Imagine if you could moved today!  No stress from work.   No stress from current relationships.  A brand new start!  Here is the problem: you are still you.  The ‘you’ here will be the ‘you’ there.  What relationships do is reveal who we really are on the inside.  The current relationships you are in [work, community, marriage, friends, church, etc.] are revealing who you really are.  AND, if you move, you will have the same experience there.

Why are relationships important? Because you were created to be in relationship. The better you are at being in relationships, the better life is for you. And everyone in relationship with you is much better off.

7 Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits… 27 You are Christ’s body – that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. MSG 1 Corinthians 12:7, 27

What many people don’t realize, relationships reveal who you really are on the inside. Show me how you get along with others and I can tell you about your heart. The condition of your relationships are a reflection of their true spiritual condition. That’s why Jesus’ brother wrote this, 17 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. 18 You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. MSG James 3:17-18

To be holy means you are able to be in long term, healthy, life giving relationships with people. The reverse is true too. If you struggle to be in long term, healthy, life giving relationships, it might be because you have a spiritual heart problem.

Let’s to do a test. Think about your relationships: friends, community, immediate family, extended family, your marriage, in general, what are your relationships like? Your answer might be telling you something about your true spiritual condition. What’s in your heart comes out, you can’t hide it.

Here is an example. If you are deeply hurt, you will walk through this life and you will hurt others. You won’t be able to stop it. Your hurt, something is missing inside you. So every relationship you enter into you either protect yourself or you expect something from them. If you protect yourself, you don’t allow people to know you and this leads to you hurting others. If you expect too much from others, you tell them they don’t meet your expectations and you end up hurting others.

If you are selfish inside, your marriage will reveal it. You will refuse to serve your spouse to bring out the best in them and you will make every excuse as to why you won’t or can’t serve them. What we don’t want to admit is that the true spiritual condition is called, selfish.

If you are filled with pride, your mouth will reveal it, you will be very critical of others. You don’t see it because you never see pride but everyone around you will always feel the oppression of being around you.

If your heart is healed and full of life, you will be able to build others up. You don’t enter relationships hurt and expecting others to give you something. You can serve your spouse even when they don’t meet your expectations because you aren’t selfish. People want to be around you because you’re humble and not filled with pride.

Listen, the true condition of your heart shows up in your relationships. You can’t hide this stuff. Do you see what is happening? If you struggle with relationships, I want to tell you what people aren’t telling you. “It’s painful to be in a relationship with you.” Over time, your relationships will get fewer and fewer and you might conclude, ‘What’s wrong with everyone? Maybe I need a new marriage, a new church, a new place to work, a new place to live, a new football team.’

Listen to what Jesus said about this. 11 Jesus said, “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. …if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” MSG Matthew 19:11-12 What’s Jesus saying? Some people can’t handle the maturity that marriage demands. They are immature, get married and experience a train wreck. Why? Because they are immature and selfish and refuse to do the heart work and change. The true condition of your heart shows up in your relationships. You can’t hide this stuff.

So what makes a relationship great? Jesus taught, 31 Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! 32 If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. MSG Luke 6:31-32

What makes relationships great is when you focus on others. That’s it. You think about what you want, then grab the initiative to do that for them. The reason we struggle with this is because of our junk. Our junk could be control issues, our hurt, us being the victim, we are selfish, prideful, whatever. We struggle to focus on others because we are too wrapped up in our junk. When we focus on our junk we can’t focus on others, we can’t grab the initiative to serve others. What is happening? The true condition of our heart is showing up in your relationships. And regardless how often we go to church and read our Bibles, our relationship is revealing that we have a lot of work to do in our hearts. We may not be as holy as we thought. And, we might be holier than we thought.

Today I want to give you 5 principles about how to focus on others but only talk about 1 of them.

The Big Picture Principle: the entire population of the world, with one minor exception, is composed of others. This comes as a complete shock to some people. They know other people are around them but they everyone is there to serve them.

The Learning Principle: each person we meet has the potential to teach us something. Maybe the reason you can’t connect with people is because you have decided you are so great, that others have no ability to teach you anything.

The Charisma Principle: people are interested in people who are interested in them. “You can make more friends in 2 months by becoming interested in other people than you can in 2 years trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

The Number 10 Principle: believing the best in people, brings out the best in people. This is true about your spouse, your employees, everyone at church.

The Exchange Principle: instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place. The reason you might struggle to put yourself in their place is because of your junk. You might have hurt, might be a victim, and you think ‘others owe you.’ Or you are filled with pride and others simply bother you. As you walk through life, it comes naturally for you to put others in their place. You argue, you fight, you gossip, you allow your insecurities to come out.

Jesus told a parable about this. 23 The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.   25 He couldn’t pay, so the king ordered that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. 26 But the man fell down before the king and begged him, ‘Oh, sir, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then the king was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. 29 His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt could be paid in full.

31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him what had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny.

35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters in your heart.”NLT Matthew 18:23-35

What happened in this story? The true condition of this man’s heart came out. Instead of grabbing the initiative to serve, he is choking the life out of someone.

Let me ask you, how are you living? Do you have long term, healthy, life giving relationships? Do you struggle to have great relationships? Maybe the reason you can’t connect with others is because you have junk in your heart and you are busy choking the life out of others. It leaves you wondering, why can’t I connect with people?   Do you think to yourself… I need a new ‘marriage’ ‘job’ ‘church’ ‘sports team’ etc…

Are you single? Want to take your relationships deeper? Grab the initiative.

Are you dating? Watch the person you are dating. Are they grabbing the initiative to serve you?

Are you married? How are you at grabbing the initiative for your spouse or are you just miserable because they don’t add up?

Are you a parent? How are you at grabbing the initiative with your kids?

Are you at work? Do you connect with your employees or if given the chance, would they all leave? Do you connect with those you work with? This principle applies. It doesn’t mean you lower your standards, it means you go out of your way to think, “If I was in their place, what would I need?”

The true condition of your heart will show up in your relationships. You can’t hide it.