How to Grow Healthy Relationships
I want you to take your Bibles and turn with me in the New Testament to the book of Galatians. We’re going to look at the last verse of Galatians, chapter 5 and the first six verses of Galatians, chapter 6. Today I want to talk to you about how to grow healthy relationships. We’re going to talk about that today.
Today we’re talking about how to grow healthy relationships.
Dr. Paul Brand was a pioneer in treating leprosy, especially in modern medicine. He was able to treat leprosy and to bring healing to that disease in ways that had never been before. He was in India and he was at the bedside of a man who had had leprosy for a long, long time. Of course, all the symptoms were there – the decay of the skin and all the other things that went along with leprosy.
Dr. Brand was talking to this man about his surgery and his treatment and what he was going to do to help treat this man’s leprosy. As he talked to him, he placed his hand on the man’s shoulder and just began to explain to him what he was going to be doing to treat his leprosy.
As he talked to him, Dr. Brand noticed that this man began to shake, almost uncontrollably and to sob. And he was speaking to him through a translator, and so hen asked the translator – Dr Brand said, “Have I done something wrong?” The translator began to talk to the man. They went back and forth for a little while. And then the translator said to Dr. Brand – he said, “You put your hand on his shoulder as you were talking to him.” He said, “It’s the first time in years and years and years that anyone has even touched this man. And he was overcome and overwhelmed with emotion that you would touch him.”
How many of you know that every one of us needs human touch in our lives? We need relationships in our lives. God has made us to live in relationships. He’s made us, first of all, to have a relationship with Himself. God made you in His image to have a relationship with Him. That’s why He sent His Son Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for your sin, to remove all of the barriers between you and God so that you can have an eternal, saving relationship with God – so that you can be with Him forever. God loves you so much that He paid the price with His own Son’s blood so that you can have a relationship with Him. He made us for relationship.
Here’s what we discover: When our relationship with God is made right through Jesus Christ, then our relationships with others can become better. He brings healing to our relationships. He brings peace to our relationships. He transforms our relationships as we walk with Jesus Christ.
So I want us to look at a passage of Scripture that talks to us about our human relationships, and how to grow healthy and stronger relationships. Stand with me as we read God’ Word together. We’re beginning in verse 26 of Galatians, chapter 5, and then moving into chapter 6 of Galatians. Remember, when Paul wrote this he wasn’t writing in chapters and verses. He was just writing. Many, many years later somebody came in and put chapters and verses. So, really, the last verse of chapter 5 of Galatians goes with the beginning of chapter 6. So let’s read it together.
The Bible says:
5 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. 6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
This is the Word of God. Will you join with me as we pray.
Lord, thank You for this good day that You’ve given us. Lord, thank You that You have made us to have a relationship with You, and You’ve made it possible for us to have that relationship through giving Your Son to die on the cross of Calvary for us to pay for our sins. Thank You for that, Lord. Then Father, I thank You that You care about our relationships with one another. So God, I pray that You would take Your Word today by Your Holy Spirit’s power, and speak to our hearts today to strengthen our relationships with each other. We’ll give You glory and honor and praise, Lord, for everything that You do. For we pray these things in Jesus’ precious Name.
Church, of you agree with that prayer, will you say amen? Amen. You may be seated.
HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS?
I want you to think about the most significant relationships in your life. If you’re married, your relationship with your spouse. Your relationships with your kids if you’re a parent. Your relationship with your parents. Your relationships with your brothers or sisters. Your relationships with your friends. Relationships within the church, within the body of Christ. I just want you to think just for a moment about some of the most significant relationships in your life.
As you think about all of those key relationships, just going through – maybe thinking about the top three or four – and I want you to rate those relationships on a scale of one to ten – one being a really weak, messed up relationships; ten being a super-strong, almost perfect relationship. Where would you put your marriage, on a scale of one to ten? Where would you put your relationships with your kids on a scale of one to ten? Where would you put your relationship with your parents, or with your friends? Where would you put your relationships with your brothers or sisters? Where would you put your relationships with other people in the church, on a scale of one to ten?
If I were to go around this room and ask, some of you would be way down in the ones and twos. You’d say, “Yeah, our marriage is just really hurting right now. We’re one or two or three. We’re really low.” Some of you would be somewhere in the middle. Some of you would say, “Yeah, we’re like nine or ten; it’s just great.”
But I would say for every person here, and with every relationship represented here, for all of us there’s room for growth. There’s room for strengthening. There’s room for improvement. So I want us to look at the Word of God and talk about four key spiritual strategies to grow healthier relationships that the Word of God shows us – four key spiritual strategies. I want you to think about each one as they relate to your own relationships.
REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE CENTER
Here’s the first strategy for growing healthy relationships that we see in this passage. The Bible shows us: Remove yourself from the center. If you want to have a healthy relationship with someone else, you’ve got to get yourself out of the way. You’ve got to remove yourself from the center.
Now, look in verse 26 of chapter 5 of Galatians. There, Paul says, “Let us not become conceited.” The word conceited simply means to be filled up with yourself. “Let us not be conceited.” Let us not be filled up with ourselves, because when you do that, you provoke one another and you envy one another.
To provoke someone means to constantly stir them up. To envy someone else is to always want what they have and to begrudge them for having what they have. When we are filled up with ourselves, when we’re at the center, then in our relationships we tend constantly to be stirring things up with the other person, and then never to enjoy that other person’s success because we’re always wondering, “Why can’t I have that success? Why can’t I have what they’re having?” We put ourselves at the center.
If you want to have a healthy relationship, learn to remove yourself from the center.
Look in verse 3 of chapter 6. There the Bible talks about something similar. It says, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Too many of us spend our lives thinking that we are something. We live our lives with ourselves at the center.
Now, when Michele and I go on vacation, she usually makes all the pictures because she’s a better photographer than I am. She’s just better out it. She knows how to set up the shot better and she just takes better pictures than I do. But when it’s time to take a selfie, I am the one in charge of selfies – not because I’m good at taking selfies – I’m awful at taking selfies – but because I’ve got the longer arms, and the person with the longer arms gets to take the selfies.
And I’m awful at it! Terrible! My arm’s always in the shot; sometimes my thumb’s in the shot; I’m always sort of looking off to the side – I’m never looking at the right place in the lens when I take the picture. I’ve got back and reviewed pictures of our vacations, and here’s what I’ve determined: The best pictures that we have are the ones where I’m not in the picture, because I just mess it up.
Same thing is true in our relationships. The more you put yourself in the picture, the more you mess up the shot. A lot of us spend our lives, and our whole life is like a selfie. It’s just all about us all the time, in every relationship.
In our marriage relationships, sometimes, the husband makes it all about himself: “What’s this doing for me? How do I feel about this? What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What’s next for me?”
Sometimes the wife puts herself in the center of the shot. “How do I feel about this? Where am I going to go? What am I going to do?” And we make it all about ourselves.
Christ-centered relationships means putting ourselves out of the center, and putting others at the center of the picture. That’s what Jesus did.
I want you to take your Bibles and turn a few pages over. These verses are not going to be on the screens, but I want you to see them. Look in Philippians, chapter 2. Philippians, chapter 2, verses 4 through 7 – actually, 4 all the way down through verse 11 – that passage is one of the greatest passages in the Bible about Jesus Christ. In fact, the four greatest passages about Jesus are found in Hebrews, in Colossians, in John, and then this passage in Philippians. So it talks about Jesus and what He did and who He is. But here’s what’s amazing: It does it in the context of telling us in our relationships not to make it all about us.
Listen to what the Bible says in Philippians, chapter 2 – I’m beginning in verse 4. There it says this: “ 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped …” In other words, He did not hold onto His position, “7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
We’ll stop right there. The Bible says that because of His great humility and His great love for us, Jesus did not put Himself in the center. Instead, He emptied Himself; He became one of us; He took every step all the way to the cross because of you – because He loves you; because He cares about you; because He was focused on what He needed to do for you. And He died on the cross to pay the price for your sins. And the Bible says that we’re to have that same kind of attitude in our relationships with one another. To say, “In our relationship, I’m going to empty myself, I’m going to lay down my rights, and I’m going to live sacrificially for you. In this relationship, I’m not going to put myself at the center; I’m going to focus on you.”
So I just would ask you: As you look at your relationships with other people, is it all about you or have you taken yourself out of the center to focus on them? Here’s one of the ways you can tell – just in your conversations: Do you constantly talk about yourself in your conversations with other people?
I was talking to a guy one time and he was describing a mutual friend, and here’s how he described him: He said, “I spent two days with him, and he never asked me one question.” That tells you a whole lot about somebody. He said, “I spend two days with him constantly; he never asked me one question. Instead, constantly he was talking about himself: “Here’s my idea; here’s my opinion; here’s what I’m thinking.” It was always focused on him.
In your marriage, with your kids, with your friends, is it focused on you or are you focused on others? The Bible says, first of all, remove yourself from the center.;
RESTORE FALLEN PEOPLE WITH GENTLENESS
Number two – second strategy for growing healthy relationships, the Bible says restore fallen people with gentleness. Restore fallen people with gentleness.
Here’s the truth: In our relationships, we’re going to disappoint one another. In our relationships, people are going to mess things up. Sometimes in our relationships, we fall into deep sin. The Bible says when that happens that we are to restore one another – fallen people – with gentleness.
Look in verse 1 of chapter 6; the Bible says, “Brothers,” and that word brothers includes men and women, brothers and sisters. “Brothers [and sisters], if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself lest you too be tempted.” We’ll stop right there.
The Bible says, “If anyone is caught in any transgression …” The word caught means to be trapped in something. It means to be trapped. Here the Bible talks about being trapped in sin. “If anyone is caught in any transgression …” A transgression is when you step over a line that God has established. You step over; you disobey God; or you step into territory that God has told you not to go into. When you do that, the Bible calls that transgression. It’s a picture for sin.
The Bible says that we can be caught; we can be trapped in transgression.
Have you ever noticed how sin traps us? Someone has said that that sin thrills and then kills. Sin fascinates and then assassinates. The Bible shows us that sin first entices us. It looks so good, and we’re so interested in it, but after it entices us, it entangles us. We find ourselves trapped in the sin that was so enticing to us, and now we want to get away from it and we can’t
Then after it entices us it entombs us, because the Bible says that ultimately, the wages of sin is what? Death. “If anyone is caught in any transgression,” anything, “you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”
A lot of times in our relationships, when someone gets trapped in a sin, caught and entangled in their own sin, here’s what we do: Sometimes we say, “Well I’m just going to ignore that and pretend like it’s not there.” And we don’t address it, and we don’t talk about it, and we act like it’s no big deal. And the sin just continues, and it just hurts the other person more and more.
That is not a loving thing to do in a relationship. It’s not loving just to ignore harmful sin in someone’s life. Sometimes we do that.
Sometimes we say, “Well, you know what? If you mess up – if you do this – if you step across that line – that’s it for you! That’s it for you and me; we’re done!” And we sort of cut off the relationship. We cancel that person. We say, “I’m not going to be involved with that person at all anymore. It’s over because of the transgression.” That’s not what the Bible says to do either; it says this: “Brothers, [sisters] if anyone is caught in a transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him.”
Now that word restore is used in the Greek language in a number of different ways. Sometimes it’s used to talk about a ship that’s been out at sea, and it’s gotten beaten up by the wind and the waves, and they would bring it back into dock and they would restore the ship – they would repair what needed to be repaired, and they’d fix the sails, and then it would be ready to go out to sea again. Sometimes it’s used to talk about that.
Sometimes it’s used to talk about a fisherman mending his nets, and there are holes in the nets, and he mends them and restores them.
But I believe the best picture for this word – it was used to talk about a doctor taking a broken bone and setting it so that it can heal. “You who are spiritual should restore the one caught in any transgression – should set that bone so that it could heal.”
When our son Joshua was in third grade, he was playing soccer in a church league soccer team. He had on his shin guards, and while he was playing he got kicked, and man, it hurt him! He was walking around with a limp. He said, “My leg, it just hurts!” He said, “My ankle hurts; my leg hurts.” His mom said, “Stay on that field and keep playing.” He played the rest of the game, and he said, “It still hurts!” And so we took him to the doctor. The doctor did x-rays, and the doctor said, “We don’t see any type of break – no hair-line fracture – nothing.” So we said okay, he’s alright.
Then a couple of days and he said, “It still hurts!” He said, “I can’t walk up the steps.” By now we’re thinking, “Well the doctor said there’s no break.” We said, “Walk up those steps. You can do it. Go up those steps.” He said, “I can’t.”
So we took him back to the doctor again and this time they saw it; it was broken. Man, we felt awful that we had made him walk up those steps. He doesn’t say anything about it now. I think he’s gotten over it. But anyway …
So the doctor says that our third-grade son has a broken leg. Here’s what he didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Don’t worry about it; we’re not going to do anything with it. Just let him keep on limping around.” That’s not what he said. He also didn’t say, “Well, he’s got a broken leg. We’re going to have to cut it off. We have to amputate this leg.” He didn’t say that. As gently as he could, he reset that bone so that it would mend and so that it would heal.
A lot of times in our relationships, when someone is caught in a transgression, rather than restoration, we choose cancellation or amputation. We say, “I’m just going to cancel this relationship. I’m just going to cut you off.” And God says His plan is restoration.
May I ask you this question: Is there someone, is there a relationship that today you need to say, “I’m going to take the steps in a spirit of gentleness to restore.”? Look what it says again: “If anyone is caught in any transgression , you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” And then it says this, “… keeping watch on yourself lest you too be tempted.” “I’m going to restore you in a spirit of gentleness because I know that I’m capable of doing the same thing you’ve done. I can be tempted just like you’ve been tempted. And because I recognize that about myself, I want to show grace and gentleness to you.”
There are some spouses here today, some husbands and wives who need to forgive one another and restore that relationship. There are some parents here today and I don’t know what it was, I don’t know what the line was that you said that if they cross it they can never come back, but you’ve said that – “If you cross this line you can’t ever come back” – and today God is showing you, no, He wants you to do as much as you can do about it, to say, “I want this relationship to be restored.”
The Bible says to grow healthy relationships, restore fallen people with gentleness. That doesn’t mean saying that sin is not sin. It doesn’t mean saying that sin doesn’t have consequences. But it does mean reaching out with grace and forgiveness when people around us, when people we love have fallen and gotten trapped by their own transgression.
SUPPORT OTHERS IN THEIR STRUGGLES
A third strategy the Word of God gives us: Number three, the Bible says to have healthy relationships, support others in their struggles. Support others in their struggles.
Now look in verse 2 of chapter 6. (Everybody with me so far? Say amen if you are.) Okay, look in verse 2; the Bible says, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Here the Bible is talking about supporting one another in our struggles.
One of the things that’s a great blessing at Quail Springs Baptist Church is that we have support groups that meet throughout the week. And they’re for all kinds of different things. We have Celebrate Recovery on Mondays, but then we have other support groups throughout the week. And all of those support groups are based on this verse of Scripture. “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” It’s about supporting others in their struggles.
The word burden there means a weight that is so heavy and so crushing – that’s what it means literally: a heavy, crushing weight that it is impossible for a person to bear. “Bear one another’s burdens,” because when you do that, look at what the Bible says; when you do that you fulfill the law of Christ. What was the law of Christ? I believe Paul’s referring to John chapter 13, verse 34 where Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” So when we love one another – that’s the law of Christ, to love one another – when we love one another, part of that is bearing one another’s burdens. When someone is under a burden they can’t carry, to say, “Because I love you, I’m going to help you carry this burden.”
Sometimes it’s hard for us to let somebody help carry our burden. Sometimes we’re all weighted down and we can barely move, and our back is about to break, and we say, “I got it.” But God wants us to show enough grace to one another that we’ll bear one another’s burdens and allow others to help us with our burdens.
A few years ago I had some minor surgery – it was hernia repair surgery. But a week after I had that surgery, I was to travel from Florida to St. Louis and I was to lead in a meeting there. There was going to be no problem with me leading the meeting, but Michele wondered whether or not I would be able to travel and do all the things I needed to travel.
So she asked my surgeon; she said, “Can Stephen fly and take this trip?” And he said, “Yeah, he’ll be okay to do that.” He said, “He doesn’t need to drive a car, but he can fly. He’ll be fine doing that.” She said, “Well can he carry his own luggage?” And the surgeon said, “No; he can’t carry anything heavier than a milk jug.” So he said, “He can’t carry his own luggage.”
So Michele said, “Well, Stephen, I’ll go with you.” I want to tell you this: When I came to be your pastor, you got an okay pastor; you got an awesome pastor’s wife. I just want to tell you that. Amen. She’s awesome!
And so Michele said, “I’ll go with you,” and that meant she was going to be sitting in a hotel room for three or four days with absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go, but she said, “I’ll go with you because somebody needs to carry your luggage.” And so she drove us to the airport, and we opened up the back of the car and she got out the luggage. But I was just walking around with nothing in my hands, and my wife’s got all this luggage, just pulling it. That’s hard to do! In our male-ness, that’s sort of hard to let somebody do. And then we got all the way, and you know, she loaded up the luggage on the conveyor belt, and they took it away. She checked it, then we got on the airplane and we flew into St. Louis.
As we’re getting off the airplane, the guy on the other side of me gets up and he says to me, “Listen, I just had shoulder surgery. I can’t get my luggage down. Will you get it?” I was getting ready to help him with his luggage. Michele said, “You can’t help!” She said, “Sir, he cannot help you with your luggage; he just had surgery and he can’t lift any luggage.” She helped him get down his luggage!
And then we get out and we go to the conveyor belt at luggage claim, and by now we’re around people that I know. And I’m standing there and these big pieces of luggage are coming, and my wife’s pulling this luggage off. I’m saying things like, “Thank you, Michele, for helping with our luggage since I surgery just last week, and am prohibited from getting my own luggage!” Now, I didn’t say anything like that, but I wanted to!
When you – are y’all with me? This is a burden you can’t carry, and God puts other people in your life to help you carry that burden. That’s what we do in marriage. That’s what we do for our kids. That’s what we do for our parents sometimes. That’s what we do for one another in the body of Christ. “Bear one another’s burdens,” look at it again: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
How do you show that you love one another? By bearing one another’s burdens. How do you keep the commandment, “Love one another as Christ has loved you”? Bear one another’s burdens. Think about that: Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Aren’t you thankful that Jesus bore your burdens. Man, the weight of my own sin, I could never carry. It’s a crushing weight. I couldn’t get out from under it, but Jesus Christ came and said, “I will lift that burden; I will save you from your sin!” Praise God for that today.
He calls us in our relationships with one another to bear one another’s burdens – when the load is too heavy, to say, “I’ll come and I’ll help.”
So the Bible says support others in their struggles.
TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
Then fourthly, the Bible shows us this – and this one may seem almost contrary to the point that I just gave you, but I want you to hear it. Number four: Take personal responsibility. To have healthy relationships with others, you must take personal responsibility for yourself.
Look in verses 4 and 5 of the text. There, Paul writes this: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.” Notice what it says in verse 4; it says, “Let each one test his own work.” In other words, look at your own life and figure out: Are you taking responsibility to live the life that God has given you to live? Are you being faithful to Jesus Christ? Are you living your life the way God has intended you to live your life?
Then the Bible says in verse 5, “Each one will have to bear his own load.” Now that may seem contradictory. Earlier on he has said that we’re to bear one another’s burdens. But here he says that each one will bear his own load. What’s the difference there? Why would the Bible say both those things?
Remember, the burden there is something crushing – a weight that is so heavy that nobody can bear it on their own. But here, the word load in verse 5 – they used it to talk about a soldier’s backpack. It’s basically saying that each soldier is responsible for carrying his own backpack.
I don’t want you to miss this: If you don’t take personal responsibility for carrying your own weight, you will abuse every relationship you have. If you don’t take personal responsibility for carrying your own load, for carrying your own pack – if you don’t take responsibility for that, you will abuse every relationship you have.
There are kids who are abusing their relationship with their parents because they’re asking mom and dad to do everything and they’re not carrying their own load. We’re talking about adult kids who can carry their own load, and they’re expecting mom and dad to still do everything for them.
There are husbands who are tearing their marriages apart because you’re expecting to just sort of come home from work and do nothing, instead of carrying your own load.
The Bible says each one is responsible for carrying his own weight.
Here’s something that happened in my life that sort of helps me to understand this. When I was a teenager – maybe I was about fourteen years old – my mother had a piano that was upstairs, that she wanted to move downstairs. Now, I’m an only child, so it’s just me, my mom, and my dad. And my dad could not carry that piano by himself, and my biceps were smaller than my elbows. I couldn’t help him carry it either.
So, my dad called, I think, about three of his friends – friends that were good enough that he could say, “Can you help me move a piano?” That’s a pretty good friend: “Hey, can you help me move a piano?” And three guys showed up, and my dad and the other three – four guys – moved that piano from upstairs to downstairs. My job as a fourteen year old was just to open the doors and make sure the doors were open and the path was clear as they were going.
So I was watching them. I didn’t have my hand on the piano because there wasn’t room for another hand on that piano. Plus, I couldn’t help anyway. But I’m watching these guys move the piano from upstairs to downstairs, and here’s what they did: They struggled, and they strained, and they grunted, and sometimes they had to put it down and rest for a while, pick it back up, and they turned the corners – they were really careful. Sometimes they had to try it a different way because it wouldn’t make the corner they were trying to make. They finally got it downstairs. Along the way they laughed with one another. They smiled. They had a good time. And my dad was appreciative of his friends who came and his friends were glad to be there because he had a burden he could not carry, and so they helped him carry his burden.
But, if after that was all over my dad said to his three friends, “Hey guys, my grass needs cutting. Would y’all come out tomorrow and cut my grass,” they would have said no! My dad’s able-bodied. Plus, he’s got a fourteen-year-old son. I could carry that part of the load. He could carr that part of the load.
So there’s a difference between bearing a burden and just constantly having to carry somebody else’s load. Does that make sense to y’all?
So many times we abuse relationships or we allow people to abuse us in a relationship when we’re constantly carrying a load that somebody else ought to be carrying, or when we’re asking someone to carry a load that we ought to be carrying. The Bible says – look again in verse 5: “Each will have to bear his own load.”
One of the biggest problems we have in our world today is that we’ve got a whole world that thinks somebody else is responsible for carrying their load: “It’s not my responsibility.” People don’t take responsibility for their own lives. One of the things that we need to do in the church is to teach one another and help one another, and especially in our families to teach our kids to take personal responsibility and to carry their own loads.
Can I just share with you some things that you can do to help your kids carry their own loads? There are some parents who just need to write – I’m going to give you five things that you can do to help your kids carry their own loads. These are things that I’ve learned by watching my mom and dad, and the things I’ve learned by watching my wife – five things that can make a huge difference.
5 THINGS TO HELP YOUR KIDS CARRY THEIR OWN LOADS
Number one: Start young. Start you. When they’re old enough to do it, make them clean up their own toys and keep their bedroom neat. Start young. (Somebody ought to say amen to that right there.)
Number two: Let them help you. If you’re folding clothes, let them help you fold clothes. If you’re mowing the yard and they’re old enough, let them help you.
Number three: Model responsibility. You be responsible as a mom or a dad, and you tell them why. Tell them why you pay your bills. Tell them why you go to work: You don’t expect somebody else to take care of you. Tell them why you’re on time for things. Model responsibility.
Number four – this one’s the hardest one: Teach consequences. Teach consequences. When they make a mistake, and there’s a cost, don’t always jump in to bale them out. Teach them consequences.
Then number five, and this one’s so important: Praise them. When you catch them doing the right thing, praise them for what they’re doing.
Take personal responsibility. The Bible says each one will have to bear his own load. Just four simple strategies for growing healthy relationships: Remove yourself from the center, restore fallen people with gentleness, support others in their struggles, take personal responsibility.
A STORY OF ANSWERED PRAYER
Her name was Kathy. Her son Nicolas was about eight or nine years old. He was profoundly developmentally disabled. Completely unresponsive. When he was about eight or nine, Kathy just felt led of God to ask her church, the elders of her church, to gather around Nicolas, to pray over him, and to anoint him with oil. She wasn’t even sure what specifically she was asking for in terms of what she wanted to see God do in Nicolas’s life. She just wanted things to be better for him.
So they gathered around Nicolas. They prayed for him and anointed him with oil. That was when he was about eight or nine years old.
He was twenty-five years old, and for twenty-five years Kathy would go in to see her son. He required constant care. He was living in a place where they were able to care for him the way he needed care. She would come in to see him, and he never, ever responded to her at all. For twenty-five years, no response. She didn’t know whether he knew was in the room, or whether he knew she was his mom. No indication.
She had a yearly meeting with the people who took care of Nicolas just to check on his progress. And in one of the meetings, Nicolas’s speech therapist – he couldn’t speak, but he had a speech therapist who worked with him. His speech therapist said, “Kathy, I really think that Nicolas is making some progress in communication.” She said, “I’ve been working with him with a red card and a green card. The green card means yes; the red card means no. I’m asking him questions, and he’s learning how to respond yes or no, just by pointing to those cards.” She said, “I’d like you to come and see it.”
So Kathy came. She really didn’t know what to expect. She came in and the therapist began to ask Nicolas some questions. He’d point yes to the green card, or no to the red card. And he got the questions right. And after the therapist had asked Nicolas three or four just general questions, she asked him this question: “Nicolas, is your mom here with us today?” And Nicolas reached out and pointed to that green card, yes. It was the first time in his life that Nicolas’s mom even knew whether he knew she was his mom.
She left the room, crying tears of joy. She got on the telephone and called the pastor of that church and said to him, “Remember when Nicolas was eight or nine and we prayed? You prayed and you anointed him with oil and prayed for God to do something in his life.” She said, “Today, God answered that prayer.”
God made us for relationships with Himself and with one another. He cares about your relationships. He cares about your marriage. He cares about your relationship with your kids. He cares about your friendships. He cares, and He wants to work in those relationships as you walk with Him and as you look to Him.
Bow your heads and close your eyes, all across this room. Again, I want to ask you to think about some of the most significant relationships in your life. Right now, I want you to bring each of those relationships to the Lord and simply give God control of those relationships. Just right now in your heart, just come before the Lord and say, “Lord, I give You control of my marriage. I give You control of my relationship with my kids. God, I give You control of my relationship with my parents. I give You control of my relationship with my friends.”
Some young people are here today and you just need to pray, “Lord, I give you control of my relationship with my significant other. I give you control of my dating relationships.”
Lord Jesus, right now we acknowledge You are Lord of all. We make You Lord. We give control. We surrender to You in our relationships. Lord, we thank You that through Jesus Christ we have a relationship with God forever, and that through Jesus Christ we can have good relationships, godly relationships with others. Thank You for that, Lord.
Now in this moment, with our heads bowed and our eyes closed, I want to ask you to do this: I want you to pray for what I call real-time grace in the relationship where you would say there’s the most room for improvement. Maybe it’s a marriage; maybe it’s a relationship with your kids; maybe it’s some other relationship – but to pray and to ask God for real-time grace – that just means grace when you need it – so that you can be who God has called you to be and do what God’s called you to do in that relationship.
Lord God, give us real-time grace to remove ourselves from the center and to humble ourselves to others. God, give us real-time grace to bear other people’s burdens, even when that burden is heavy. Lord, give us real-time grace to take personal responsibility and to help others do the same. God, give us real-time grace to restore those who have fallen rather than ignoring, or cutting them of, or cancelling them, or amputating the relationship. Lord God, we thank You that You work in our lives by Your grace, and that we can look to You. So God, I just ask on behalf of people all across this room: Lord, give us real-time grace in our relationships. For we pray these things in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.