So, let’s continue looking today at the Wisdom of God with part 9 of our series entitled, “Wisdom - the Principal Thing.”
We have learned the value that wisdom has, and looked at all of the benefits that she brings when we obtain her. We have learned what wisdom is and what it is not, seeing that wisdom is not “knowledge” or “understanding.” Rather, we saw that wisdom is being skilled in the arena of life. We have studied what I consider to be wisdom’s primary characteristic - that it always looks ahead - and how one can become wise.
Then, we started looking at various practical areas and have studied how the wisdom that descends from above teaches us to be wise in these areas:
So now this week, I would like us to move on to another practical area that we need God’s wisdom in – the area of relationships:
Did you know that the Book of Proverbs has a lot of good, sound wisdom about how to both build and maintain good, healthy relationships? It absolutely does! So, I believe both this week and the next we are going to look at the myriad of Scriptures that teach us how to have a better relationship with our spouse, with our friends, with our children/parents, and with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. So, there is no one here that will not benefit from the wisdom we will hear over the course of these two weeks.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS
Now I want to begin by us looking at Proverbs 14:4, where we see a very comical truth about how important relationships are to our lives:
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”
You see, we need the ox to carry the load. The farmer cannot till the ground himself. He needs the oxen’s strength to get the job done. However, along with the oxen comes some messiness. Now the word “trough” here describes a manger or a feeding trough, but this word can also be used to describe the stall or the stable that the animal is kept in. So, in other words, with the oxen comes the oxen’s mess (i.e. poop).
So, yes, with people come problems, and the more people we have in our church family, the more potential for problems we will have. However, the more people we have, the more strength and ability to increase we will have.
So my point is - we need each other! While we might be tempted to think that we would be better off not having any relationships because of the chance of getting hurt, we cannot live isolated lifestyles.
The Bible teaches us that two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9), that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), and that we are the body of Christ and as a body we need to be connected to each other (Ephesians 4:16). Some have strayed from the truth in thinking that they are okay if they just worship on their own. That’s a lie, saints! Never is it okay for us to isolate ourselves.
In fact, Proverbs 18:1 tells us that “a man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” That makes it pretty simple, doesn’t it? When someone isolates themselves, it is because they are being self-centered - only thinking about themselves - because if they were thinking of others, they would be inspired to get out and be a blessing in other people’s lives. Also, we need to understand that this isolation also opens us up to be devoured by the devil because, as 1 Peter 5:8 teaches us, he is like a roaring lion that is seeking to pick off his prey that has left the pack. So, never is it wise to withdraw from the fellowship of others – it is us going down the path of becoming easy prey for the devourer and is also us openly defying the Master’s commandment to love one another. Amen or “Oh, me”!?!
But one of the main reasons why people do not heed these sound, biblical instructions is because they have been so hurt by people. They have had other believers treat them wrong, disappoint them, and not meet their expectations. But what they have experienced is the mess that it is in the stable, which is unfortunately part of what comes with the things each person has to contribute to the strength of the church. My former pastor used to say that if you find the perfect church, don’t join it or it will not be perfect any longer😊 However, a wise farmer just learns to live with the stink that comes with the livestock because he or she knows that the benefits they bring to the body far outweigh the “stank” they bring.
Likewise, we must learn that we need each other. I might do things that stink to you, and you might do things that stink to me, but there is something good that we all can bring to the table and an increase in the body that we have to offer. Amen?
So, turn to your neighbor on your right and tell them, “I need you.” Then turn to your neighbor on the left and tell them, “And you need me - all the ‘stank’ and all!”
So, understanding how important relationships are to all of our lives, let’s begin this week delving into this subject and learn “How to Build Healthy Relationships.”
Now one thing is apparent regarding relationships: they must be built. They don’t always just happen automatically. They must be cultivated and worked at. Even in the marriage relationship, you have to work at it. Very rarely, does a couple come together and have no problems in their relationship.
But here is the key point: it is worth the work. And not just in our marriage relationships, but in every relationship of life. They are worth working for.
But where many fail is in how they try and build relationships because they do not properly cultivate them. In other words, they do not use godly wisdom in this area.
Proverbs 24:3-4 says, “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
How do you build a home? Do you just haphazardly begin the building process, or do you sit down first and draw out the plans? You see, this principle can be applied to many areas, but think about it regarding building relationships. Relationships must be built through wisdom. They have to be established by understanding. They are furnished and decorated by knowledge.
So, yes, good and healthy relationships are built by wisdom, knowledge and understanding. So, let’s look at some of the knowledge, understanding and wisdom available to us in the Book of Proverbs that will help us build good friendships:
The first principle of relationships that needs to be addressed is in the choosing of relationships. You see, many people – even born again, Spirit-filled believers – make unwise decision on who they associate with.
Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
We don’t ever need to be naïve in thinking that we will change those we hang around with. Many have been deceived into thinking that they can marry an unbeliever and they will convert them. No, it doesn’t work that way. This Scripture tells us that the way of the wicked will lead us astray, not we will lead them aright.
No, this Proverb is telling us that what is most likely to happen is they will change you. You see, the Bible tells us not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Why? It is because “evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). In fact, 1 Corinthians 15:33 begins by telling us not to be deceived about this either.
You know, whenever the Bible tells us not to be deceived or ignorant concerning something, that is exactly what we see most people tend to have the least amount of light concerning. For example, Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 12:1 that he did not want us to be ignorant concerning spiritual gifts. Well, guess what most of the Body of Christ is ignorant concerning today? You got it - the gifts of the Spirit! James also said in James 1:16-17 not to be deceived because every good and perfect gift comes down from our good God. Well, guess what most of the church today is deceived about? Right again: Most are ignorant in what God is the author of and in what His true nature is.
Well, here in 1 Corinthians 15:33, the Apostle Paul said not to be ignorant about the fact that having fellowship with evil people will corrupt our walks. So, don’t be so arrogant that you think you are the exception to this rule.
Now does this mean that we are to withdraw from the world and live like a “monk?” Of course, it doesn’t! The salt is meant to get out of the salt-shaker and the light is meant to be seen by the world. But simply letting our good works being seen by all men is a far-cry from us spending time with the ungodly for pleasures sake. In other words, being around people for the true purpose of discipling them is different than hanging out with them just for fellowship. That is where we need to make a distinction.
And I am not just talking here about the “Christian” versus the “unbeliever.” We even need to choose wisely what “believers” (I use that term loosely) we associate with. Did you know that the Bible teaches us to not even keep company with anyone named a brother or sister who is sexually immoral, covetous, an idolater, a reviler, a drunkard, or an extortioner? (See 1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
Therefore, we need to follow this word of wisdom by choosing our friends carefully. We need to find other believers that we are currently evenly yoked with where we are, or ones we would like to be at the place where they are. Why? Because just as it is true that a little leaven leavens the whole lump from a negative sense (1 Corinthians 5:6), if we desire to become wiser and to grow from those who are ahead of us in the Lord, we can be positively affected by our fellowship with them. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; whoever walks with fools will suffer harm.”
ASSOCIATE WITH WHO?
So, what kind of friends should we be looking for? First of all, and as I just said, we should look for those that we are evenly yoked with. That is the first and most important part of those you befriend. I believe, as a general rule, you will feel closer to your spiritual family than even your natural family if your blood & kin do not believe like you do. And our brothers and sisters in Christ are those who become these friends that stick closer than our natural brothers and sisters.
But the Book of Proverbs gives us some other qualities we should be looking for in friends:
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
So, look for people who truly will love you all the time - in the good times but also in the bad times. In other words, look for people who do love well. Not only will they love you, but you can learn from them how to love better yourself.
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Look for those who will truly be a friend to you, not just flatter you and tell you what you want to hear. No, find those who will tell you the truth and tell you what you need to hear, not just what you would like to hear.
Verse 5 said that “open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” In other words, it is better to have a friend that will call you out on something you are doing wrong than one who will love you but not tell you what you need to hear.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
Look for those who will make you a better person, who will challenge you to be all that you can be in the Lord. Don’t “play” with those who do not provoke you to be a better person than you currently are. You know, it works that way in sports - you become better as you play with and against those who do well themselves. Likewise, it is that way in life: We need to associate with “iron” in order to provoke ourselves unto love and good works.
Now here are some other Proverbs that talk about who we are not to associate with:
Proverbs 14:7 in the CEV says, “Stay away from fools, or you won't learn a thing.”
In other words, don’t hang out with foolish people. Why? Because they will not add to you. I know we are reiterating this point - but we need to have friends that will sharpen us, not make us duller.
Proverbs 24:21 – “My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those given to change.”
The CEV says it this way - “My children, you must respect the Lord and the king, and you must not make friends with anyone who rebels against either of them.” In other words, do not associate with people who do not honor and respect the Lord. That is the spiritual side of it. But also, do not associate with people who do not honor and respect our leaders.
You see, it is one thing to not agree with the things our leaders do, but it is another thing to disrespect their office and position. The Bible specifically tells us to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) And you can still honor those in leadership even if you know they are doing wrong things. You do this by simply respecting the position they hold.
So, in short, we need to have “honorable” friends - that is, those who are respectable and treat others with dignity and respect. Honor is a lost art in our modern-day society.
Proverbs 20:19 in the NASB says, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore, do not associate with a gossip.”
This Proverb expressly says, “Do not associate with a gossiper.” And as we have seen, there are a lot of negative things said about the “talebearer.” But the truth is - one reason we do not want to associate with gossipers and slanderers is because those that gossip to you will most likely gossip about you. Therefore, it is simply unwise to fellowship with a gossiper. Slanderers are not good friends to make.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS
Now someone will say, “I need friends, but haven’t been able to make many.” Well, if that’s you, then you need to apply the following principles of wisdom into your life:
Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
This proverb seems to say that in order to have friends, you yourself must be friendly. In other words, don’t just sit there waiting on someone to befriend you. You see, we like people to approach us and make us feel welcome, loved and appreciated, but if we are not doing the same ourselves, then we have no right to get upset that others are doing that to us. “Well, they are a ‘so and so’ and they should be doing that,” someone will say. But we cannot afford to live our lives expecting people to do things for us. And do you know why? Because people will disappoint you and you will, therefore, live in constant offense living like that.
A good rule to live by is this: when it comes to people, expect nothing and appreciate everything. In other words, don’t expect people to treat you a certain way. Just be thankful when they do. That way they can be gracious to you and are not doing things out of some debt you perceive they have.
I once heard of an elderly woman who got offended with her children and grandchildren for never calling her. Well, my question is, did she ever call them? No, of course, she didn’t! That’s just fleshly self-centeredness, saints, and it is foolish (i.e. unwise)!
No, we ought to aggressively be friendly to others. How? By loving people - being a good listener, being helpful, being caring and compassionate. Fulfill others needs and see your needs fulfilled as a result. This is the law of sowing and reaping.
But, as Proverbs 18:24 went on to say, there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and His name is Jesus! So, even if we have done everything we can to make friends, know that He is the only friend you and I truly need! Sure, as we are making the point of, it is good to have other people in our lives and there certainly are benefits to being surrounded by fellowship, but He is all we really need, and He is the best friend you and I could ever truly have.
Proverbs 22:11 says, “He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.” The CEV says, “The king is the friend of all who are sincere and speak with kindness.”
So, this Proverb shows us how to have friends that we want to have: We need to be sincere and transparent, and also let our words add to people. You do understand that very few people do this, don’t you? Very few are actually pure of heart and are void of pretense and ulterior motives. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be either. Also, we need to use our words to edify others, to encourage and build them up.
Proverbs 25:25 says, “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Trey’s Translation would say, “Good news from an unexpected place is awesome!” You see, what people desire is good news, not bad news. But so many are quick to share all of the bad news. If we want to be desired, we need to be a refreshing cup of cold water by exceeding people’s expectations with good, kind and gracious words. Amen?
But the fact is, what most do is build themselves up. Almost all of their conversations revolve around themselves. Let’s not be that way, church! Again, let’s swim upstream and be kind, gracious and considerate. This is how we build good relationships.
The first half of Proverbs 19:22 says, “What is desired in a man is kindness…” This is what people truly want from others - love. They desire people who are loving, faithful, kind, etc.
Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.”
So, what is your gift? What is something that God has put in you or something you have cultivated in your life that blesses people? Use it to bless them. But be cognizant of whether what you are doing or saying is truly “blessing” others. I say this because many people think that they are “blessing” with their stories, jokes, or their own presence, but people are just tolerating them. We need to have “room awareness”, church - knowing what truly is or would be blessing others.
Now we are not talking about “buying friends” here. I am simply talking about implementing new character in your life to be more of a loving, caring, kind person. If you are this way, you will have more friends than you can handle. I guarantee you.
Now here are some other “Don’t Do’s” if you want more friends:
What these proverbs are saying is - Don’t be annoying and obnoxious. Don’t wear out your welcome. In other words, be considerate. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and not just look at things through your own filter. To everything, there is a time and a season, so know how to discern both time and judgment. In short, don’t be Job’s friends!
Some people need to simply learn when to be quiet and stop talking. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.” That means that we need to be quicker to listen to what’s on someone else’s heart than we are to share what’s on our heart. Amen? This is loving our neighbor as ourself and it is also what will make our neighbor love us in return.
Jesus set a good example for relationships: He had the 70, His outer group; He had the 12, His apostles whom He spent three years teaching and training; and He had His inner 3, the ones He spent the most time with and included in the most important parts of His life.
Church, relationships are important, and there is wisdom in how to build better ones in our lives. There is wisdom for our marriage relationship, for our friendships, for our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, etc. So, let’s put these things into practice and build better relationships. Amen.