Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Relational Wisdom (Part 2)

There’s a book within the Bible that, in short pithy sayings, gives loads of direction to strengthen relationships. Written by the wisest man who ever lived, the book of Proverbs has much to say about living peaceably with your neighbors. King Solomon's advice is practical, down-to-earth, usable stuff. He possibly gained some of it from his shepherd-boy-turned-royal dad, David, but let's not forget this: What he wrote was inspired by God. His wisdom was - and still is today - from the Maker of Heaven and Earth. His counsel is a gift from the Almighty to all mankind. We can trust the wisdom of his words because they are God's words.

That Israel 's wisest leader did not always follow his own godly instruction does not make that instruction less valuable. Solomon lived under the same curse you and I live under. He was tempted. Sometimes he resisted. Sometimes he didn't. That's how it is with us too. Wise when we turn to God for help. Foolish when we trust our own strength.

So as we turn to the book of Proverbs, keep this in mind. Without God's help you cannot do what God suggests will make your relationships strong. You must submit yourself to God and plead for mercy and grace to obey. That's true in all areas of life. You need help. Ask for it now as we talk about relationships and always, no matter the circumstance.

We begin in Proverbs, chapter 3. Verses three and four give us our first bit of direction concerning relationships.

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man." (Proverbs 3:3-4, NIV )

If you want great relationships, you must be loving, you must be faithful. Too many people are focused on the other guy. He's not being loving. He's not faithful. Someone else is always to blame for relational failure.

Friends, don't go there. You stick with your friends even when they get flaky. You hang with them through hell and high water. You pray for them when they wander from God. In doing so, you will gain favor with all men.

Jesus' actions toward Peter following his resurrection are a perfect example of faithfulness.
Peter had denied Jesus in his hour of greatest need. Three times the coward, seeking to save his own skin, had said, "I don't know the man...I don't know what you're talking about...Jesus who?"
The third time Peter spoke the cock crowed. It was just as Jesus had predicted. Jesus looked at Peter and Peter turned away. He had called down curses on himself denying his relationship with his Master vehemently. Peter, stricken with guilt, ran from the courtyard weeping bitterly.
The next day Jesus was executed, hung on a cross between two thieves. Peter hadn't stood with him. No one had testified on his behalf. Jesus was alone. He died. John saw it. He was at the foot of the cross. Peter was in hiding.


Three days later, Jesus was up from the grave. He'd done what he came to do. He'd paid the penalty for sin. He'd opened Heaven to sinners. He had conquered death.

So he appeared to his disciples. There are several accounts of these visits, but none so powerful as the one recorded in the last chapter of John. There we find Jesus and Peter together again, walking along the shore of the Sea of Tiberias . Jesus asks three times, "Do you love me?" Peter affirms his love for his Master three times. Jesus three times commissions Peter to lead the church.

Jesus was faithful to Peter despite Peter's faithless denials. That faithfulness won Peter's undying love. He followed Jesus from that day forward. He lived faithfully as his Master had. He died committed to our Savior.

Do you love your friends like Jesus loved Peter? Are you as faithful to others as he was to his disgraced disciple? If sticking with unfaithful friends seems too hard, hold on. You're thinking like an unbeliever. You are a believer. You have the Spirit of God in you. He is producing his fruit in your life. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You can be faithful. Trust God to help you. Love. Be faithful. You will find favor with men. You will gain a good name. Better yet, your God will be pleased.

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man." (Proverbs 3:3-4, NIV )

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