Strong Start: Friendships, Family, and the Direction of Your Life

friendship-1483251-640x455On Sunday we opened up the book of Proverbs to learn about friendships. Friendships are these things that are all around us, that I think we end up taking for granted so often. But this is something that not only do we need to change, that Solomon would argue we must change to have a full life.

So we jumped in looking at various different sayings of Solomon pulling out three key points:

  • Friendship can matter more than family
  • Friendship will determine the quality and direction of your life
  • Friendship based on deep trust is all that matters

So first we looked at how friendship can matter more than family. This is something pretty shocking to say; not only in our day but in Solomon’s day and age. Because in his day and age you had no health insurance, crop insurance, or retirement. Your insurance or safety net was your family. Family was obligated to help in a time of crisis.

And this is actually why Solomon says that friendship can matter even more than family. He writes, “there are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother”. (Proverbs 18:24). Friends can stick closer than family.

And Solomon’s point is that any relationship built on chosen love, rather than obligation will be stronger and better. And this is just true. He’s not saying family doesn’t matter, but that friendship can run deeper than just family relations. Any relationship (family based or not) built on love, and choice will always beat any relationship based on obligation. And this is why we need to invest in our friendships and why they matter because they are formed by love and not by obligation.

Secondly, we learned that friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives. Solomon writes this, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” and this is true. That the people we are close to rub off on us for good or for bad. This is another reason that we need to choose our friends carefully, and invest in them wisely. We choose our friends, but once our friends have been chosen they will choose our destiny. This is why we need to continue to see and raise the importance of the value of our friendships.

And also, but not least, Solomon reminded us that if our friendships are not based on deep trust that they aren’t really friendships. That if someone lies to us and laughs it off, they are worse than a destructive killer (Proverbs 26:18-19). That a true friend will not let us walk into difficulty but will warn us (Proverbs 27:5-6). That true friends provide heartfelt care and counsel, not just what we want to hear.

So on Sunday from these three general themes: friendships matter more than family, friendship determines the quality and direction of our lives and true friends are built on trust; we came to our main theme. Our  main idea was simple but needed: We need to choose and invest in good friendships.

We need to choose and invest in good friendships.

If we want to have a strong start we will not regret investing in good friendships, and key relationships. We will never regret strengthening our relationships, and distancing away from difficult ones.

So we gave a challenge to choose and invest in good relationships. To seek out good ones and to cultivate them. No relationship just “starts” and becomes amazing without work and effort. Friendships require cultivation to be forged. So we challenged one another to actually put the effort in. To put the time into the good relationships built on trust, and limit the ones that cause harm. To seek out good friends and invest in them with our lives.

One thing is sure if we want to have a great 2016, a strong start, it won’t happen with poor, nonexistent, or shallow relationships. A great year starts with great friendships, so start investing in them today.

The Chinese have a proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

The best time to invest in friendships was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. 

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaWe need to choose and invest in good friendships

Teaching Points:

  • Three challenges: Serve weekly, connect with God daily, journey with 2 others
  • “Is it wise” is always a better question than “is it wrong”
  • Friendships are more important than family
  • Relationships built on love beat relationships built on obligation every time
  • Friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives
  • We choose our friends, but once our friends have been chosen they will choose our destiny
  • True friends are honest and trustworthy friends
  • We need to choose good friends
  • We need to invest in good friends
  • Friendships are not “found” but forged and cultivated
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself. C.S. Lewis
  • Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. C.S. Lewis
  • The best time to invest in friendships was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Chinese Proverb

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you thought about friendship being more important than family before? What do you think of that? How have you seen it be true that friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives? Who are your closest friends? Are they trustworthy and honest? Who should you be investing in? And how can you be better investing in them?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Talk to your kids about the importance of friendship and how it determines our quality of life. Ask them who their best friends are? And ask them are they wise friends? Do they make good choices? Help them to think through making the best friends.

Challenge for the Week: Choose to invest in friendships this year.

Contentment or Comparison? Which Way to Live

Roter und Grüner ApfelOn Sunday we looked at the issue of comparison that runs throughout so many of our relationships. We share with a parent friend that our child is reading Dr. Seuss and they respond with, “That’s great my little Johnny loved reading Dr. Seuss…last year”.  And we feel like our kids are behind.

This happens all over in sorts of relationships. We base whether we are doing okay, on whether we are keeping up with those around us. Our lives end up being driven then by those around us. They set our pace, and they set our expectations.

Solomon says this is dumb. Well technically he says it’s meaningless, but I think he would also say it’s dumb, silly, and not helpful. He writes this: “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind.”

He essentially is saying comparison drives us forward, but it’s meaningless. It doesn’t get us anywhere and leaves us empty, and grasping.

And this is Solomon that won at the comparison game. He was the wealthiest, smartest, most powerful person around. When he compared himself with anyone, he always won. And so even though he won the comparison game, he says it won’t get you anywhere. It will drive you into the ground. It’s meaningless.

So that’s what we looked at on Sunday.

Thankfully though Solomon wasn’t done. He didn’t just say don’t live with comparison, he gave us another way to live. He says one verse later: “And yet it is better to have one handful with quietness, than two handfuls with hard work and chasing after the wind.”

His point is this: it is better to live with contentment (one handful) than comparison (two handfuls and grasping for more). Contentment is better than comparison every time.

And this is true, learning to be content is the most freeing thing. And it is something we need to learn, because we are taught to compare and compete. But Solomon, the wisest person, says contentment is far better.

So to land this on Sunday we asked one question: are there any areas of our lives that comparison is leading rather than contentment?

  • Is comparison or contentment driving our career?
  • Is comparison or contentment driving our parenting?
  • Is comparison or contentment driving our finances?
  • Is comparison or contentment driving our lives?

And I think this is a question worth reflecting on and acting on. The rat race, of comparison and competition, just makes us frantic. Contentment makes us whole.

So what can you be grateful and content with today? And maybe if we just start with that question every day we can learn to live different.

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Contentment is always better than comparison.

Take Aways…

  • Comparison is a trap we get stuck in.
  • Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4
  • We are motivated not by what is best for us, but by what everyone else does.
  • We are driven not from real need but from comparison.
  • “Fools fold their idle hands,
leading them to ruin.” Ecclesiastes 4:5
  • “Better to have one handful with quietness
 than two handfuls with hard work 
and chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6
  • We need to let contentment shape our lives, rather than comparison.
  • Am I content or comparing?
  • When our focus is on what we don’t have, we will always feel empty.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Has comparison ever driven you to do something you regret? What was it? Which of the examples Andrew shared about comparison resonated or related to you? How much has comparison been driving your relationship in the past few months? In terms of your family, work, friends, and finances is contentment or comparison the main driving force? What do you have that you can be grateful and content with? Where do you need to rid yourself of comparison? Who can help you with that? How can you do that?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Talk to you kids about today’s topic. Teach them that what matters is being content. Ask them how they might compare themselves or their toys with others? Ask them what is something they can be content with? Share with them some of the things you are content and happy with. Start to make that rhythm this week doing it at least once a week.

Challenge for this Week: This week live with contentment.