How to Improve Your Relationships

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‘Let us not love with words … but with actions.’ 1 John 3:18 NIV

Here are five Scriptural ways to improve the quality of your relationships:

(1) Always show appreciation. Who are the people that really matter in your life? Let them know you love them, and do it often. Practice the ten-to-one rule: ten compliments to every one criticism! Many of us think the best way to help people is to ‘straighten them out’. No, the best way to help others is to look for the best in them. Dr John Maxwell calls this ‘the 101 Percent Principle’. Look for one thing you admire in somebody, then give them 100 percent encouragement for it. That’ll help you to like them, and vice versa. (2) Put others first. ‘Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.’ (Ephesians 6:7 NIV) If you adopt that mindset in your dealings with others, you will go far in life. (3) Serve others gladly. Talking about how difficult it is to hire and train people, an airline executive said, ‘Service is the only thing we have to sell, but it’s the toughest thing to teach because nobody wants to be thought of as a servant.’ (4) Forgive it, resolve it and move beyond it. If someone has hurt you and you need to address it, do it immediately. Then forgive it, resolve it and move beyond it. And if it’s not worth bringing up, forget it and move on. (5) Make time for the people who matter. Don’t give away your time on a first-come-first-served basis. Don’t devote so much energy to ‘the squeaky wheel’ that you short-change the people in your life who matter most.

Prepare Yourself

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‘We rebuilt the wall … for the people worked with all their heart.’ Nehemiah 4:6 NIV

To succeed, Nehemiah needed favour with his boss, the king. So he prayed that this heathen potentate would finance the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. It was a bold prayer, and it wasn’t answered overnight. But Nehemiah didn’t sit around waiting. In the meantime he put together a plan, assembled a team, and scheduled a date to begin the work. That way when the king said yes, he was ready to move.

Some people think if God’s going to do something, why should they do anything? Then there are those who think they don’t need God at all, so they try to do it on their own. But both extremes are wrong. Sometimes God has to balance what He’s doing in your life with what He’s doing in somebody else’s life, so that ‘all things work together for good.’ (Romans 8:28 KJV) In Nehemiah’s case, waiting for a letter of authorisation from the king and funding for the project was like waiting for a government grant—it can take a while. But the Bible says, ‘The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.’ (Proverbs 21:1 NAS) Nehemiah exercised bold confidence in God’s willingness to provide. He also understood that, while he was waiting, it was his responsibility to prepare and set things in place so that when God gave him the green light he was ready to move. He exercised faith—and wisdom. He knew he couldn’t do God’s part, and that God wouldn’t do his part. So the word for you today is: ‘Prepare yourself!’

Enjoy Each Day

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‘…be happy, because that is what God wants you to do.’ Ecclesiastes 9:7 NCV

Solomon writes: ‘So go eat your food and enjoy it; drink your wine and be happy, because that is what God wants you to do. Put on nice clothes and make yourself look good. Enjoy life with the wife you love. Enjoy all the useless days of this useless life God has given you here on earth, because it is all you have. So enjoy the work you do here on earth. Whatever work you do, do your best, because you are going to the grave…’ (Ecclesiastes 9:7–10 NCV) Despite his sarcasm, Solomon has a point. Two chapters later, he gives the bottom line of a happy life: ‘Fear God and keep His commandments.’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV) So, what are you waiting for? To graduate? Get married? Have children? Retire? Life is about the journey, not just the destination! Your life is here and now, your family is here and now, your marriage is here and now, your career is here and now. The journey takes place every day, and you can find meaning when you search for a greater purpose. You can find small joys every day if you have eyes of faith. Solomon recognised that ultimately we all end up at the same destination—the grave. The only difference lies in how much we enjoy the journey. Instead of obsessing over the things you can’t control, revere God, keep His commandments and leave the control to Him.

Phil Cooke writes: ‘I have to believe that God’s in control, and for me to always demand answers is to assume His role. I’ve decided to sit back and let Him be God and let me be me.’ That’s a philosophy you would do well to adopt!

Be an Esther

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‘These things happened to them as examples for us.’ 1 Corinthians 10:11 NLT

It’s a mistake to think the great achievers in the Bible were somehow different from us and say, ‘In my situation a life like that isn’t possible.’

Esther’s freedom was taken from her when, because of her beauty, a pagan king made her one of his wives. Talk about feeling out of place! But no place is out of place when you’re in the place God wants you to be! When Haman plotted to have the Jews exterminated, Esther was strategically positioned by God to save them. She discovered her life’s purpose when her uncle Mordecai told her she had ‘come to the kingdom for such a time as this.’ (Esther 4:14 NKJV) And what was her response? ‘I will go to the king [on behalf of my people]…and if I perish, I perish!’ (Esther 4:16 NKJV) But instead of perishing, she prevailed!

So what can we learn from Esther? (1) When you first start out, God won’t give you all the details. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t have a plan. It’s in seeking Him that you discover His plan and draw on His strength. (2) Knowledge is power. Whether you’re a slave or a sovereign, when you know God has called you it enables you to overcome each obstacle as it arises. (3) Knowing God’s in control gives you boldness. When Esther said, ‘If I perish, I perish,’ she was simply putting herself into God’s hands, knowing that even death can be faced with confidence when you trust Him. Not only does God have a place for you here on earth, He has an even better one for you in Heaven. And that puts you in the ultimate win-win situation.

Five All-Important Answers

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‘If God is for us, who can ever be against us?’ Romans 8:31 NLT

Paul asks five all-important questions:

(1) ‘If God is for us, who can ever be against us?’ (Romans 8:31 NLT) The assurance of God’s presence tilts the scales in your favour. So whatever you’re facing today, remind yourself, ‘God is for me.’ (2) ‘Since [God] did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t [God]…give us everything else?’ (Romans 8:32 NLT) Think about it: Would God save your soul, then leave you to fend for yourself? Or address your eternal needs and not your earthly ones? No! (3) ‘Who dares accuse us…? No one—for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself.’ (Romans 8:33 NLT) Every accusing voice, including your own, counts for nothing in the court of Heaven. God’s acceptance trumps everybody else’s rejection—and He accepts you because He sees you ‘in Christ.’ (4) ‘Who then will condemn us?… Christ Jesus died for us… He is sitting in the place of honour at God’s right hand, pleading for us.’ (Romans 8:34 NLT) When your accusers rise up and speak against you, Jesus, your defence attorney, silences them. Why? Because His blood covers you! (5) ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ (Romans 8:35 NLT) Paul answers his own question: ‘Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love… nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38–39 NLT)

Knowing these five truths will help you enjoy your day, and sleep better at night!

Staying Power (4)

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‘Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him.’ Genesis 37:5 NIV

Staying power overcomes misunderstanding and rejection. Sometimes the people you count on to support you will actually try to undercut you. When God gives you a vision too big for them to handle, they’ll say, ‘You’re getting too big for your boots,’ and then try to cut you down to size—their size!

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, then went home and told their father he’d been killed by a wild beast. Can you imagine how Joseph felt when someone asked, ‘Tell me about your family’? General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, ‘There are no victories at bargain prices.’ And sadly, betrayal happens as often in church as in secular society. When Charles Spurgeon was in his early twenties, such large crowds came to his church that the building couldn’t accommodate them. So he met with thirty of his church leaders and suggested they build an auditorium that would seat 5,500 people. Allegedly, he told them that if any of them doubted the possibility of accomplishing this, they should leave. And twenty-three did! But Spurgeon held true to the vision God had given him. He had the ‘stickability’ to see it through, and for over thirty-five years crowds packed the Metropolitan Tabernacle morning and night, making it one of the most influential churches in history.

An old Gospel song says, ‘Got any rivers you think are un-crossable? Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through? God specialises in things thought impossible; He can do just what no other can do.’

Staying Power (3)

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‘I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back.’ Judges 11:35 KJV

Staying power overcomes family opposition. When Jephthah’s family disowned him and threw him out of the house, he built an army that ultimately delivered Israel from the hands of their enemies. As a result, he ended up becoming the nation’s youngest judge. When faced with the challenge to ‘fold up or hold up,’ David Livingstone demonstrated staying power. His wife, Mary, gave him so much trouble, always complaining and criticising, that she made his life’s work almost impossible. The tension between them became so great that Livingstone sent her home to England for a period of more than twelve years while he suffered, bled and ultimately died in Africa for the cause of Christ.

When Jesus went home to Nazareth to minister to the people He grew up around, some of them tried to throw Him off a cliff. And in spite of His teachings and miracles, His family thought He was mad. Did that hurt Him? Of course. But He didn’t let it stop Him. He said: ‘Anyone who wants to be My follower must love Me far more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers or sisters—yes, more than his own life—otherwise, he cannot be My disciple. And no one can be My disciple who does not carry his own cross and follow Me… don’t begin until you [first] count the cost.’ (Luke 14:26–28 TLB)

When your family opposes you, love them and pray for them because God can change their hearts. And until He does, keep serving Him.

Staying Power (2)

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‘Here on earth you will have many trials.’ John 16:33 NLT

Two more reasons you need to develop staying power are:

(1) It overcomes prolonged illness. When sickness saps your physical, emotional and mental strength—that’s when you need staying power. The Bible says, ‘The strong spirit of a man [or woman] sustains him in bodily pain or trouble, but a weak and broken spirit who can … bear?’ (Proverbs 18:14 AMP) Charles Spurgeon was known to multitudes as ‘the prince of preachers’. His ministry impacted London and much of the British Isles. Yet he was so sick that he had to spend a lot of his time resting in Southern France. His wife, who became an invalid after the birth of their twin sons, transcended her physical limitations with staying power. Though paralysed, she directed from her bed an unprecedented book distribution effort. And it’s largely because of her staying power that Spurgeon’s books are on the shelves of more people around the world than the books of most other ministers.

(2) It overcomes financial limitations. George Müller, who founded homes for orphans in England, is a prime example of staying power. He saved the lives of thousands of children, and he did it by faith. Many times he didn’t have the money to buy food for their next meal, but he never complained. Instead he prayed. And in response to his faith, money poured in from all over the world, much of it from people he never knew. Müller lived by the Scriptural principle: ‘Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’

Staying Power (1)

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‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.’ 2 Corinthians 4:8 NIV

Here’s a saying that has proven to be true: ‘What doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger.’

And here are four sayings that have proved to be false: (1) ‘When you become a Christian all your problems are over.’ Whoever told you that didn’t get it from Scripture. Paul said, ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.’ (2 Corinthians 4:8–9) (2) ‘All the problems you’ll ever encounter are addressed in the Bible.’ God tells us many things in His Word, but He still requires us to ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’ (2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV) That means receiving guidance from His Word, from the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and from the counsel of godly friends. (3) ‘If you’re having problems, you must be unspiritual.’ The opposite is true. Satan’s attack is proof that you haven’t been conquered, that you represent a threat to the kingdom of darkness, and that you’re doing the will of God. And the greater the attack, the greater the level of blessing that awaits you beyond it, so keep going. (4) ‘Being exposed to sound Bible teaching automatically solves every problem.’ It will certainly help you solve your problems, but it won’t solve them for you. You must be a ‘doer’ of the Word and not a ‘hearer only’ (see James 1:23). Paul writes, ‘Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies [and tricks] of the devil.’ (Ephesians 6:10–11 NLT) In other words, you need ‘staying power.’

What it Means to Really Love

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‘Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4 NKJV

Some of the greatest insights on what it means to love someone come from the pen of the apostle Paul: ‘Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.’ (1 Corinthians 13:3–7 NKJV)

John had been married to Mary for fifty years. One night in bed she said, ‘When we were young, you used to hold my hand.’ A little irritated, he slowly reaches out his hand. ‘When we were young, you used to snuggle up to me,’ Mary said. Even more slowly, John’s body creaks and turns, nestling against hers. ‘When we were young, you used to nibble on my ear,’ she whispered. Abruptly he throws back the covers and jumps out of bed. Bewildered, Mary asks, ‘Where are you going?’ ‘To get my teeth!’ he grumbles.

To nibble on an ear when you’re full of romance and bubbling hormones is one thing. To nibble on that same ear years later when it holds a hearing aid, when the scent in the air is Vicks VapoRub, and when you have to get up to get your teeth—that’s love!