Relationships are hard, aren’t they? Whether they are romantic, work-related, family-related, or friendship-related . . . they are difficult. And it doesn’t help that our culture isn’t in the business of praising deep and meaningful relationships.
- In a day where we are supposed to be more social than ever, we are actually more disconnected than any other generation before us.
- We are busy with work, hobbies, and kids, and it is hard to keep up with friends.
- We are no longer a “fix what is broken” generation. We are a “throw it away and get a new one” generation.
How, then, are we supposed to cultivate meaningful relationships with those we love? Have we forgotten what it takes to be in healthy relationships? Have we become socially awkward? Have we given up on trying to have strong friendships?
If you answered yes to even one of those questions, don’t worry. We have hope, and it is found in the Word of God.
THE CHURCH AT PHILIPPI
The Apostle Paul wrote Philippians to his friends at the church in Philippi. He had started that church, and was writing to them to express his love and appreciation for them. Paul had a kindness for the church at Philippi. He had a father’s heart for them, and looked upon them as children. Like any good father, he desired to “feed” them with the Gospel to edify, nourish, and build them up.
In the first chapter of Philippians, we see incredible insight into the relationship between Paul and the church he founded. We see tips and tools to help us cultivate meaningful relationships in our own lives. We see a deep love between a servant and the people he served.
If we look closely at Philippians 1:1-11, we can use his example to strengthen our relationships. We can’t change others if they don’t want to change. BUT, we can change ourselves. By becoming more like Jesus, and adopting His words and teachings into our lives, we can become strong in our relationships, and ultimately, share the light and love of Jesus with those we love and serve.
Strong Relationships Have a Servant's Heart.
"Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons . . ." Philippians 1:1
Paul starts this letter with the term "servant" of Christ. He places himself as a servant over the overseers and deacons. He was telling the church that above all, you should be a servant. He was telling the overseers and deacons that they aren't to lord over the church, but by putting them last, he was showing them that they are servants to those in the church.
Later on in Philippians 1, Paul talks about leaving this world to be one with Christ. He says, "I am torn between the two. I long to depart and be with Christ — which is far better — but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake." Philippians 1:23-24
Paul gives up his personal desires for the better of the people he is serving in verses 23-24.
In a world that is constantly "me, me, me" and "I, I, I", the relationships that will survive are those that have servants leading them. We must follow Jesus' example and become a servant to those we love. Helping them, encouraging them, giving from them, and blessing them.
Strong Relationships are Worth Remembering.
"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” Philippians 1:3
Imagine . . . you are at a party and someone is waving at you across the room. They start approaching and you panic. “What is their name? I remember that face, but God help me, what is there name?”. They approach you with a big hug and you respond with “Hey, GIRL, you look so good!”
We’ve all been in situations where we’ve met someone who we have forgotten. It’s okay. The relationship just didn’t have a big impact on your life and so the name goes out the window.
But what about us? Are we worthy of remembering? When we enter someone’s life, do we make an impact? Will our children speak highly of us? (Proverbs 31:28). Will our co-workers miss us when we switch jobs? Do our husbands speak good of us in our absence? The church at Philippi not only was worthy of Paul’s remembrance, but when he recalled them in his heart . . . he THANKED GOD FOR THEM.
Let us strive to be the person who others thank God for. Let us strive to be the person who is worthy of remembering. Let us strive to be the one that walks into a room and changes the atmosphere for good just by our very presence.
When someone remembers us . . . let them recall Jesus.
Strong Relationships are Joy Giving.
“. . .always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,” Philippians 1:4
Are we the joy-giver in our relationships, or the drama-bringer? The church at Philippi brought joy to Paul and joy is what he needed the most. He was in jail when he wrote Philippians. He was bound and chained, and just remembering the Philippians brought him joy.
Strong people give joy to others. They infuse joy into every situation . . . even the bad. A strong relationship will consist of people who give joy and share the joy of the Lord with others.
Don’t bring drama and negativity into your relationships. People get enough of that every day in the world. Bring Joy!
Strong Relationships are Steadfast and Consistent.
“ . . . .for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,” Philippians 1:5
I saw a quote on Pinterest the other day from a couple married for 55 years. It said, “We stayed together because in our day, when something was broken you fixed it. You didn’t throw it away.”
The Philippians were steadfast and consistent in their relationship with Paul and his with them. What a comfort to Paul to know that this church was by his side in the good and in the bad. What a comfort to know that this church stood in the gap for him while he was in chains.
Are we steadfast in our relationships? Or do we run at the first sign of trouble.
I’ll admit that when Steven and I were first dating, I threatened to break up with him every other day. It was fear talking. I’m so glad I didn’t run with my emotions, but fixed what was wrong with ME. And I am so glad that he was steadfast and patient as I worked through my mess.
If we want strong relationships, we must be steadfast and consistent in the good and in the bad.
Strong Relationships are Held Close to the Heart.
"So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart.” Philippians 1:7
The church at Philippi was worthy of Paul’s praise because he held a special place in his heart for them. The Amplified Bible says, “It is right for me to feel this way about you, because [you have me in your heart as] I have you in my heart . . .”.
The heart is our life source. Which relationships do you hold there?
Do you hold onto relationships that have hurt you? Do you hold onto relationships that God took out of your life for a reason? Do you hold onto relationships that you know you need to release, but just can’t?
Your heart needs only to hold those relationships that give life. If you want to cultivate relationships that are God-centered, strong, and worthy of praise . . . . then you must let go of the ones that are gone. You must make room in your heart for the relationships that God wants there.
Strong Relationships are Christ-Centered.
“. . . all of you share in [His matchless] grace with me.” Philippians 1:7
I find that my strongest friendships and relationships are the one’s where Jesus is the center. I can share the best part of my life with others, and we can strengthen and encourage each other in our faith.
Paul held the Philippians in his heart because they shared the Gospel of grace with him. They allowed Paul to speak into their lives, and they did what he said to make them a better and stronger people.
When Steven and I started dating, he wasn't "entirely" saved. He was questioning the Lord, and thinking way too much about the details, and not enough about the heart. He finally realized that he couldn't reason his way to God. He had to have a heart for God. When he got saved, our relationship went to another level. We were able to study the Word together, pray together, and talk about Jesus together. I couldn't imagine anything greater. Our relationship is centered on the solid rock, and because of that, we can withstand any storm!
Strong Relationships Stand Firm in the Good and the Bad.
"It is right for me to feel this way about you, because [you have me in your heart as] I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the good news [regarding salvation], all of you share in [His matchless] grace with me.” Philippians 1:7
The Church at Philippi stood by Paul’s side in the good times and the bad. As we said earlier, they were steadfast and consistent. They shared in his affliction by sympathy, concern, and their readiness to help him when he called.
Strong relationships STAND THE TEST. They stand in the good and the bad. If you have relationships that are only with you on the mountain and not in the valleys . . . they aren’t strong relationships and I’d dare say, need to go.
Strong Relationships are Full of Love.
"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more . . . ” Philippians 1:9
I think this goes without saying, that a strong relationship is full of love. The church at Philippi not only loved and cared for Paul, but they loved and cared for each other. Can you imagine the joy that Paul felt knowing that "his children" loved each other and supported each other?
I see so many relationships where love is far from the center. Every other day, I come in contact with another couple or situation that leaves me asking, "Do they even love each other?" If you want to be a person who cultivates strong relationships, you must be a person of love.
1 Peter 4:8 says, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
In reading Philippians 1, I had such a desire to cultivate a relationship with my loved ones like Paul had with those at Philippi. Paul and the Church at Philippi had a beautiful relationship. One that Paul was not ashamed to praise. One that was so important to him, he took the time to create this Epistle of Joy. One that gave him strength during his hardest times.
By adapting and leaning on the examples set in this chpater, I believe we can break the call of the culture and develop relationships that are meaningful, life-giving, and Christ-centered.
How do you strengthen your relationships? I’d love to hear in the comments below.