We can never forget Winston Churchill’s renowned words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” It reminds me of a few of our family vacations. Truthfully, it’s not too surprising with a car packed full of kids. I don’t know what we were thinking.

Last week’s sermon considered friendships. This week we are concerned with relationships. Friendship is defined as the state of being friends. A friend being defined as a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affectionRelationship is a bit more complex and usually involves people who are connected by blood or marriage.

To us humans, our relationships are huge, extremely important. We were created to be social beings. We need others. We need family. We need friendships.

“The need for human relationships is as deep as anything humans experience. Infants who are given adequate amounts of food and milk die if they do not receive human contact. Adults surrounded by people all day long cry out for friendships that will break down the walls of loneliness around them. Although some people seem to function without intimacy or personal relationships, we all yearn for deep and meaningful connections with others. In the absence of intimate and satisfying personal relationships, our quest for relatedness turns towards things. Money, homes, clothes, cars, and many more. We are incomplete in our self. Many people spend more time with their computer than they do with all the other people in their life put together. If truth is told, their computer is their closest friend. Often technology makes these interpersonal connections safer by rendering them less personal.” David G. Brenner, Understanding Soul Care, p.114-15

Those who consider friendship and marriage a disposable item, ultimately find themselves with greater unhappiness and more time being alone and feeling lonely. Toxic radioactive relationships are even worse for us physically and spiritually. Ultimately, we need healthy relationships. Healthy relationships can have a stabilizing impact on us. And when we go through rough times, as we all will, it can be our relationships that help us to navigate rough waters.

I recently read some interesting statistics that show how IMPORTANT relationships are in our lives. The American Institute of Stress conducted research on 232 patients who had undergone cardiac surgery. Of those patients, 21 died within six months.

Here are two of the significant mortality predictors that they listed: “a lack of participation in social or community groups” and “the absence of strength and comfort from religion.”

Author Randy Frazee cites this report as indicating that social activity can predict cardiac mortality as strongly as elevated cholesterol levels. He said the studies show that social isolation contributes to illness and death as much as smoking.

What are some important things that every healthy relationship needs?

Communication is to a relationship like oxygen is to life. Without oxygen, what happens to us? We die. We need oxygen to survive and thrive. As important as oxygen is to life, communication is to relationships. Why is communication so important?

For understanding, to clear up hurts, to grow together, to show that we care. Communication, open, honest communication is vital to relationships.

Speak only encouraging words. Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Ephesians 4:29   Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 3 You’ve heard the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That’s not true. Words can wound greater than sticks and stones!

Matthew 22:37-39.  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Practice love. A scripture that I refer to a lot defining love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times. We need to love our family and friends even when they are being unlovable, for it is then that they need our friendship the most.

Be faithful and loyal. Loyalty is more than just being acquainted or simply doing business with each other. In order for strong relationships to be built that lead to a constant stream of trust, one has to make a conscious decision to be loyal. Loyalty means never acting in a manner that embarrasses or demeans those to whom you are loyal.

You need to be committed. You can’t control others, but you can commit to them. The more you try to control a relationship, the more quickly that relationship will unravel. But you need to be committed.

On April 21st, in the year 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez sailed into the harbor of Vera Cruz, Mexico. He brought with him only about 600 men, and yet over the next two years his vastly outnumbered forces were able to defeat Montezuma and all the warriors of the Aztec empire, making Cortez the conqueror of all Mexico. How was this incredible feat accomplished, when two prior expeditions had failed even to establish a colony on Mexican soil? Here’s the secret. Cortez knew from the very beginning that he and his men faced incredible odds. He knew that the road before them would be dangerous and difficult. He knew that his men would be tempted to abandon their quest and return to Spain. And so, as soon as Cortez and his men had come ashore and unloaded their provisions, he ordered their entire fleet of eleven ships destroyed. His men stood on the shore and watched as their only possibility of retreat burned and sank. And from that point on, they knew beyond any doubt there was no return, no turning back. Nothing lay behind them but empty ocean. Their only option was to go forward, to conquer or die.

What does it mean to be committed? It means making a firm choice. It means not worrying about keeping your options open, or leaving yourself a way out. It means pursuing something wholeheartedly, with no contingency plans to fall back on. It means being 100% sold out to a person, or a cause, or a goal; not holding anything back, not keeping anything in reserve.

Trust is essential. Why does trust matter? So, you know that secrets you share are safe; so, you can build confidence in the relationship. You can accept the word of the other person without doubting them. If we promise we will do something, we do it. We build trust.

Ghandi said this: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”. Forgiveness means caring about someone enough to pursue healing instead of punishment when that person has wronged you. Forgiveness makes a clean slate. It’s been said that forgiveness is the oil of relationships. It’s like it’s inevitable that we will hurt even those closest to us, maybe those are the ones we hurt the most. Like oil to the engine of a car, that keeps it moving, so forgiveness is the thing that keeps a relationship growing strong. Forgive one another.

Ephesians 4:32.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. In any relationship, you will have to choose to forgive the other person when they hurt or offend you.

Be there. Help others who are in trouble. Galatians 6:2. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. God wants us to share each other’s troubles and problems.

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