Relationships are at the heart of every ministry. Whether those relationships are with your family, your congregation, or your community, you’ll be miserable in life and ministry if your relationships aren’t healthy.
God wants us to enjoy the people in our lives. In the book of Philippians, Paul models four principles to help us find joy in our relationships.
- Be grateful for the good in people. “I thank my God for all the memories I have of you” (Philippians 1:3 GW).
Paul focused on the good memories instead of the bad ones. And if you recall in Acts 16, you’ll remember the bad memories Paul could have focused on while he was in Philippi, but didn’t. He was arrested, whipped, humiliated, and thrown in prison. While in prison, there was an earthquake. Then the Roman officials in the town asked him to leave. Paul had a rough time in Philippi, but he chose to focus on what he was grateful for.
To follow Paul’s example, we don’t need to deny the hurts in our lives. Neither do we need to excuse the weaknesses of others. Instead, focus on the good and emphasize the strengths of other people.
- Practice positive praying. “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (Philippians 1:4 NIV).
Praying positively for people will change both your attitude and the other person’s. People may resist our advice, spurn our appeals, reject our suggestions, and not accept our help, but they are powerless against our prayers.
In Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV), Paul models four specific ways we can pray positively for others.
- Pray they will grow in love. “Your love may abound.” (This phrase means to overflow, like a tidal wave.)
- Pray they make wise choices. “Discern what is best.”
- Pray they will do the right thing. “Be pure and blameless.”
- Pray they will live for God’s glory. “The fruit of righteousness.”
Most of us are good at praying for people in crisis, but let’s commit to praying specifically and regularly for people who may struggle in these four areas. Doing so will transform our relationships with them.
- Be patient with people’s progress. “God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6 CEV).
Paul looked at people’s future, not just their past. He looked at their potential and was patient with their progress.
Mankind is a great starter but a bad finisher. Man leaves unfinished symphonies, unfinished buildings, unfinished books, and unfinished projects. Man doesn’t always finish what he starts, but God always finishes what he starts.
We should model God’s patience with people’s progress. To enjoy people, we must give them room to grow and develop, just as God does with us.
- Love people from the heart. “God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8 NLT).
Loving people begins with understanding why they act the way they do. You can’t love people you don’t understand. If you care, you’ll be aware.
You get understanding by asking questions and then listening to the responses.
Understanding people helps you love them better, but it still doesn’t get you to the love Paul described in Philippians 1:8. Paul said he loved the church of Philippi “with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus” (NLT). Only Jesus—working through you—can love people like that.
God’s love isn’t something you can force. It’s a gift that you get as you let the Holy Spirit work through you. “God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us” (Romans 5:5 GNT).
Life is too short to not enjoy the people in your life. If you don’t learn to enjoy those who God has placed in your life, you will be miserable. That’s why you need to learn how to respond to them the way Jesus did.
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