A funny man quipped about friends and vultures, “I bet dying vultures have lots of awkward moments with their friends.” Never thought of that, did you? When it comes to friends, often people have a love-hate relationship. A woman was honest when she said, “One of my friends is pregnant. And I’m really excited. Not for the baby but because she’s one of my skinniest friends.” Envy is not good grounds for keeping someone your friend.
When my coworker answered his phone, the confused woman on the other end asked, “Who is this?” “This is Steve. With whom did you wish to speak?” After a pause, she asked, “Did you just say whom?” “Yes, I did.” The woman replied, “I have the wrong number,” and hung up. Friends should know each other well.
Not only should friends know each other well, they should help each other be well. The people you spend your time with have a great impact on your life. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” There are God blessed people who will inspire us and make us better. They fit us well. If you hang out with excellent people, they’ll rub off on you. Find good people for your sake. Let their healthy habits rub off on you. Be willing to learn from someone else who has something to teach you.
The thing is if you’re with the wrong people you won’t meet the right people. You’ll get stuck. More than that, their qualities will rub off on you. You can’t hang out with chickens and expect to soar like eagles.
Spirits are transferable. What we hear and see often become what we say and do. Proverbs says it bluntly when it says, “Make no friend with those given to anger. Don’t associate with hotheads, or you may learn their ways….” If you hang out with a gossip you’ll become a gossip. If someone makes friends with someone who lies, they will learn how to lie. If you hang out with someone who does drugs or drinks too much, you’re going to do drugs or drinks too much. It’s either a matter of time or a matter of change.
It’s time to make a change. You won’t become who you were created to be if you don’t make changes.
The opposite is true though, too. Make friends with someone who’s generous and you’ll see the blessings of being generous, and follow suit. Associate with someone who’s humble and you’ll see their peace, and want it for yourself. Laugh with a friend who laughs and find how much more joy there is in life than you knew before.
Good spirits raise up other good spirits. Excellence in character brings out the best in character. Find a circle of friends that are striving to live, as scripture says, “a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” and you will hear the calling you may have been missing.
In the book of Daniel, we see that Daniel had an excellent spirit. He was someone who was patient, calm, wise. He was a hard worker. He had real belief in his future. He never saw himself as already finished. No matter what, he was going to keep his faith in the Lord and press on to seize the next blessing God had waiting for him.
He also had excellent friends: Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednigo. They had faith, and lived with hope. They stood by their principles and kept their integrity. In the end, they went through trials but came out on top.
If your friends are less Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednigo and more Larry, Curly, and Moe then you’ve got a problem. Don’t spend time with people who don’t bring out your best.
Be willing to cut your losses. We can carry only so much. What we’re unwilling to walk away from is where we stop. Where we stop is where we stop growing. God will never ask you to give up something without you getting what’s better in return. Be faithful and see how you’re fulfilled. We need to be willing to set boundaries. This can be hard, but necessary. If someone is negative, critical, finding fault, then they’re not for you. Be selective. There are great people out there. You don’t have to settle for someone who brings out your worst, or makes you doubt yourself the most. Now of course at work or home we don’t always have a choice. That’s what prayer is for. That’s what working on yourself is for. But we’re talking about when you do have a choice. Choose to surround yourself with eagles and not weasels.
In our scripture we see Abraham make a choice to take his nephew with him on his trip away from his home to a new location, a journey of faith in the Lord that is the bedrock journey of all three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The point we want to see here is that Lot comes with Abram. This association would soon have ramifications. Lot and Abram’s families and possessions would get too big to stay together. They would have to separate. Lot took the better land, and Abram went off and took lesser land. Lot would eventually be captured and Abraham would take his fighting men and have to fight to save him. Lot would move to Sodom, of Sodom and Gomorrah fame, and Abraham would end up saving him from God’s wrath.
In each and every case, Abraham would come out OK, and in fact sometimes even better. But it would always be after a great physical or spiritual struggle. I’m sure Abraham often wondered why he ever agreed to take Lot on.
All this could’ve been avoided if Abraham had left who he was supposed to leave. Abraham meant well but just because someone is related to you doesn’t mean they’re connected to you.
If it’s your destiny to associate with someone who costs you so much, then God will bless you for your faithfulness. But if you’re clinging to someone who wasn’t yours or to someone from whom you were supposed to separate, then there will be few blessings, and much more pain.
We can’t play with fire and not get burned. You can’t keep the enemy close by and come out with a victory. They’re not bad people but they’re wrong for you. You don’t need to judge them to free yourself, but you need to judge what is going to free yourself, and then make it happen.
The truth is some people are only in your life for a season. You can outgrow relationships. True friends understand. They’ll be happy for you and celebrate what’s going on in your life.
The fact is we’re not responsible for someone else’s direction. They have to take care of that themselves. We ought to take care of ours.
Lucas is in a robotics program. It’s pretty involved. The five boys in his group are trying to build a remote controlled, moving robot that can do different tasks in a certain amount of time. It takes a lot of hard work.
One of the important parts of the program is that the kids work almost completely on their own. It’s their team, and it’s an un-coached team. Success is not guaranteed. Actually, what’s preferred is failure. Failure is the norm in the scientific, technological, engineering, computer world. It’s so much the norm that the head of this program, Scooter, tries to make sure parents stay out of the way so kids can fail. Well this year a father is having a really hard time with that concept. He thinks the kids will end up spending months and not getting anywhere with the robot. So he’s very involved; hands-on, organizing them, directing them, trying to ensure their success. This is not what we signed Lucas on for. We want the kids to talk to each other, collaborate, fail, and try again, and again. I decided to talk with this dad and ask if he could step out and let the kids go at it on their own to see what they can do, who might become the leaders, and experience what the limits of what they know and can do. Someone might say that was too forward. I might have hurt his feelings. That’s true I was probably going to hurt his feelings, and I knew that. But what if Lucas and the other boys miss what was supposed to be theirs together? And that’s the thing: there are almost always two sides to issues. In this case: Side with not hurting this adults feelings and take from the boys what is theirs or let the boys experience what the program is designed to do and have a dad not necessarily appreciate my winning personality. Wisdom helps us choose the one side that matters most. Truth helps us speak what needs to be spoken. Grace helps us do it so the best outcome possible perhaps can rise. Unfortunately, it went about as well as you might imagine. He stopped appreciating my winning personality. He didn’t yell at me but he was quite unhappy with our conversation, let me just say. But he stopped interfering in the program. I’m not the one in charge of this dad’s response. If he doesn’t think I’m a good guy or whatever, I can’t help that. What I said to him very calmly and graciously, and after complimenting as to how good he is with the robot, is my responsibility. How he reacts is his. That was last Saturday. This past Thursday Lucas told me he was right back in helping out as much as ever. I tried….
A lot of people hold on to someone who isn’t right because they’ll be lonely without that person. But sometimes people that knew you back when will try to keep you back. Everybody can’t go where you’re going. And there will be new people to meet you where you’re going. Who and what we think are important at any one time in our life is not the end of the story. The truth is math and debate students tend to go a lot further in life than the many popular kids. Bookworms, science club, chess club kids become artists, judges, and bosses. They’ve changed the world, while many times the popular kids in high school are left with trying to keep the world from changing in order to stay on top.
Don’t stop growing because you think you’ll be lonely where you’re going. God won’t let you be alone for long. Don’t try to hold on to something that’s over and done. Let them go. Perhaps they’ll change their mind, realize what they’ve missed, correct themselves, and find their way back to you. God is a God of reconciliation.
So often people try to be with people who are dragging them down because they themselves are nice. Good people really want to help others, but good people also get manipulated. You can’t push someone to fly. Everyone has to start flapping and flying from the side of their own nest. Nobody does it sitting on the side of someone else’s.
Be someone who helps others stand up straighter, walk wiser, and choose better. Find others who will help you continue and grow in your walk. Be the friend you’re hoping to find. God will bless you as you keep to the path he’s set out in front of you.
Pursue what’s ahead. Trust in what the Lord’s doing with you. Keep hold of what you believe in. That’s how you will find you’re looking for.
Can the church say Amen?