Jesus promises that there will be good and bad times in everyone’s lives. He said so in Matthew 5:45 - “He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” But, He also promises in John 16:33 that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
So, there will be ups and downs for all of us, but we can know that we have God’s grace no matter our condition. However, many times when we do find ourselves in a bad spot, we may be afraid to ask for help or may blame ourselves—turning a bad situation into a long-term prison.
Paul found himself in a bad situation (literally in prison) as he wrote to the Philippians, but he found strength in his relationship with God, his friends, and his hope for others. There are things that God and our friends can do for us that we can’t do for ourselves. There are also things that we can do for others that they can’t do for themselves. If we isolate ourselves from these relationships, as we often want to, we risk falling into despair and building a prison for ourselves. So, how can relationships help break us free?
Relationship is with God:
Knowing God and accepting His grace is the foundation of our freedom. The more we can learn about God and glorify Him, the more we will understand that our value does not come from our circumstances and that He always loves us. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget this on good days and on bad days. When I pray in the morning, I often start with three questions to help me get past my circumstances and think about my relationship with God:
Keep the Old:
It is crucial to keep in touch with old friends so you can lean on each other. Think about the people that you would have to mention (for positive reasons) if you told your life story, whether family or close friends. These are the people that are going to break you out of the prisons you create throughout your life, but they need to know when you are in prison! Even if it is just once a year, find time to talk to these friends—you will find good memories and encouragement come to you instantly, and they will probably help you solve your problems without you even asking. Of course, you need to be there to break them out of prison too, so be ready to help and to show them the freedom God has given to you.
Make New Friends:
Try to build new relationships everywhere you go, because you will find new sources of strength, and you will be able to return the favor. Sociability doesn’t come naturally to me, but I try to be the guy that greets new people at work, giving advice if they are new to the area, and sharing resources with them that I think would be helpful to do well in their first months on the job. This helps me to build a feeling of community—as I get to know others and offer my help, I also find myself going to them for advice, or finding encouragement in these friendships when I am disappointed with my circumstances. These friendships are new ways that God can care for us when we are in trouble, and new ways that God can use us as part of His hope for others. Besides, you will be surprised by how many of these new friends become old friends!
So, in short, no matter what is troubling you, God and your friends want to hear about it and they want to break you out!
If you missed out on this week's sermon, check it out here.