Keys for Great Relationships
Study Guide, February 14, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
Since it is Valentine’s Day, we just have to visit awhile about some keys to great relationships. And even though some of our focus is for couples, really, several of the principles are also great for having great interpersonal relationships. It’s like our responsive reading about what real love is…for that is exactly what the world needs.
So let’s ponder together about these keys. Of course, the always practical Charles Schulz of ‘Peanuts’ reminded us that all you need is love…but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. And you remember the Agatha Christie stories? Agatha Christie once said that an Archaeologist makes for a great husband, because the older his wife gets the more interested in her he becomes! Really, just remember, ‘the heart has no wrinkles!’ And, all good investments simply increase in value over time. They don’t call 50 years of Marriage the ‘Golden Anniversary’ for nothing’!
But how about the ‘Friendship Factor’ in great relationships? And of course, this is a crucial factor in a Biblical marriage between a man and a woman, but also, this ‘friendship factor’ is one that Christians are to specialize in with others as well, especially with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Just think: Can you imagine how it hit the Disciples when Jesus said this to them: “This is what I command you: Love each other as I have loved you. The greatest love people can show is to die for their friends. You are My friends if you do what I tell you to do. I no longer call you servants, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. But now I call you friends, because I have told you everything that My Father told Me.” John 15:12-15 ERV
Again, can you imagine how this made the Disciples feel? They had seen their Master heal the lame, walk across the Sea, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead. He was certainly their Master, and their Messiah, and their Lord! But now he says to them, “And we are also ‘Friends’”. Regardless of the relationships you have or have had with friends who have been with you through thick or thin, or with some who have let you down and left you downhearted, what Jesus said to us, to all of us Disciples of His, is: “You are My friend…I even call you ‘My Friend’.”
You may have some great friends, and if you are married, your spouse should be your best friend. But still, Jesus thinks of Himself as ‘our friend’. And when you have Jesus as ‘your Friend’, now you have a friend that is in a unique category of friendship… ‘Best of the best’. For Jesus is your Master, Messiah, and Lord…but also ‘Friend’ nevertheless! It’s like that great Hymn – “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. And those words of assurance: “Have we trials and temptations, is there trouble anywhere, we should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer.” And then, “Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.” Our trials and sorrows and weakness are why He came to share His strengths with us! So, absolutely, what a friend we have in Jesus!
And what else is Jesus’ friendship like? It’s like this…it’s true Friendship. Think about these statements about true friendship for a moment:
A friend is one who knows all about you and loves you all the same.
A friend is one who refreshes your spirit when you soul is parched.
A friend is one who will neither maximize your weakness nor minimize your strengths.
A friend is one who strengthens you with his prayers, blesses you with his love, and encourages you with his hope.
A friend is one who believes in you so strongly that you are motivated to stretch, to reach, to achieve beyond your fondest expectations.
A friend is one who transforms your loneliness into fellowship, your sadness into joy, your gloom into gladness.
And, of course, the best friend of all is Jesus Christ who laid down His life for His friends…for you and me.
Interesting, that as complicated as we often make the Christian life, that it really just comes down to being a friend to Jesus. Jesus calls you His friend. And you can count on Him being your friend. Therefore, just live in such a way that Jesus can count on you to be His friend. Try to be just something of the kind of friend to Him that He is to you.
And then practice this kind of friendship that we just outlined with others around you, especially if you are married. Be that kind of friend to your spouse. And also be the kind of friend to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that you would want them to be to you. Remember, a Disciple of Jesus’ is also a leader of others, which means: You go first. You do ‘friendship’ first. You demonstrate first what true friendship looks like and what a true friend does…even in laying down his life for his friend, as Jesus said.
Here now is an amazing key for a great relationship with those who are married. Do you realize what happened when you got married? Matt 19:5-6- “…and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.” NKJV Okay, we know that. But do you know what the implications of that really are? Think about it: “the two become one.” Right there, that would become a great mantra for husbands and wives to repeat on a daily basis: “the two became one”… “the two became one”. We call our spouse our significant other? Yet, most have no idea how significant! Meaning what?
When two independent people covenant before God to become united into one, that significantly changes their independence, for they have just made a declaration of ‘dependence’ upon God and upon one another. And so, God expects this once independent man and this once independent woman to now think and to live in dependence upon God and upon one another. And one of the easiest ways to think about this is by thinking about it according to how we have often pointed out: Included in the ‘two that become one’ is ‘two brains that become one’, as in ‘one brain’; not in substance, but in significance! Meaning, from here on out God expects the husband and wife, that made a covenant before Him to become one flesh, to now put their brains together and mutually plan, pray, decide, counsel, consider, reconsider, and essentially get the input, ideas, and information from their ‘one wedded-brain’ before acting on essentially anything! And that’s because: The ‘two become one’, and if you divide one by two, you now have, not two ‘wholes’, but two ‘halves’! Which means that from here on out each of you has half a brain…your spouse has the other half.
Okay, as unusual as this may sound, it actually is a key component to a married couple’s success in building oneness and practicing oneness in their marriage. Maybe that should even be a part of a couple’s wedding vows: Like, “…and what God has joined together, like your brains!…, let no one separate. And if you do, you will be acting on ‘half a brain’ from here on out.” That might kind of throw off the focus of the ceremony though…
So what are some implications of the fact that married couples are to think and to live in light of the fact that they now share a brain? One has to do with what you should now assume that you know…which should be what? Don’t assume anything…for the rest of your life! In other words, since you forever after now only have half a brain, and your spouse has the other half, practice ‘mutual one-brain’ thinking. And how does ‘mutual one-brain’ thinking work? Simply practice testing all of your assumptions or ideas verbally by asking your husband or wife if they are accurate or if they are in agreement with them. And avoid acting until this is done. A practical example is something like: “This is what I was planning here…is this what you were planning?” Or, “This is the way I thought you would want to handle this or that…so how were you thinking about handling it?” Or, “This is how I felt about the matter…is that how you feel about it?” Or, “This is the way I was looking at the situation…is that how you see it?” And so on…
You see? The two become one, therefore those who are married must use the whole brain that they now share together, and no longer just the half that they have of their own. Get the insights, counsel, feelings, and information from the other half of your brain, of which your husband or wife carries around with them. And when you do, then you can count on this: This key will not only improve your thinking skills and expand your perspective on everything, but it will also open up your relationship in wonderful and mutually beneficial ways that would not have been possible any other way! What a design by our great God!
Let’s just look at one other key to great relationships with others and then we’ll wrap it up. As wonderful and encouraging as a great married relationship is or even as great as a friendship with others can be, mark this down carefully: Yes, thank the Lord for fulfilling relationships and fulfilling friendships, but look to the Lord alone to fill your cup. Last week we read Psalm 23 together, and in it are key concepts for contentment…words like: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”…and “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”…and“I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”…and “You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” Ps 23:1-5 NASU As our only Creator, as our only Redeemer, as our only Shepherd…God alone is our only source for everything that our soul needs for both our eternal conversion and also for our daily contentment. Only God can fill your cup. Only God can both fill the hole in your soul and then keep it filled with the spirit of ‘It is well with my soul’. It’s why God had Asaph’s prayer recorded for all of us to understand: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Ps 73:25-26 NASU
So really, the central key to a great relationship with anyone, whether it be your husband or wife or brother or sister in Christ, or with just being a friend to anyone else, is to have this great relationship with your Savior and Shepherd. Do not look to others to do what only the Spirit of God can do, and that is to fill your cup with the fruit of the Spirit…of love, and joy, and peace, patience, goodness, self-control, and so on. No, bring that cup, bring your cup to God day by day to let Him fill your cup with His fruit of the Spirit…and then look to others to pour out upon them some of what God the Holy Spirit has poured into your cup.
Again, thank the Lord that your husband or wife or your good friends often top off your cup with some of those good things, too, but remember to look to God alone to do what only God alone can do for your soul. And when you do, again, then you really will have some good things…some ‘key’ things to share with others, which are ‘key things that make for great relationships’.