Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Is your friendship about you?

How important are the friends in your life? Sometimes I forget how awesome my friends are. I’m so blessed to have amazing people in my life, and I’m so overwhelmed at their kindness and their encouragement, especially in the dark times of my life.

As many of you know, I tend to be somewhat independent (stop rolling your eyes). I don’t like depending on other people, and I don’t like asking for help. But there are times when I need it. And in those times, I have an arsenal of amazing people who step up to surround me with prayer and words that have to come straight from God.

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Romans 12:10.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

I thought of this verse today when I thought about friendship. So much of friendship in our culture is about what others can do for us, but what I’ve learned over the years is that friendship–the ones that last–should be about what you can do for your friend.

Have you thought about that? Have you ever asked the friends in your life what you can do for them? Or is your friendship all about you?

What does it mean to show genuine affection to someone? Well, to me, that means you treat someone else kindly out of pure motivation. You do kind things for others because it’s the right thing to do, because you truly want to do it. It’s not a front. It’s not for show. It’s genuine. It’s real.

Show me a friendship with genuine affection, and I’ll show you friends for life.

But genuine affection is a concept, and concepts are great, but they aren’t good for much until you put them into practice. And that’s where the second part of the verse comes in.

Take delight in honoring each other.

Okay. That sounds complicated and religious. Well, it’s not. What does it mean to honor someone? Honoring someone is simply putting that person before yourself. It means showing preference to someone else.

Practically speaking, it’s giving your friend the bigger slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner.

Another translation says to outdo each other in kindness. And another translation says, “practice playing second fiddle.”

Do you need the attention in the friendship? Do you need the be the one who’s at the center all the time? Honestly, ask yourself, because if the answer is yes, I’m sorry to be blunt, but you’re missing the point of friendship.

God made friends so we wouldn’t have to stand alone, so we could be part of a team, so we could be a part of something bigger than we are. There’s a song on the radio right now with a lyric that always makes me smile: “God put a million million doors in the world for His love to walk through/One of those doors is you.”

And that is so, so true.

If you have friends, take the time to find out what they need. Ask them how you can help them. Get involved in their lives for more than just what you need. Practice playing second fiddle. Skip the attention you think you need. You don’t need it. Shower them with the attention. And something amazing will happen. Your friendship will get stronger. Your friend will grow, and so will you.

I have amazing friends who have poured themselves into my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. What about about you?

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Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

God will use someone, but it doesn’t have to be you.

Selfless people are heroes. And I find it ironic that the most selfless people I know aren’t wealthy or famous or powerful. Some of them are, but most of them are normal, average people with limited resources. But limited resources don’t stop them from being willing to give everything they have to help someone else.

I was thinking about being selfless this morning, and the story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath came to my mind. It’s a relatively long passage, but it’s a good read.

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Kings 17:8-16.

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

This poor widow really had nothing. She had herself, she had her son, and she had enough food left for one meal before they starved to death. Put yourself in her shoes. What would you have done if some crazy, wild-eyed preacher walked out of the wilderness into your home and asked that you feed him before you eat your last meal.

I’d like to think my reaction would be as mild as the woman’s, but I don’t think it would be. If I were in her shoes, I think I might have told him to buzz off and let us starve to death in peace. But that’s not what the widow in this story did.

I’ve often wondered why the woman didn’t hesitate. From what I know of Elijah, he wouldn’t have looked clean-cut and appropriate. Actually, when he came to Zarephath, he had just come from living in the wilderness and being fed by ravens. This was at a time of drought and famine in Israel, due to the evil King Ahab. Everyone was starving. And I’m not sure, but I don’t think that the woman would have heard of Elijah. This was before the events on Mt. Caramel.

But something convinced her to listen to him. Maybe she believed him. Maybe she felt like she didn’t have a choice. Maybe she thought it didn’t matter. Personally, I like to think that she was selfless. Why else would God have chosen her to be the one to feed Elijah? Because that’s what happened. God used this poor widow to provide for His prophet, and as a result, the widow and her son had plenty to eat too.

What would have happened if she had refused to do as Elijah asked? Well, she and her son would have starved. And God would have used someone else to provide for Elijah.

And I guess that’s the point I’m making this morning. We all have limited resources (until we start drawing on what God has made available to us), and we all face a choice about what to do with those resources. And it never fails that the less someone has, the more they are willing to share and vice versa. Granted, I know some very wealthy people who are very generous with their finances, but they seem to be the exceptions.

When it comes right down to it, if you are a follower of Christ, you have a calling to help others, not necessarily wild-eyed preacher types but maybe it’s your next door neighbor. Maybe it’s your friend at school. Maybe it’s a coworker who needs a ride to the airport. And it doesn’t have to be a financial need either. Maybe it’s time someone is asking for. Or clothes. Or shelter. Or just a listening ear.

Someone in your life needs something from you. God has put that person in your life for a reason, and you have a choice to help them in spite of the cost to you personally or to ignore them and put yourself first. You can do either. That choice is up to you. But before you make that choice remember the story of this poor widow in Zarephath. She had a choice too, eat her last meal or share it with a crazy preacher who claimed God would provide for them both.

God didn’t have to use her. He could have used anyone. But in taking care of Elijah, God wanted to bless someone else too. And that’s what happens when you use your resources to help someone else. Not only do you help them, but God helps you at the same time.

You can’t out-give God. You can’t give Him so much that He can’t pay you back. Don’t believe me? Try it. This widow did, and she realized the benefit of serving God far outweighs the instant gratification of serving herself.

God will use someone. It doesn’t have to be you. But you’ll be much better off if it is.