Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Friendships for Our Good

Leslie Basham: God loves us enough to be honest about our shortcomings. Here’s Amy Baker.

Dr. Amy Baker: The thing about God is He is patiently honest about people. In fact, He tells us in the New Testament the whole reason He gave us the Old Testament was as an example so we could be learning these things. He doesn’t hide; He doesn’t cover up; He doesn’t whitewash things. When there are problems, God lets us know about it. But then He teaches us how we need to be dealing with those problems.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, July 4.

I hope you’re having a meaningful Independence Day celebration today. Many of us will be getting together with friends on this holiday, making it a good day to evaluate the spiritual significance of friendships. Here’s Nancy to get us started.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I can remember when I was a little girl something that, well, you may think it’s kind of strange, but I was one of these children who loved school. I loved studying. I loved books. I loved teachers. I loved classrooms. I didn’t like recess, weekends, holidays, and one of the reasons was I didn’t know how to relate to my peers.

I was a strange little girl, and it’s amazing how some of those childhood habits and patterns can go with us into adulthood. So as I’ve become a woman, one of the things I’ve sought to do is to learn how to talk with people, to relate to people. Now you may think I’m really outgoing, but the truth reatlly is that I’m a pretty shy person. It’s not easy for me to get out of myself and to engage in conversation with people I don’t know and to cultivate friendships.

So we’re talking this week about the importance of cultivating godly friendships, friendships that reflect to the world what God is like and how He befriends us. To help us do that is a woman who has become a new friend of mine—Dr. Amy Baker. She’s a biblical counselor. She’s invested many years in listening to the heart cries of women and seeking to point them to the Scripture to deal with real-life issues, such as this one on friendship.

So, Amy, thank you for joining us again on Revive Our Hearts.

Amy: Thank you, Nancy, I’m glad to be here.

Nancy: We’ve talked a little bit about what it takes to be a good friend and the importance of investing in the lives of others. But I want us to focus today on some of the threats to friendship, some of the things that can make a friendship go sour. As you think about your own life and women that you’ve counseled, perhaps some illustrations and Scripture, what is something that can cause a friendship to be sabotaged, that can be a threat to a friendship?

Amy: Well, if you think about it, in every relationship, there are two sinners.

Nancy: Are you talking about me?

Amy: Actually, I was talking more about me.

Nancy: That’s so important to realize, because we think the other person’s a sinner when the relationship is not doing well, but just that simple reminder that I’m a sinner, too.

Amy: I had someone teach me once that even if the other person is 95 percent wrong and I’m only 5 percent wrong, I’ve got to be taking care of my part of the problem. It’s just good to remind myself of that every once in a while because sometimes I like to act like wrongs are a bank account, or something like that. So if you owe me $95 and I owe you only $5, my debt is cancelled out because of your greater debt to me, and now you only owe me $90.

Someone helped me see that God is not like that at all, because God is holy, and I need to be looking in the log in my own eye.

Nancy: And the problem, of course, is that the other person, most likely, is thinking they only owe $5. They’re thinking I owe $95. And by nature of pride which deceives us and causes us not to be able to see our own need, that’s the danger in thinking “I’m not a sinner in this relationship.”

Amy: So we know there’s going to be problems in relationships because of the curse of sin. When you get people in relationships, there are going to be problems because we are not perfectly sanctified yet, and that’s not going to happen until we are with God in heaven.

So one of the important things we’re going to need to know if we’re ever going to have successful relationships and friendships, is how to solve problems in friendships. There will be problems. We don’t necessarily know what they’re going to be ahead of time, but there are going to be problems. So if we’re going to be wise in developing relationships with people, one of the things we need to be learning is “What do I do when there are problems in relationships? What do I do? And how do I solve problems in a godly way?”

Nancy: And problems can actually end up strengthening the friendship.

Amy: Over and over I have found that to be true in my life, and I’m sure you have, too. By working through things together, we end up much closer than we were to begin with. It’s not superficial anymore; now there’s some depth in that relationship.

Nancy: Yes. You’ve been through some things together; you’ve been in the fox hole together and the trenches.

Amy: Exactly. God’s Word doesn’t leave us a void on this particular topic either. The thing about God is He is patiently honest about people. In fact, He tells us in the New Testament the whole reason He gave us the Old Testament was as an example so we could be learning these things. He doesn’t hide; He doesn’t cover up; He doesn’t whitewash things. When there are problems, God lets us know about it, but then He teaches us how we need to be dealing with those problems.

Think about in the New Testament when we come across Euodia and Syntyche.

Nancy: Now, say those names again for those who may not be familiar with those uncommon names.

Amy: Euodia and Syntyche.

Nancy: Do you know, by the way, what those names mean? I’m sure you do. Euodia means fragrance, and Syntyche means fortunate. These are women with really good names, but what happened in their relationship?

Amy: One friend of mine aptly renamed them Odorous and Stinky, because these are two women who, in Philippians 4, verse 2 (NIV), Paul says there, “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.”

Now apparently, Paul doesn’t go into it, but apparently there was a problem in that relationship. We don’t know all the ins and outs about it, but we know there was a problem. The advice that’s given to them is not, “Well, one of you needs to leave and go to another church,” or “One of you needs to do this.”

Paul is pleading with them to agree with each other in the Lord. That becomes the basis of reason that we get beyond problems, because of the Lord and what He’s done for us and His teaching on how to solve problems.

Nancy: Isn’t that so practical for today? I think of all the churches I’ve ministered in where I’ve heard about relationships, whether it’s a marriage relationship or just people in the church who can’t get along with each other. Paul is saying, “It’s not just their problem; it’s the church’s problem.”

This needs to be something that we are committed to deal with and to face and not to run from. Not to just brush it under the carpet, but we are responsible as a body of believers belonging to each other, being one in Christ to deal with these things and to help others deal with them.

Amy: In Galatians 6 we’re told that it is very unloving of us if we see someone caught in a trap and we don’t seek to help them (see verse 1). So I think the fact that we see, in different places but definitely here in Philippians chapter 4, others coming alongside Euodia and Syntyche and saying, “I’m pleading with you, you two need to work on this problem, and I want others to help with this, too.”

So one of the aspects of genuine friendship is going to be, “I’m willing to take a risk; I’m willing to be such a friend that I would come alongside and say, ‘You know what, something needs to change here.’”

Nancy: I am so thankful for the people, the friends, the true friends that God has put into my life that have loved me enough to be honest with me, to help me see my blind spots, to come and confront me with the truth and say, “You may not see this, but this is what’s showing in your life, in your spirit.”

I can think of coming out of a staff meeting and our director saying to me, “I don’t think you realized how you came across with that other staff member in the way that you communicated.” Sure it stings at the moment, but if I’ll receive that in humility rather than in defensiveness or pride, I’m going to grow and that person has really been a true friend to me.

Amy: I think Proverbs has a lot to say about how faithful are the wounds of a friend, and about the kind of person who responds when a friend is loving enough to reach out and confront you about something. Proverbs has a lot to say about your response showing what kind of a person you are.

Are you a wise person who responds to counsel? Or are you a foolish person who, when they hear they need to work on something in their own life, they are wiser in their own eyes than seven men and have all kinds of reasons how what they did was really not something that needs to be changed, it would be somebody else who needs to do the changing in that situation.

Nancy: So take these two women in the church. They aren’t getting along with each other; they’ve had some disagreement; one got their feelings hurt by something the other one said; they’re both working in the church nursery together; they used to be best friends; their families used to do things together—I mean, this is real life. This is real stuff. There were some real issues there that are probably not unlike some of the real issues going on in former friends in our churches today.

  • What can these women do?
  • How do they resolve this?
  • How do they restore that friendship and that relationship?

Amy: One of the first things that’s got to happen is my perspective. I’ve got to approach this problem with the right perspective. One of the things that I need to remember is that God has not allowed anything in my life to harm me. He has provided it for my growth.

In Romans 8:28 and 29, He says, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (KJV). Probably many, many, many of us are familiar with Romans 8:28. Sometimes we don’t add verse 29 to it, which says, "that we can be conformed to the likeness of Christ" (paraphrased).

So in allowing these things in my life, God’s goodness, what He is up to, the good thing He is doing is to give me an opportunity to grow in Christ’s likeness. So it’s got to start with my perspective. I’ve got to see this as an opportunity; it’s a chance for me to grow in Christ’s likeness.

Nancy: And this being whatever this person has done that has hurt me, wounded me, or affected our friendship adversely.

Amy: Exactly. It’s not about them first, although there may need to be some things I address with them. First of all it’s about me looking at this as an opportunity to become more like Christ, and usually, at least in my own life, there are certainly plenty of things that I need to be working on before I’m ever ready to address issues in somebody else’s life.

In Matthew 18 (see verses 23-35). Christ talks about the two servants who were forgiven. One was forgiven a great debt, and one had a much smaller debt. The first servant was unable to pay his debt. He asked to be released from it, and the master released him from a very, very big debt that he would never have been able to repay.

We see in that parable that person going out and then demanding that a person who owed him a much smaller sum repay him, and God condemned that. The reason He condemned it was not because there was a genuine debt there, but because that person had forgotten how much he had been forgiven.

When I start to look at things that way, it certainly helps me put things in perspective. Often it’s easy to look at it just at a horizontal level and say, “What you did hurt. It is a bigger offense than what I did.” But as I begin to look at it and say, “Yes, but what about my offenses toward God?” That becomes so much greater than any way that anybody could ever offend me. My perspective gets better.

Leslie: Amy Baker will continue talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about the spiritual significance of your friendships in just a minute.

I’m going to cut in and let you know how you can explore that last point in more detail. Forgiveness is a huge issue. If you aren’t in the habit of forgiving as God has forgiven you like Amy just described, it can cause serious problems in your life. Bitterness, hurt, and broken relationships will be the norm.

Find out why forgiveness is so important, and learn how to truly forgive by reading Nancy’s book Choosing Forgiveness. This book could be the path to freedom you’ve been looking for. We’ll send you a copy when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts. You can do that at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for Choosing Forgiveness when you call toll free 1-800-569-5959.

Now let’s get back to the conversation between Dr. Amy Baker and Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: I’m thinking of two women who attend the same church, and by the way, lest you try and identify who these women are, let me just say that this probably exists in your church and in every church and ministry and workplace. But I’m thinking of two particular women who both really do love the Lord. They go to church together. They are both seeking to raise godly families, along with their husbands. They are committed Christian women, but one of these women has been to me more than once to pour out her heart about her frustration with the other woman and just the differences of perspective they have. Their families are thrown together regularly in circumstances, and here are two women trying to seek the Lord, love the Lord, and be godly women, but they just can’t get along with each other.

The Scripture has very practical wisdom and counsel to help us in situations like that, and we’ve been talking about Philippians chapter 4, verse 2, where the apostle Paul says, “I entreat, I beseech, I plead. This is important.” Then he names two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to agree in the Lord. Then he says, “Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the gospel, together with Clement and my fellow workers” (verse 3, ESV).

So Paul is saying, “Both of you have a responsibility to deal with this relationship.”

Amy: Christ gives us the same obligation. We often think that it’s the person who is doing wrong who has the obligation to go and make it right. But we see in Matthew 5, beginning in verse 23, it says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift” (verses 23-24, paraphrased).

You think about who was the responsible person there that was supposed to go and try to get the person reconciled? It wasn’t the person who created the offense, it was the person who was offended. So God puts the responsibility on both parties. Whether you are the one who offended, whether you are the one who was offended, God says you’re both responsible to go to solve this problem.

Nancy: Let’s not miss that here. If you’re the one who sinned and God convicts you of it, you go to the person you’ve sinned against, and you acknowledge your wrong and seek forgiveness. But if you’re the one who was sinned against, you don’t wait for that other person to come to you.

Amy: Exactly, and as I’ve been taught, the two people ought to meet each other going to each other. They ought to meet in the middle going to each other because there’s such a desire there to solve problems.

Nancy: And yet to yield the expectation of how the other person will respond. What if the other person isn’t coming part way? We say, “They were really wrong. They should come. They should at least meet me part way.” God says, “Well, yes, that would be great, but even if they don’t, you go, and you do what you can to seek to resolve that relationship.”

Amy: I think we see another reason for that in Ephesians 4:26-27, where it says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, because when we do, we give the devil a foothold" (paraphrased). We are to take care of problems daily. When we let them go day after day after day after day, we are giving Satan a foothold because they fester. We become bitter, and that bitterness becomes a root that creates all kinds of problems in future relationships.

Nancy: Hebrews 12 says that root of bitterness will not only trouble us but many people will be defiled by it (see verse 15). I’ve seen that over and over and over again in churches, in small groups, in families, in the body of Christ, in many different places where there are two people who will not deal with their issues God’s way.

As a result they become embittered toward each other, and then the atmosphere all around them becomes contaminated, poisoned by that bitterness. We can just keep blaming the other person, saying, “It’s their fault; it’s their problem; I can’t help it.” Or we can take personal responsibility and say, “Lord, what do You want me to do to help reconcile this relationship?”

Amy: Exactly, and I think what you’ve just touched on goes hand and glove with what Christ is talking about in Matthew chapter 7, beginning in verse 3, when He says, “Why are you looking at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, and you have not yet paid attention to the log that is in your own eye?” (paraphrased).

The place that I’m going to have to start, if I’m going to reconcile relationships, is examining myself first and recognizing where and how I need to change. Otherwise, I become a hypocrite. That’s what He calls them, “You hypocrite,” which is a pretty strong criticism from Christ when He looked at these people and said, “You are a hypocrite if you are not first looking at yourself.”

So, if I’m going to start in getting relationships solved, I think the one person I have to start with is me.

Nancy: That’s really the pathway of humility, isn’t it?

Amy: It is.

Nancy: To say, “It’s not my brother; it’s not my sister. It’s me, Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

You can tell whether we’re taking responsibility or not for our own actions by the way we talk to other people about this relationship, about the marriage, about the friendship. If we’re listing to others the offenses, the wrongs, what this person did to hurt me, how they violated my rights, then we’re evidencing that we haven’t really examined the issues of our own heart and how we may have contributed to the brokenness of that relationship.

Amy: As one person pointed out about this passage, that, once I have done that, once I’ve had my own eye operation and I understand how painful it is, and I’ve been working on growing, I’m in a much better position then to come alongside somebody else and seek to help them with the speck in their eye; ecause I’ve had my own eye operation first, and because I have learned just how difficult and how painful it is to have that kind of surgery. I’m going to be much more sensitive and much more delicate . . .

Nancy: . . . and compassionate . . .

Amy: . . .when I go to somebody else.

Nancy: So can broken relationships, friendships, marriages, can they really be restored?

Amy: Well, if we’re going to believe that God’s Word is true, the answer to that has to be an unequivocal, “Yes.” Think about the most basic, broken relationship that we all have had, and that is the broken relationship between us and our Lord. That was broken. We were born sinners, and there was no way on our own that we were going to be able to restore that.

Nancy: We were estranged from God.

Amy: Exactly—His enemies. We were fighting against Him.

Nancy: And what is it that bridged the gap?

Amy: It wasn’t anything we did.

Nancy: It was the cross.

Amy: Exactly.

Nancy: It was Christ’s willingness to humble Himself, to take the position of a servant, to take the low place, to take the position of the wrong one, and to become sin for us. It’s the cross that reconciles relationships, and we can’t reconcile relationships on a human level if we’re not willing to go to the cross, which means humility. It means suffering. It means willingness to take responsibility for our own sins and failures.

Amy: That kind of example on His part certainly ought to make us thirsty. It ought to create an unquenchable desire in our hearts to be doing the same kinds of things in relationships where we have struggles and relationships that are affected by the curse of sin—whether it’s because we offended or whether it’s because someone else has offended. When we look at the cross, that ought to just stir up an insatiable desire to now treat others as we have been treated.

Nancy: Then as we clear the air, as we humble ourselves, as we go and seek forgiveness for where we have been wrong, and as we give God time to work in their hearts to bring the relationship back together, then we have to go through the process of rebuilding the relationship. What are some of the things that can help us restore, once we’ve come to a point of brokenness, how do we move forward in the relationship?

Amy: Well, if you remember, when that relationship has been restored and the offense has been taken care of, the other person has sought forgiveness or you’ve sought forgiveness (probably both of you have sought forgiveness), remember that when I made that forgiveness commitment, I was making a commitment that I’m not going to use this to harm you in the future.

Nancy: I’m not going to bring it up against you again.

Amy: Yes, and not only to you, but to others, or in my thinking, and if it does come up in my thinking, I’m going to take that thought captive, and I’m going to remember that this has been dealt with, and for me to dwell on it now would not be pleasing to God.

So we’ve got that foundation that I’m making a commitment that I’m going to treat you this way, and from there, now it’s not just, “Okay, now I don’t do anything.” Now I’ve got to actively seek to go forward and minister like I did when I first wanted to develop the relationship. I’ve now got to go back and apply the same principles of looking to meet needs in other’s lives, not looking at this relationship for, “What’s it going to do for me?” But looking at this relationship for, “How can I minister? How can I serve? How can I be God’s kind of person to this person?” and working at that.

That’s not necessarily going to come naturally. When there have been problems in a relationship, even once we seek forgiveness, sometimes it’s just like, “The safest thing to do is just not have contact with you because I don’t want to go down that path again,” and God doesn’t give us the opportunity to do that. God insists that we be aggressive in working at restoring it.

Nancy: Run into the pain.

Amy: Exactly.

Nancy: Take the hard way.

Amy: And in the end, bring great glory and honor to God.

Leslie: Amy Baker has been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about how to cultivate friendships that really make a difference.

Now, let me remind you of a resource that has meant so much to the relationships of so many women. It’s a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss called Choosing Forgiveness. When it feels like you just can’t forgive or reconcile, don’t give up. Read this book to discover the value and the importance of forgiveness, and then learn how to forgive completely with God’s help. Nancy walks you through a helpful process, and you’ll discover a new sense of freedom when you act on the ideas in this book.

We’ll provide the book when you donate to Revive Our Hearts. You can do that at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for Choosing Forgiveness when you donate using our toll-free number. It’s 1-800-569-5959.

Now, do you consider children a burden or a blessing? Think through how you would really answer that question, and then join us on Monday on Revive Our Hearts. 

Child: Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries, and my mom is a true woman.

 

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