Skip Heitzig - #relationshipgoals
Father in heaven, we pause and we ask that your Holy Spirit would train us up, teach us, inspire us. As we read the honest words of a man going through a difficult period in his life, understanding the value of relationships, I believe that there are some who have gone through some difficult times right here right now and are learning the same value that comes by solid, honest, intimate human relationships. Father, some of us have excelled in our relationship vertically, with you. The trouble is in the horizontal realm. So Lord, help us to get a grasp, to humble ourselves, to be your people, your representatives, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Well, you know, sometimes life can be scary. And it can be more frightening when you feel like you're alone. There was a little boy who was afraid of the dark. He didn't want to go outside when it was dark. But his mom told her son to go out the back porch and get the broom and bring it in. He said, I can't go! It's dark outside. She said, sweetheart, you'll be fine. The broom's right on the back porch. And besides that, Jesus will be there to protect you. And he said, really? Jesus is on the back porch? He said, well, he's everywhere, son, and he's always there to help you. So this little boy cracked the door open a couple inches and said, hey Jesus, if you're out there, could you just hand me the broom?
Most of us understand the value of having somebody with us. That our presence isn't solitary, but integrated with another person. We understand the value of that. We have a saying in our own culture that friendship doubles your joys and divides your sorrows. Did you know that the ancient Jewish people had a number of such sayings, stories? Jewish literature is filled with the stories and the axioms of the value of human friendship.
For example, a Jewish saying said, a man who has no friends is like a left hand bereft of a right hand. There is even a Jewish story, a legend, that said a man fell asleep for 70 years. You think your teenagers sleep long. 70 years, it's a legend. He woke up. He didn't know anybody after 70 years. And so he said, give me companionship, or give me death. So all of these stories filled Jewish literature. But here we come to a book in the Bible, the Book of Ecclesiastes, which gives us the words of scripture on this topic. The words of Solomon, the King of Jerusalem, the son of David, about relationships.
Now just a word about the book itself, the Book of Ecclesiastes. The Book of Ecclesiastes is essentially King Solomon's sermon on the meaning of life. Solomon, it seems, came to a point in his own life where he was frustrated with life. He questioned life. He starts readdressing the big questions of our existence, why am I here? What is the purpose of life? Where am I going when it's all done? Some think it was a mid-life crisis. I don't know. It was a crisis nonetheless, and he has a period of frustration where he makes observations, places experiences around his life, but gives to us incredible wisdom that is inspired by God in this book.
Now there is a word that is more common in the Book of Ecclesiastes than any other book. Do you know what the word is? Vanity. It's used 35 times by Solomon in this book. Vanity. Vanity. All is vanity. And the word "vanity" means it's empty, it's meaningless. Or it's short lived. It's like a vapor. Soap bubbles. They go whew and then pop. They're gone. And here in this section, Solomon talks about the vanity of selfish living. The vanity, the emptiness, the meaninglessness of all of life focused on one's self. And he begins by an observation of a man who lives a solitary life, and then he expands it to the wisdom of having people around you, companionship.
So we're going to begin in verse 7 of chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes. Solomon writes, then I returned, and I saw vanity, there's that word, under the sun. There is one alone, without companion. He has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all of his labors, nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, for whom do I toil and deprive myself of good? This is also vanity and a grave misfortune. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Now we are in a series. We call it "hashtag." And we've been looking at different hashtags in modern social media that people use to express something or desire something. And then we're bringing the scripture to bear on those observations or those yearnings. And one of the hashtags is this one, relationship goals. And relationship goals, whether it's on Twitter or Instagram, is often used by people to say, I want that aspect of that couple's relationship in my own life. Or, I want to be like that couple. That's the hashtag.
As we listen to this message, as we go through the text itself, I want you to think on a few different levels. I want you to think about your own friendships and evaluate whether you're the kind of a person who enjoys lots of friends, or are you the kind of a person who likes to put walls up. You're very uncertain about giving your time away, your heart away, your love away, your commitment away. You've been hurt in the past, so you are good at erecting high walls to keep yourself safe. A human tendency.
Another level you should think on is your relatives, your family, your own family. Because one of the observations that I have made is that all families are dysfunctional. And I say that because you might say, well, don't talk about my family. I have a dysfunctional family. I don't know one that's not. But unfortunately, the tension that exists in every family isn't dealt with the same in every family. And unfortunately, some of the tensions in families are taken to the grave, without resolution. I've stood in too many emergency rooms where parents or children have cried that desperate cry of, I wish I would have had that last conversation to bring resolution, to extend forgiveness, and bring this to a close.
I also want you to think on the level of husband and wife, if you're married. Two are better than one. And then, finally, I want you to think on the level of just the body of Christ. How many Christian acquaintances do you have? So we're going to look at these verses once again, and we're going to comb through them, and I'm going to give you, Solomon is going to give you, five goals, five relationship goals.
First of all, community. That's the first one, community. Verse 7. Then I returned, Solomon writes. Then I returned, and I saw vanity, meaninglessness, emptiness, under the sun. There is one alone without a companion. He has neither son nor brother, yet there is no end to all of his labors, nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, for whom do I toil and deprive myself of good? This also is vanity and a grave misfortune.
King Solomon noticed a man. This was a solitary man, and this was a hard working, diligent laborer. And so it would seem that King Solomon left his palace and went and had a conversation with this solitary man. And when he did, he discovered that this guy was a loner. He had no relatives. He had no partner in the business. He's laboring, he's working all alone. And he seemingly doesn't want any help. Why? Well, it would seem that he wants all of the profits from his hard working business all for himself. Much like the man in the New Testament and the Gospel of Luke that Jesus tells the story of. There was a man who had a very productive field, and he had so many crops he didn't know what to do with them. And so he says, I'll tear my barns down, and I'll build bigger barns.
And then the man says to himself, he just talks to himself. He has nobody else around him. And he says, take your ease. Kick back. Eat, drink, and be merry. Now, Solomon looks at this and says, this is vanity. For two reasons. Number one, this guy is so busy he can't enjoy the fruit of his labor. And number two, when he dies, he has nobody to pass it on to. He's not giving it to the next generation. So that's verse 7 and 8. Immediately, in verse 9, he turns a corner. He has gone from the observation of an isolated man now to the integration or the illustration of an integrated man, somebody who weaves his life with other people. And notice what he writes in verse 9. Two are better than one.
I wonder how many of us believe that. I think theoretically we do. But on a practical level, two are better than one. You know why I say that? Is because two are harder than one. Am I right? Two are harder than one. Because when you have two people, you have two opinions. You have two philosophies of life. You have two different approaches, two different ways of doing things. When you're alone, you make your own decisions. You set your own timetable. You have nobody to be accountable to except you. That's easy.
Before I was married, I was the most wonderful person on earth. I thought, life is good! I'm a good guy! Because I was just pleasing myself. When you bring another person into your life for a lifetime, there are fireworks. Two people living close together brings a level of friction. So if you're married, you have now two different definitions of what "clean" means. Oh, that's clean. I always put my socks on the floor right there. That's the place they go.
I was a slob married to a clean freak. I should say a clean enthusiast. She's just a clean enthusiast, but for the better, because she helped me out immensely, and she still does. There's two different ways to replace toilet paper. Do you replace it so it goes over or under? And arguments develop over this in relationships.
You have two different philosophies of disciplining a child that has to be worked out. Two ways of watching television. I don't like to watch one thing for a long time. I like to watch all of the channels simultaneously, just for a second or two. It just gives me an understanding of what's going on in the world.
So it's harder. But two are better than one. Why is that? Why are two better than one? Two are better than one because you were designed that way. Your manufacturer designed you and I to be social people. He designed us for community. One of the first statements God ever made in Genesis, it's not good that man should be alone. I've always liked that, because it's the first time in the Bible God said something wasn't good.
When God made something in creation, he'd look at it and go, that's good! Make something else, that's good. That's good. That's good, until he got to man. And he said, not good. Not good that man should be alone. I'm going to make a helper that is comparable to him. So there are activities in life that will isolate you. There are other activities that will integrate you.
And sure, I know, we all need breathing room. We all need to air out our souls. We all need to be personally, privately recharged. We need space. Some people are more introverted. I know all that. But I also know the balance of all that is community.
Proverbs 27, Solomon writes, as iron sharpens iron. You've heard that phrase. It's very used. Iron sharpens iron. So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
I read the remarks of a psychiatrist who treated depression for 30 years in his patients, Dr. Leonard Kamer is his name. He said, the human being is the only species that cannot survive alone. He said the human being needs another human being for survival.
There's plenty of scientific evidence about the value of community, relationships. It leads to a healthy life, a longer life. You'll have a stronger immune system. You are less likely to suffer depression, or anxiety, or other types of mental illness. It will help lower stress levels. You say, well, with me, it raises stress levels. But healthy community will lower stress levels. So community is the first relationship goal.
The second one, given to us by Solomon here, is productivity. Look at verse 9 and notice the whole statement, the words together. Two are better than one because, here's the reason why two are better than one, one of them. Because they have a good reward for their labor. Now the idea here is simply increased revenue, increased revenue. You will get more done if the one man show turns into a two man show. Two are better than one.
Even though the profits may be divided, the productivity will go higher, and the profits will increase. Plus add to that the mutual encouragement that is beneficial from having somebody work next to you, alongside of you. So two are better than one.
We have an adage in our own culture, two heads are better than one. When you have two people, ideas can be shared. Problems can be worked out. You have more ideas to resolve them at the table.
I found an interesting illustration of this in a manufacturing corporation that made transistor radios. So they did this test. And this company that made transistor radios for overseas consumption, they trained people on how to make them, the assembly procedure. And they trained them two different ways to test this. They trained people in groups. So they were all taught the procedure of assembling the radio all together in a group. But then they trained some people individually, just as individual, one on one.
A week later, they brought everybody together and had them assemble radios to test if they remembered the procedure of assembly. And they made this discovery. Those who were trained together as a group recalled more the procedure and produced better quality radios than those who were trained alone. And so they concluded the group is more productive than the individual. Well, that's his point. Productivity is a goal. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.
Now that's true in the workplace. That's true in sports. One football coach said, it's easy to get good players. It's getting them to play together that's the hard part. And I think, in the church, some of us don't play well together. And we need to learn to play together. I love the concept of the body of Christ. It's His glory, His kingdom, His body. We're just little parts that should all function together for the same cause.
Now there is an example in the Bible of a one man show. His name was Moses. Moses who was the guy who wanted to put the transistor radio together by himself. So in Exodus 18, we get the story of Moses sitting before the children of Israel, it says from morning till evening, listening to their problems, counseling them, doing all the work by himself.
When he gets home that evening, his father-in-law, Jethro, is visiting. And he doesn't put his arm around his son-in-law and say, good job. I love your diligence. You're a hard worker. Because he is the guy that Solomon sees in verse 8. There is one who labors alone. And so Jethro says to Moses, the thing that you are doing is not good. You can't perform this work alone. You need 70 men, he said. Get 70 others who can bear the burden with you, and it will be more productive in the long run. So a community of people is more productive. Or let's put it this way. It's teamwork that makes the dream work. Two relationship goals, community, productivity.
Here's a third, given by Solomon. Stability, verse 10. For if they fall, if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls. He has no one to help him up. 2,000 years ago in Israel, there were no sidewalks. There were no paved roads. I bicycled to church this morning, and I was on the road thanking God for pavement, but also noticing that on some of the sidewalks, where it raises up a little higher than before, you've got to watch those, because you can get thrown.
So I made it fine. I got a wasp sting on my arm. But other than that, I made it fine. But in those days, there were uneven pathways strewn with rocks. If you've ever gone on a tour to Israel, one of the things people notice is, man, there are rocks everywhere here. And so that makes traveling a little bit difficult, a little bit precarious. You can run into a rock. You could fall down an embankment. You can break a bone. So it's nice when you walk, when you travel, to have somebody to steady you. To be in a group. Because if you fall, you have somebody to help you up and give you medical attention if need be.
Well that's also true in life. We all fall. Some of you have fallen in business. You had a great idea, you thought, but nobody bought it. Nobody bought into it. And so you lost an enormous amount of income over time, because you failed in business. Others will fail in ministry. Happens all the time. For a number of reasons. You've tried something, the Lord didn't bless it, you feel like you're a failure. Some of you have fallen spiritually or even morally.
But I'll tell you this. It's when you fall down that you understand the value of a friend. It's when you fall. It says in Galatians chapter 6 verse 1, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
When you fall down, and somebody is there to say, you blew it, but I love you, and I'm going to help you back up, and we're going to walk this road together, or as one person put it, you can always tell a real friend by the fact that when you've made a fool of yourself, he doesn't make you feel like you've done a permanent job. Isn't that good? Yep. That was bad. Uh-huh, you fell. You fell hard. But that doesn't mean you're an outcast. Let's walk together.
You see, we all need balcony people. These kind of people, people who will applaud you from the balcony. God bless you in the balcony. We need those people who are looking down at our lives, and they're cheering us on. In fact, one of the best things I ever read about relationships was from a book years ago put out by Dr. Donald Joy called Bonding. Bonding. I think the subtitle was Developing Solid Relationships or something to that.
But in the first chapter, I'll never forget the first chapter, it's called, "Who's Holding Your Trampoline?" And he describes every life like a four-sided trampoline. You need four sets of people holding you up. Because when you're bouncing up and down in life, you need a safe landing.
So Donald Joy says, you need four groups, family, relatives, friends, acquaintances. Family, that's intimate family, close family. Parents, spouse, children. That's on one side. Then you need relatives, extended family. Aunts, uncles, grandma, grandpa. Then you need friends, the lifelong collection of people who will have stood by you over a period of time. You can call them when you need to call them. Those are your friends. And fourth, you need acquaintances, work associates, people you work out with, do other activities with. But he says you need four of them. And the total number of group for a healthy emotional system is between 12 and 16 people holding your trampoline. And he said, most of them will know each other.
He goes on to say, however, a neurotic system has between 10 and 12. Less than one third of them will know each other. A psychotic emotional system, says Dr. Joy, is only four to five people.
So the point is, if you're just married with kids, and that's all you've got holding onto your trampoline, it's not enough. So my question to you is who's holding yours? Can you identify the people that should be on all four sides of that trampoline when you go up and you come down? Because the more you have, you'll take a few risks. You'll jump up in the air and maybe do a flip or two, have a little fun in life. But you've got to make sure you have people holding your trampoline, that stability. That stability. If they fall, they can pick him up.
So we have three goals, community, productivity, stability. There's a fourth relationship goal, intimacy. Verse 11. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one be warm alone? Answer that question. How can one be warm alone? What would you say to that? More blankets?
Goose down comforter? Electric blanket? OK, fine. But we're dealing with the days way before electric blankets and goose down comforters. And in the ancient days, when people would travel from place to place, they would travel in groups. And at night, they would sleep out in the open. The inns in those days were not a Holiday. And they were not a Comfort. It was open air, usually. And people would sleep together by huddling together, because it was all about 98.6, man. Right? It's all about body temperature. You warm each other.
So people would huddle together in a group when they would sleep, and they would put a blanket or two over them. If you travel alone, it means you have to carry more blankets. So your load, your personal load, is increased, because you're carrying more stuff to keep yourself warm.
There's a beautiful principle in that. Life becomes a heavy load when alone you walk the road. If you are insistent on being a loner and walking alone, your load gets heavier. Because you're just carrying the stuff to keep you warm. Now translate that into church life.
Howard Snyder wrote, the church today is suffering a fellowship crisis. One seldom finds in the institutionalized church today the winsome intimacy among people where masks are dropped, honesty prevails, and there is a sense of communication and community beyond the human. What he calls "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit."
In other words, and he writes about this in that book that I just quoted, he said, people come to church with the mask. They look content outwardly. He said, but inwardly, they're crying out for somebody to love them just for who they are.
Now think of this in terms of a marriage. How can one be warm alone? Right? Let me ask you a question, you married couples. When you're angry, do you snuggle? Are you kidding? Get the extra blanket, right? You put your toe over there, and it's like, get your toe out of there. It's tough to snuggle a bobcat.
And that is why, if there are issues that separate you, so that you're not snuggling, you've got to resolve them every day. Do you know that? Before the sun goes down. Ephesians 4, Paul says, don't let the sun go down on your what? On your wrath, on your anger. That is, daily, determine to make the connection that would bring resolution to the anger so that the anger doesn't lead to separation. There's already a little bit of that. Resolve that. That's intimacy.
I'll give you a fifth, and we'll close. Security. Security is the fifth relationship goal. Community, productivity, stability, intimacy, and now security. Verse 12. The one may be overpowered by another. Two can withstand him. That's security. And a threefold court is not quickly broken.
2,000 years ago, 3,000 years ago, in the ancient Middle East, people didn't travel alone. Typically, they would travel with a group. And one of the reasons wasn't just body temperature at night, but this, security during the day. Jesus told a story. He said a man, a man, a single man, went from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves who beat him and stripped him of his clothes. That's the parable of the Good Samaritan.
And because that was a real danger, people would travel in groups because of the security issue, to overcome an attacker. It's a lot easier when you've got somebody with you to overcome an attacker. Do we have an enemy? Do we have an attacker? He's called the devil. Satan. And Peter says he walks around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Having a friend or a companion can help us protect our back, even when we're oblivious.
You know, I tell you what. It's just nice to have a friend come by and say, Skip, I think this is a spiritual attack. Oh, OK. I mean, that helps me to frame it from an outside friend's perspective. Or for somebody to come along and say, boy, you know, you need to watch yourself in this area. I think you might be weak in this area.
Now sometimes, an attacker isn't as formidable as the devil. It's just another person who gossips, tells lies, spreads rumors about you. So here's the principle. When there are attackers, you need solid backers. When there are attackers, you need solid backers. This is security.
I read a very sad story about Adolf Hitler, the fuehrer of Germany in World War II. And his closest associate was a guy named Albert Speer. Speer said, Hitler had no friends. He goes, if he had friends, I was probably the closest thing to a friend he had. But Speer said, Adolf Hitler repelled friendship. He just couldn't do friendship.
He said, there was this big empty hole where his heart should have been. He was an egomaniac. Everything was an amplification of his own importance. And he talked about the isolationism of Adolph Hitler. And what struck me is that here's the mentality of isolationism in a leader. It almost destroyed his whole country. Well, goodness, it almost destroyed the whole world. That kind of uncontrolled power in a self-centered person. So two are better than one. Better for well-being, better for working, better for walking, better for warmth, better for warfare.
But did you notice how Solomon closes the paragraph? Did you see that little extra sentence in verse 12? He says, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. So have you noticed this one, two, three punch that Solomon gives? He begins with one in verse 8. There is one who is alone. Then he moves to two in verse 9. Two are better than one. Then he ends with three. One, two, three.
In other words, the more friends, the better off you'll be. That's the idea. From one to two to three. But he puts it this way. A threefold cord is not quickly broken. You can look at this from an engineering point of view. If you have a single thread, and you hang a weight on it, and it can sustain the weight, if you add enough weight to it, what'll happen to the thread? It's going to snap. It's going to break.
So you get two threads next to each other, and you put that heavy weight on it, and it can hold it. But you keep adding weight to it, what's going to happen to those two threads? It's going to snap. So you add more threads. And if you're smart, you'll turn them around. You'll wind them. Right? You'll weave them. So that configuration adds incredible strength. That's an engineering principle. They built bridges based on that principle. The Golden Gate Bridge is suspended by these cables that are just little wires wrapped around each other that form this massive cable. So a three-fold cord is not quickly broken. It's Solomon's way of saying, community life is better than solitary life.
Now I often use this text at a wedding. And I use it in such a way that it takes the couples and the audience off guard. I say, you know, Solomon is saying the two are better than one. And I think you, as a young couple, would agree with me. You, groom, you, bride, would agree that you're better together than apart. Two are better than one. But I'm here to tell you that three are better than two.
And then they look at me like, what on earth are you suggesting? And before they can let their minds take it down the wrong alley, I say, this is what I am suggesting. You have a strong man and a strong woman weaving their lives together. You're not strong enough to handle what life's going to send to you. You need a third cord that is wrapped around your life, the Lord Jesus Christ at the center of your relationship. Don't push him aside. Don't push him apart. Make sure that you seek the Lord, that you look for his will, that everything you do has that third cord wrapped around your lives. Because the threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Isn't it funny how when couples get married we use the terminology they're "tying the knot"? Oh, you're tying the knot today are ya? I like to tell them, don't just tie the knot. Weave the rope, and make sure you have that third strand.
And so Father, as we have considered both the observation and the principles given to us by Solomon, we just have to thank you for this frustrating period in his life, when with these observations, he gave us the conclusion that two are better than one. And Lord, I pray for these goals in us as family members, as spouses, as friends with each other, as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, community, productivity, stability, intimacy, and finally, security. These are the benefits, Lord, of life done together. Lord, all for your glory, all for your honor, in Jesus' name. Amen.