“From the very beginning God decided that those who came to him – and all along he knew who would – should become like his Son…” Romans 8:29 (LB)

For many of you who attend River Pointe, you just came off of the {LOVE SEX} series. If you do not attend RPC or missed one of the sermons, I encourage you to take some time to watch or listen to them. After spending three weeks talking and hearing about relationships, dating, love, and sex I wanted to discuss an important aspect to relationships: growth. In both our personal relationships and spiritual relationship with God we are seeking growth. We are (or should be) seeking continual change. We are unfinished products. Our redemption is finished but our need for growth is not.

I want to start this week by asking the question, “How do you grow spiritually?” But more than that, “How do we help each other grow?”

Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV) says to “encourage each other and build each other up.”

So how do we do that? The Bible indicates many ways but I will try to reduce it down to a few that encompass some of the ways we help each other grow.

The first way we can help each other grow is by affirming each other’s worth. Everybody is looking for affirmation. It is one of our basic fundamental relational needs. When you and I affirm other people, we’re doing something incredible. We are showing love. We’re ministering like Jesus ministered. He affirmed people as he ministered and he made a difference in the world. We’re doing God’s work in the world. We’re representing God. If you haven’t figured this out yet, God is an incredibly affirming and loving Father. We are showing the world a little bit more about what God is like.

It is a learned process and it may be unnatural to you. Here are three ways we can affirm others: with acceptance, with attention, and with appreciation.

“Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you…” Rom. 15:7 (NIV)

There are a couple of things in our culture that make it hard to accept others. (1) We live in a put down world that teaches us to compare everything and rate everything - talent, income, abilities, etc. So it comes more naturally for us to put others down. (2) We have a tendency to take our strengths and project them on others weaknesses. So the question is: how do you tell when you’ve accepted someone? Here’s one of the tests: you stop insisting that they be just like you. You realize and rejoice in the fact that they’re different. The truth of the matter is the world would be a boring place if everybody was just like you. So God made us all in different kinds of ways, to do all different kinds of things, so everything about Him is expressed effectively.

The goal of a small group, family, or any group is not to mold people into your image. God made us all to be unique, to help people to discover who God made them to be, to help people to recognize, and to affirm their uniqueness. I don’t when the last time you looked at somebody and said, “You know what I’ve noticed? You’re good at this!” It’s easy to look at somebody and say “you’re bad at that”. That’s lazy. Anyone can notice that. But when was the last time you put a little energy and effort into a relationship where you could look at somebody and said, “You know, you’re really good at that.” You don’t know the difference that will make in that person’s life.

The second way we can affirm each other is with attention. “Give special attention to those who are in the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10 (NCV)

Attention takes more time than acceptance. You can accept someone but still ignore them. Here’s the general principle, whatever you pay attention to is going to grow. If I pay attention to the garden, it’s going to grow. If I pay attention to my kids, they’re going to grow. If I pay attention to my marriage, it’s going to grow and get better. If I pay attention to my work, it’s going to get better.

The greatest gift of love is focused attention. People want to know that their thoughts matter, their lives matter. Whatever gets your focused attention is what you value and others want to know if you value them.

Now a lot of guys, we just don’t get this. I can’t tell you how many men I’ve talked to who said, “I don’t understand it. I provide everything my family needs. I give my wife everything she needs. I provide for all of my kid’s needs. What more do they want?” They want you. They want you! They want your time. They want your attention. They want your focus. They want to know that you think they matter. They need time with you and nothing can compensate for time. Kids don’t need things. They need parents. They need time and marriages need time and friendships need time.

So let me ask you. Who do you tend to overlook? It’s often the people closest to you. Who is the person in your life all the time, but you just don’t see them because you’re too busy doing something else? Who do you tend to overlook?

Here’s what I want you to do this week: I want you to look for opportunities to show attention to the people in your life, to pay attention. This is the greatest gift of love that you can give them. And don’t just wait for it to happen, make opportunities to show attention. And then I want you to schedule time with your small group and family this week because you need both of them in your life to grow. They are essential to our growth because we need acceptance and attention.

And the last way we can affirm each other is with appreciation. “Brothers and sisters…appreciate those who work hard among you, who lead you in the Lord and teach you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:13 (NCV)

Appreciation means to affirm value. Every time you appreciate somebody, you are affirming their value to you and to others. When you appreciate your wife, you affirm her value. When you appreciate your friend, you affirm their value. When you appreciate your small group, you affirm its value to you. Everything you appreciate indicates you recognize its value.Next week we will continue the discussion of how we help each other grow by examining the need for prayer.


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