Like life, time, talent, and treasure, we all have relationships. But of these gifts only time is perfectly constant – meaning we all have 24 hours in a day. Of course, you might say, but some people have a longer life, and while that is true, I would put that under the gift category of life. But not only are some life’s longer, some have a different quality – not just in health, but in the approach to life. The same can be true of how we use our talents, and what we consider to be our treasure (which is quite different than worry about how much treasure we do/do not have). Likewise, the number and, more importantly, the quality of our relationships will be different as well. But, we all have someone or many others in our lives and those relationships are a gift from God. So, let us examine three types of relationships that God has given to us.
God Gave Us Family
For most people the greatest relationships they have are those within their family. Of course, not everyone has good relations with their family members, and many families have at least one family relationship that is strained. But as the old saying goes, “blood is thicker than water” which is a testimony to the importance of family.
- The blessing of our biological family. (Matthew 19.3-6)
We must understand that our family is a gift from God. In fact, it is the first new gift God gave to mankind. I say, “new,” because all of the rest of Creation was complete when God created man. Of course, God then took man and put him in the Garden of Eden. And he brought the animals before man. But when the first man was unable to find a suitable companion, God made woman. And the man and woman were a gift to one another from God. And from this gift man multiplied greatly to cover the earth (see Gen 1.28).
We see family being a gift from God in so many places. The Bible says that God blessed Noah and told them to be fruitful and multiply – that is, add to your family (Gen 9.1). Of course, the family begins with a man and woman, but from there it often extends to children eventually uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. are all a part of one larger family. Consider Abraham was called the “father” of many nations. And Jacob had twelve sons who were the namesakes of the tribes of Israel. But all of these descendants are a part of a gift from God.
We have to remember that Abraham and Sarah were not able to have children, but God made it possible (see Gen 18 which was fulfilled in Gen 21). Remember Samuel’s mother Hannah praying and God granting her a son (1 Samuel 1). And Solomon writes in Psalm 127 that children are a heritage from the Lord. That is, they are a gift from God (Psalm 127.3-5).
But besides our biological family, those who are Christian are a part of God’s family. And thus, we have...
- The blessing of our church family.
Of course, to truly be a part of a church family means being a part of God’s family. (Mark 3.33-35).
People may belong to a church, but unless God is the Father of a person, then that person is not truly a part of the family. But God does desire that each one of us be a part of His family. It is God’s gift to us because of His love for us. (See John 1.12-13; Ephesians 2.19; 1 John 3.1).
Again, the true benefit is being part of God’s family. I preached a full series on God adopting us as His children at this time last year. But being in God’s family, means that those who are a part of His church are members of a family as well. And what a gift that is – or, at least, should be! Frankly, I am closer to some people in this and previous churches than I am with many people who share DNA with me. And that’s ok. It is like Jesus said with His own mother and siblings outside the door in Capernaum that day, those who follow God were His true family. I feel the same way about many church friends.
Like with any family, tensions arise in a church. But think about where those tensions in your home were often discussed and even settled many years ago. It was often around the dinner table. And, similar to a family unit who solves issues while they eat, we are instructed in the Bible to make peace with our fellow family members in the church before we worship (Matthew 5.23-24) and especially before we take the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11).
Therefore, we should be thankful to God for His gift to us that we all family.
God Gave Us Friends (John 15.12-15)
The Bible is full of examples of people being friends. Of course, the primary text for this point is Jesus words to His disciples that they are His friends. Now, some might consider Jesus words a little strange given the fact that in the previous section we saw from Mark 3 that Jesus called those who do God’s will His brothers and sisters. But as I mentioned a moment ago, most of us will have friends that are dear to us more than certain family members are. And, more to the point, we would certainly call some of our family members friends while others are more like acquaintances. That is a part of what Jesus is saying here. You are no longer my servants, you are truly my friends. What an honor! And what a gift from God.
Other friendships in the Bible would include Moses and Joshua, Jonathan and David, Paul and Barnabas, and many others. Some of these friendships also served as mentoring types (e.g. Moses/Joshua and Paul/Timothy), but the importance of friendships is clearly evident throughout the Bible.
Beyond the idea of just being a friend, we will say that someone is a good friend while others are bad. For those on Facebook, we have to adjust the definition of a “friend” even further. I used to have a policy that I would only be friends on FB with those I knew (which still didn’t mean we were actual friends, but at least I knew them). Now, I am “friends” with many people I have never met and likely never will. Why the change? Because God has given me an opportunity to influence them by sharing my thoughts and teaching from His Word.
So, the definition of being a “friend” has changed in our culture. But the fact remains that some people have a positive effect on us while others can lead us in the wrong direction. Let us briefly hear what God’s word says about the positive and negative aspects of certain people in our lives.
- The blessing of good friends. Ecclesiastes 4.9-12, Proverbs 17.17, Proverbs 27.9, 17
- The challenge of bad friends. Proverbs 22.24-25
- And some verses provide a contrast – Prov 12.26; 13.20
But the point of all of this is that God gave us friends. Our objective should be to be wise in who we call our friend. So, we have seen that God gave us family and God gave us friends, but one other group remains.
God Gave Us Others
The moment a person is conceived, you are part of a family. You may choose not to like the family or be associated with a family, but a DNA test will reveal family ties. On the other hand, we get to choose our friends. As we just saw, it is important to choose wisely, but the reality is that before people become friends, they are not. That is, other people are just that – they are not family and they are not friends – at least, not yet. So, we can lump everyone who does not fit into the category of family or friend into a collective category called other.
Sometimes we know the people in the other category. Perhaps we work with them or have met them at an event or know them because of another relationship in our lives. But we do not know them well enough to truly call them a friends. (BTW, this would be a good term for all of those people on Facebook that are not truly friends, but who wants to be called an “Other” – even if we all know it is true.
The Bible has a few really good examples of others. Luke 10 tells the story of a few people who are others. One person is injured and three “others” pass by, but only one of the “others” stops to help. And this man is a Samaritan. If this story had another chapter, I wonder if these two strangers might have become friends. In Luke 19, Jesus also stops along the path because He sees a man who is likely without many friends because of his profession. But Jesus goes to his house, which happens to reveal what so many others think about this tax collector (and Jesus). But Zacchaeus found a friend that day in Jesus and it changed his life and his eternity.
We can find examples where we are to with others as well. Jesus says that we should pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that we are to care for the least of these. While that may means Christian brothers and sisters, it also means others. Therefore, this group of people is prominent. And they are a gift from God. Why are they a gift?
Because like our family and like our friends, the others provide an opportunity to serve. I mentioned the gift of talents last week and said we would have a connection to this week. Well, this is the connection. Last week, I mentioned that one of the gifts God has given each person is the gift of one or many talents. In fact, God gave everyone certain skills, talents, and abilities. And for those who are born again, He also gave us spiritual gifts. And when we use the attributes God has given us, especially as He desires us to use them, then we are expressing our thanks to Him for our gifts.
Our serving can certainly help our family much of the time. It will help our friends a good deal of the time. And we never know how our service to others might make a difference in their life – and like Zacchaeus, for eternity as well. Now, I know that when Jesus used others in the verse that I am about to share, He meant all others (family, friends, strangers, etc.) But listen to what Jesus says about others in a verse that should be VERY familiar to us now – “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.16). That verse captures the essence of our church’s vision perfectly. But the idea is that we must use the gifts that God has given us in our time, talents, and treasure so that God’s gifts to us of our family, friends, and others might bring Him glory for what He is doing in and through us.
So, God gives us gifts. But He does so not for our purpose, but for His. That doesn’t make God selfish, it makes God glorious. After all, without God we would have nothing, and in fact, we would literally not exist. So, let us celebrate the gifts God has given – the time, talent, and treasure and all of those relationships He has brought into our lives as well.
While not all relationships are “good” or healthy, each and every relationship has a purpose. Relationships can smooth our certain areas of our lives when we yield to the grace of God. Thus, relationships are like sandpaper and the more “smoothing out” we need, the rougher the relationship usually is. Why? Because it requires us to rely more on God.
Ultimately, God gave us relationships, in part, because our lives would be empty without them. But, more importantly, He gave us relationships so that we can serve others, be served by others, and serve with others because while we are serving others, we can be serving Him.
The JOURNEY letter for this week is: U – UNITE.
Unity is not always possible. The Bible is realistic about this. Paul wrote in Romans 12 that as much as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone. Jesus did this, and yet a friend betrayed Him and others killed Him. But God’s goal is for His people to be united. How do we know? Because it is the very nature of God. After all, God is a relationship – Father, Son, Spirit. And we call this relationship Trinity, which is really expressing the 3-in-1 aspect into one word with the “3” represented by the prefix “tri-“ and the “1” represented by the word unity. So, using the term trinity is really to say tri-unity. Thus, if God is united Himself, He wants His people to be united as well.
PRINCIPLE: God gives us relationships because it not good that the man (or woman) should be alone. (See Genesis 2.18.)
QUESTION: What relationship(s) in your life do you need to give thanks to God because of your appreciation of His gift? What relationship(s) do you need to seek to mend because God gave you the opportunity to have the relationship in the first place?
NEXT STEP(S): LOVE: It is usually easier to love our family and even our friends than it is to love others, especially complete strangers. But the Great Commandment – loving God and loving others – is all about relationships (Mark 12.30-31). So, let us show thanks to God for His gift of relationships to us by being better at loving others in the coming year(s).