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2021 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - The Role of Relationships in Faith

Andy Stanley - The Role of Relationships in Faith

Andy Stanley - The Role of Relationships in Faith
TOPICS: Faith, Relationship

So here's something that we've all said in some form or fashion, at some point in all of our lives. I'm so glad, I am so glad he showed up in my life when he did. Or, I'm not sure, I'm not sure I would have made it through without her. Or I wouldn't be, I would not be where I am today apart from them. If it wasn't for him, if it wasn't for her, if it wasn't for them. As soon as I put these statements up here, all of us can think about that one person or that group of people or a couple of people that you think, wow, if they had not shown up when they shown up, or if they had not been in my life, I certainly wouldn't be where I am today, doing what I'm doing today.

Obviously, I would not be doing what I'm doing today without my dad. I think a lot of us would say it was a parent or your parents that kind of set you up for success. You're so grateful for your parents. You weren't always so grateful for your parents but you are now, others of us have had mentors in our lives, Charlie Renfroe as a mutual friend of our family was a mentor in my life. Charlie taught me so much about organizational life and how to navigate organizational complexity, he'd used to walk in and we'd have breakfast, he'd say, Andy, what you're working on big? What you're working on big? I wasn't working on anything big, but he helped me think big, and when I think about the people in my life that kind of dropped in at the right time, he's one.

Another guy who dropped into my life at a critical time, it was a guy named Steve, Steve was my counselor. And Steve used to ask me these awful questions that just would drive me nuts, and I would kind of have worked myself up into thinking, oh no, this is gonna happen, that's going to happen, this is gonna happen, this will never happen, I would worry. And then Steve would, he would say things like this. He said, Andy, "do you, do you think God's hands are tied"? What an awful wonderful question is that because I had sort of predicted my own future, and I'm sure things are going to work out, he'd say things like, "do you think God's hands are".

So again, just came into my life at just the perfect time. And then of course, Sandra my wife, you're gonna think I'm just trying to be a sweet husband. I promise I'm not exaggerating people who knew me before Sandra and I were married, were so grateful for Sandra, here's what they say, I've promised I'm not exaggerate. They would say, "we're sure, we are sure he would not be where he is today apart from her". And they are not wrong. So I think all of us if you just give it a couple of minutes, you can think of, those just in the nick of time or just at the right time people, that just came into your life. They added something we needed.

In some cases they gave us opportunities, we wouldn't have had. In other cases, they gave us insight or provided us with encouragement. Sometimes they'd just give us some perspective. Sometimes just hope. Sometimes correction. Sometimes confrontation. And you didn't like it then, but you look back and you're so grateful for it now. And your life would be very different if those people had not just dropped in to your life. So real quick, anybody come to mind? Have you ever thanked them? Do they know the role they played in your life and how pivotal it was for you? We'll come back to that in just a minute.

Today, if you've been tracking along with us, we are in part four of our series entitled Faith Full. Faithful, fueling our faith in a world or fueling your faith in a world on empty. And the premise behind this whole series is that in the first century, when Jesus invited people to follow him, it became very evident that his agenda for his first century followers, and for his 21st century followers, is that they would be people, and we would be people of extraordinary faith. Not the kind of faith that you just keep in your head, but the kind of faith that shows up at home, and shows up at work and shows up at the community. Faith that actually works itself out because of our internal confidence with God. Faith that doesn't change things, and faith that doesn't confront things is really not a very useful faith.

In fact, as we saw James, the brother of Jesus said, that kind of faith is dead, it's actually useless. And this explains, this whole idea of an active gritty in the real world faith is why Jesus, or it explains Jesus' initial invitation to people. His initial invitation it was not believe me or even believe in me. His initial invitation was follow me, it was follow me. In fact and Jesus never changed this invitation, and if you are part of one of our churches or one of our faith communities, we talk about this all the time. That the invitation is actually to step into the real world, and to step into the environments we live in, and work in, and play in and to live our faith out in such a way that people know there's something in our minds in our heads and in our hearts, that perhaps is different. And Jesus never altered this invitation.

Now, as we said before, the church came along and kind of watered it down and kind of dumbed it down, and reduced the invitation of Jesus to simply believe in me. And yes, Jesus invited people to believe in him, but he invited them to believe in him so that they would follow him and make a difference in the world that they lived in. And if that wasn't the case, the church would have never survived the first century. But the thing is about believe in me, believe in me is easier, right? Believe in me requires less of us, it's safer demanding, but at believe in me without follow me, is an invitation that basically leaves us exactly where we are, no change is required. But Jesus did not invite people to merely believe things or even believe things about him, because as we know belief all by itself doesn't make a difference. It's doing, it's following that makes a difference in our lives, and it's doing and it's following that makes a difference in the world.

In fact, belief alone, if it only stays in your head, and never gets into the activity of your life, actually creates a feeble frail and fragile faith. In fact, this may be why you've lost your faith, because it all was all right here. And no one ever taught you what to do with it. Or you never tried to do anything with it. And faith, as we've said is a muscle, you already have the muscle but if you don't exercise it, it gets weaker and weaker and weaker. And through the years you've met people, and maybe this is partly story over time, they just lost faith, they don't know how it happened. They don't know when it happened. They just realized one day, I don't think I believe anymore. And one of the reasons that happens, in fact I think the primary reason is we're gonna see today that that happens is, if you don't exercise it, it just goes away.

So, Jesus invited us to follow. We're invited to wake up every single day, this is so challenging, some of you have begun doing this to wake up every single day with this question. In fact, I would challenge you to begin this if you haven't before, you may wanna take a screenshot or write your own version of this question, to wake up every single day with this question, what would I do, not just what would I believe. What would I do? How would I live? How would I respond? How would I react? What would I attempt? What would I initiate? What would I avoid? How would I respond to her? I know how I have responded, I know how I responded to him, but how would I act? What would I do if I was confident, If I was absolutely confident that God is with me. That's what it looks like to walk by faith.

As we said, last time, walking by faith isn't coming up with some ideas and imposing them on God. Walking by faith is stepping into the real world as if God is who Jesus revealed our heavenly Father to be. So in this series, we are asking and hopefully answering this question, what fuels, what fuels or facilitates the development of active, enduring faith. In other words, if were to be people of great faith not just head faith but active faith, what is it that creates that kind of faith that go the distance faith, that in spite of faith that followed Jesus anyway, kind of faith. What are the essential ingredients that if we stirred them together would create ask the kind of faith that we've seen in other people.

And I'm gonna tell you a story about one in just a minute, the kind of faith that we see in people that gets them through very, very difficult times. And you watch them navigate those difficult times with faith, and you think what I think, what would I do if I were in their situation? What would I do if that happened to me? How would I respond if I had that kind of loss or suffered that kind of tragedy? And as we said through the series, based on the teaching and the teaching of Jesus and what Jesus modeled, and based on literally hundreds of conversations with men and women who have maintained strong faith, gritty faith throughout their life, we've come to the conclusion that there are at least five things that God uses to grow up and blow up our faith.

Five things, again, there may be seven, there may be 10, but every time people tell their faith story, they always 100% of the time, they always get to all five of these things. So we decided to unpack each of these five and two weeks ago, we started with the first one, Practical Teaching. When anybody tells their faith story, they always talk about the first time someone opened the scripture for them, in such a way that they knew what to do with what they believed. And so many times in so many churches unfortunately, it's all about changing your thinking, or it's different ideas, or its thoughts or theology.

But faith begins to grow when we begin to act on our faith and so when people tell their stories, they say hey, I believed a lot of stuff but then I went to this church, and the pastor opened up the scripture in such a way that I knew what to do with it. Or I went to a campus ministry when I was in college and they opened up the scripture, and for the first time I knew what to do with it. I knew how to date. I knew how to respond to people. I learned to be generous. I learned to put my character ahead of my wants and my wishes. I finally discovered what faith looks like in the real world. So practical teaching is one of the things that God uses to grow up our faith, because until we have handles, and until we have application, we don't know what to do.

And here's why it works we talked about this, when our faith, when our active faith intersects with God's faithfulness on the backend, our faith grows. That is when we experience God on the back end of a decision that we've made in terms of following Jesus, we've done something sacrificial for somebody else when we've trusted God with the relationship, trusted God with our finances, on the back end when we experience His faithfulness, our faith grows. Then last time we talked about this second, what we sometimes refer to as faith catalyst, and we talk specifically about personal ministry. When people tell their story about their faith, they say, yeah, I remember the first time I felt the nudge to serve somebody else, to step in and lead a group, to go on a mission trip, to begin giving consistently, to begin serving other people, and I didn't feel adequate, I didn't feel prepared, I knew they were gonna ask me questions I couldn't answer.

I knew the kids in the class were smarter than me. I knew I was going to be around a bunch of adults who'd been a Christian longer than me, but I just I just felt this nudge, and when I stepped into that environment of serving other people in Jesus name, something happened on the side of me. My faith grew, God came through and when God came through, my faith grew. So today we're gonna talk about the third of five things that God uses to grow our faith. And we refer to it as providential relationships, providential relationships. When anyone tells their faith story, and if you were to stand up and tell your faith story, every faith story has this component of, and then I met this girl. Then I met this guy. Then I met this couple. Then we had these new neighbors that moved in and we found out they were Christians, and it kind of freaked us out a little bit, but they were like the nicest, kindest people, then they invited our kids to their church, and without we need to check that out, and then we've become people of faith. And it was, it was like, God dropped them into our lives.

Maybe your story is that your mom remarried and your step-father, your new dad was a Christian and you were introduced to faith. But when people tell their stories, they always talk about, then I met these people. These people came into my life. Somebody invited me to their small group. This group of girls in my college campus invited me to a small group, I'm like, what's a small group? It sounds kind of strange, but it was in that small group, that I was introduced to faith in Jesus, or maybe a coach, I mean, it goes on and on and on. But the point is this, when you consider your story, and when you consider those people in your story, it's as if God dropped them into your story, right? It's like he dropped them right into your life at just the right time. In the moment you don't know that, but as you look back and you think about what a defining moment that was for you, when you think about the change that happened because of that relationship, you can't help but feel that it was somewhat providential. It was like, it was like, it was divine intervention.

In fact, it may have been an intervention, right? Couple of friends showed up so we got to talk to you and you knew what they wanted to talk about, and you did not want to talk about it, and they talked about it to you anyway. And it was a reversal for you, a change for you. And as much as you resist it, and as angry as you were because they were sticking their nose in your business, you look back now and you think, you know what you say, those were some of the best friends I ever had. That was providential, God brought them along at just the right time, and I don't know where I would be today if it weren't for those two guys, for those two girls for that group of people.

Now, the other side of this is lot of you, many of you, maybe all of you have actually played this role in somebody else's life, but you didn't know it. You were just being a good friend. You were just being a good boss. You were just being a good citizen. You were just doing what you knew to do. But when those people tell their story, you're in their story because God brought you in and dropped you into their life at just the right time. But for the person on the other side of your defining moment, you know the person that God dropped into their life, again, we don't know when it's happening, we always know in retrospect, we only know when we're looking back.

Now, defining moments, you know what a defining moment is, it's that moment you look back and think, wow, it was defined me for good or bad. Defining moments always, always involve other people. They always involve some sort of relationship, again, either good or bad, I'm so glad I met them, or I wish I had never met them, right? So we shouldn't be surprised, we shouldn't be surprised that one of the things that God uses consistently to grow up and blow up our faith, our relationships, because this is actually how Christianity began. Do you know how Christianity began? It began like this, that God sent His Son into the world as one of us to interact with us, to change us. That's that's the gospel, that the whole of Christian story began, that the Word God was made flesh, He became one of us, showed up on planet earth and began intersecting with the lives of people, and anybody whose life intersected with Jesus, it was a defining moment, it was clearly providential because Jesus had been sent from God.

And then those people began to intersect with other people's lives, and again, those were defining moments providential relationships as well, I wanna tell you about one real quick. It's kind of one of my little favorite little Jesus narratives, that then get a lot of attention. Jesus comes to a gentleman, a young guy named Philip, and he says, Philip, I want you to follow me. And he had invited Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He says, Philip, I want you to follow me. And Philip instead of just saying, okay, I'll follow you. Phillips says, okay, but I need you to wait here for just a minute, and Philip goes and he gets his buddy Nathaniel, and he says, Nathaniel, you're not gonna believe this, we have met the Messiah. And Nathaniel is like, sure you have, sure you have, I mean, we've been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years, you haven't met the Messiah besides who is this Messiah? And Philip's like, no, no, it's Jesus of Nazareth. And Nathaniel is like, no, the Messiah doesn't come from Nazareth, in fact, nothing good comes from Nazareth. Nazareth, can anything good for covering there?

So he disses Jesus' hometown. I mean, Nathaniel is just not interested. At which point Philip, if he were like most of us would be like, okay, you just stay here and have your little itty-bitty insignificant life, I'm gonna go follow Jesus, we're gonna change the world. My name is gonna be in the Bible, your name is gonna be nowhere, okay. So that would have been the logical thing to do. I'm gonna follow Jesus, I gave you a chance okay. For the rest of your life you're gonna look back on this deal, you should have bought Google stock, and you should have followed Jesus, okay. But you missed it, okay. So anyway, instead of that Phillip's not gonna give up, you know what he does?

This is so powerful. Phillips says, okay, look, Nathaniel, I don't know about the Nazareth thing, I don't know about where the Messiah is supposed to come from, but I'm just telling you, look, look, come and see. This is the greatest invitation. Just, I can't answer your questions, I can't explain it just come and see. And Nathaniel meets Jesus and recognizes who Jesus is. And Nathaniel thanks Philip for the rest of his life because he had a ringside seat, Nathaniel got a ringside seat to what God was doing in the world, to bring about the salvation of the world, and he would have missed it if it hadn't been for Phillip, and Philip almost allowed him to miss it, but he just wouldn't give up, and don't you know, I mean, every time Jesus did something amazing that Nathaniel would turn to Phillip and say, I'm so glad you invited me, I'm so glad you invited my, I almost missed it.

Now that little piece of narrative reminds me of something that happened to Sandra and to me, I'm gonna tell you about, years ago, many years ago a couple moved from the Northeast to Alpharetta around here where we live, and their neighbor Nick realized they weren't church people, they weren't faith people, they didn't seem to be interested. So Nick decided to invite them to his church. He didn't attend one of our churches, he had attended a church in their community. So he invited them to church Tim, the husband was like, ah, I don't know, Carla was a little more open, but you know Nick just stayed on top of it, so he finally got them to attend their church. They went and then they went to a couple of special events, Tim, the husband's like I really don't want to do the church thing, and Carla was trying to be polite to the neighbor, so after four or five or six visits to their church, Tim and Carla said, Nick, thank you but no thank you, we appreciate it, and just no more of that.

Well, if you're Nick, you're thinking I get extra credit, I invited my neighbors to church and they didn't wanna go to church, but God, I've been persecuted for my faith and rejected and you know, we'll forget this, right? You know what Nick did, this is amazing. Nick was so convinced that Tim and Carla needed faith in their life he said, okay well, I wanna take you to a different church. And Nick and Tim's like, I don't want to go to any church, not even a different church, no church. Carla was like, okay, and Nick just stayed on, and so Nick invited Carla to North Point Community Church. He brought her to the nine o'clock service, then on the way back to drop her off, had to explain what they had just experienced because this was really different, than anything she'd experienced in church before. Drops her off and then he went to his church, and the next Sunday he did the same thing, and the next day this went on for so long, for so long. Their two kids said to their dad, daddy, where does Mr. Nick and mommy go every Sunday morning? This is kind of strange, true story.

So eventually Carla brought the kids and Nick who does go to his own church afterwards, he wouldn't try to change churches, he just felt like this couple needs to be in church, this family needs to be in church. Then Carla brought the kids, the kids got involved and loved it finally Tim is like whatever. So Tim began to come to North point and as Carla said to me, this is a quote, when I called her this week to make sure I had all these facts straight, she said and Andy the rest is history. They got super involved, I met Tim on the baseball field, his oldest son and my oldest son Andrew, have become lifelong friends, they're friends to this day, they went to the same high school, were in the same small group here, Tim joined a guest services team, they both just got super involved, they joined our small group in fact, I heard this story in our community group when we were going around sharing stories, how did you get into church? What's your faith story? That's the story they told about Nick.

So we become lifelong friends, and then in 2013, Tim was diagnosed with ALS, this horrible horrible, terrible disease that you know about and his doctor said you have three to five years to live Tim. So our community group became, the Tim group, we were team Tim and Carla were just going to carry them through this awful time, that was 2013. Tim is still alive today. So, but during that time, as we watched him slowly deteriorate, I'm telling you, watching his faith and watching Carla's faith, is one of if not, the most inspiring things that has happened to me as an adult, as it relates to my faith. In fact, several years ago parts of our community group would go do the ALS walk, or the walk to defeat ALS.

So when I was there, I took this picture, I want to show you this picture I took with my phone. This is not Tim. This is Tim. I saw Tim coming, and this is a buddy that was in his support group that has since passed away. Tim saw us, he's walking over then he saw his buddy and he immediately so emotional to me, went down on one knee and just took him in his arms. And Tim pastored his ALS support group, I think all of them have passed away, he is the lone survival. He's like the survivor, he's like the granddaddy of the bunch, he's since lost his voice I'll tell you more about that in a minute. But watching his faith, and watching his love for these men and women, but primarily men who are navigating this dreadful, dreadful disease.

I'm telling him sitting in a small group in fact, Tim ALS generally starts low and goes high or high and goes low for Tim. It started high, so he early on began to lose his voice and as it was more and more difficult to understand when Tim spoke he said to me, one time he said Andy, he said I would like to lead our small group as much as possible until I can longer lead it. That's Tim, Tim's on guest services team, I told you about some of you know Tim, Tim kept trying to quit that the guest services team, because it was hard to understand, it was difficult for him to walk as time's has gone by. I'm only laughing because he told the most hilarious stories and the guest services team here, wouldn't let him quit like Tim, you are you're coming, you're gonna show up, we're gonna give you a verse, finally he couldn't walk and he couldn't talk, so they put him in a golf cart with a middle-school girl, they said, you drive, she'll do the talking.

And there are some of the things that happened that it would take too long for me to describe that are so funny, because he has maintained a sense of humor in the midst of this dreadful, dreadful disease. I'm just telling you for the folks in our community group that have walked this walk with him, our faith is bigger and our faith is richer, and our faith is more gritty and we're really watching them maintain their faith in God through these difficult, difficult times. That's the power of providential relationship.

Again, we couldn't chosen that, you don't choose a providential relationship, in fact, you can't create a providential relationship. If you created it, you, it wouldn't be providential, right? But here's the thing, we should all and we can all be proactive in getting into relationships with people, whose faith inform their decisions and whose faith informed their responses to the difficulties of life. This is the part we can do, because being in proximity as we're gonna see in just a few minutes, is one of the things we can do to ensure that our faith grows because of who we're doing life with.

Now, the author of Hebrews leans in on this, weighs in on this. Hebrews is a book in the New Testament. It's not actually a Book, it's like a long complicated sermon. We just call it a Book because it's part of the New Testament. We don't know who wrote Hebrews, you probably know that, it probably a man, and in one section of Hebrews the author is urging these Galileans and these Judeans, the sons and daughters of Abraham not to give up their faith in Yeshua in Jesus and Messiah. So they believed in God, but they were new to faith in Jesus, so he's urging them don't give up, don't give up, don't give up your, don't give up your faith.

And so here's what he says as he urges them to hang on, he writes this. He writes, "let us," talking about that faith community, primarily Jewish believers. "Let us hold," love this word, "unswervingly". We've all driven swervingly, this is unswervingly. "let us hold unswervingly". That is a straight direct line, "to the hope we profess for He who promised". And here's our word, is faithful. He's like, you can't let go of your faith in God, If you let go your faith in God, where are you gonna place your hope? Because God has done something right here among us. This was written in the first century, there still eye witnesses of the resurrection. He's like, you can't let go of your faith because He who is has promised is faithful. But they were going through very difficult times.

So consequently, he's like, hey, don't give up, don't give up, and then he says this, in order to facilitate, in order to facilitate us holding on unswervingly, he says this. "And let us consider" that is let us think about it, contemplate, let us focus on. "Let us consider how we may" and here it is, "spur one another on". He's like, if your faith is gonna remain rock solid, if you're gonna maintain your faith, you're gonna need some other people, and some other people are gonna need you. He says, I want you to give some thought to how you can spur other people on in their faith. And then this is, this is the great part, but not just faith it's here. He says, "toward love and good deeds".

In other words he's saying, I want you to help each other live out your faith in the real worldwide. Because when our faith intersects with God's faithfulness on the backend, our faith gets bigger. So he's like, I want you to spur one another on. I want you to get in each other's face. I wanna make sure you're still getting together. And I want you to hang on to faith. And I want you to hang on to faith in such a way that it shows up in the real world. And then he says this, in fact, what he says next is the verse of scripture that I'm sure over 100 people texted me, voice mailed me, emailed me during 2020. "Not giving up meeting together".

In fact, some of you emailed me this verse, Andy we're supposed to not give up meeting together which is always curious to me, and I was not rude to anyone, but here's what I thought. Do you really think we've abandoned giving up together? Do you know how many chairs we own? We own more chairs in all of our Atlanta area churches than any other organization I know about. We have not abandoned giving up together, we just took a pause, we just took a break. But anyway, lots of people sent me this verse which is always curious to get verses from people like, oh, I'd never seen that in my whole life, okay but anyway. Those are what things I think not the things I say except to you, okay. So let me read it again. "Not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing," but it is again, "but encouraging one another".

Now here's the question why this is huge? Why? Well, why when it comes to our faith, and when it comes to our faithfulness, and when it comes to recognizing God's faithfulness to us this is so important, when it comes to our faith, the grit and the reality of our faith, when it comes to our faithfulness, that is doing the things we feel nudged on the inside to do. And when it comes to experiencing God's faithfulness, proximity matters, proximity matters. Proximity and relationship are faith builders.

Now here's my observation. And this may be your story. In fact, this what I'm about to say next may explain why you've lost faith or why you're losing faith. Here's my observation, that people drift from their community of faith. People drift from their community of faith, before they drift away from faith. That people don't drift away from faith because they read a Richard Dawkins book, or they heard something in a freshman class in school and it's like suddenly, boom, faith has gone, hmm hmm, I mean, those things happen. I mean, there's an intellectual side to faith. No doubt about it, we talk about those things all the time here, but in terms of actual experience people tend to drift away from their community of faith, before they drift away from faith and this is what the author of Hebrews is getting at, or let me just say it this way. People lose faith when they lose contact with people of faith.

Now, here this is important. This doesn't make something true or not true. In other words, being with people, does it make something true and not being with people doesn't make it untrue. What you're smart enough to know that it has nothing to do with reality, it has to do with our faith. It has to do with our confidence in. And if you allow yourself or I allow myself to drift away from my community of faith, it's only a matter of time that I turn to, until I began to lose faith because proximity when it comes to faith matters, because allowing God or watching God work in other people's lives is one of the things that bolsters our faith. We realize we're not an Island, we realize we're not on our own, we realize we're not the only one. And all this points to why relationships are critical to growing, and during faith. Put it this way, when we see, this is what happened to us with Tim and Carla.

When we see God's faithfulness in somebody else's life, it's easier to trust them with ours. When we see God's sustaining grace. When we see God's sustaining faith. When we see God's activity in someone else's life and someone else's circumstances. When we see it in other people, it is easier to trust him with ours especially when we're walking through a valley, or especially when things aren't working out and things aren't up to the right. Now, most of us as I said at the beginning, while most of us have experienced this in some sort of unexpected out of the blue kind of providential way. Again, there is something we can do to facilitate this faith catalysts, there's something we should do. We actually have a role to play. And that role is simply this, we gotta stay connected. We gotta stay connected, staying connected to a community of faith grows and sustains and builds our faith. And here's the amazing thing. And it positions us to play a role in someone else's faith journey as well.

Now, when we started our church 25 years ago, we knew about these five faith callus because of work we had done with students for many, many, many years. So we organized our church around these five. And we organized specifically to providential relationships. We knew that we couldn't program a relationship, and you certainly can't program or organize a providential relationship, but we could organize to increase the potential of a providential relationship. This is why we do community groups, this is why we want you in small groups, it's not just so you'll have something to do, you've got enough to do, but we want you doing life with other believers so you can experience their faith and they can experience yours.

Again, I cannot imagine the loss it would be to me, not to know Tim and Carla left. It would be a loss to me which sounds selfish but I'm just telling you apart from community group, and being in group with him, we would not have had this journey with them together. And they would tell you, they're not sure where they'd be without our group and the support that we've been to them. We didn't plan that, we just planned let's put people in groups, and as people have grouped up these things just happen. And many of you could stand and tell your own story. The other thing we did from the beginning, and we were the first church that I know of to do this a lot of churches do it now, with our children our middle school and our high school students.

When you serve and many of you signed up to serve last week we're so excited about that, and we still love to have more of you. We connect adults and high school seniors or high school students oftentimes to children and there's group leaders for children stay with those children three or four years. The reason is because the relationship is as are or more important than the content. When somebody plugs in with a middle-schooler in the sixth grade, our goal is for those adults to stay with those middle schoolers, sixth, seventh and eighth grade, because the relationship is as or more important than the content, the same with high school. And so, consequently, we've been doing this for so long.

The stories we hear not about the content, oh, I'll never forget when they shared that one story. I mean, we get some of that, mostly what we get is she was so influential in my life. I don't know where I would be without him. I'm so glad he was in my life because my parents, they lost their minds, but hey, fortunately my small group leader kinda helped me place all that into context. And I can't even begin to remember all the parents through the years who have said, I'm so glad, I'm so glad my son, my daughter had that small group leader for those years.

So again, we've done everything we noted is organizationally and programmatically to facilitate the potential of providential relationships. Because providential relationships is one of the big five things that God uses to grow our faith in the payoff, in terms of spiritual maturity has been absolutely huge. So let me just say this to your parents, okay. You, I don't wanna say you're crazy not to, 'cause that's too strong. But as a parent who raised three kids in these environments, you do yourself a disfavor not to have your kids here. Not so we can count kids, we're not winning awards, we're not competing with anybody. It's just that your kid's faith is contingent upon your faith to some extent, but also the fateful adults that are around them, that's why we do what we do.

And it's why, as I said earlier I encourage you to invite people to come sit with you, come sit with me. This is potentially a life-changing invitation. It really is, a single invitation think about this, a single invitation, you never know, I never know. A single invitation could position you as a catalyst in someone's faith story. A single invitation, a single come sit with me, come sit with me, could be the first step in somebody rediscovering their faith. Invite someone, why not? You never know what's on the other side of that invitation. And here's the thing, when you make that awkward invitation and they eventually show up, and then one day you sit here and you watch them baptized.

Do you know what's gonna happen to your faith? It will not get smaller, it will get bigger because that's the power of providential relationships, and it's one of the primary things God uses to grow up and blow up our faith. Again, we never, I say this to you all the time, we never know what hangs in the balance of our decision to obey God and trust God. And we never know what hangs in the balance of our courage to say something and to invite someone.

Now in our student ministry, ninth through 12th grade, we tell students all the time, your friends determine the direction and quality of your life. Your friends determine the direction and quality of your life. Your friends determine the direction and quality of your life. And if you're sitting here thinking, wow, I wish somebody would tell my kids that, okay, anyway that your friends determined direction and quality of your life, but what's true for 14 year olds, it's true for 40 year olds. The people that we choose to do life with influence and impact the strength and the endurance of our faith, and the depth of our faith. Again, because when we see God's faithfulness, when we see God's faithfulness in someone else's life, it's easier to trust him, its so much easier to trust him with ours.

When we trust God with our lives, our faith gets bigger, stronger, and more enduring. And we only trust God oftentimes when we have the courage to step out and trust God in unusual ways because we've seen somebody else do it. So here's the last challenge for you. If during this season, for whatever reason, intentionally or unintentionally you've begun or you've gotten unplugged from a faith community with people who believe like you do, and are moving in the direction and value what you value, you need to get reconnected. Even if it's a little awkward, you need to get reconnected for the sake of your faith. And if you're a parent for the sake of your kid's faith, because they're watching.

And if you know someone, if you know someone who needs to get connected you should make that call. You should send that email. You should invite them into your group. You have, again, you have no idea who needs a simple invitation, and you have no idea What's on the other side of that simple invitation. But here's what will happen. If you make the invitation, when they tell their faith story they're gonna talk about you. And who knows, when you tell your faith story, you may end up talking about them because God uses community, proximity matters. When we see God's faithfulness in someone else's life, it is easier, it is so much easier to trust him with ours.
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