‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls… in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ Ruth 2:22 NIV
Kristin Armstrong writes: ‘If you have godly girlfriends, love and nurture those relationships as though your life depends on them—because it does. Everything is better when you “go with His girls”… Life is safer, more authentic, longer lasting, and just plain more fun. God created women to rely on other women. I’m blessed by girlfriends who lift me when I’m low, level me when I’m high, and show me the face of God on a daily basis through compassion, humor, strength, and unconditional love. May you cultivate and enjoy the same.’ And not only do women need friends, men do too.
One of the first things God said in the Bible was, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’ (Genesis 2:18 KJV) Solomon writes, ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.’ (Proverbs 17:17 NKJV) Poet William Carlos Williams wrote: ‘When trouble comes your soul to try, you love the friend who just “stands by”. Perhaps there’s nothing he can do—the thing is strictly up to you. For there are troubles all your own, and paths the soul must tread alone. Times love cannot smooth the road, nor friendship lift the heavy load. But just to know you have a friend who will “stand by” until the end, whose sympathy through all endures, whose warm handclasp is always yours—it helps someway to pull you through, although there’s nothing he can do. And so with fervent heart you cry, God bless the friend who just “stands by”.’
‘Pride goes before destruction.’ Proverbs 16:18 NKJV
Think about the things we become proud over: the home we live in, the car we drive, the diploma hanging on our wall, the people we mingle with, and the position we hold. When you’ve worked hard to get to where you are, look out for pride! Paul asks, ‘Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV)
So what should you do?
(1) Examine your belief system about who you are, what you have, and what you can do.Jesus said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5 NKJV) Remind yourself: ‘I’m just the glove; God’s the hand that fills it.’ That’ll help you to keep your perspective right!
(2) Focus more on others than on yourself. The saying—‘When a person is all wrapped up in themselves, they make a pretty small package’—is true. ‘Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.’ (Philippians 2:4 NKJV)
(3) Respect and value everyone you meet regardless of their social status, race, gender, or other distinguishing factors. When you walk in humility, people respect you and receive your input, and they don’t suspect you of having selfish motives. The Bible says: ‘These… things the Lord hates… a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.’ (Proverbs 6:16–19 NKJV) Today, beware of pride.
‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning.’ Proverbs 1:5 NIV
Here are three more misconceptions about success: (1) We think success comes from having the right connections, so we strive to make them. People who endorse this philosophy believe they’d ‘have it made’ if only they’d been born into the right family, or met the right person. Knowing good people has its rewards, but connections alone won’t improve your life if you’re off track. ‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.
(2) We think success comes from having leverage, so we work for it. This notion is reinforced by people like industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who said, ‘Success is the power with which to acquire whatever one demands of life.’ Then we take it a step further by assuming all successful people have taken advantage of others in order to get where they are, and we look for ways to manipulate people too. We think we can ‘muscle’ our way to success, but it doesn’t work—usually it backfires on us.
(3) We think success is the result of opportunity, so we wait for it. People who work hard and don’t seem to get anywhere sometimes believe the only thing they need is ‘a break’. Their motto is ‘If only’. If only my boss would cut me some slack; if only our church was in a better area of town; if only I had start-up capital; if only I’d married someone different. The door of opportunity is marked, ‘Push!’ The truth is, people who do nothing more than wait for success are neither able to see it—nor seize it—when it comes.
‘Give yourself wholly… so that everyone may see your progress.’ 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV
Here are some common misconceptions about success:
(1) We think success is impossible, so we criticize it. We want to believe life should be easy, so we assume anything difficult must be impossible. Then when success eludes us we throw in the towel and say, ‘Who needs it anyway?’ And if someone we consider less deserving than ourselves is successful, we get really upset.
(2) We think success is mystical, so we search for it. Author/entrepreneur Seth Godin says: ‘We need to stop shopping for lightning bolts. You don’t win an Olympic medal with a few weeks of intensive training. There’s no such thing as an overnight opera sensation. Great companies [and great churches] don’t spring up overnight… every great thing has been built in exactly the same way: bit by bit, step by step, little by little.’ There are no shortcuts; you must be willing to pay the price.
(3) We think success comes by chance, so we hope for it. We say, ‘Oh, he or she just happened to be in the right place at the right time.’ The chances of that happening are about as good as the chances of winning Lotto—over eight million to one. If you’re serious about succeeding, you’ll concur with the small-business owner who posted this sign in his store: ‘The 57 Rules of Success: Rule one: Deliver the goods. Rule two: The other 56 don’t matter!’
Paul shared his formula for success with Timothy, and it’s one that works in all areas of life: ‘Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.’
‘Let us love one another, for love is of God.’ 1 John 4:7 NKJV
One evening before Mary Martin, the great Broadway musical star, was to go on stage in South Pacific, a note was handed to her. It was from Oscar Hammerstein. He had written it to her from his deathbed: ‘Dear Mary, a bell’s not a bell till you ring it. A song’s not a song until you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.’ After her performance a number of people rushed backstage, exclaiming, ‘Mary, what happened to you out there tonight? We have never heard anything like that performance! You sang with more power than you’ve ever sung!’ Blinking back tears, Mary read them the note from Hammerstein and added, ‘Tonight, I gave my love away!’
The poorest person in the world has something to give others if he or she has love in their heart. Love’s gifts take many forms—a smile, a hug, a gift, a note of thanks, a hand up, and just being there in tough times. Love is the one gift that always fits, is always appropriate, and always in season. Jesus said, ‘By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:35 NKJV) Paul wrote, ‘May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all.’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12 NKJV) John writes, ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.’
So the word for you today is: give your love away.
‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.’ Nehemiah 6:3 KJV
Success usually comes at the end of struggle; if it came easily, everybody would be experiencing it. When it comes to success, there are no shortcuts, reduced prices, or ‘special deals’. The value of anything is determined by the price you’re willing to pay for it. And when you truly value something, you won’t easily jeopardize it because you remember what it cost you. What are you afraid of today? Failing? Your concern should be the opposite—regret that you didn’t try.
Are you afraid of criticism? Face it, as you move upward in life certain people will resent your success; that’s true whether you’re arrogant or not. We all want to be liked, but at some point you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘How much am I willing to forfeit in order to be liked and accepted?’ Nehemiah, the builder of Jerusalem’s walls, said, ‘I am doing a great work, so…I cannot come down.’ Any time you defer to the opinion of people instead of the will of God, you are ‘coming down’. Stay up on the wall! Keep laying bricks—or whatever God has called you to do.
Advancement often brings isolation and criticism, and God may be grooming you right now for a new level of blessing by exposing you to both. Can you handle it? Not everybody can. But if you’re the kind of person who can’t sit on the sidelines and watch while others play the game—go for it! God will reward every step of faith you take and every sacrifice you make.
‘He was moved with compassion.’ Matthew 9:36 KJV
One of the best ways to bounce back from grief and loss is taking your memories and turning them into motivators, then reaching out in love to others who are hurting. ‘But I’m busy,’ you say. Jesus was never too busy to show compassion to hurting people.
After Ray and Judy Williamson’s son David was killed in a fall, Ray said: ‘I used to wonder if I should go to the funeral home when somebody had a tragedy, because I always feel so awkward and don’t know what to say. But I’ll never ask again. I’ll always go. It’s not what you say, but your presence that makes the difference.’ When two teenagers died in a car accident, their parents decided to have a joint wake. Over a thousand people attended, some waiting up to three hours to comfort the bereaved families. When one man who’d stood by himself in line finally reached the front, he said, ‘I don’t know your children and I’ve never met you. But I came here tonight because I had a son who died two years ago. I know how it feels. In the days ahead you’ll go through every emotion you can imagine. I just want you to know that I’m here for you if you ever need to talk.’ Then he pressed his card into their hand and walked away.
Think about that. A stranger gave three hours of his time to people he didn’t know, because he wanted to help them through the most tragic experience of their lives. Understand this: it’s in reaching out to others that (a) we become more like Jesus; (b) we ourselves are made whole.
‘Then the Lord God made a woman…and He brought her to the man.’ Genesis 2:22 NIV
Adam lived in a perfect neighborhood and had a perfect job—one God gave him. It doesn’t get much better than that. Nevertheless he was lonely; something was missing from his life. The Bible says, ‘But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God… made a woman.’ (Genesis 2:20–22 NIV) God recognized Adam’s need for companionship and He met that need. However, this is where some of us acting on loneliness, frustration, or bad advice, rush ahead of God.
There’s a reason one of the nine gifts of the Spirit listed in the Bible is ‘the ability to distinguish between spirits.’ (1 Corinthians 12:10 ESV) When someone comes into your life they don’t just bring their looks, talents, and financial assets; they also bring their spirit. If you’ve ever been around someone with a controlling spirit, a vindictive spirit, a resentful spirit, or a negative spirit, you know why this particular gift is so important. So make yourself a hard jury, one that’s not easily convinced, one that requires concrete evidence before reaching a verdict. And remember that it’s better to lengthen the deliberation process and ensure the decision you make is right, than to reach a hasty conclusion and end up with a broken heart.
You may not feel wise and experienced when it comes to making such decisions, but hear this: it’s not how much you know that arms you with the tools of great decision making, but how much you ask. The first person to ask is God, and the time to do it is before, not after you get into a relationship.
‘I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Genesis 2:18 NIV
Adam lived in a perfect world, yet he was incomplete. So God created ‘a helper suitable for him.’ And since God made you with a core need for companionship, He can introduce you to the right person. But you must be willing to consult Him, follow His guidance, and wait for His timing.
That’s not always easy. Some of us find it easier to be unhappy than to be alone. Driven by unfulfilled longings, we make rash decisions that end up hurting us. It’s impossible to make a good decision when you’re motivated by the fear of being alone or of being rejected. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the need to be needed by another person, or to share your life with someone. Don’t let anyone convince you that your need to love and be loved is a weakness. God created man to ‘multiply’, and it takes two to do that.
We are incomplete without one another. However our fear of vulnerability, of exposing our inner self to another person, makes us act as if we don’t need anyone. But God’s Word says we do. Not only that, throughout Scripture, He introduced people to one another. So pray and believe that God has someone ‘suitable’ for you; someone who fits where you are and will fit where you’re going. When you find the person God has in mind for you, you’ll discover strengths and gifts in yourself you never knew existed.
‘Pastors…equip His people for works of service.’ Ephesians 4:11–12 NIV
Here are two final principles for increasing your pastor’s effectiveness:
(1) Don’t limit them by what happened in the past. The ‘ghost of pastors past’ can block what God wants your church to do now. Don’t say, ‘In the good old days when Pastor Smith was here, we didn’t do it that way.’ That hinders your church’s growth and obstructs your pastor’s effectiveness. God is always on the move, and He requires us to stay in step with Him. Don’t expect your pastor to do things exactly like his predecessors. Appreciate what God did in the past but understand that His blessings—like His mercies—are ‘new every morning’! Yesterday’s manna won’t do for today; God will give your pastor fresh manna and fresh vision to take your church to new spiritual heights. The pastor’s job is to lead—yours is to follow.
(2) Your pastor can’t do it all alone. ‘Pastors…equip [God’s] people (that’s you!) for works of service.’ Paul writes: ‘Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.’ (Romans 12:4–6 NIV)
Who’s responsible for your church’s growth? You are! And if you don’t know where you fit, ask God and your pastor for direction. Until you know your place, you’re an unemployed body-member. Get connected and help fulfill the vision God has given your pastor.