Recharge Your Relationships

I read a tragic story this week.

Tragedy of the greatest sort.


The idea is that something has to stop in your life, so you can connect to something more important. And if you connect to the right things, you will recharge your whole life. Because let's be honest, you won’t properly recharge your life on a diet of constant activity. Something has to stop. Meaning you have to take a hard look at your schedules and the activities that fill your day and choose to stop things.

Stopping is always hard. It is difficult to cut out something that is enjoyable, or good, or harmless. We all fight with just cramming a little more into our already busy lives rather than stopping something when we add something. But when I talk about recharging certain areas of our lives, I am not talking about adding more to our already crammed full lives. What I am proposing is freeing up space for something better. The challenge is to stop. Stop something good, to invest in something better. Because you won’t properly recharge your life on a diet of constant activity. 

Stop. Connect. Recharge. 

Something in your life has to stop, so you can connect, to recharge.

Robert Banks, in his book, All the Busyness of Life, notes:
"While American society is rich in goods, it is extremely time-poor. Many societies in the two-thirds world, by contrast, are poor in material possessions, by our standards, but they are rich in time. They are not driven or hurried. They live with a sense that there is adequate time to do what needs to be done today."

In other words, while we have lots of things, and many of those things are intended to help productivity and make our lives easier, we end up having very little spare time. We wind up spending our time on the wrong things, and we live lives, despite all the blessings we are surrounded with, less fulfilled than those who have way less than us.

And because we are so busy, our relationships suffer. So this week to follow up our two messages that focused on connecting with God through our prayer life and Bible study, I am proposing a third key element to connecting with God - our relationships with others. We have to stop and slow down in order to connect with others and live a recharged life with God.

The early church did this.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (ESV)
Jesus taught us to live lives of loved toward each other:
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.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (ESV)
And Paul instructed us to also invest in others:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:4-7 (ESV)
There are so many passages in the Bible dealing with this subject. I will read just one more. This one is from John:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:7-12 (ESV)
In order to have this life with others, we have to take something out of our lives. We have to free up space and time to live lives of love and live in healthy relationships with others. God made us to be in healthy relationships with others. Yet that isn't happening. The church is not doing a good job of modeling that. We -- those who should be examples to the world of life in Jesus -- are missing out on that for which we were made and our example is more like a light hidden, salt ruined, and a city decimated.

Let's start with talking about one of the core relationships in our society, our family. A lot of families are not ideal. But no matter what situation we find ourselves in with our family, God wants us to live a life of love in it. Many of us find ourselves on the other side of events and decisions that have taken us away from the ideal family. But don't lose hope. God starts from where you are at and works on you to be where he wants you to be. So we have to stop something we enjoy. Something that is probably good and taking our time, in order to invest that time in our families and be the family God wants us to be.

And then we connect. We connect by...
Reevaluating our family - Where should our family be heading.
Rethinking our role in the family  - What can I do to get our family there.
Reinvesting our time in our family. This is where we just be who we know we should be.

This is the recharging process. You connect to the power source by reevaluating, rethinking, and reinvesting. Then we will be recharged, living in the life God wants us to live.

We start this recharged life by first working on our relationship with God through prayer and Bible study, then it spirals into our relationship with our family. From there, it spirals even further to our relationships with co-workers, neighbors, friends, and others that we encounter throughout the day.

All too often Christians want to be friends with people just to win them to the Lord. When the person doesn't come to the Lord, the Christian then moves on to the next project to try and win them to the Lord. This is not true friendship. This is not love. This is manipulation.

Instead, I want us to rethink evangelism in three ways.

One, evangelism starts with you being right with God. The first two steps of our Recharge series are essentials to evangelism. You have to be praying and reading your Bible.  Through those processes, the Holy Spirit will transform your life.

Two, evangelism is less about getting them to make a commitment to follow Jesus and about you showing them God's love. See, you can only control one of those two actions. You can't control whether a person makes a commitment to follow Jesus, but you can make a decision to show others God's love. So focus on the thing you can control. You and your love. And allow the Holy Spirit to work in the things you can't control.

Three, be seriously committed to your local church. 
The church plays a tremendous role in maturing disciples, helping new Christians get more Christian friendships, and encouraging each other serve God through good works. And if you're not involved, when you reach people, they won't be involved either. And the likelihood of a serious, life-changing faith sticking decreases.

The church is out of vogue these days in many circles. And many sincere people are claiming to follow Jesus outside of the church. Yet this is not what God designed us for. The writer of Hebrews wrote:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV).
The best way to evangelize is to actually be what you should be and to rely on the Holy Spirit to make up for your failings and to do the things that you can't do.

And then just be a great friend and blessing to the community you live in. Don't isolate yourself. Isolation is the exact opposite of evangelism. And when we isolate ourselves and still try to evangelize, we start taking the sniper approach to evangelism, launching gospel grenades at others. This would be where you just go into a conversation, drop a Jesus bomb, and think you have shared the gospel. This is not evangelism.

Be in your community, be active in your workplace, be active in your neighborhood, and be prepared to tell others why you are a Christian and why you go to church. This is evangelism. The Apostle Peter says that people will ask us for the reason we have the hope we have because we are living differently. If we don't know the answer - why we have the hope we have? Why are we following Jesus? Your story and your reasons - then we won't be able to share the gospel with words when the opportunity arises. And when we aren't living a different life in the midst of the lost, then we won't have these opportunities.

The Gospel is us living as God wants us to live. Living amongst the world but not like the world. The Gospel isn't just a witty five sentences or four steps or a five-finger message. The Gospel is a Spirit-filled life lived out with other believers among the world yet not of the world.

So we must be a blessing to the community and our friends if we want the Gospel we share to be heard.

We often look for a quick fix. One that doesn't require me being passionate for Jesus. One that doesn't require some sacrifice on my part. We want a program to implement. A phrase to use. A persuasive argument. But that isn't the way the Gospel will spread. It will spread through us living the lives we are called to live, not in isolation, but in the midst of our community. In healthy relationships with our family, with our church, and with the people around us. The Gospel will flourish in our community when we let the Gospel flourish among us.

We need to rediscover friendship in a community of isolation, fear, and selfishness.

Be a friend who tells the truth.
Be a friend who encourages and builds up.
Be a friend who guides.
Be a friend who is there through thick and thin.

Jackie Robinson was the first black person to play in the major leagues. When breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. Opposing players would stomp on his feet and kick him.

While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career. (Jackie Robinson illustration adapted from Sermon Central).

We need to be friends, even to the ones that society thinks is the least of those among us. We need to go into our friendships and ask what we can do to make our friends' lives better. If we want the gospel to be heard, then we need to live in a way worthy of someone hearing what we believe.

About 100 years ago there was a child, Walter, who loved to draw. Walter's parents did not really praise him for this. But Walter’s aunt encouraged him by buying him drawing pads and pencils. Walter also had a neighbor, “Doc” Sherwood, who encouraged his talent. The neighbor “hired” Walter to draw pictures of his horse when Walter was only 7 years old. Doc Sherwood and his wife told Walter how wonderful his drawings were. Of course, you all know what became of Walter. Walt Disney grew up to bring us Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and a host of other characters, theme parks, and lots of fun. He won 22 Oscars for his beloved Disney cartoons and movie productions, more than any single person. A little encouragement can go a long way. (Adapted from Paul and Barnabas).

Being a friend is about us putting into a relationship, not about getting something out of it. Stop trying to get something out of every relationship. Instead, focus on putting something into it. And then you will find that you are getting more out of it than ever before.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:12-17 (ESV)
Developing the community God wants isn't about a genius developing a great concept to create community. There has been community happening for thousands of years. And we seem to have forgotten how to experience it.

Developing the community God wants us to have isn't about a stroke of luck. It's about us actually striving and struggling. Breaking through the difficult moments and seeing the beauty God has intended for us.

We have to practice community until we have it. Through God's strength our church can be a real, authentic community in a society of isolation. We can be an example of the kingdom of God, an example of the gospel life.

We have to allow God to build us into a church where real relationships flourish, where people are encouraged to pursue their dreams, where people are given a hand up when they are down, and where we see the glory of God here on earth as we will in heaven.

If a church is unhealthy, it's not the programs. It's never the programs. It's the church is filled with people who don't have a right relationship with God and/or a right relationships with people. They are just going through the motions. That is not the plan God has for us. He wants us to have life and have it abundantly, not just in some far off heavenly future; he wants us to have it now. Here among the dirt. Here among the pain. Here among the suffering. Here among love. Being real. Being genuine. Being sacrificial. 

If we master these things - having a healthy family life and a healthy life with others - we will have a healthy church life.

Let me reread that passage from Hebrews:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
The one thing that we can't do on our own is encourage one another. We can't be the church while living in isolation.That is why we aren't supposed to stop gathering together. And it says here that we are to encourage one another in love and good works.

So many people are turned off by the church because of the people, people like you and me. Either they think that we are judgmental or hypocritical. But imagine a place where you could be honest about your struggles and where others were too? Imagine a place where people accepted you for who you were, but they also challenged you to get better? That is church.

Authenticity. Transparency. Being real. Those are difficult concepts in a small town.

Small towns disappointingly master at only knowing each other superficially. Yet being just that is the witness our town needs. Real, authentic, and transparent radical followers of Jesus. Not isolated or holed up. But living within the community. Living together as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Living the life God wants us to live. That is the church. That is the church Antwerp needs. That is the church the world needs.

But this just won't happen by accident. You have to take something out of your life to add something into your life.

So we must change. We must stop things that are keeping us from prayer, Bible Study, from gathering together, and loving those around us in our family and wherever else we may find ourselves. Those are the most important things in your life. And when you connect to them, you will be recharged into who God made you to be.

If we just focus on prayer, we won't be grounded. If we just focus on the Bible, we will become legalistic. If we just focus on relationships, we will become a social club. But if we do all three, we will be the church used by God to change lives. To bring His will here on earth as it is in heaven. And that is really what we all want in the depth of our soul. God's will here on earth as it in heaven. That's our prayer. And we must change to make it our reality.