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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Living With Loneliness - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - Living With Loneliness - Part 2


Robert Jeffress - Living With Loneliness - Part 2
TOPICS: Our Problems and God's Answers, Loneliness, Isolation, Friendship

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. God never intended for us to live in isolation. From the beginning, God offered a plan for community, not only between husband and wife, but through the fellowship of friends. The reason is simple. We need each other. Whether you're in need of companionship today or you need to reach out to someone in need, we can all benefit from the biblical instruction on the importance of friendship. My message is titled, "Living With Loneliness" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

But his life was void of true intimacy, true companionship. Without it, he said life is meaningless. Turn over to Ecclesiastes 4 for just a moment where Solomon talks about the futility of life without friends, without intimate relationships. He says in Ecclesiastes 4 beginning with verse 7. "Then I looked again at vanity under the sun". And then he tells a story about somebody he knew. "There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all of his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, 'and for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure'? This too is vanity. It is a grievous task".

That realization of life without intimacy led him to these familiar verses that he begins in verse 9 in which he talks about the value of friendship. The value of companionship. Look at it with me. He says in verse 9. "For two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there's not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together, they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. And a cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart". Would you jot down on your outlines four benefits of friendship, of companionship. First of all, friendships offer us assistance in times of crisis. Assistance in times of crisis.

A popular Swedish motto says, "Shared joy is a double joy". "Shared sorrow is only half a sorrow". I think that's what Solomon had in mind here, when he talked about the primary benefit of companionship. He says for in a friendship, if either one of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. Have you noticed in any relationship you're in whether it's a marriage or a friendship it's rare that both people in that relationship are down at the same time. Usually, one is up the other is down or the other is up and the other one is down. If there are two down at the same time, they really can't help one another. I went to waste two and a half hours on memorial day to see that new Indiana Jones movie. And gosh, it was boring. But anyway, there was a scene in it. I said, well, here's one sermon illustration and get out of it. But there was a scene in it which Indiana Jones and his companion were mired in quicksand. And they were going down at the same time. They were absolutely helpless to assist one another.

It took somebody who was up on the outside to throw them a lifeline, in this case, a snake in order to help lift both of them up out of the pit. Well, that's exactly what Solomon is talking about. When a friendship, one can help the other one when one is up and the other one is down. By the way, in a marriage or in a friendship, don't allow that incongruity in your feelings, your emotional state be a source of irritation. Some people say to their friend or their mate, why are you so depressed? Why can't you be more like me? Or on the other hand, if they're sad and depressed, they say to somebody who's up, well, why are you so up? If you were more sensitive, you'd empathize with my feelings. Well, the fact is God has us in different states at different times, so that we can be of assistance to one another. That's what a friend does. He provides assistance. If one falls down, the other will lift up his companion.

Secondly, friendship offers us support when we feel alone. And that's what he's talking about in verse 11. "Furthermore, if two lie down together, they keep warm, how can one be warm alone"? Now that sounds a little kicky when you first read it. But I don't think that's what Solomon had in mind here. I think what he's talking about really is those cold times that we experience in our life. As one writer said, there are certain cold times, chilling times we all experienced when we feel alone. It might be a move to a new city or the beginning of a new job or the death of a loved one. And it's in those cold times of life that a friend offers us the warmth that we need.

I think of the biblical story of Ruth and Naomi. Remember Ruth had lost her husband and her mother-in-law, Naomi was also a widow. And Naomi encouraged her daughter-in-law to go back to her home country and go back to her mother and to find a husband, but Ruth begged Naomi not to leave her. And in one of the most beautiful passages of scripture, Ruth 1:16 "Ruth said, 'do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you: for where you go, I will go, where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God'". And the rest of Ruth illustrates how that relationship between Ruth and Naomi provided the warmth they needed during a cold season of their lives.

Number three, friendships offer us protection when we are under siege. Have you ever felt like the apostle Paul, when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:5, "Our flesh has no rest, but we were afflicted on every side, conflicts from without, fears from within". Paul was expressing a basic truth. And that is, we're almost always under attack. Those attacks may come from other people. They may come from the life circumstances we encounter. They may occur from Satan himself, but we are under siege. The friendship value is that friendships offer us protection when we're under attack. That's what he's talking about in verse 12. "If one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. And a cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart". In other words, there is strength. There is protection that comes when you bind yourself to another person or to a group of people.

Now sometimes, for example, our friends can be advocates for us when we are being mistreated by others. I don't have to tell you one of the occupational hazards of ministry is criticism. You make yourself a moving target when you get involved in any kind of ministry at all. And as I look back in my previous churches, I am so grateful for men and women who would stand up for me and be an advocate for me when I was being unfairly criticized. They can do that for you as well. They can protect us from unfair criticism. Other times, a close friend can help protect us when we're under siege from the enemy from Satan himself. Sometimes a good friend can just give us a fresh perspective on what we're going through. A friend can say to us, as I look at what you are going through and experience in your life right now, it just seems to me that Satan is trying to hurt you. He's trying to discourage you. And I want you to know I'm going to pray for you during this time in your life. Sometimes friends will give us that perspective that we need. Do you have an individual, a group of individuals who can offer you protection when you're under attack from other people or circumstances or Satan himself?

Number four, friendships, companionship offer us accountability when we are prone to wander. Accountability, when we are prone to wander I think every one of us here tonight, every one of us listening to this broadcast can think of somebody we know who was once a strong believer and who fell into some kind of sand, perhaps, sexual immorality, or fell into an orthodox beliefs, but they fell away from the faith. And many times the reason people wander away from the faith is they have no one to whom they are accountable. I think that was the tragedy of Solomon. Think about it. When Solomon was a teenager, 19 years of age, he gave his life completely to God. He was wholly devoted to the Lord. He wanted to please God with his whole heart, but over a period of years, money, sensual pleasure caused his heart to grow cold toward God. And the Bible says in 1 Kings 11:4, "For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away to other Gods and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God".

You see the problem was being up here on the pedestal, on the throne, no one had the courage to tell Solomon the truth about himself. He had no one to hold him accountable. Do you have somebody that holds you accountable? Every church I've served in including this church, I've had a leadership council. And in this church, there's a group of about 13 or 14 leaders in this church with whom I meet once a month and they are free to ask me any question they want to ask. They are able to challenge me on anything they want to challenge me. They can ask me any personal question they want to ask to hold me accountable as the pastor of this church. Do you have somebody like that or a group of people like that in your life? People who aren't afraid to tell you the truth about yourself. People who will hold you accountable when you are tempted to wander from the faith. That's one of the values of friendships.

Are you say, Robert, I am convinced I need friendships. I want somebody who to offer me assistance and protection and accountability and emotional support, but where do I go to get those kind of friends? As I look at God's word, I see that God has given us really three realms of relationships to satisfy the need that we all have for companionship. The first relationship, and perhaps the most foundational relationship is marriage. Marriage. After God's crowning work of creating man, Genesis 2:18, "God said, 'it is not good for a man to be alone'". Now, that's a strange verse, when you think about it. Adam wasn't alone. He had a wonderful relationship with God that had not yet been tainted by sin. He had a spiritual relationship, because he was a spiritual being. But God said, Adam, a relationship with me is not enough to satisfy your every need. You need a companion, a helpmate. It is not good for a man to be alone. And so God created Eve to satisfy that void in his life that even God himself couldn't satisfy.

And by the way, that need for companionship and marriage wasn't just limited to Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:24-25, Moses gives this principle that applies to all of us. "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed". God's plan for most human beings, unless he's given you the gift of celibacy, as teenagers say the gift nobody wants, unless God has given you the gift of celibacy, God's plan for you is that you have a mate to meet that most basic need for intimacy. But as important as marriage is, it is not sufficient in and of itself to satisfy our total need for companionship.

And that's why there is a second realm for companionship and that is friendships. Friendships. Marriage cannot satisfy your total need for companionship and so God has also created friendships. And let me just mention real quickly four levels of friendship that are important to understand. First of all, there are acquaintances. I mean, these are the people you meet day in and day out, perhaps the teller at the bank window or perhaps the grocery store clerk. These are people you run into. You're probably in one year's time make anywhere from 500 to 2.500 acquaintances. Most of those relationships are superficial. They will never go any deeper.

Secondly, there are casual friends. These are people that you happen to know on a first name basis. Conversation with these people whether it's at church or at work involve superficial issues, the stock market, politics, sports games, children, and so forth. Some of these casual friendships may only last a few months, some may span a lifetime.

Thirdly, there are close friends. Depending upon your social network, your close friends can number anywhere from five to twenty-five people. These are people who are neighbors, who are church members, work associates. And usually these relationships are characterized by a mutual agreement on many of the basic issues of life. And then fourth, there are intimate friends. Usually, no one has more than six intimate friends in a lifetime. These are people with whom we can share our deepest feelings. The people with whom we can be most open. These are people usually that we want to first talk to in a time of crisis in our life. And although the nature of these friendships can change over time, usually, they will endure a lifetime regardless of geographical location. These are people maybe you won't see for a few years, but as soon as you get back together with them, it's just like you're picking up where you left off. These are intimate friends.

Now you say, why do we need to know about that? Because an understanding of the different levels of friendship can protect you from one of the most dangerous enemies of friendship and that is unrealistic expectations. When you expect a casual friend to behave like an intimate friend, you are doomed to disappointment. Understand that God puts all four of these levels into our lives for a reason. I like what the late ted Engstrom, former president of world vision says about the different kinds of friendships God desires for us. Ted said, "Every Christian needs a Barnabas to receive encouragement. A Timothy to guide as a protege. And then Epaphroditus to enjoy on a peer level".

The third realm of friendships that God has provided for us are those relationships in the church. Relationships in the church. Now friendships can involve Christians and non-Christians alike, but this third realm of relationships is particularly powerful. Those that we find in the local church. And interestingly, in the local church, you have four levels of friendship, acquaintances, casual friends, close friends, intimate friends, and so forth. But there is a collective power that comes from the body of Christ and having all four of those levels in one place. One of the most important reasons that we assembled together on Sundays is not only to worship God, but also to connect to one another. Remember, 1 Corinthians 12:27, "For you are Christ's body and individually members of it".

Now, I've got about five minutes here. Can I chase down a rabbit path for just a moment here? About relationships in the church. You will never develop the kind of relationships God wants you to establish in the church. The kind that you need for your emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. You will never establish those sitting in a pew staring at the backs of one another's heads, okay? It will never happen in a worship service. That's why Sunday school is so vital to your emotional and spiritual wellbeing. And if I were you and I were choosing a Sunday school class, I don't get to go to Sunday school, because I'm preaching all three hours. But I'm going to tell you what, if I were looking for a Sunday school department, I would not go to a class where everybody just sat down and listened to a lecture for 45 minutes.

The last thing most people need on Sunday morning is a second sermon, okay? One's plenty, one's more than enough. If I were looking for a Sunday school department, I would look for one, yes, that had a good teacher, but one that encouraged personal relationships where there was interaction, where there were small groups, where there were people who would pray for me and encourage me. And we've got a lot of those kinds of classes in our church. We even have some large classes that are divided down into small groups that do take care of one another and establish those relationships. And if you're looking for that kind of Sunday school class, you come to the welcome center we can help you find that kind of department, but we need the fellowship that comes from small groups in the church.

We preachers, love to beat people over the head with Hebrews 10:25 to trying to guilt people into coming to church. Every preacher knows Hebrews 10:25. "Don't forsake our assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more, as you see the day drawing near". But sometimes we make the mistake of not quoting the verse that comes before that, because the verse that comes before that tells us why we are not to forsake our assembling together in the body of Christ. Listen to Hebrews 10:24. "And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and to good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more, as you see the day drawing near".

Have you ever watched a piece of wood in the fireplace? As the fire was roaring, a piece of wood it glows red hot. But if you take that piece of wood and separate it from the fire, that red turns to a gray and then finally to a cold black when it's isolated from the fire. But take that piece of cold black wood and put it back into the center of the flame and it ignites and starts to glow red hot again. What's true of a fireplace is true of us as well. If you take a Christian and you separate him from other Christians, he will grow cool and cold toward his faith. But if you want to ignite another Christian just put him in the center of a spirit-filled Bible-believing congregation, and he will glow red hot again for the Lord. Let us consider how to stimulate one another to faith and to good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, but encouraging one another all the more.

Dr. Louis Leakey and his wife, Mary and their son, Richard spent their entire lives studying the habits of chimpanzees. And at one point in their observation they made the statement. They said, one chimpanzee is no chimpanzee. In other words, a chimp all by himself will never develop into the potential that he was intended to fulfill. He needs the companionship. He needs the company of other chimps to reach his full potential. One Christian is no Christian. God has created us in such a way that we need the spiritual, emotional fulfillment that comes from being associated with other believers for we are Christ's body and individually we are members of it. And that's why one of the most important choices you can make for your physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing is the choice of companionship, friendship over loneliness.
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