The older I get, the more I realize that everything that’s important in life and work revolves around healthy and nurturing relationships. Country singer, Alan Jackson sings a song titled “The Older I Get.” In that song are these words, “The older I get the truer it is it’s the people you love, not the money and stuff that makes you rich.” So t
Guest Post by Rick Warren
You can’t have an effective ministry without strong relationships. Your ministry is only as successful as your relationships.
Relationships are the key to a happy life—and a happy ministry. In fact, one of the most important lessons we can learn in our ministries isn’t how to preach better or draw a bigger crowd. It’s how to love people.
Paul understood this. When he wrote his most joyful letter in the Bible—the book of Philippians—he modeled four relational habits that will make our relationships happier and more enjoyable.
1. We must be grateful for the people in our lives.
Study after study has shown that gratitude is tied to happiness. Happy relationships start with gratitude.
But gratitude doesn’t come naturally to our relationships. We usually think first about what the other person can do for us. But that’s not where Paul began. He wrote in Philippians 1:3, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (NLT).
Paul didn’t have a smooth experience when he started the church in Philippi. In fact, it was one of the toughest church planting experiences he had. He was whipped, humiliated, falsely arrested, thrown into prison, and lived through an earthquake. Then the city leaders politely asked him to leave town.
Yet Paul doesn’t mention any of that. Instead, he chose to be thankful for his relationships in Philippi.
In many of our relationships, we need to develop selective memory. Remember the best and forget the rest.
2. We need to pray with joy for the people in our lives.
“When I pray for you, my heart is full of joy” (Philippians 1:4 TLB).
We’re encouraged when we know other people are praying for us. In almost every relationship, there’s something we want to change in the other person. The truth is, we can’t change other people, but we can pray for them. All the positive thinking in the world can’t change another person. Only God can change them.
The quickest way to turn a bad relationship into a good one is to pray for the other person. Not only will it change you, it can change them too.
Paul gives us four ways to pray for our relationships in Philippians 1:
- Pray they will grow in love. (v. 9)
- Pray they will make wise choices. (v. 9-10)
- Pray they will live with integrity. (v. 11)
- Pray they will become more like Jesus. (v. 11)
3. We should expect the best from the people in our lives.
“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6 NLT).
We don’t normally expect the best in others. We usually expect the worst. Paul, on the other hand, was certain that God would complete his work in the Philippian Christians.
In this verse, Paul shows us how he brings out the best in others:
- Paul believed in people. He gave them confidence.
- Paul gave people vision. He painted a picture of their future growth.
- Paul was patient with people’s progress. He didn’t expect perfection; he expected growth.
If you really want to be happy in your relationships, celebrate how far people have come rather than judging them for how far they have to go.
4. We must love people in our lives like Jesus does.
“God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8 NLT).
It’s obvious that Paul loved the people in Philippi with the compassion of Jesus. I hope that’s something you can relate to as a pastor. I know it’s something I strive to do.
Jesus shows us a picture of what real love is—the kind of love we should strive for in all of our relationships. First John 3:16 says, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (NLT).
If we develop these four relational habits, our focus will turn away from ourselves and onto others—and God will bless our ministries.