Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bible Study for Life - Unlocking Your Best Relationships Part 1

This is the first installment of a four part series written for the Baptist Standard. Enjoy!

We begin a new thematic unit this week in the Bible Studies for Life series. Unlocking Your Best Relationships is a selection of scriptures to help learners discover biblical keys to great relationships of all types – spouses, parents-children, siblings, friends, church members, and so on. The four sessions will focus as follows:

Week of Lesson Title and Focal Passage

May 4 Appreciate
Philippians 2:19-22,25-30; 4:15-18

May 11 Communicate
Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 2 Samuel 14:23-24,28-33; Proverbs 4:3-6

May 18 Be Trustworthy
1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:4-7; 20:10-13,16-17

May 25 Be Ready to Forgive
Ephesians 4:22-32; Philemon 8-10,15-18

Let’s dive into the material for May 4, 2008.

Title: Appreciate - Strengthening Friendships in Christ)

Bible Passages:
Background Passages: Philippians 2:19-30; 4:15-20
Focal Passages: Philippians 2:19-22,25-30; 4:15-18
Biblical Truth:
By showing appreciation for others, we give evidence of building strong relationships with them.

Today’s scripture passages offer three practical ways you can build strong relationships by appreciating others.

1. Show Confidence in Another’s Character (Phil. 2:19-22)

Paul wanted to be with the Philippians, but he was writing this letter from prison and unable to go to be with them. So, he hoped to send Timothy to them, because he knew Timothy would be able to care for them and guide them. In other words, Paul had complete confidence in Timothy’s ability to shepherd the church in Philippi.

Timothy’s character was proven. Paul regarded him as a son because of his work in the gospel. So imagine how special and trusted Timothy must have felt when Paul showed this confidence in his character? Timothy had shows the highest devotion to Jesus by serving others unselfishly and Paul’s affection for Timothy was displayed by expressing this desire to send him in his own place to a congregation for which he cared very much.

Valuing Timothy as a servant to Jesus also served to strengthen the church. Paul edified Timothy in a way that empowered Timothy to greater capacity for leadership, and in effect Paul duplicated his efforts as a shepherd to the churches by releasing this young leader and blessing him.

Application Ideas:

· Ask your learners who in their lives need to know they are trusted? Who can your learners empower by expressing their confidence in them?

· How might your pastor or ministry staff be empowered by your expression of trust in their leadership? Ministers and church leaders usually hear a lot of negative, so how could your class creatively give a blessing to your church staff and volunteers?

2. Care About Another’s Well-Being (Phil. 2:25-30)

In this section Paul makes clear that he is sending Epaphroditus, who would actually serve in Paul’s place. The plan was that Paul would follow later. The beauty of relationship building that we can observe is that the church at Philippi was distressed that Epaphroditus had been critically ill. Paul was eager to send him so that the church could see that Epapharoditus was well and had seen God’s mercy in his own life.

It is possible that Paul was showing the congregation that their care, concern, and prayer served as a part of the healing which Epaphroditus experienced. No doubt this was mercy from God, as Paul makes clear. However, by illustration, we can learn that believes are to take steps to help and care for those who serve the Lord.

By caring about another’s well-being we affirm their importance to us, and in doing that we build stronger relationships. Churches are well-known for the “casserole brigade” that mobilizes when death or illness beset a family. But care happens in thousands of other ways, and none of them are “small” things – especially in the eyes of the recipient of that care.

Application Ideas:
• Discuss the “system” of care in your Bible study class. Does you group do a good job of caring for one another? How can you improve?

• Take a moment to write notes or cards to absent class members – during the lesson! This illustrates how important care of this kind is if you incorporate it into the lesson time.

3. Express Gratitude for Another’s Contribution (Phil. 4:15-18)

Paul commended the Philippian believers for their faithful support of him. They were the only church who, in the beginning of his work, showed him financial help. Gratitude is the fruit of a thankful heart, and not only that, expressing gratitude strengthens relationships.

Verses 15-18 are a continuation of the thank you note that Paul began in 4.10. He goes to great lengths here to discuss very openly his heartfelt thanks for their generosity. His words equate their support of his work with an offering to God (4.18), and although we can only imagine what that offering is, Paul is clearly thankful in the deepest way possible.

Expressing appreciation for others’ kind actions strengthens the bond of relationships. Imagine a husband who never thanks a wife for a meal, her work outside the home, for her affections, and for making herself beautiful for him. Or imagine a wife who never thanks a husband for care, his affections, for his work outside the home, and so forth. Clearly, that relationship is not going to deepen over time because the one fails to appreciate the other. Soon enough, one will stop doing the things that are “unappreciated” and the relationship will deteriorate.

Application Ideas:
· Ask your learners to name people for whom they are grateful and encourage them to express that thanks this coming week by way of a phone call, letter, or small gift or act of service.

· Consider using putting this quote on display during your group time: "In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), German Lutheran pastor, theologian andparticipant in the German resistance movement against Nazism

· If you’re dealing with married folk, let them know that saying “thank you” is also a romantic act.

· Learn to say thank you in 101 different languages by following this link: http://www.romancetracker.com/how-to-say-thank-you-in-101-different-languages/

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