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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Rick Warren » Rick Warren - Forming Healthy Friendships

Rick Warren - Forming Healthy Friendships

Rick Warren - Forming Healthy Friendships
TOPICS: Friendship

If you take out your message notes inside your program. You know, in spite of the fact that today the world is more connected by technology than ever before, we are far more connected than previous generations, there is an epidemic of loneliness in our world. I don't know if you've been reading about it. I probably read 20, 30, 40 articles this week on the epidemic of loneliness all around the world. The fact that over half of America in poll after poll has said, "I'm lonely". And these are at every age and stage of life. Little children say, grade school kids, "I'm lonely". Teenagers say, "I'm lonely". Young adults say, "I'm lonely". Middle-aged married couples say, "I'm lonely". Elderly people say, "I'm lonely".

Over half of Americans, at every single stage and age of life say, "I'm lonely". That's an epidemic. We've never had those numbers ever in the history of the United States of America. It's worse in some other countries. In Britain, the number of British citizens who say, "I'm lonely," has now risen to 68%. It's such an epidemic that the Prime Minister of England last year appointed a new cabinet officer called the Minister of Loneliness. I'm not making this up. They have a cabinet minister for loneliness because 60% of the Brits say, "I'm lonely". And we find this in country after country after country.

I was talking to our high school pastor Jason this week. He told me he was recently at a high school, a student camp, and they asked kids who were lonely to stand up, maybe a thousand kids at this camp, and he said about 80% of the kids stood up saying I experience loneliness on a regular basis. Part of it is social media itself. Rather than going out on a Saturday night, you stay home and you look at your screen on what everybody else is doing and you talk about it. And there's this fear of missing out, FOMO, fear of missing out that's plaguing Generation Z, which is the first generation to actually grow up without having screens, you know, phones all of the time.

Now, the Bible has a lot to say about loneliness. In fact, it starts in the first couple chapters when God says, "It is not good for man to be alone". It's the first thing God said was not good about the Earth. God hates loneliness. Loneliness, if you have loneliness in your life, that is not part of God's plan for your life. We were made in the image of God, which means we're relational, and because we're relational, human beings are social creatures. We're made to be together, we're better together. We're not made to be solitary. And so the Bible has a lot to say. I went through all of the scriptures this week that deal with loneliness, with friendship, friendliness. There are literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of verses in the Bible about the importance of you having friends. You need 'em not just for your happiness, you need 'em for your health.

Studies have shown that the fewer friends you have, the sooner you're more likely to die. That it is unhealthy for you to not have healthy friendships in your life. So God made us for relationships. And we're gonna look today, this weekend, at a ton, literally a ton of Bible verses on how to form healthy relationships. Now, there are a lot of different kinds of friendships. But specifically I would categorize a couple, being close friendships and casual friendships. If you want to write this on your outline, casual friends, okay, casual friends in your life may be the result of my circumstances. When I meet people at work or I meet people at school or I meet people in the neighborhood, or I meet people in some sports. You know, kids in soccer, what like that. Those are typically casual relationships 'cause they're just people that you happen to bump into, you run into. Those are the casual relationships that come as a result of circumstances. But your closest friends should not be the result of circumstance, they should be the result of choices.

My choices, not my circumstances, but my choices. Your close friends should not be accidental. You should choose them wisely, because you can't be close to everybody. Now the fact is, the closer I am to people in my life, and the closer people are to me in my life, the greater the impact, the greater the influence they're gonna have on my life. The people who closest to you are obviously gonna influence your life a whole lot more than the people who are simply casual acquaintances. Now, if that's true, then the people who are closest to you better be influencing you for good and for God. Because it's dangerous, so I should choose my closest friends wisely.

Now, the Bible has a lot to say about this. There on your outline I just put one verse. Proverbs chapter 12, verse 26 says this. A righteous person is cautious in friendship. That means you're choosy, you're selective. You don't just arbitrarily say anybody can be close to me. A righteous person is cautious in friendship because the ways of evil people can lead them to do wrong. Now, what I want us to look at this weekend is forming healthy relationships. And I want us to do a couple things. I want us to look at the kind of people you should not choose, 'cause the Bible has a lot to say about that, the kind of people should not be your closest friends. And then look at the kind of qualities you should look for in your closest friends. And then I wanna give you some building blocks, the eight or so building blocks of how do you build healthy, lifelong friendships, satisfying friendships in life.

Now, assisting me is gonna be pastor Kurt Johnston. Pastor Kurt Johnston's our senior student pastor of all of our, he used to be junior high pastor, then he was over junior high and senior high, now he's over college, junior, senior high, children's ministry, he's basically our family and life development pastor. And a number of years ago, Kurt wrote a book on this. He wrote a book on how to build friendships. In fact, see here what it looks like. And it's for students. And I was reading that book, and I go, "Man, I should just let him preach," because it was really good stuff. One of the things that's in that book is this circle thing, maybe. There it is. And Kurt talks about a four different circles. He says on the outer circle are your casual friends. That's your biggest circle, so there's room for a lot of them.

Now, you don't spend a lot of time with these people, but they're your casual friends. But you don't see 'em that much, so there's a limited influence, you on them, and them on you. A little bit in, in the next circle in is what he calls your close friends. And there's not as much room for as many 'cause you can't be a close friend to everybody. And so you don't have as many in that circle, but you have more time spent together with your close friends. And there is increased influence, you on them and them on you. But then he said there's an inner circle that's right around you that he calls your core friends. I'd never heard this before, but I like this phrase. Your core friends. And you only have room for a handful of those. Three, four, five or so of your core friends. You get lots of time spent together. There's high influence on each other.

Now, while I like Kurt's circles, this is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus loved everybody. He fed the 5,000, he trained the 120, he discipled 12, he mentored three. I'll say it again, Jesus loved everybody. There was nobody Jesus didn't love. He fed the 5,000, he trained 120, he discipled 12, he mentored three. Only Peter, James, and John got to go in the Garden of Gethsemane. Only Peter, James, and John got to go up on the Mount of Transfiguration. Only Peter, James, and John got to see Jesus heal Peter's mother-in-law. Was Jesus playing favorites? Yes, he was. He was spending the maximum amount of time with those who would bear maximum responsibility. Later, in the book of Galatians, Paul says Peter, James, and John, he calls them, different James, but Peter, James, John, the pillars of the church. Obviously it worked. He invested the maximum time with the people that'd bear the maximum responsibility. He had the greatest impact on the people he spent the most time with, and they ended up being leaders.

So you need to go home and make this circle list, because some of you are stressed out because you have too many VDPs, and you don't have enough VIPs in your life. You know the difference. VIPs are very inspirational people. VIPs very, VDPs are very draining people. Now, don't look at 'em. Be cool. When you have more VDPs than you have VIPs in your life, that's called stress, friend. When you have more draining people in your life, and if the draining people are the closest, guess what, you're outta energy, you're outta gas. So while this is a message that I wanna teach parents, how to help their kids have healthy relationships, all you big grown-up kids need this, too. And you need to go home and you need to be more intentional about your friendships. And you might go home and say who's in my casual circle, and write their names in, and who's in my close circle, and who's in my core, and should they be there? Should somebody else be in my core? If you'll do this, you will find your fulfillment level going up and your stress level going down, because my guess is you've probably got too many of the wrong people in the wrong circle.

So Kurt's gonna help me with this message. Now first, I want us to look at what the Bible says you're not to choose as close friends. Who are you to not choose? 'Cause the Bible says a righteous person is cautious in friendship 'cause they can influence you if they're really close. And God says that there's some people that you should avoid. Now, this is just a partial list. I'm only gonna give you five or six people. There are others, you could go through the book of Proverbs and get all the rest of them. But let me just give you five or six people who should not be your closest friends according to what God says.

Now, before I say that, would you agree that the wrong people can pull you down? If I'm standing here up on this stage and you're standing down there, is it easier for me to pull you up or for you to pull me down? There's no question, okay? It's law of gravity, it's easier for you to pull me down than to pull you up. This is why I don't believe in missionary dating. You know, well, I'm gonna bring him to the Lord through our dating life. I'm sure that's what he's thinking. Praise the Lord. So, have any of you ever seen anybody messed up by the wrong friends? Yeah, yeah, of course you have. So I don't have to make this point to you. You know it's true that there's some people you shouldn't have as your close friends. Look up there on the screen, Proverbs 18:24 says this. These are friends who destroy each other. Have you ever seen a couple friends destroy each other? Yeah, they weren't real friends. They were competing with each other, they were fighting with each other, they were nagging at each other, they were detrimental to each other, they were pulling each other down. Those aren't real friends.

So let me just give you a partial list of of five or six kinds of people should not be your closest friends. Number one. We're not gonna spend a lot of time on these 'cause I wanna get to the positive stuff. But number one, people who like to argue. Really, that's what the Bible says. People who like to argue should not be your closest friends. Have you notice that some people love conflict? They get energized by it, fighting makes them come alive. It's like they're not even alive unless they're in the middle of a fight. And they're always against something. There's that kinda warrior spirit and they just like to fight. And wherever they go, they cause conflict. They're irritating, they're agitating. God says you don't hang out with those kind of people. Proverbs 20, verse three. Any fool can start arguments. The honorable thing is to stay out of them. Circle the words stay out. Somebody starts getting in an argument in your office, walk away. Says the wise thing, the honorable, the wise thing is to stay out of it.

Number two, here's another one, this is really gonna be touchy, people who gossip. Well, there just went all my friends. You say, you know, you're thinking that. People who gossip. Did you know that God hates gossips? He hates gossip, he hates gossiping. He says it's detrimental, he says the gossiper is the friend to the saboteur. They sabotage relationships. Gossips are destructive. And the Bible judges the sin of gossip very, very harshly. What is gossip, let me give a definition. Gossip is sharing information when you're neither part of the problem nor part of the solution. Uh-oh. Sharing damaging information when you're neither part of the problem nor part of the solution. And for Christians, the worst part is when we hide gossip as a prayer request. I'd like for you to pray about this. What I heard about so-and-so. Just, it's been on my heart to pray about this. Well, don't use prayer as an excuse to gossip. The Bible says in Proverbs 20, verse 19, stay away from gossips. They can't keep a secret and they tell everything. So stay away from people who like to argue, stay away from people who gossip.

Number three, you're to stay away and not have as closest friends people who flatter others. People who flatter others. Now, what is flattery? Flattery is false praise. Flattery is insincere compliments. Flattery is the person who kisses up to the boss at work, and then behind them, says the exact opposite about that boss. They schmooze, they lay it on, they're kissing up, they're hypocritically appealing to ego. And when you see people flattering, whether it's a girl or a guy on the school campus kissing up to the most popular person, or whether it's an adult doing it in an office situation or a sales situation, the Bible says you need to run the opposite way. Stay away from flatterers.

Proverbs 29, verse five says this, flattery is a trap. Evil people get caught in it, but good people avoid it and are free. I don't have time to go into this, but the Bible says that people who flatter you actually hate you. That flattery is disguised hatred. And they'll say one thing to your face. Well, look at these verses. You ever met any people like this? Here's a verse, Proverbs 64, verse two. They are friendly to my face, but they curse me in their hearts and they delight in telling lies about me. There are entire reality shows built on that verse where they say something to your face and flatter you, "Oh, you look so great". Or here's another one, look at this verse. Psalm 109, verse five, for being friendly and kind, they paid me back with meanness and hatred. Mean girls. Mean boys. This happens on every campus, but it happens in adulthood, too. The Bible says stay away from people who flatter you.

Number four, you should stay away and not have as your closest friends people who can't control their temper. The Bible has a lot to say about the rageaholic. The rageaholic, now, you could be, two different ways to express rage, be a mute and be a martyr, or be a manic can be a Mount Vesuvius. Everybody's either a skunk or a turtle. And when you get angry, turtles pull into a shell, and poor me, and they, you know, everybody hates me, nobody loves me, I'm gonna go eat worms. And you have a pity party and you invite me, myself, and I. Or you can be Mount Vesuvius or you can be a skunk. When a skunk is upset, they let everybody know it, and they stink up the whole place. The Bible says people who can't control their temper, they should not be your closest friends, okay? They're hot-headed, you know, short-fused. They're volatile, they're rash, they blow up quickly, they're easily upset.

Here's what the Bible says, Proverbs 22, verse 24 and 25. Don't make friends with hot-tempered people, with a hot-tempered person. Don't associate with anyone easily angered. They get ticked off at everything. You have to walk on eggshells around 'em. Or don't associate with those who are easily angered or you'll learn to be like them and not able to change. Anger, like a lot of other emotions, is contagious. Loneliness is contagious, depression is contagious. A lot of things are, a lot of emotions are contagious. If you hang, the people you hang out with, that's what you're gonna become like. Now, you say, well, I don't know anybody, hot-tempered people. Are you listening to talk radio? 'Cause they're all on that. Are you watching talk TV? There are some shows, if you find your blood pressure rising, you just shouldn't listen to. All they're doing is feeding rage inside you. I'm gonna come back and talk about this next month.

But that's another one, let me give you one more. No, a couple more. Here's one, people who steal or shoplift. Now, I don't know many adults who know people who are shoplifting, but a lot of teenagers know teenagers who are shoplifting. But there are people who are stealing their office blind, and everybody knows it. Thieves, the Bible says, are self-centered. And if they steal from others, you know what, they'll steal from you. So you don't want 'em to be your closest friend, people who steal or shoplift. Look at this verse up here on the screen, Proverbs one, verses 13 to 15. This is what they say, they say, "Come on. Let's take all kinds of valuable things". Okay, you know, all the resources at the office. Let's fill our houses with stolen goods. Come join us, we'll share the stolen goods. But do not go along with them, and don't, do not do what they do. You know, just stay away from those people. And if you have a teenager who has a friend who is a shoplifter, you need to show 'em that verse. All right, let me give you one more. This one's the tough one of all.

Number six, I should not have as my closest friend believers who sin sexually. Believers, notice I didn't say unbelievers. I said believers who sin sexually. Why not everybody? Well, let me give you a principle. You might write this down, here, it's on the screen. Never expect unbelievers to act like believers until they are. This is why I don't believe in trying to make laws to make non-Christians act like Christians or make unbelievers act like believers, why? The Bible says they don't have the power to change. The whole book of Romans was written to say that until Christ is in my life, I don't have the power to change things in me. So to expect other people to act like people who have God's power in their life is getting the cart before the horse. Never expect an unbeliever to act like a believer till they are, I don't, God doesn't, and you shouldn't. But here's what the Bible says, look up here on the screen.

1 Corinthians 5:9 to 11, Paul says, "When I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin, I wasn't talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, 'cause you'd have to leave this whole world to avoid all of them". Duh. "What I meant was you're not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian and yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or abusive, or gets drunk. Don't even eat with such people". Why, 'cause they're a bad witness. Because they are a bad representation of Christ. Any of those four things he says is not a good representation of Jesus, and if you call yourself Christian and you hang out with somebody else who claims to be a Christian but is acting in a non-Christlike way, he goes, that's a problem. So those are some people we're to stay away from. But the Bible also has a lot of positive advice on the kind of people you should choose as your closest friend. And Pastor Kurt is gonna come and talk about that. Welcome him.

Kurt Johnston: Well, I'm not sure if you caught it a moment ago, but Rick gave us all a homework assignment. Did you know he gave us a homework assignment? If you weren't paying attention in class, I'm gonna put the homework assignment back up on the screen. If we can put the the picture of the circles back up on the screen. And if you have a phone, as that graph of the circles, take out your phone and take a picture of that. Take a picture of that, and that will remind you as you're scrolling through your photos or looking at your phone that Rick gave us an assignment, and that is to at some point in the near future to do some evaluating of our friendships and who's in what circle, and do we like what we see. Because our friends have a great influence on us.

Now, Rick has spent some time talking about the casual and the close, and what I want to spend a little bit of time today is talking about who do we choose as those core friends. Rick mentioned the closer they are, the more influence they have on us. We've only got room for a handful of core friends. Men and women friends who make a strong impact and have a close influence on our lives. The question is begged, okay, well, how do I decide who should be a core friend, especially if they're gonna have some extra influence. Now again, there's all sorts of qualities, all sorts of important qualities that we should consider when we're picking our core friends. I'm gonna focus on three that scripture seems to give a little bit extra attention to. So here are three qualities to look for in your core friends. First, choose friends who encourage me spiritually. Choose friends who encourage me spiritually.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says this. Encourage one another and build each other up. Now here's the thing, this verse isn't talking about compliments. There's a difference between compliments and encouragement. Compliments are nice, but they tend to be shallow. A compliment, "Oh, Kurt, your teeth look really shiny tonight," right? That's a compliment. "Kurt, you look a little less bald than last time I saw you". Thank you, that's nice, I'm glad you said that. But that's not encouragement, that's a compliment. Encouragement are things that go a little bit deeper, a little bit further below the surface. Encouragement matters a little bit more and carries more significance than a compliment. And God wants us to surround ourselves, our most core friends with people who are a source of encouragement.

Now, the dictionary defines encouragement this way, the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope, that's encouragement. The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. I like this other definition, it's a lesser-known definition of encouragement, and it's simply this. To fill the heart. Encouragement is to fill the heart. When you give somebody support, when you give somebody confidence, when you're a source of hope, what you're doing is you are filling their heart. Now, a couple quick examples. When I was in high school and college, one of my core friends, we had this group of core friends, and like what happens in a lot of friendship circles, is there's always one that seems to kind of miss out on the information. This was back when you actually had to pick up a phone that was attached to a cord that was attached to the wall and make a phone call.

And so because of all the effort that went into being good friends back in the day, this one friend would always get left out. And for some reason, when he was left out, I was the person he would call. And there was almost this routine in our friendship where we would go out and do something, we would forget about our one friend, and I would get the phone call, and it would go something like this. "Hello? Hey, Kurt, I heard you guys went to Disneyland last night. You didn't invite me, real cool, chump," and he'd hang up, click. "Hey, Kurt, I heard you guys went the movies last night, didn't invite me, real cool, chump," click. And it's on, it was a routine. I was so afraid I couldn't do anything without upsetting my friend for him not being included. "Hey, Kurt, I heard you folded your underwear last night. You didn't invite me, real cool". I mean, no matter what we did, if he wasn't included, it was this issue. And when I start thinking about encouragement, and I had to make the decision, is my friend somebody who gives me support, confidence, and hope, or is he a source of tension?

As I evaluated my circle of friends, I had to make a decision that maybe that's not somebody I want in my core circle. He didn't fill my heart. One of my good friends right now, Eddie, lives in Atlanta. We hardly ever see each other. And yet every time I'm with Eddie Northen, every time, whether it's for coffee or an extended weekend together, when I'm in Atlanta or he's here on business, if I spend five minutes, 50 minutes, five hours with Eddie, I walk away and my heart is full. He just has a way of encouraging me and supporting me and breathing confidence into my life. Those are the kind of friends that God says you should have closest to you. So choose friends who encourage me spiritually.

You see, part of feeling lonely, and as Pastor Rick so perfectly set up this whole topic, loneliness is a big, big struggle. In fact, current statistics say that 65% of 12 to 17-year-olds, 65%, experience loneliness on a regular basis. It's a big deal. And part of this loneliness that we feel is because our hearts aren't filled up. We feel lonely because we don't have the kind of friendships that fill our hearts. We have friendships that are full of some of these other negative things that Pastor Rick encouraged us to avoid. Here's the second quality in your core friends is to choose friends who consistently support me emotionally. Choose friends who consistently support me emotionally. I love this verse, Proverbs 17:17 says this. A friend loves you all the time. Do me a favor and underline that, all the time. A friend loves you all the time like a brother born to help in trouble.

Now, it's been said that a true friend, and how you judge your true friends is that a true friend walks in when everybody else walks out. That when you're going through trouble, you know your friends by the people who walk into your life versus the people who tend to walk out. So what does it look like to walk in to somebody's life? Here's what walking in means. You might wanna just jot these down someplace. Walking in means saying I'm here with you, not just I'm here for you. You notice the difference? I'm here with you, not just, hey, if you need anything, I know you're going through a tough time, if you need anything, I'm here for you. When you say I'm here for you, you're putting all the burden on them to reach out to you in their moment of need. When you say I'm here with you, what you're saying is I'm gonna be proactive, I'm gonna walk this journey with you, I will be with you every step of the way, and you look for ways to model that you're there with them. Walking in means listening.

The best emotional support that you can give somebody is usually just to sit and be quiet. When people are going through a tough time, less words, more listening. Saying I'm here with you means I'm listening to what you have to say and I'm willing to be with you in it. Walking in means serving your friends. Walking in means serving your friends, looking for ways to proactively be an emotional support, a physical support, whatever it is that they might need you to be. Third, choose friends who challenge me to think. Oh, this is the tough one, this is a tough. If I can be honest for a minute, just the two of us, just me and you, I don't like this one. I don't like this one. That God wants me to choose friends who challenge me to think. Proverbs 13:20 says if you keep company with wise friends you'll become wise, but if you make friends with foolish people, your life will fall to pieces.

You see, I like to be friends with people who kind of think like I do. I like to be friends with people who have some of the same dumb beliefs, dumb opinions, strange worldview. I like people who are like me. And when somebody starts pushing up against that, I have a tendency to fight it. I don't wanna be challenged. Come on, if you're really my friend, just kind of agree with me, put up with me. I'm kind of half-baked and dumb idea sometimes, and you should be okay with that. You know "Dumb and Dumber"? Great movie, great movies. Not a good recipe for healthy friendships, right? "Dumb and Dumber" doesn't make for healthy friendships. I need people in my life, you need people in your life who are willing, not in an argumentative, judgmental way, but friends who are willing to call you on your stuff. Iron sharpens iron.

One of my very best core friends is actually the gentleman that co-wrote the book that Pastor Rick talked about earlier with me. And if you were to say the three or four most important life issues, Mark and I would agree 100% of the time on those three or four core life issues. Of the three or four million non-essential life issues, Mark and I would disagree about 99.9% of the time. We just see things differently. We've experienced our faith differently, we've raised our kids differently. The way he and his wife navigate things is different than the way my wife and I navigate things. He has two children that they're exact same age as our kids.

The way they've raised their kids is different than the way we've raised our kids. And we have had over the years these passionate, wonderful, challenging, stretching, confusing conversations and moments, and times where we get eye to eye and knee to knee and say, "Bro, here's what I think about that. Here's what I'm seeing, here's where I differ". And the result has been wonderful, it's been wonderful. I'm a better dad because he's challenged me. I'm a better husband because he sees things differently about marriage than I do. I'm a better follower of Jesus because he has experienced his faith in some ways that are different than my journey, and it's added this layer of richness and this layer of of depth to my life. The easy thing in friendships is just to surround yourselves with like-minded people. Birds of a feather flock together.

That's the easiest route to take. It's the road of least resistance. But if you want rich, meaningful, life-giving, heart-filling relationships, I would encourage you to take God's advice and choose friends who challenge you to think. Now, that homework, that homework that Rick mentioned is something I'm gonna ask to do is as we kind of move through some more parts of these messages, is this week, this week sometime, I'm gonna ask you to take a look at that picture and maybe draw it out on a napkin or a piece of paper and write out those casual friends. Write out the close friends. And in regards to these three things, take a look at who you put in your core friend category and ask yourself, do these people, do they encourage me spiritually, do they support me emotionally, and do they challenge me to think?

Rick Warren: Thanks, thanks, Kurt. Let me give you a sentence to write down to kind of summarize everything Kurt and I are trying to say. My best friends should bring out the best in me. My best friends should bring out the best in me. If they're not bringing out the best in you, they're not really your best friends. Somebody else should be your best friends. If your best friends aren't bringing out the best, they're not your best. So write that down. And when you're looking at your friendships and do an evaluation of that, think about that. Are these my best friends? Are they bringing out the best in me or not? Now, let's switch gears and talk about the opposite, and that is this, here's another sentence you might wanna write down. To have great friends, I must be a great friend. You wanna write that one down, that's where we're going now in the next part of this message. To have great friends, I have to be a great friend. I can't expect people to be to me what I'm not being to them.

And so whatever I want other people to do with me, I need to do with them. You will attract what you are. If you're a great friend, guess what, you will attract great friends. So that's a factor that we need to look at now. Let's look at eight building blocks on how to be a great friend according to the Bible, according to what God says, and he's always gonna be right. So let's just go through these eight. I'm gonna take some of 'em, Kurt's gonna take some of them. Number one, the building blocks of close relationships. Eight factors for forming friendships. Number one, be cheerful, greet people with a smile. Now, that may seem kinda obvious. But when you take a friend for granted, you often don't smile at 'em. There is an enormous power in a simple smile. A smile can change an atmosphere overnight. Instantly it can change a room. The shortest distance between two people is a smile. A smile is a universal language. It is known all around the world.

If you smile at somebody else, guess what, they're gonna smile back at you. You don't have to know their language, but if you smile, they will smile. It is the one thing that's understood besides the international finger of disapproval. Everybody knows that one, too. But this is the better one that everybody knows. And that is if you smile at somebody, they're gonna smile back, it's a universal language. The great thing about a smile, it costs nothing, but you can cheer up somebody who's having a tough time just by smiling at that clerk, at that grocery store stock person, at anybody you come across with walking down the street, you know, the post office person or whatever. Studies have shown that when you smile, you actually become cuter. Well, there you go, you don't have to lose that weight after all, just start smiling. If you smile, you will be more attractive. Study after study after study say that when a person smiles, they instantly become more attractive. How'd that work, I don't think so. That wasn't a smile, that was a grin.

I think sourpuss Christians are an insult to the joy of God. They look like they were baptized in vinegar. Okay, and they just go, come on, I mean, they walk around with these long faces. They're an embarrassment to God. How many of you are happy, can I see your hands? You're really happy, okay. How many of you are thrilled that you're saved and you're going to heaven? All right, okay. Notify your face. You know, it only takes seven muscles to smile, it takes 42 to frown. If you're frowning, you're wasting a lot of energy. Now, notice what the Bible says, Proverbs 15, verse 30. A cheerful look brings joy to the heart. Now, here's an interesting thing about that verse. We think the opposite, a cheerful heart brings a smile to the face, but the Bible says the opposite. A cheerful heart brings a smile to the face. But this verse says a cheerful face, a cheerful look brings joy to the heart.

Did you know that your facial muscles can change the mood of your heart? That when you don't feel happy, if you'll just start smiling, it will change your mood, I guarantee it. Study after scientific study have shown that when you actually start smiling, then it'll actually change your mood. I can't tell you how many times I've been driving to church to preach on Sunday morning, and I didn't feel like preaching. I'd just like to stay home and watch football. And then I've already done that a few times, so how about now? And what I do is I just start smiling. And I look at myself in the mirror. I just start smiling. Hey, that guy's happy. Look at that guy, he's really a, by the time I get here, I'm ready to smile at all of you. We think your heart has to change before you smile. God says if you start smiling, it'll change your heart. Okay, so when you get up in the morning, just start forcing that smile in your face.

Now, by the way, while you're at it, use friendly language. Look at this next verse. The Lord is pleased with what? Friendly words, circle that. Did you know that anytime you say a friendly word to anybody, it doesn't have to be some kind of witness, it's just a friendly word, God is pleased. The Lord is pleased with friendly words, Proverbs 15:26. You know, the problem we have today is the world seems to be getting crankier and crankier. Would you agree with that? It just seems like everybody's in a cranky mood. Nobody wants to be a friend with a cranky person. I heard this week about cranky, cantankerous guy who came into a, oh, it was a flower shop, a florist. And he was all upset because they had gotten the order wrong and he said, "You got my order wrong, you made a mistake. I ordered flowers for my friend's new housewarming, and you sent a bouquet that said rest in peace". And he was just being cranky. And I turned to him and I said, "Well, just think about somewhere there's a graveside that says I hope you enjoy your new location". You got a problem? You think that's a problem? Just somebody's got a worse problem than you do. So just start out smiling. You'll make friends just by smiling if you'll just do that. Now, I know some of you, that's kind of hard. But you can learn to do that.

Number two, be comfortable. Second key to being building friendships, be comfortable. Relax and be yourself. That's the second key to building great friendships, relax and be yourself, be comfortable with you. You say, "But Rick, if I be me, they might not like the real me". Well, if they're not gonna like the real you, they're never gonna be your friend in the first place. And if they don't like the real you, they don't deserve to be your friend. And if they don't like the way you really are, they're not worthy of your friendship. So any person, you have to be somebody different than who you are to be their friend, is not a friend. They're not a friend. So if you can't just be who you are, then you don't want 'em as a friend, they aren't worthy as a friend, and they're never gonna be your friend in the first place. So go ahead and be yourself, and that pretty quickly will determine who's a real friend and who's not. You have to love yourself before you can love anybody else. You have to think you're worthy.

If you missed last week's message on identity, go back and listen to that, about that you have something significant to give to the world. Go back and listen to that again on those five reasons why you could feel good about you. Jesus, in Matthew 22:39, said this. "The second greatest command in the whole Bible is this: love your neighbor as you love yourself". You can't love your neighbor if you don't love yourself. You know why, 'cause if I don't like me, and I don't feel good about me, I certainly don't want you feeling good about you. So I'm gonna be constantly picking on you, tearing you down, pulling you down, 'cause I don't feel good about me. That's why any time you find somebody, in your family, an in-law, a parent, anybody who's constantly picking, picking, it just means one thing. They don't feel good about themselves. Hurt people hurt people. Hurt people hurt people. When somebody is hurting everybody else in the family, it means they need massive doses of love because they're hurting. Insecure people want everybody else to be insecure, so they're constantly perfectionists, biting, arguing, and nipping at everything. They're just revealing their own hurt. They're revealing, hurt people hurt people.

Jesus said love your neighbor as you love yourself. You gotta be comfortable with you. And if you're not comfortable with you, that's why you don't have many friends. You just need to start realizing, as we talked about last week, God says you are my masterpiece. I made you to be you, and nobody else in the world could be you, that's one advantage you have over everybody else, nobody can be you. Now, if you can't be around them, then it's not gonna be a real friendship. That's why you don't want these kind of friendships where you have to wear a mask. 2 Corinthians four, verse two says this. We refuse, we refuse to wear masks and play games. And we don't maneuver and we don't manipulate behind the scenes. I love that in the message translation. It's saying we're the real deal. We're not perfect, but what you see is what you get. We're authentic, we're the real deal. And if you can't be real, then they're not gonna be your friend anyway.

So be cheerful, smile, use friendly language, but be yourself, be comfortable in your own skin. Number three, be conversational. What do I mean by that? Be conversational by asking questions. Be conversational by asking questions. If you're talking with somebody, you're just meeting 'em for the time and you're asking them questions about themselves, that's called a conversation. If you're talking with somebody and all you're doing is talking about yourself, that's called a monologue. That is not a conversation. When you're going and you're trying to impress everybody with how cool you are, that's a monologue. That is not a way to make friends. The way you make friends is by asking questions. And why, because questions shows you're interested in them. Philippians 2:4, don't just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others and in what they are doing. That's how you have friends, be interested in others and what they're doing. Circle the phrase be interested.

Now, I'm gonna give you something, if you don't get anything else, this is one of the most important keys to building solid, healthy friendships, okay? So I'm gonna ask you to write it down. The secret of making friends is to be interested, not interesting. The secret of making friends is to be interested in them, not interesting yourself. This is the biggest mistake people make in trying to find friends, they're trying to be interesting. We're trying to look cool, smell cool, sound cool, be cool, wear cool clothes, great cool hairdo, and we want to be the mysterious man of mystery or woman of mystery, you know? And we want to be interesting.

Stop trying to be interesting, be interested. Be interested in them, you'll have plenty of friends. You will make more friends in two months being interested in others than you will in two years of trying to be interesting. Trying to be sexy, trying to be cool, trying. If you just, people are waiting for people to be interested in them. And if you will put aside your ego and be interested in them, how do you be interested in them, ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more, you know, there's sometimes I'll sit down with somebody at some you know rubber chicken dinner banquet that I have to go to, and I don't know them from Adam, but I'll just start asking serious questions, and I'll say hardly anything that night. They're talking the whole time, and they go away thinking, "That Rick Warren, he's the greatest conversationalist there is".

I haven't said hardly anything, I just got them talking, and I let them talk. Stop trying to be interesting. Start being interested. The world is looking for people who will be interested in them. And so that's a real key, you ask questions. There's a verse here on the screen, write this down, Proverbs 20, verse five, it says this. A person's thoughts are like water in a deep well, but with insight, you can draw them out. How do you draw people out? How do you get people to draw the insights and the thoughts out of people? Ask questions. Learn to ask questions, you might make a list of good questions you wanna ask, and keep 'em in your pocket, so when you're sitting on a plane next to somebody, you can say, well, what are those questions I wanted to ask? And you'll involve them, be interested, not trying to be interesting, okay?

Let me give you a fourth one. You said, okay, be cheerful, be comfortable, be conversational, number four, be considerate. That's what good friends are, they're considerate. What does that mean? Listen well and empathize. You listen and you empathize, listen well. Everybody in the world is waiting to be listened to. And if you are a good listener, you're never gonna lack for friends. If you're willing to just get out there and listen to people, you will never lack for friends. Why, because listening is loving. When I listen to you, I'm giving you the most important thing in my life, my time and my attention. I could always get more money. But I can't get more time, I've only got a certain amount of time in my life, and I've only got a certain amount of attention. When I give you my time and attention, I'm never getting that back.

That's why right now you're giving me your time and attention. That's why I work so hard on these messages, because I think it's a heavy burden to pastor a church our size. 'Cause I think if I waste an hour of 30,000 people this weekend, I have just effectively wasted 30,000 hours. That is a burden I do not carry lightly. You want it, I'll give it to you. You can preach next week. But I'm always thinking, I don't wanna waste people's time because time is your life. Wasting time is suicide. It's killing your life, you're not gonna get any more time. When I give people me attention, I'm giving the most powerful thing I've got. People say, you know, husbands say I don't understand my wife and kids, I give 'em everything they want, I buy 'em everything, what do they want? They want you. They want your attention. Did you know that the average dad, latest study, spends seven seconds a day with his kids? That's not attention. That's why they're paying more attention to the screens. Seven seconds a day. So you pay attention, you listen, you empathize, you pay attention.

James chapter one, verse 19. Let everyone be quick to listen and slow to speak. Now, typically we do the opposite of that. We're quick to speak and we're slow to listen. When you're in a friendship, you don't try to compete with your friend, one-upping them, well their story, well, your story's better, and their tale, your tale's better. They did this, well, you did this better. That's not friendship, that's competition. But if you become a good listener, you're gonna have plenty of friends. Romans 12, verse 15, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, that's empathy. Do you know what empathy is? Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy says I'm sorry you hurt, that's sympathy. I'm sorry you hurt. Empathy says I hurt with you. That's the difference. Empathy is I'm sorry you hurt. Empathy is I hurt with you.

Now, there's a third level beyond that, and that's to be like Jesus, and that's compassion. Compassion is I will do anything I can to stop your hurt. And repeatedly we find that Jesus was moved with compassion. I will do whatever it takes to stop your hurt, even it means going to the cross for you. I will die, that's how important you are to me. But what I'm saying here is if you're gonna be a friend, you're gonna have to learn how to share some emotion. You gotta be happy when they're happy, you gotta be sad when they're sad. You gotta enter into their emotion. You gotta be empathetic, gotta share their feelings.

Now, Kurt's gonna come back in just a second. But I wanna pause here and say something to those of you who ae parents who still have kids at home. All these relational skills that Kurt and I are teaching this weekend, they need to be taught at home. They're certainly not gonna be taught in a classroom at school. They need to be taught at home. And they need to be modeled and they need to be practiced. Where, it's called the family dinner. I know it's going the way of the dodo bird. Families don't eat dinner together anymore. And that's why kids are lonely, because they haven't learned the skills of how to take your turn listening. They haven't learned the skills of how to ask questions. They haven't learned the skills of how to talk as an intelligent person with an adult, much less another kid.

And I wanna make a plea that if you're not having family dinners, to reinstitute them. They're the best way to teach relational skills. All right, just best way to teach 'em, just sit around, eat dinner together, and talk, and you take turns listening, you take turns talking. And it has to be modeled, it has to be practiced. If you want kids, parents, to have great friends, you want your kids to have great friends, you gotta do three things. First, you gotta model attention and listening skills. Like I said, eat dinner together. You've gotta spend some time interacting in conversation. Not seven seconds a day. And you've gotta be willing, this is a tough one, to transport your kids to their friends.

Now, if you're not willing to take your kids to their friend's house, or not willing to bring the kids to your house, don't complain when they're talking to each other on the screen if that's the only way they can get together. Because you're not willing to let them have face-to-face connections. So it means a sacrifice. I had to sacrifice some of my kids, some of my time to let my kids learn social skills. But that's what's called being a dad. It's called being a father.

Now, if I'm always looking at a screen phone as an adult, and my kids see me doing that, well, I can't complain that they're always looking at it, whether it's a video game or something else. Don't blame them for not having friends if I don't help them make contact with anybody. They can't drive themselves. So there is a parental role here. Now, our church is committed to helping parents succeed with their kids. And Kurt and our team has put together a number of little two-minute videos. I want you to just watch one of 'em. Here's one right here, watch this. You can get any of these.

Kurt Johnston: Hi, my name is Kurt, I'm a parent, and this is my two-minute tip. Have you ever tried to force open a window? You know those windows that you wanna open them up, but no matter how hard you try, they just don't want to open. Sometimes when it comes to talking to our kids, it can feel like we're trying to force open a window that refuses to open. Well, here's what I've learned as a parent myself is that the reality is every human being, and your kids are no different, we all have a window of conversation. That every one of us has times in the day, moments in our lives, that we are more open to the idea of opening up. And sometimes as parents we make the mistake of trying to force open the window of conversation in an unnatural time.

So for instance, maybe your child loves to open up and talk on the car ride home from school. That's a great time for you to talk to them. That's when their window of conversation is open. Other kids wanna take a nap on the way home from school. Some of your children might open up and want to talk, their window of conversation is open, during the bedtime routine, and that's when they love to talk and debrief and kind of download the day's events with you. Some of your kids are more open to talking when they're doing something physical with you. Maybe you're playing catch in the front yard or walking around the neighborhood, and for some reason in those moments, they like to open up and talk. You see, oftentimes parents get frustrated because we wanna talk to our kids when our window is open. And instead, we should talk to our kids when their window is open. Parenting isn't easy, parenting's inconvenient.

One of the challenges is learning and taking advantage of the window of conversation for each one of our kids, and being willing to engage them in those moments, even if it's not the best time for us, but it's the best time for them. What I've learned over and over and over again is when I walk through or step through my child's window of conversation instead of trying to force it open when it's closed, the conversation always goes much, much better. Pastor Rick likes to kind of use a different analogy. He talks about people are like clams. And every now and then the clam opens, and it's only open for a little while, and then it closes again. And the skill, the art of being a parent, really the skill of being a good friend, having healthy conversation is recognizing when's the window open, when is the clam shell open, instead of trying to force things in when it's not a natural fit.

Real quickly, let's add a few more keys to building healthy friendships. The fifth one is to be consistent. To be consistent, specifically you can be consistent by sticking with them in tough times. Stick with them in tough times. If you're known for being consistent, you'll be known for being a good friend. Proverbs 18:24 says there are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, talking about consistency. Job 6:14 says, a despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. Now, if you're unfamiliar with Job, Job is a gentleman who had it all. And when he had it all, he had lots of friends. And then the wheels began to fall off the cart and he lost it all, and Job quickly realized that as he was losing it all, his friends were abandoning him. There was not a I am with you in this moment. There wasn't a consistency. If you're unfamiliar with that, there's an entire book of the Bible dedicated, and you will learn a ton about healthy friendships if you look at the life of Job.

A sixth key to building healthy friendships is to be confidential, to be confidential. Don't gossip about them. Pastor Rick already hit on this, so here's my pro tip. Just a quick, short little pro tip is this, your gossip will find you out. Your gossip will find you out. If you think you're gossiping in secret, you will become known for being a gossip. Your friends will figure it out, and that will hinder your friendship together. These verses speak to that. Proverbs 11:13, a true friend will keep a secret. And obviously, just as a side note, there are times when a true friend can't keep a secret, right? We know that, but we're talking about those healthy confidences, when people are opening their heart and they're sharing their struggle, that's the kind of stuff that you hold confident. You wanna be a safe sounding board. When somebody shares secrets that are dangerous or harmful or hurtful, that's a time where the best thing you can do is to break that confidence and not to hold that secret. Proverbs 11:13 says this, no one who gossips can be trusted. Your gossip will find you out. But you can put your confidence in someone who is trustworthy.

A seventh key to building healthy friendships is to be candid. Always tell the truth. Always tell the truth. Now here's the thing, that is not an excuse to be a jerk. Some of the most hurtful words a friend has ever said to another friend is, "I was just being honest". Why are you so upset, I was just telling you the truth. It's not an excuse to be a jerk. There's a verse in the Bible says the wounds of a friend bring healing. So there will be times in a healthy friendship where you have to be truthful, and that truth might sting a little bit. But when you're saying it in love, when you're saying the truth in a way that when the dust settles your friend knows that you're still a source of hope, support, encouragement, you're filling their heart, the truth, even when it's hurtful, can bring healing and strengthen a friendship. Proverbs 24:26, an honest answer is a sign of true friendship.

And then eight, and we could summarize the entire message on how to be a healthy friend and how to build healthy friendships is simply this, be Christlike. Be Christlike. And one of the best ways for us to try to be Christlike is to love them unconditionally. To love people unconditionally. In a world that begs for us to achieve and to try to earn approval and to prove our worth, when people know that you're somebody who just loves them for who they are, they will be drawn to you, and you'll have a chance to build some really great friendships. Romans 15:7 says, accept each other just as Christ accepted you. All the research shows, all the research shows that the antidote to loneliness, the primary antidote to loneliness is healthy friendships. Over and over and over and over again, the antidote to loneliness is healthy friendships. And the key to healthy friendships is to look at the model, and Jesus Christ is the model. Jesus modeled what it means to be a good friend. And when you can begin to love people like Jesus loved people, what you'll begin to do is to become a person who fills the hearts of others.

Rick Warren: Thanks, Kurt. Where's the best place to learn the skills of learning to be a friend? Small groups. You knew I was gonna get there eventually, didn't you? We have over 8,000 of 'em in this church. If you're not a part of a small group, you really aren't a part of our church family, because that's where it all happens. In this body, it's in the cells, that's where the life is. If you're a student, you need to join a life group. If you're an adult, let us get you in an adult small group. We have thousands and thousands of them, and they meet every day at different times in different places. There's a place for a small group for you. If you'd like to be in a small group, either a life group for students or a regular adult group, go out to the patio at your campus, and there's a small group table out there. We can easily get you hooked up this weekend. You need this to learn the skills of friendship.

Let's bow our heads. As we close, let me just ask you a couple questions. Are your friends helping or hindering your spiritual growth? You know, dating the wrong person can cause you to miss God's purpose. Are you a great friend to others? Which of these eight building blocks that we just went through do you need to work on yourself? Which of your friends do you need to invite to church? I wanna close with one last verse, and it's John 15:15, where Jesus says, "I have called you my friends". Jesus has accepted you. Have you accepted him? If you have to, say:

Jesus Christ, I accept you into my life today, I wanna be a friend of God. I wanna be a friend of Jesus. And I want to know your purpose for my life.

Father, help us to be a church that's not just known as a friendly church, but a church that's full of friends, that we're friends to everyone, that we love everyone, but that our closest friends are those that strive to make us grow, to bring out the best in us. May we be best friends by bringing out the best in others. And may we choose best friends who bring out the best in us. I pray this in Jesus' name, amen.

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