Robert Jeffress - Choosing Companionship Over Loneliness
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The latest statistics reveal that planet earth is home to nearly 7.8 billion people, yet even with the largest population in human history, more people than ever report feeling lonely. So why has loneliness reached epidemic proportions? And what is the biblical solution to loneliness? My message is titled choosing companionship over loneliness, on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
You know, unfortunately, loneliness seems to be the norm for most people today. The late evangelist Billy Graham said he believed more people suffer from loneliness than any other malady. Now, we think of loneliness as a state of being. I'm lonely because I feel isolated from others, or I'm separated from others. But loneliness is not just a state of being. I want to suggest to you today that loneliness is a choice, of how we go through life. We can say, "I don't need anybody else. I'm sufficient on my own". Or we can come to the conclusion that we do need other people.
Well, one of the choices we have to make in life is how are we going to go through the inevitable joys as well as sorrows of life. Are we going to go through those experiences isolated, alone, or are we going to choose to have others with us? Today, we're going to talk about the very biblical choice of choosing companionship over loneliness. The fact is, there are reasons that people choose to be lonely. One reason is a poor self-image. There are people who think, "Well, why should I try to reach out to other people? Why would anybody be interested in me? I'm not attractive. I'm not gifted. I'm not funny. I'm not witty. Nobody would want to be around me". And they don't want to experience rejection.
I mean, all of us can recall times in our lives when we've been rejected by others. Nobody likes rejection, and so we feel like we're not worthy to reach out and we don't want to risk being rejected, and yet, I want you to think about the most meaningful relationships in your life, whether it's with your mate or friends. That relationship probably started with your being willing to take a risk, to reach out to that other person. What's the cure for a poor self-image? The Bible says there are two truths we need to grasp to help us see ourselves as God sees us.
Number one, to see ourselves from God's perspective, realizing that through Christ, we are people of value. In Ephesians 2, verse 10, the apostle Paul said, "For we are God's workmanship". That word is poema in Greek, poem. You are God's poem, "Created in Christ Jesus for good works". Everything about you, your personality, your looks, your gifts, all are the result of God's work. Secondly, to cure a poor self-image, understand that we are the recipients of God's interest and friendship. Think about this. The most important person in the universe, God himself, wants to be your friend. He wants a relationship with you. And as a demonstration of his desire for that relationship, he was willing to pay the ultimate price. Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends". Well, guess what? God was willing to lay down his life for you, when in the form of Jesus Christ, he suffered on that cross. We are the recipients of God's interest and friendship.
Now, a second reason people choose loneliness is really on the opposite end of the spectrum. It's because of pride. They don't think they need other people. You know, Paul tried to correct that misconception in the Corinthian Christians. Some of them felt like they had all the spiritual gifts and they didn't need anybody else. In 1 Corinthians 12, beginning with verse 20, Paul compared the church to the human body. Many parts to it, and all are necessary. He says in verse 20, "But now there are many members", many parts, "But one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you: or again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you. On the contrary, it is much truer that the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary". The fact is, we all need one another. None of us is sufficient in and of ourselves.
A third cause that people choose loneliness is an inability to accept other people's faults. An inability to accept other people's faults. And many of us are that way. Other people just bug us to death, so we say, "I'm not going to get close to anybody". Well, we need to remember what Paul said in Romans 3:23. "All of us have sinned". We've all fallen short of the glory of God, and we've fallen short in the expectations that other people have of us as well.
Fourth reasons some people choose to be lonely is really selfishness. Have you ever heard people say, "Well, I'm just too busy for any relationships right now. I've just got so many things going on in my life, I really don't have time for friends". Busyness is a euphemism for selfish. I'm so caught up in my own world that I really don't feel like I can spend time with other people. You know, selflessness is a price we pay for friendship. When we think we're too busy or have too much going on in our lives to help somebody else and to be a friend, we need to remember the ultimate example of selflessness. It's found in Philippians 2:3-4. Paul said, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each one of you regard another as more important than himself. Don't merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others".
Now, a fifth reason for loneliness is an unwillingness to forgive other people. Friendships can be painful at times. We can all recall times when a friend disappointed us. Unfortunately, some people never recover from those disappointments, and so their unwillingness to forgive causes them to go through life alone. We have to be willing to forgive, if we're going to maintain friendships. You know, Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times". All times includes when your friend is having a bad day. We have to be willing to forgive.
Finally, some people choose loneliness because of a failure to understand the value of companionship. They don't understand how valuable it is. Richard Hessler, PhD, said, "Regardless of health problems, people who had formal social networks were more likely to remain independent and survive". In his landmark study of the physical and social changes in the aging process, the professor found that the four most important factors that determined whether a person lived or died were age, sex, health, and formal social networks, with the latter being the foremost.
Think of that. Of the factors that determine how long you live, age, sex, health, and being a part of a social network, the last is the most important. That's what God's word says. As we're going to see in just a moment, though, longevity of life is not the only benefit of companionship. God has designed companionship as a way to ensure our emotional and spiritual fulfillment in life. What are the advantages of companionship that most people miss? Turn over to Ecclesiastes chapter four. Ecclesiastes chapter four. You know, Solomon had it all, money, wealth, power, but one thing he lacked was companionship. Solomon illustrates four reasons, four values of companionship. First of all, he says companionship offers us assistance in times of crisis. Look at verse 10. "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".
When you're going through life with a companion or a group of friends, if you fall into temptation, if you fall into despair or to depression, chances are, the other person isn't going through that at the same time. They're able to lift you up, and that's why we need to go through life in the companionship of other people. Not only that, secondly, companionship offers support when we feel alone. Look at verse 11. "Furthermore, if two lie down together, they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone"? What he's talking about is those cold times of life that you experience. All of us experience them. Maybe the move to a new city, or the beginning of a new job, or the death of a loved one. During those cold moments of life, you need a companion to provide warmth. Thirdly, companionship offers us protection when we are under siege.
Look at verse 12. "And if one can overpower him, one who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart". We all have circumstances that conspire against us. We have an enemy who's out to destroy us, and listen to me. One thing I've discovered as a pastor for 40 years, one of Satan's favorite tactics in your life is to isolate you from other people, and once he gets you alone, separated from the church, separated from your family members, once he gets you alone, I mean, you're spiritual roadkill before you know it. And that's why we need other people. They provide protection when we're under siege.
Number four, companionship offers accountability when we are prone to wander from the faith. Accountability when we are prone to wander from the faith. I cannot tell you the number of Christian leaders I have known through the years, they didn't fall suddenly into immorality or disbelief. It was a long process that most people didn't see. See, that's how spiritual defection and sin occurs. There's a gradual erosion in our life, a little compromise here and there. That's what happened to Solomon. 1 kings 11:4 records his downfall. "For it came about when Solomon was old that his wives turned his heart away from other Gods: and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been".
You know the tragedy of Solomon's life? There was nobody to call his hand on those small defections that were taking place in his faith. Do you have somebody like that in your life? Somebody who loves you enough, who's concerned about you enough, that they're willing to tell you the truth? That's what companionship does. It offers us accountability when we're prone to wander. You say, "Well, pastor, you've convinced me. I know I need friends, I need companions. Where do I go to find those kind of friends who'll give me assistance and encouragement and provide accountability? Where do you go"?
Well, the Bible says God has created three realms to satisfy our need for companionship, and in the final few minutes we have, let me just mention the three realms of relationships that come from God. First of all, marriage. Marriage. God's plan is for us to find companionship in marriage. Genesis 2:18, remember after God finished his crowning work of creating man, God said, Genesis 2:18, "It is not good for the man to be alone: I will make him a helper suitable for him". Opposite him, to complement him. But marriage is not the only place to find companionship. In fact, if you're depending on your mate to provide every need for companionship you have, you're placing a burden on them they cannot meet, and your marriage can't survive.
God wants you to have friends as well as a mate, and that leads to that second realm of relationship, friendships. Again, Proverbs 17:17. "A friend loves at all times". You know, there are four different levels of friendship that might help you understand God's plan for your life. You know, there're what we call acquaintances. These are people you don't know their name and probably will never have any relationship with. Acquaintances.
Secondly, these are casual friends. Casual friends. These are people that you know on a first-name basis. You may or may not socialize with, but usually, your conversations are very superficial. The weather or sports, and so forth. Those friendships may last only months or may last a lifetime.
Thirdly, there are close friends. Now, these are people who have a mutual agreement on things like spiritual issues, politics, so forth. That number is anywhere from five to 25 people, people who are considered to be close friends. But finally, there are intimate friends. Usually people only have anywhere from one, no more than five intimate friends. These are friendships that last a lifetime. These are friendships that span geographical boundaries. Even if you move away from one another, and are separated for a period of time, when you're with that person, it's just like you pick up where you left off. These are the people that you are most likely to call in times of a crisis in your life. Intimate friends.
And God's plan is for us to have friends at all levels. The trouble is when you expect, you know, a casual friend to be an intimate friend and they're not, but God's plan is to have all those levels of friendships. And that leads to a third realm of relationship, and that is the church. The church. You know, what's interesting about the church is you find all four levels of friendship right there in the church. Acquaintances, people you don't know. You don't even know their name. People you know on a first-name basis. People you feel comfortable talking to and share agreement about spiritual issues. And then your intimate friends as well.
But what's interesting is, even though you have all four levels in the church, collectively, those four groups form a power that help keep you grounded spiritually as well as emotionally. There is power in being connected to a body of believers. Coming together as a church is absolutely vital to our own spiritual health. It's not optional, and that's why the writer of Hebrews said in Hebrews 10:24-25, "Let us consider how how can we stimulate, motivate one another to love and good deeds, by not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another: all the more as you see the day drawing near".
The writer of Hebrews is saying the reason we're not to forsake coming to church and assembling together, the reason we come to church is not to satisfy some legalistic, cold, sterile requirement. It's to meet the need we have to encourage one another and motivate one another to faith and to good deeds. When you isolate, separate a Christian from other believers, that Christian's faith can grow cold very, very quickly, but it's when we're in the presence of other believers, worshiping, being instructed in God's word, praying together, that's what continues to stimulate us to love and to good deeds. We need one another. I was reading this week the words of the French existentialist jean-Paul sartre. Sartre said, "Hell is other people". How's that for cynical? "Hell is other people".
Yes, other people can be a nuisance. They can be annoying, but I'm here to tell you this morning, what real hell is is loneliness. In fact, that's going to be the final state of those who die without Christ. They're not just going to be separated from God. They're going to be separated from other people. Yes, there'll be billions of people in hell, Jesus said. If you go to hell, there'll be a mass of people with you there. The only thing is, you won't know it, because it's a place of utter darkness, and you'll spend eternity not just separated from God, but from other people as well, where there's weeping, wailing, and the gnashing of teeth. Hell is loneliness. But God's cornerstone plan for most of us is companionship, so that we can experience the emotional and spiritual fulfillment that God desires for each one of us.