Enjoy The People in Your Life
Linus mentions to Charlie Brown that he wants to grow up to be a great humanitarian. Charlie Brown reminds his friend that humanitarians have to really love humanity, to which Linus replies, “I love humanity! It’s people I can’t stand!”
Have you ever heard someone say, “I love my work, but I can’t stand the people I work with”? People can be difficult to deal with. But in spite of all the problems you and I have with people, most of us are not quite ready to become hermits on a desert island. Most of us know when it comes to relationships, we all either sink or swim together. We have to learn to at least tolerate one another; but how can you practice enjoying the people in your life? I think the apostle Paul gives some clues about how to do this in Phil. 1:1-11. Let’s begin with vs. 1-3.
Paul was probably closer to the people in the Philippian church than in any other church he ministered in. This letter reveals not just a preacher teaching a congregation, but a friend pouring out his heart to those he loved. Paul enjoyed these people. Writing from a Roman prison cell in A.D. 61 his friends at Philippi, were on his mind, in his heart, and in his prayers. Paul was near death, inflicted with pain, persecuted, yet their friendship helped make his suffering bearable. Paul demonstrates 5 principles on how to enjoy the people in your life:
1. Thank God for the people in your life. (v. 1-3)
Every time he thought about them, his heart was filled with gratitude. But Paul had not exactly had an easy time in Philippi. On his first trip there, Paul was arrested illegally, whipped, humiliated, and thrown in prison. While in prison there was an earthquake. He was asked to leave town. Yet when he looked back, he doesn’t dwell on the negative experiences; he thought of his friends, those people who stood with him.
You ought to thank God for the people He puts into your life. They are God’s gift to you, to help you enjoy life, but also to help you endure life when things get rough. You might even want to do what Paul did: tell these special people how grateful you for them. It is easy to take people for granted, and never mention how glad you are that God put you and them together.
Who do you need to tell today I am glad God gave you to me! I am thankful you are part of my life! Rex Barker wrote a little poem not long after the 9/11 attacks that went like this:
"If I Knew"If I knew it would be the last time That I'd see you fall asleep, I would tuck you in more tightly and pray the Lord, your soul to keep.If I knew it would be the last time that I see you walk out the door, I would give you a hug and kiss and call you back for one more.If I knew it would be the last time I'd hear your voice lifted up in praise, I would video tape each action and word, so I could play them back day after day.If I knew it would be the last time, I could spare an extra minute to stop and say "I love you," instead of assuming you would KNOW I do.So hold your loved ones close today, and whisper in their ear, Tell them how much you love them and that you'll always hold them dearTake time to say "I'm sorry," "Please forgive me," "Thank you," or "It's okay." And if tomorrow never comes, you'll have no regrets about today Enjoy the people in your life today by thanking God for them. Another way is to 2. Team Up With the People in your life. (v. 4-5)
Paul was thankful for his friends in Philippi …for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…(v. 5) They weren’t just friends, they were co-laborers in spreading the message of Jesus Christ. They weren’t just behind him offering their support; they were beside him fighting alongside. They were a team. That’s what the word translated fellowship= partnership, fellowship. It means sharing or participating with someone in an experience. Or as the motivational poster defines team with an acrostic: Together Everyone Accomplishes More.
Being part of a team helps you enjoy other people. What makes a team sport so much fun is not just doing your part, but using your skills and abilities with others. There is something special about working together that helps you enjoy people in a way nothing else does.
When I think of the team that Paul had in the first century, I’m reminded of the team that the modern day Paul, Billy Graham, has today. The world-famous evangelist, as one man, has done more for the cause of Christ in the modern era than anyone alive. Yet Dr. Graham has had a terrific team including the likes of Cliff Barrows, George Beverley Shea, and Grady Wilson. I suspect he would say he could not have accomplished all that he has without this group of gifted and talented teammates. They have been with him to support, share the work, and encourage each other.
Three of the most uplifting words you can either say, or hear are: I’m with you. If you want to enjoy the people in your life, get alongside of them in an important venture, whether it’s raising a family, growing a ministry, supporting a cause, or advancing the gospel.
3. Be patient with their progress. (v. 6)
Paul was excited about the potential of his friends in the church at Philippi. That is why he could write:
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Paul did not expect perfection from his friends, any more than he expected perfection from himself. He did not pretend they had no faults or failings, no room to grow.
But he also knew that what God starts, God finishes. The One who lives within them has started or begun a good work in their lives (past tense), and will continue this work (present tense) until the day of Jesus Christ will complete it (future tense). The Philippians were people in process; they had not arrived, but they were becoming.
We are not all we want to be. We can encourage one another, but we must also accept one another- warts and all. God isn’t finished with you, nor the people in your life. To enjoy people learn to love them as they are and be patient with their progress.
A little fellow was sent to his room because he had been bad.
A little later he came out and told his mother, “I’ve been thinking about what I did and I said a prayer.” “That’s fine,” she said, “if you ask God to make you good, He will help you.” “Oh, I didn’t ask Him to help me be good,” replied the boy. “I asked Him to help you put up with me.”[i]
Be patient with one another, and you’ll be surprised how much more you will enjoy others.
4. Be affectionate from the heart. (v. 7-8)
One reason Paul enjoyed these folks in Philippi so much is because he loved them so much. They had a special place in his heart, chiseled out by how they had helped him, and how he had ministered to them. Paul not only loved them- he liked them.
Love is a choice, and if you want to enjoy the people in your life, you must choose to love them from your heart. Someone said that if people aren’t on our hearts, they’re on our nerves. If we don’t have your children on our hearts, they get on your nerves. If you don’t have your spouse on our heart, they get on your nerves. Three of the most cherished words you can ever hear or say (and mean it) are: I love you.
An example of the kind of love Paul is not talking about:
No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you, I love you, I love you! Yours forever, Marie.
P.S. By the way, congratulations on winning the state lottery.[ii]
When you choose to practice loving from your heart, you will enjoy the people in your life.
5. Practice positive praying. (v. 9-11)
Because these people were in his thoughts, in Paul’s heart, they are also in his prayers. Notice the repetition of the word always and every in v. 4: always in every prayer…you all . . always with joy…
That means that every time Paul prayed, he prayed for all his friends. The surest way to enjoy the people in your life is to pray for them. This will do two things: change your attitude and change them. People may resist your advice, spurn your appeals, reject your suggestions, refuse your help; but they are powerless against our prayers.
Paul specifically spells out what he’s praying for when he prays for his friends in v. 9-11.
Paul’s prayer covers 5 areas of positive praying:
That your love will abound. Paul prayed that the love of his friends’ will abound like a glass being filled with water that begins to overflow down the sides of the glass. Love filling our hearts until it overflows onto others.
That your knowledge will enlighten. Paul prays that they will grow in their knowledge of God. The word for knowledge means knowledge based on a deep, personal, and intimate relationship. Paul is asking that more and more they will grow in their relationship with God as they appreciate more and more Who He is.
That your discernment will clarify. This is the prayer of judgment and decision. The word approve was used for testing metals, like gold ore or coins, to find out what they were worth. Fool’s gold may look the same to the naked eye, but it isn’t, and it’s not worth anything. Paul prays that his friends will know the difference, so they will be able to make right choices in life.
That your righteousness will produce fruit. Paul is praying that the people in his life will visibly have the fruit of righteousness—a fruitful life that will distinguish them from nonbelievers. A life filled with the fruit of righteousness is distinctively Christian in every aspect. It reminds me of the question, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” The fruitful life can always answer yes.
God’s glory will magnify. “This will bring much glory and praise of God.” In other words, Paul is praying that his friends will be people that bring glory or praise to God. In other words, this person will enhance God’s reputation in the world, making it easy for others to come to Jesus.
When you pray for people this way, it will always do two things: it will change you, and it will change them. This is how you enjoy the people in your life.
An actual newspaper ad: Help wanted: Saleslady for cosmetic counter in department store. Must like people part or full time.[iii]
God wants you and I to always enjoy the people in our lives. It’s a full time job.
Instead of griping and complaining, be thankful for them.
Instead of being at odds with them, team up with them.
Instead of expecting perfection, be patient with their progress.
Instead of just saying that you love them, really practice loving them from your heart.
This week, why don’t you try to enjoy the people in your life?
[i]Our Daily Bread, June 15 10,000 sermon illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Dallas: Biblical Studies
[ii]10,000 sermon illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Dallas: Biblical Studies Press.
[iii]Streiker, L. D. (2000). Nelson's big book of laughter : Thousands of smiles from A to Z (electronic ed.)