We are in a series called Life Rules where we are looking at the rules God has given us for the relationships that make up our lives. We all have a set of rules that we live by that we have picked up from a variety of places like family, friends, school, work, TV, movies and the culture around us. Many times we may not even know we are following these rules, but they are there and one of the difficulties this series has presented us is that the life rules God gives often directly challenges the life rules we tend to follow. For example, one of the life rules we often follow is to do unto others as they deserve to be treated, or do unto others as our mood tells us or do unto others to try to get something in return. None of these are the golden rule which Jesus gave us which says do unto others as we would have them do unto us, but the new life rule God gives goes beyond even the golden rule and has become what I am calling the God rule which is to do unto others as God has done unto us.
This rule directly challenges many of the rules we have previously followed. We don’t forgive because people deserve it; we forgive because we have been forgiven by God. We don’t accept people because we find them acceptable; we accept them because we have been accepted by God. So the life rules God gives often directly challenge the life rules we have picked up and are currently following and today’s rule is no exception. In fact, today’s life rule directly challenges two life rules many of us follow and the first one is this: Mind your own business.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that from my mom. With two older sisters, I loved to watch what they did looking for anything that I could “share” with my mom. I think it is the job of all little brothers to try and get their older sisters in trouble so I was great at being a tattle tale which means I heard this rule many times – mind your own business. It is a life rule we follow and while there is some good to take away from it, we are going to see that in certain situations God challenges this rule.
The second life rule God is going to challenge today is this: When you see a friend about to make a bad decision, talk about them not to them. How many of us have seen a friend start dating someone we think is absolutely the wrong person for them and we know they are headed for all kinds of pain and heartache and yet the first thing we do is go and talk about them to someone else instead of talking directly to them. Or it might be a financial situation we see, or a bad habit that is taking over their life, or a job decision they have shared with us that we think is going to be a disaster and yet instead of talking to them we find the closest person around and start talking about them. Now if we are really concerned we might talk to our friends and then say something like this, you know we should really pray for them, which is all well and good, but then the rule we follow is this: When you see a friend about to make a bad decision, pray for them not with them. Too often we will pray about people and the concerns we have but aren’t will to pray with them and the reason often is that we have been told that it is none of our business.
These two life rules go hand in hand and they are often the rules that guide our relationships. There have been and today probably are people in our lives that are on the verge of making some bad decisions or maybe are just in a bad place emotionally, spiritually, physically, relationally or financially and we see them heading into all kinds of trouble and needing help but we aren’t about to talk to them or pray with them but we will be quick to talk about them. If someone has come to your mind this morning, I want you to keep thinking about them because we have the potential to save these people from heartache, pain and disaster if we will decide to make their business our business and pray with them and not just for them, but this won’t happen without following a new life rule.
The life rule we are looking at today comes from Hebrews 3 but for us to understand this rule we need to understand one fundamental truth about our faith, God does not see us as a group of individual believers, God sees us as a body. God calls us to be part of a family and in a family we are responsible for one another. In a family we look out for each other, care for one another and are to be accountable to each other and God shows us that in Hebrews 3:12.
In this verse there is a call for us to be watching out for one another. It was written to a group of people, not individuals, and we are to see to it that no one has a sinful heart that leads them to turn away from God. In other words your spiritual life is my business and my spiritual life is your business. We are being called here to mind each other’s business and to look out for one another and the reason we are to do this isn’t because we are better than others but because we all have the potential to drift away or even run away from God. We are all prone to making bad decisions that not only have a devastating impact on our relationships, finances and future but can pull us away from God.
Sometimes it is the small decisions about who our friends are or how we spend our time and money that begin to erode our spiritual life. Andy Stanley says that we quit behaving before we quit believing. Our poor choices in seemingly simple areas of our life over time can poisoned our heart and set us on a path that leads us away from God. Unfortunately I have seen this all too often. Someone in the church will start dating someone who doesn’t attend church at all and they say it’s true love and so they get more involved in the relationship and over time their actions and behavior pull them away from worship and Bible Study and serving in the community and pretty soon they don’t feel the need to be in church at all and in time they might even question whether or not God is really there. They didn’t start out to drift away from God and it was not their intent to question or even deny their faith, they believed they could have it all, but they quit behaving and then before long they quit believing.
But it’s not just relationships, all kinds of behavior can be unhealthy and destructive and slowly pull us away from God and we don’t start off thinking we will drift away – in fact most of the time we think we will be just fine. We tell ourselves that we can handle it, but in time it begins to handle us. Sin is most often a path that goes from action to faith. It starts with bad choices and questionable actions and then over time leads us to a place where we are disconnected from God and the people of God. Sin is deceitful this way because it tells us that we can handle what we are doing and it tells us our actions and decisions won’t affect our relationship with God, but it does. God has a solution, a new life rule to help us. Look at Hebrews 3:13.
So what pulls us back from the path of sin and the deceitfulness of sin is the encouragement of others, so life rule # 5: encourage one another. But let’s be clear about what it means to encourage. It does not mean we stand on the sidelines of people’s lives saying, “way to go” and “good job”. The word in Greek means to appeal, beg, urge, exhort. It means we call out to people when we see them going in the wrong direction or making a bad decisions that can lead to the deceitfulness of sin and the hardening of people’s hearts. It is in those moments that we can’t talk about them and mind our own business because God has called us to be actively engaged in one another’s lives. See to it, God says, that none of you turns away from the living God. We have to appeal to them and be willing to approach them and speak to the situation we see.
We have to beg and urge them to consider what they are doing and ask them to reconsider their decisions and actions. This what exhort means, to urge them to pursue a different course of action. We need to speak to them about making different choices and getting help if needed. We have to be willing to take the risk and engage people even though it will be messy, uncomfortable and awkward to say something. That’s often what we say to ourselves to justify not getting involved. We say it would just be way too awkward to say something and that’s right – it is awkward, but if we really care for others we should be willing to face those awkward moments and move beyond them.
When I had just started out in ministry I had a roommate who watched me become completely burned out. I never took a day off and had convinced myself I couldn’t. He had that awkward conversation with me one day and said I really needed to readjust my schedule and take a day off. I said I couldn’t but that was just my pride speaking. He insisted and I said something like, it’s really not your decision, mind your own business. Then one morning he told me if I was going to leave the house I would have to drive over him because he would go out in the driveway and lay down behind my car. It was awkward to say the least and I didn’t push the issue. I stayed home and I didn’t work and from that on I have made days off – a Sabbath day of rest – a regular part of my life. He saw me headed in a bad direction and was willing to exhort me.
While we often tell ourselves that these situations just aren’t our business, God makes clear that they are. Remember, God doesn’t see us as individual believers but a family who is responsible for one another. God also uses the analogy of the body and says we are all part of the same body which means if my hand is in pain it is the rest of the body which needs to come and help. We have to be willing to step in and help when we see others in need.
We also justify not encouraging others because we believe that since we don’t have our act together, we aren’t worthy enough to say something to someone else. Well, that’s true, we aren’t worthy. None of us will ever be worthy enough to speak into someone else’s life. None of us will ever be good enough on our own to appeal, beg, urge and exhort others but it doesn’t matter because that isn’t God’s rule. God’s rule isn’t – those who are perfect are to encourage others, and it’s not – encourage others in areas where you have it all together.
God’s plan is that broken men and women who are struggling to get it right in our own lives call out and reach out to those who are struggling in their lives. Maybe the reason God calls us to mind each other’s business and encourage one another in our own weakness is because as people prone to sin ourselves we will understand what they are going through. We can speak with confidence about how hard it is to overcome and how much help we need to live faithful lives because we know how hard it is in our own lives and how much help we need. Maybe the reason God calls the imperfect to encourage those who are imperfect is because we can do it with humility and understanding.
So let me go back and ask us to think again about the person God has been laying on our heart and mind this morning. Who is it that we have been talking about and not to? Who have we been praying for but not with? Who comes to mind? Is there a way we can take a bold step forward and talk to them and pray with them this week? Their future might be hanging in the balance and God just might want to use us to help them. Remember, we don’t speak to them with judgment and arrogance but with humility, grace and a gentleness which clearly says, I am not any better than you, in fact I have my own struggles but I love you and care for you and I want to see you succeed in life and faith.
The person on your mind today just might be asking God right now to bring someone into their life who will help them. They may be struggling with the decisions they are making and are just waiting for someone to care enough to say something to them. We might be the only person willing to risk it all – or we might be the straw that breaks their back so they finally hear the truth and see what they are doing and finally ask for help. God may be asking us to be the one to bear their burden and mind their business and help. Will we?
Now let me ask this, who is there for us? Who in our lives can take the risk and speak to us? Who is it that will appeal, beg, urge and exhort us when we need it? Can you name someone? If we can’t think of anyone who might do this in our lives then we need to get to work and invite people to speak into our lives because we all need this. We are all imperfect. We are all prone to the deceitfulness of sin and the hardening of our hearts and we are all prone to quit behaving which can lead us to a place where we quit believing, so who will encourage us? We don’t have to just sit back and ask God to bring these people to us, we can go out and develop those relationships. This is why we encourage small groups, Bible Studies and Sunday School classes because these are places where we can share with one another what is going on in our lives and it opens the door for people to step into our hearts and lives and help. We need to develop these relationships because we all need help.
It is time we all step up and develop relationships where we can mind each other’s business, carry each other’s burdens, speak to people not about them and pray with them and not just for them. We need to encourage one another daily because while our relationship with Jesus is personal it was never designed to be private. We are part of a body and today and every day we need the help, support and encouragement of each other.
Life Rules ~ Encourage
Because we have been taught to mind our own business, when we see a friend stepping into trouble we tend to:
• Talk about them not to them
• Pray for them not with them
Because we are part of the body of Christ when we see a friend stepping into trouble we are to encourage which means:
• Talk to them not about them
• Pray with them not just for them
1. What friends come to mind when you think of those who might be stepping into trouble? In other words:
• Who have you been talking about not to?
• Who have you been praying for not with?
2. Ask God for the courage to speak with clarity and humility to those you named in Question 1.
3. Who can speak with clarity and boldness to the situations in your life?
4. If you can’t name a person in Question 3, identify one person you would like to have speak into your life and seek to develop that kind of friendship.