Jonathan's Perspective  

Jan 18

A Little Help from Our Friends

We all need a little help from our friends!  This is especially true when we are trying to make significant changes in our lives.  From what you eat to work ethic, from attitude to addiction, we need more than just personal will power.  We need friends who will help us in four ways.

First, we need friends who will help us redefine normal.  Most changes occur when we realize that the 'norm' we have been sucked into is not the norm we want to live out.  When the Israelites were heading to the promised land God told them that the people of that land worshipped false gods, sacrificed their children, didn't care for the poor, and lacked justice.  That was the norm that the Israelites would have to steer clear of.  So God gave the law, God's norm for them, so they would have fulfilling, prosperous lives.  Part of gathering for worship and small group bible study is to reaffirm the Scriptural norm for our lives.  We need friends to learn it, discuss applications, pray for each other, and encourage each other to live it.  Scripture and Christian conversation help us understand the good norm for life.  Everything short of that we need to call unhealthy, bad, dangerous, or immoral.  But, we should never call it 'normal'.  God's kingdom is our normal.

Second, we need friends who will encourage good behavior and attitudes.  Sometimes we are surrounded by friends and acquaintances who encourage the very behavior we want to give up.  We need to think about who are accomplices to our bad behavior and who are friends helping us become better.  Luckily, there is an easy way to turn accomplices into friends.  Simply tell them about the change you are trying to make, and ask them to help you.  Usually people will applaud your desire to better yourself.  Who knows, you might get them thinking about their own lives, and they may join you in your change.  According to statistics, the magic number that will help you succeed is 6.  Get six friends who are going to encourage you, and you are 40% more likely to succeed!

Third, we need friends who can coach us.  A coach is someone who can give you information that will help you change, and feedback that makes your change more efficient and long lasting.  You can learn a lot from internet coaches.  My kids will look up how to solve complex math or physics problems online line.  There are tutorials for about everything these days.  However, the most effective coach is one you can meet regularly with in person.  Last fall, I had a tennis coach who improved my game tremendously over just a month's time.  Personally tailored feedback while you are in action will reap the best results.  It is almost always worth the money to hire a personal coach who has expertise in the area you want to change.  What is really neat is that we are called to be each other's personal spiritual coaches.  Paul encouraged the Ephesians to use their speech to, 'build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen...'(Eph 4)

Finally, we need friends to celebrate milestones with us.  The most difficult step of a journey is not the first step or the last step, it is the middle step.  We need to break down larger goals into smaller ones so that we can celebrate those milestones met.  Any significant change is going to require many smaller changes.  Celebrate them all.  Our family likes to take our Friday night meal time as celebration.  We give thanks to God for his blessings and for Christ in our lives, then we celebrate each person's accomplishments during the previous week.  If you live alone, you can get together with a friend or two each week for lunch or coffee simply to celebrate each of your blessings, and encouraging change milestones.

God has given us each other to help us live well in relationship to God, our families, friends, and colleagues.  The Bible contains 'one anothers' to remind us that our salvation is tied up in one another.  We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers called to set a Biblical norm, encourage transformation, coach those who are younger in faith, and to always celebrate milestones of God's grace at work in us.

Blessed to be a Blessing

Jonathan

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