Despite the modern convenience of electronic communication and the popularity of social networking sites, it seems many people today have difficulty getting past surface level and developing lasting friendships. Many admit they are lonely and don’t feel connected, describing themselves as relationally incomplete.
Many people also seem to lack a sense of community – having somewhere they feel they belong to; where they can interact with others face to face.
Are we losing the skills needed to develop strong close relationships that last the test of time? The truth is: we can’t achieve a whole lot on our own – we need to join with others in every area of life.
When difficulties arise within a partnership it may seem easier to walk away than to stick with it and work through the problems. Our culture seems to encourage walking away from difficulties.
- It is easier to walk away from a friendship when you are offended.
- It is easy to just walk away from a church when you don’t like something
- It can feel easier to walk away form a marriage that is in crisis.
Maybe we don’t fully understand or value the long term benefits of lifelong partnerships – ones built on mutual principles, character and trust. Learning the keys to sticking together can unlock great potential.
Philippians 2:25–30 (NKJV) Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;
At a time when Paul was imprisoned, unwell and unsure of his own future survival, he chose Epaphraditus to deliver his letter to the Philippians because of the strong relationship they had built over time. Paul needed someone proven, reliable and trustworthy – someone he knew would get the job done. Paul had helped Epaphroditus recover from serious illness, trained him, and over time a strong bond of respect and trust had grown between them.
Paul describes Epaphroditus as his:
- fellow worker
- fellow soldier
Here we have a model for success for relationships in many areas, including family, friendships, career endeavours, church involvement and ministry. Here we see a relationship that goes far deeper than just surface level, with various layers built of commitment into it over time.
A Brother: speaks of a family bond, denoting closeness and common attributes, commitment, mutual protection, strength, a common lineage and heritage
The story of David and Jonathan comes to mind. These two had a brotherly bond, and made a strong and lasting pact together, despite the fact that Jonathan’s father wanted to kill David and also David was set to take the throne that could have been Jonathan’s. (1 Sam 18)
A Fellow Worker: represents more than lip-service – it speaks of action and productivity – someone who will roll up their sleeves and help to get the job done. Regarding church, it denotes those who get involved in helping out rather than just talking about what needs to be done. There’s always plenty to do, but not everyone wants to do the work.
Matt 9:37-38 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. 38 “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest. (NKJ)
A Soldier: the fighter. There will be times in relationships when you will need to contend for them – not with the other party, but to keep the relationship moving forward. This applies to friendships, marriages, families and at church. This seems to be an aspect we’ve forgotten. In the heat of battle, it can seem easier to bail out rather than persisting until problems have been overcome. Like soldiers, we need to pursue victory!
To be successful we need to link up with others. Paul knew this. He had very little in prison, but one thing he had was his partnership with Epaphroditus – more than a surface level friendship; a relationship with depth, built on layers of strength.
Invest in your relationships and you will reap the benefits. As you become the friend others need they will be more likely to be there for you in your time of need.