that making a plan to invest in those relationships is honoring God and answering our calling. Yet, it is pretty easy to live more like we believe our interactions are accidental or random. Let’s choose to run from that lie by taking inventory of the relationships God has provided for us and then make a plan to intentionally invest in those relationships, even if it gets hard and complicated. Loving God is hard work. Sometimes loving people is even harder work. Sir Winston Churchill once said, “He who fails to plan, is planning to fail.” And this is just as true in relationships as it is in any other areas of our life. Thus, the objective of Session 8 is to help you make a plan for investing in the lives of others.
Reflection & Application
We need people. For real. This is a human and a spiritual need. As much as American culture tries to hold up the self-made man as the role model for success, I believe that deep in our souls we know that to be self-made and successful on our own, without the help of others, actually leaves us lonely, confused and quite frankly living a lie. Instead, the phrase, ‘no man is an island’ (from a John Donne sermon in the 17th century), is closer to the truth. Both the truth as we experience in reality, and also the truth we are called to biblically.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” (John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions).
As Christians, individual members that make up on body in Christ, our marching orders stand in contrast to many of the habits and patterns of thinking of culture. We are called to see that we need one another in order to live out the truths of our professed allegiance to Christ. We are called to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. We are called to live from a posture of humility so starkly different from the world’s point of view, that it stops people in their tracks and causes them to wonder what makes us different. We are called to relationships within the body that are so harmonious that the world will look at us and know love and see our identity as a follower of Christ impacts how we do relationships.
But how do we do this when it seems all hell is coming after relationships? How do we do this day in and day out when relationships can also be a source of pain, discouragement and brokenness?
By determining to let our hearts, minds and souls be conformed to the mind of Christ. This is done through combing through God's truths, commands, and promises in the Bible on a regular and consistent basis--looking specifically for those passages that remind us, ‘no man is an island’ and that direct us on how to live like we believe what the Bible teaches. And by inviting the Holy Spirit in to provide the power to take every negative or unproductive thought captive in order to choose to believe the best of those around us. Lastly, it is done by recognizing that investing in relationships requires discipline and intentionality. None of which will likely come naturally or easily.
We need all kinds of voices and people in our lives to help us run our race well: mentors, shepherds, friends, running-buddies, prayer warriors, and observers. Some of these people fall into the routine of our lives and we easily get time for them. Others cross our paths now and then, but not without effort and intentionality. Though we would all love to be the ones invited into intentional, deep relationships, it isn’t a practical way to think or live. If everyone is waiting around to do be the one invited, no one will be doing the inviting.
In addition, just as you need others, others need you. Recognizing that others need you is paramount to taking hold of living this call to purposeful relationships commissioned to each of us by our creator. In a world full of messages that encourage selfishness, it is easy to dismiss the “other people need me” phrase as just that. However, in reality, when this concept is approached from humility and with a mind and heart that says, Others just might need my words of encouragement to keep persevering. If I hold back from believe others need me to serve and encourage them in their faith, I could be holding them back from using their gifts, then it becomes an act of selflessness.
One’s physical body needs all the parts to be active and responding to each other in order to be whole and healthy. So too with the members of the body of Christ. You are one of those parts. And there is only one of you who can perform the unique function God designed you for. You are the only on who can meet the needs of the Church and the world in your specific places and relationships.
I wonder if this is the harder belief to submit to believing and courageously living out. If you do not believe others need you in order to be encouraged, spurred on in their faith, or simply to feel as though they are not really an island, then you will not likely find the courage and strength to live this truth. Recognizing that who you, the words your speak, the model you set for others is needed for the health of the whole is a truth I think we too easily are tempted push under the rug out of insecurity and fear. And we need to stop doing so because people need us. They need us to actively live out the belief that in Christ, our words and actions have the power to set people free. We have been set free to set others free! The Word became flesh so that we could use our words and lives to stir one another up toward love and good deeds, encouraging one another as as the [last] Day draws near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Encouragement is a gift of strength we can give to all those around us. Let’s be people who recognize our need for others, their need for us, and the world’s need to see who our Father is through us. We have been designed and purposed to change the world. It starts by investing in one relationship at at time.
Questions for Reflection:
Pinning our beliefs and actions to specific truths found in passages of the Bible is essential to remaining inline with the promises and character of God. Let’s go and see what the Bible says about our need for others, their need for us and the world’s need to for the all the members of the body Christ to be active in investing in relationships. Grab your Bible and read the following passages: Exodus 20:1-17, Mark 12:28-34, Colossians 3:12-15, and 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Highlight the verses or words that stick out to you.
If you grew up in church you likely had to memorize the 10 Commandments, found in Exodus 20:1-17. The commands given to Moses begins with those laws that relate to our relationship with God and end with those laws that relate to our relationship with others. Don't miss the significance of this. Healthy relationship with others begins with a healthy relationship with God. And building healthy relationships with others is paramount to obeying God and living into His promises.
When was the last time you went back and looked at these ten commands, reflected on them or asked yourself if your actions and words most often demonstrate obedience to God in these areas?
Grace certainly covers for our shortcomings and Christ death on the cross means salvation comes through belief in him, not living a perfect life. Yet, obedience to these commands hasn’t been dismissed. This is hard work. We won’t nail it every day. But our goal is to always keep working in the direction of holiness and obedience. It is important to notice that a majority of the commandments relate to relationships with others (all the other commands concern our relationship with God). In short, we cannot obey God without choosing to build relationships that show honor and respect to these commands.
This obedience in relationships to others as a pathway to obedience to God is also found in Mark 12:26-34 & Colossians 3:12-15. In both of these passage we see that we cannot follow the “greatest” commandments if we are not living in relationship with others. Again we see the message, we need people in order to obey God. In even better news, we are not ill-equipped to do so. Love, through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, is continually being poured into us in order that we are able to fulfill these commands in all of our relationships. Not only that, but this Christ-powered love is our source of strength in persevering and in choosing to invest in relationships. We exist for God and for those who need God. Both the Old and the New Testament show us this. Furthermore, Christ came to give us the grace, power and tools to live out this divine purpose set in us for this side of heaven.
The most practical place to start with living a life focussed on investing in relationships that meet needs and spur others toward love and good deeds is to our words. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 helps us to see that encouragement is how we build one another up because it brings out strength in people. Encouragement, though often done with words, can come in many forms: What you give (Mark 12:41-44). What you say (Proverbs 16:24). What you do (Mathew 25). How you choose to live (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Tool 8: Relationship Investment Plan
Tool Defined : Our lives are meant to spur others on toward love and good deeds. Not as an option. But as a need. This doesn’t often happen naturally. Yes, we may find ourselves in relationships no matter what, but it takes the Holy Spirit, discipline and intentionality in order to foster relationships that spur others on. Likewise, it takes perseverance and humility to invite others into our life with the specific intention of asking them to spur us on. Yet, finding just one person to be the sole source of your spurring isn’t the goal. This is for many reasons but on of them is because God has given us an entire body of voices to help guide us. Conversely, we shouldn’t be another person’s sole source of spurring. For all the same reasons.
We need to have relationships with those who can easily relate to our season of life, but we also need people who have gone before us. And some who are a season or two behind. We need people who are full or affirmation for what they see in us. Additionally, these affirming voices should be balanced with people who are courageous enough to help us see gaps or nearsightedness in our thinking or behaviors.
As noted earlier, it is important to remember there is a danger in believing the lie that no one needs you or that your life is not impacting others. Seeing the truth of your life's impact and committing to growing more consistent in your intentionality toward investing in others who need your encouraging words and or who need to see the example of life that you live, will likely grow you in ways you can’t even envision completely right now.
This tool is designed to allow you to take inventory of the people in your life right now, and examine if there are some types of voices missing in your time. It then instructs you to make a plan of how to intentionally create time and space to invest in a relationship(s) that you are in need of. Lastly, you will use this tool to outline the ways you can begin to intentionally invest in relationships that build others up because of you being a part of what they need to be spurred on.
1. Take 10-15 minutes to answer each of the following questions with names and reasons each name fits the answer. Then write an estimated amount of time you spend investing in these relationships. (Link to .pdf version below.)
2. As you examine the names and the amount of time you spend investing in these relationships, are there any that are needing more time and investing in? If so, create a plan for what that will look like in the coming weeks, months or year. Write it in the handout attached below or in your journal:
3. Take 10-15 minutes to answer each of the following questions with names and reasons each name fits the answer. Then write an estimated amount of time you spend investing in these relationships.
4. As you examine the names and the amount of time you spend investing in these relationships, are there any that are needing more time and investing in? If so, create a plan for what that will look like in the coming weeks, months or year. Write it in the handout attached below or in your journal:
Do you remember that little song you likely learned as a preschooler, This Little Light of Mine? One lyric says, “Hide it under a bush? Oh, no! I am going to let it shine.” How many of us are hiding our lights (gifts, purposes, visions) behind bushes because we are unsure as to whether our light really matters in the world? When we think of one little light under a bush (Which by the way would start a fire but, I digress.) it can seem insignificant. However, when all those lights that are sitting under bushes, (starting forest fires) instead, come out and join together to be one big light for the world to see, I guarantee our Abba in heaven looks down with pleasure and delight. Correspondingly, those around us will look toward the light and start asking questions about how they can have some of that life-changing light too.
When we breakdown the metaphor of the little light, we find that the song is really saying, This little life of mine, I am going to let it build up and encourage the people around me. In other words, I am going to believe and live out with words and actions the truth that my life is designed for impact. This impact begins with relationships--one relationship (one little candle being lit our brought out out from under a bush) at a time. Living this way will not be as easy as singing a song or learning what to do to have relationships, but will be birthed out of words and actions driven by intentionality, perseverance and an understanding that without relationships we can not obey all that God has asked of us. We love God well, by loving others extraordinarily.
Links to all the, Go and See Study, sessions.