How to Build Better Personal Relationships With Others

How to Build Better Personal Relationships With Others August 14, 2017

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How to Build Better Personal Relationships With Others

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 How to Build Better Personal Relationships With Others (Relational Reset – Reset Part 2)

It takes self-discipline in order to grow. If I want to have a healthy body, I need to stay in shape by getting exercise and eating properly. If I want to have a healthy loving relationship with others, I need to also “stay in shape.” Staying in physical shape requires that I engage in exercises that tone my body. Staying in the proper requires a self-discipline. I refrain from eating unhealthy foods and I get involved in activities that help me.

The same is true in my relationships. Sanctification is a big word for spiritual growth. When people think of spiritual growth, they think of meditation and Bible reading. However, these are spiritual disciplines which help me internally. Yet spiritual growth is also about relational growth. I must reflect my personal discipline outwardly in a relationship with other people. God calls me to love Him and love others. If I am going to continue to “walk and please God” (which is considered spiritual growth),

For this is God’s will, your sanctification:…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, CSB)

then I need to obey the commands of Jesus.

For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:2, CSB)

What are the commands of Jesus?

Love God and love one another. We know this is true because Paul brings it up.

About brotherly love: You don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9, CSB)

He says that we are taught to love one another. In his instruction to the Thessalonian believers, he shares five ways to grow in loving relationships with other people by self-discipline. This self-discipline requires that I resist my sinful nature in myself to love others the way that God wants me to do – to please Him.

Self-discipline, in this case, is like resistance training. I exercise my body in resistance against a weight to strengthen my muscles. In the same way, God wants me to resist certain urges in order that I might grow in self-discipline and self-control so that I can properly love as God wants me to.

FIVE LOVING EXERCISES OF RESISTANCE TO HELP ME BUILD PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS1

1. Abstain from lust (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)

For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passions, like the Gentiles, who don’t know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5, CSB)

The first exercise of resistance is sexual. God wants me to abstain from lust. Sexual desires can get out of control in relationships. I have to learn to say “No” to those desires.

I think the hardest area to build resistance for many Christians is not just sex itself. Pornography is the greatest threat to Christian growth. We don’t live in the world where the latest Playboy magazine is the greatest threat to personal relationships. Technology has made Playboy magazines really old school. The new ways that pornography can hurt relationships have exploded with the advent of the Internet and the smartphone.

One such threat is “sexting.” Sexting is when someone sends naked pictures via a text. Another threat is using the computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone to view all kinds of pornography privately. Before, you had to pay money to see porn. Now, you just have to view a website.

I know what you are thinking. Pastor, why bring that up? Why are you giving ideas? Do you think this is new? Young people have been doing this for years. The hardest personal exercise is to abstain from lust. The reason is that it affects so many other relationships. This is why Paul shares with us the next spiritual exercise of resistance.

2. Stop cheating my neighbor (1 Thessalonians 4:6)

This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother or sister in this manner, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:6, CSB)

The second exercise of resistance is how we treat another person. I learn not to take advantage of another person – whether it is their wife, their wealth, or their wisdom, I have to resist the desire to steal from someone else.

Why do I spend my time exercising like this? Because it doesn’t just benefit my neighbor. It benefits me.

For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness. Consequently, anyone who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7–8, CSB)

God has called us to live holy lives. He has called us to grow spiritually. As I am building my personal relationship with God, it should reflect in the way I build relationships with others. I don’t cheat my neighbor, not just because it is one of the Ten Commandments. I don’t cheat my neighbor because I want to live a better life as a Christian. When I grow spiritually by not cheating my neighbor, it helps me to build a better relationship with other people. Spiritual growth and better relationships are tied together not just by being better. They happen when I don’t act worse. I can grow through strength training. But I can also grow through resistance training. I am called to resist impurity and that will help me embrace holiness. The Holy Spirit calls me to resist impurity.

3. Lead a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,” (1 Thessalonians 4:11, CSB)

I don’t just resist sexual urges or urges to steal from my neighbor. I also have to resist in the way I use my words.

The third exercise of resistance is in how I speak. I can still relate to other people without always speaking my mind. I don’t have to express myself when I meet with people. This is especially true when it comes to social media. It is amazing how many times a person will speak their mind online with words they would never say to a person’s face. I see people write “rants” on Facebook. Would you normally “rant” like that in person? Would you say what you write on social media? Because if you would not, what does it say about living as a Christian. We say in the Christian life that “my walk should match my talk”. When it comes to social media, “my post should match what I profess.”

As was just shown this week, what you text can impact the lives of other people. Conrod Roy, an 18-year old, committed suicide after a series of texts that were exchanged with 17-year old Michelle Carter. As the judge mentioned when Carter was sentenced:

“She admits in … texts that she did nothing: She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family” after hearing his last breaths during a phone call, Moniz said as Carter cried silently.

“And, finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: Get out of the truck.”2

Carter went from offering “words of kindness and love” to aggressively encouraging Roy via text message to carry out longtime threats to commit suicide. There are times when I need to learn to listen more than I need to speak, and I certainly need to listen more than I need to text.

Listening to others in an important skill. It’s important that I learn to listen more than I speak. Listening is an important relational skill. Sometimes, the most important skill is to resist to speak so that I take the time to listen intently to what the other person is saying.

4. Mind my own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,” (1 Thessalonians 4:11, CSB)

The fourth exercise of resistance is how involved I get in other people’s business. The verse literally says to “practice my own things.” I need to stay busy taking care of what God has given me. I don’t need to butt into other people’s business uninvited. People who are “busybodies” are people who think they have to be involved without being asked.

If someone needs my help, they will ask me. Sometimes, it takes listening to the Spirit to see if a person is asking for help. At the same time, the Spirit never wants me to stick my nose in where it does not belong. That can get me in trouble.

5. Work to provide for my needs (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12, CSB)

The reason why I need to mind my own business is that God wants to use me to work to provide my needs. God gives me the fifth exercise in resistance – work – to provide for my needs. I should be a giving person, not a needy person. Needy people look to others to provide for their needs. Healthy people resist this weakness by working the work God has provided for their needs.

As a Christian, I should depend upon the work that God gives them to provide for their needs. This is loving because it shows outsiders that I depend upon God for my needs and I don’t always ask for a handout. I love God enough to ask Him for help, not anyone else. This form of self-discipline speaks volumes to outsiders about the kind of person I am. It shows that I live with respect. I show that God is loving to me by providing for my needs.

Let me end with this story from General Jimmy Doolittle and how he trained his pilots.

General Jimmy Doolittle knew the qualifications needed in pilots. He said he looked for balance, fast reactions, and a love of flying. In addition, he sought a pilot who could learn his limitations. A poor pilot wasn’t necessarily a dangerous pilot if he lived within his limitations, Doolittle affirmed. A pilot finds his limits in the air by getting closer and closer to the edge, and sometimes going beyond, and still surviving.

When it comes to personal relationships, our Christian life is like that pilot. In the same way that we extend ourselves when we learn to exercise with resistance training, a pilot learns to extend their horizons when they extend themselves in flight.

Our Christian life grows when we extend ourselves beyond our personal comfort zone into unfamiliar territory. Christians fearlessly face the unknown. Out there, where we have never been before, the Savior awaits, urging us forward. Since our soul shrinks or expands to the degree it is unused or challenged, we boldly push at our spiritual boundaries, testing their limits, only to discover that none exist. Ever onward we go in our spiritual journey to the point of no return, where it is farther to go back than to go on—where we are so much closer to where we want to go than to where we have been.3

1 Jim Erwin, “5 Ways to Love Others Through Self-Discipline,” 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, 5 December 2016, Lectionary Reflections Year A (2016-2017), Logos Bible Software Notes, Internet, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2016/12/05/5-ways-to-love-others-through-self-discipline/, accessed on 25 July 2017.

2 Ray Sanchez, Natisha Lance and Eric Levenson and CNN, “Woman sentenced to 15 months in texting suicide case.” Internet, http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/03/us/michelle-carter-texting-suicide-sentencing/index.html, 3 August 2017, accessed on 4 August 2017.

3 Virgil Hurley, Speaker’s Sourcebook of New Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Word Publishers, 2000), 93–94.

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