Third, be diligent. Work hard on your relationships. Remember, he is speaking to a group of people who came out of paganism. Now they are followers of Christ and they need a new set of rules that say, “He who steals must steal no longer. But he must labor, performing with his own hands,” – why? “…so he will have something to share with the one who has need.”
What is stealing? Stealing is just about shortcuts. See, we all want a great relationship with our kids, we want great relationships with friends, we want a great relationship with a person we are dating, we want a great relationship with co-workers, we want a great relationship with people we are married to. But we steal. We think we can spend four hours on Facebook, post a few things, say “like” over here, skim with our kids in the car, not sit down and eat meals, not tuck them in at bedtime, not have planned times away to really work on our marriage. You have to work at your relationship.
I’ll give you a tool Theresa and I did twice a week for ten years. I bet we have read fifteen books together. If you want to have a great relationship with your kids, you have to plan in times and they get on your Day-Timer and your calendar just like all your business appointments. And they are just as important, in fact, more important.
So the skill is you have to work at a great relationship. They just don’t happen. And you’ve got to ask yourself: Who do I need to get connected to?
Let me ask you, are you putting in the time, the energy, and the planning to have loving relationships? Or are you just expecting, We love each other because we are a family! We’ll all get along.
No one wakes up and says, I think I’m going to mess up a twenty-three-year-old marriage. It’s just drift. Drift. Drift. Drift. Drift. And then one person is absolutely shocked when another person says, “I don’t really feel like I love you anymore. I don’t think we are on the same page anymore.”
All that romance, all that stuff that God wants for us, it happens because you were writing notes, you were going on dates, you were communicating, you were sensitive in the little things, you were calling for no reason.
So why are we surprised when you stop working and doing those things that the emotions that follow those dissipate? Be honest, be angry, be diligent.
Fourth, be positive. Don’t wound with your words. “Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification or building up.” And notice, there’s a qualifier, “…according to the need of the moment.”
Just because something, this is my wife’s words to me, “Chip, just because something is in your brain doesn’t mean it always has to come out your mouth.” Thank you, dear.
“Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” What’s the context, here? How do you grieve the Holy Spirit? When you crush someone with your words.
When you are sarcastic, when you blow up, when you spew, when you leak. An unwholesome word here, literally, the word is a rotten word.
Any word that tears people down. Edification means it builds them up. Ask yourself: What comes out of your mouth? If you want to know really what’s in your heart toward people, listen to your words. And as some would tell me, your tone.
The skill, I would encourage you here, is memorize Ephesians 4, verse 29.
And you can’t allow, attitudes, sometimes I hear parents, “Well, it’s just what they said or it’s just an attitude.” You always discipline lovingly for attitudes first, because attitudes and words are what are in hearts and that’s what you…an altered heart, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.”
And so I would encourage you to memorize that verse and begin to ask what is coming out of your mouth.
And then, finally, number five is: Be forgiving. Be the first to say, “I’m sorry.” I love this. He says, “Be kind to one another.” And then – how? “Tenderhearted, forgiving each other,” – how? “Just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.”
The thing that stops the flow of love is someone gets hurt, someone gets wounded, someone makes a mistake – intentional or not. Someone sins, someone blows it, does something terrible and we hang on to it and we won’t forgive them. We won’t release them. And in our minds it’s, I can’t release them because they are getting away with it.
And what you need to understand, I can’t forgive them from my heart because I am letting them off the hook. Well, let me give you a word picture. Take them off of the hook that you have and place them on this big hook that God has.
And then step back and say, Almighty, holy God. Because you have forgiven me and I didn’t deserve it, as I prayed this morning the Lord’s Prayer, I am going to forgive them as You have forgiven me. You are a just God. And, Lord, I pray that they would repent, I pray that good things would happen to their life. But you are a just God and You are going to even the score. It’s not my job. You say the way to turn their heart is if my enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. You release them.
Jot down Matthew 5:24. Jesus is teaching. He says, “If you come to bring your offering before the Lord and they are,” remember, “your brother or someone has something against you, pause, leave your offering, and you go take the initiative and you make it right with your brother.”
That’s crazy! If I did something wrong, I should go make it right. But this is teaching if I know they have something against me, I should take the initiative and I go make it right.
You know how many families don’t talk, how many brothers and sisters live in the same town and don’t communicate, how many fellow used-to-be friends and co-workers who live on different pages because something happened? And you’ve got a person here and person here like this, I’ll tell you what, when they really apologize. And then pretty soon the drift goes and you know what happens? The Bible says your heart gets hard. It poisons your soul.
If it’s an issue and honestly you could say, you have a warped perspective, as I do. We all do. So if, in your mind’s eye it’s, like, ninety percent their fault, let’s make it ninety-seven percent their fault, maybe three percent yours because of how you responded to their terrible sin. In reality, it’s probably at least seventy/thirty but that’s how our minds work.
This passage says you take your three percent and you say, “This event happened,” and you don’t bring up their ninety percent. “In the midst of that event, God has convicted me that my response was ungodly and would you please forgive me?”
See, it’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance. And you know what? They may not say anything and they don’t need to. But I will tell you what is when you, with an honest and humble heart, own all of yours, and take the step to break down the barriers, it’s really what the passage means later in Romans 12 where it says it puts burning coals on their head.
It creates a sense of shame because down deep, people know. People know who did what. And it does something where the Spirit of God, they go, Wow, I ought to do this. They may or may not. But you have.
Be honest. Be angry. Be diligent. Be positive. Be forgiving. And then I want to give you a couple very quick tools to help you do that. And tool number one is called the “conference.” And it’s a tool for listening and it’s a tool where you have three questions and the only rule is you ask the question, you cannot respond.
I do this at the dinner table, at times. When Theresa and I were learning, I actually learned this as a marriage listening tool. And, literally, I guess this counselor saw my foibles. He said, “So here’s what you need to do, Chip. When you do it with a marriage partner, you say, ‘What are you concerned about?’”
And she just, anything that comes to her mind. “I’m concerned about one of our sons. I am concerned about the bushes need to be cut. I’m concerned that you seem to be preoccupied when you’re at home. I’m concerned I gained two point seven pounds and it really bothers me. I’m concerned…” And you’re trying not to roll your eyes.
And so anything that concerns her. And you can’t talk. And then she gets the duct tape and she goes, “So what are you concerned about?” And anything that comes to your mind. And, by the way, guys, I’m going to ask you to do this. By the way, if you do this, the women in your life, whether it’s your daughter, whether it’s someone you’re dating or whether it’s your marriage partner. They have been longing to hear what’s on your heart. So the answer if you’re a man is not, “What are you concerned about?” “Eh, not much.” “How’s work?” “It’s good.” That’s what they get. That’s why they are frustrated.
“I’m concerned that I’m waking up in the middle of the night a lot and I know that reveals anxiety and I’m not sure what to do with it.” “I’m concerned that the big takeover, I think this big company is going to buy us out. I’m not sure I’m going to have my job.” “I’m concerned that we don’t feel as connected as we used to be. I’m concerned that I have gained twenty-seven pounds, not two point seven,” right?
And then you switch it and you say, “Well, what do you wish?” “Well, I wish we could get away for a weekend. I wish you would talk more. I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish.”
And, again, you got it? And then the last one is: “What are you willing to do?” And you don’t, here’s the rule, you don’t have to do anything. But here’s what I want you to get. And then I will show you how to use this with groups and in family situations and with friends.
You will never experience love unless you get to level four, level five communication. But level four and level five communication is so risky, we rarely go there. What this does is with absolutely no response, someone gets to say, “Here’s all the burdens that I feel. These are the burdens of my heart.”
And you don’t fix it, you don’t comment on it, you don’t say stuff like, “Well, if you keep doing that with the kids, they are going to keep responding like that.” Just keep the duct tape on.
But what you hear is all the person’s burdens and then what you hearing is what would put wind in their sails. We all need wind in our sails. And you don’t have to do anything, but if you would want to, what has happened is they are sharing level four and level five and maybe a joke like, “I wish we would win the lotto,” or, “I wish we could go to Hawaii.” That’s fine.
And if you want to, you could pick a burden off of them to say, “I love you.” Or you could, whoo, blow a little wind in their sails to help them. And we did that twice a week for over ten years.
And then what I learned is then I would do it at the supper table with my kids. Just one thing, “What are you concerned about?” “Ah, nah.” “No, no, no really. What’s one thing? One thing really bugging you.”
And then I found that, guys, I have met guys that have friends with other guys for years and years and years and they have never gone past level three. You get a guy, you have been close friends and find out, “You’re divorcing your wife? What? I didn’t even know there was a problem! What are you thinking?”
And so you get with a friend and you say, “What are you concerned about? What are you concerned about?” And you say, “It’s just a little tool.”
You can do it in a casual way. It doesn’t have to be that formal. You can do it with a co-worker.
You know what you’ll hear? You’ll hear golden things that will allow you to get inside a person’s heart and love them.
The second little tool is what I call “word pictures.” Gary Smalley was famous for this. This is when there is a really sensitive issue and you have been talking and talking and talking and you have tried to get through and you just can’t get through.
This is like the biblical picture of this, David, the great king in a weak moment commits adultery. Later, calls the husband in and tries to get him to sleep with Bathsheba, so that it wouldn’t look like he did it. It doesn’t happen so he has him killed.
And for a full year, he is living with guilt and he is living out of fellowship with God. So God sends the prophet Nathan. And God says, “Nathan, I want you to go confront the king about this sin because My blessing can’t be on the nation and I love David and I want this restored.” And if you’re the prophet and it’s the ancient Near East and you go tell the king that, “By the way, you committed adultery and murder and the law says this,” it’s a good way to get killed. It’s just a really good way to get killed.
And so Nathan, by the Spirit of God I think, he uses a word picture. Here’s a safe way. So he knows David is a shepherd at heart. He goes, “King! King! King! Can I talk with you?” “Yes! Yes! Yes! Nathan! Come on in.” He goes, “You can’t believe what happened!” David goes, “What happened?” “There’s this super rich guy and he’s got thousands of sheep and thousands of sheep and there’s this one poor guy and he has one, little lamb and it’s his pet and it even sleeps in the tent with him and he loves his sheep and he doesn’t have any kids. It’s like the greatest thing in the whole world. And some visitors came and the rich guy had to do a meal. Instead of one of his thousands of sheep, he went into that tent and he took the baby, little lamb and he killed it.” And David was outraged! “This can never happen!” Right?
So what has he done? He gave him a word picture in his world to help him get a window into his own soul. And then Nathan says, “You’re the man.” And then he repented because he saw it.
I cannot tell you how many times either a good friend or, in my case, my wife has watched me do things. And our pivotal point in our marriage was I don’t fix things, I don’t see things. She feels like that’s her domain and if I cared and loved her, I would be proactive in those areas. And I didn’t even see them. This is fifteen years into the marriage. And so nag, nag, nag, fight, fight, fight. I’d fix a couple of things. But I’d never get it. And it’s not when I do fix them, it’s not like, “It’s not just that you fix them. I want you to want to fix them.” Okay. Help me, Lord. I can’t even get my arms around that one.
So we are driving on our Friday date that we have done for years and years and years. And we drive by the church and there’s a big pile of dirt and there’s some weeds and there’s something here and she sees me take notes about how we are going to refine and make the message better or the worship better or what needs to be addressed.
And so she, we are sitting in front of the fireplace, I’ll never forget this, she goes, “I want to talk to you about something really serious, but you’re going to get mad.” “I’m not going to get mad.” “See?” Okay. I’m not going to get mad. That was just intense.
And so she goes, “So I want to compliment you on something.” “Oh, okay.” “Remember Friday?” This was a couple of days later, we’re sitting in front of the fireplace. She picks the right time. I’m clothed and in my right mind and in a good mood.
And then she describes how, “I think it’s amazing, because you really take ownership and you realize that is God’s domain and you are responsible, ultimately, for that. And I really admire that.” “Well, thanks, honey!” “When we do the dishes, our dishwasher, the water comes out from underneath of it and I have to put towels underneath of it. It has been broken for a year and a half.
And I’m thinking, That’s a lot cheaper than buying a new dishwasher. Is there a problem? Seriously. That’s how I’m thinking. And then she goes through, like, seven things in the house.
And then she said this, “This is my world and my domain. And I feel about it the way you feel about the church.” And I had my David moment. You’re the man. And I remember tearing up and I remember saying, “Oh, honey, are you kidding? Are you kidding?” “No.”
And she’s crying and I said…I couldn’t get it. I got it. The next two months, everything in our house was repaired. And I did it because I wanted to do it to love her.
Are you ready? Communication is the highway upon which love travels. Be positive. Be angry. Right? Be forgiving. What do you need to do? Have a conference? Share a word picture?
I want you to think right now, what step you are going to take with that one person that you want to be more connected to. Are you going to make a direct request? Are you going to have a conference?
And no vague-y prayers. Okay? God, show me the one thing You want me to do. And if you’ll respond, His Spirit will take over.