“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 NIV.
Cultivate friends whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be.
My thoughts and comments today are about “irreplaceable influence.”
My friend, Don, told me of a conversation many years earlier when I had said to him, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” Though I do not remember saying those words, I trust that I did. I aspire for those words to accurately reflect my gratefulness to God and appreciation for my family and friends whose love and lives have made me want to be better than I would otherwise have been. Anything noteworthy is owed to others’ kindness and God’s mercy; my faults and foibles are mine alone.
There are no such “self-made men or women,” and if there were they would have little of which to boast. “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 NLT. Along the path of my life, people made a difference in who I am still becoming. People invested in my life, as well as our marriage, family, and ministry. Often selflessly and sacrificially, friends shared irreplaceable time, priceless experience, practical counsel, needed correction, and patient forgiveness. Such friends are above price, God’s gifts, for whom I realize how important they have been, and continue to be. Some people are alongside for a season of life, others for a lifetime, but all are irreplaceable in the process of God’s work in your life. As is true of all of us, I remain a work in progress.
Families provide a legacy. From most of mine, I learned how to live; from a rare few, I learned how not to live. My grandparents had much to do with shaping my earliest years. Looking back, I learned the privilege and priority of family from them and the security of being loved and willed to succeed. My parents taught me about my Christian faith by their Godly example; the consistency of their lives confirmed their words. Still today, my convictions and choices are influenced by my Mom’s songs and my Dad’s sermons. My wife has modeled caring and selflessness that challenges my desire to be more than I have been. Our children and grandchildren enrich our home and family every day by sharing our values, passions, and service to God.
Teachers contributed to who I am becoming. A fourth grade teacher taught me a love for language and learning; a Sunday School teacher invited me to know and love Jesus; a college professor changed my life through his friendship and counsel; a minister’s diligence and loyalty to the Word of God created my passion to know and share truth faithfully; friends became mentors giving Godly counsel. The example and personal availability of so many spared me from the mistakes I would have made and unwise paths I might have taken. Others’ unshakable belief gave me the courage to venture further than I would have dared without their company.
In the three congregations we have served, Church families made ministry a lifelong joy. People have been as gracious as God has been generous. Our marriage and children are blessed with the kindness of those we served, as well as those who partnered in ministry alongside us. All have made our journey more safe and satisfying than would have been otherwise, and Gayle and I are grateful to God and you.
Life apart from good and Godly friends is unimaginable. Indelible impressions formed my habits and heart. Our years have been graced by a quality of valued friendships I could never have anticipated. Now, across a lifetime of years our friendships are counted as Gayle’s and my greatest treasure. Walking without such pleasant company and invaluable encouragement is unthinkable. God planned that from the beginning.
With intentionality, cultivate people whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be and to what you are called to do. Such friends bring to mind Paul’s words, “I thank my God every time I remember you . . And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be . . filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:3-11 NIV. To a company of people, I gratefully say, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” By the grace of God, I hope to be that kind of person to others.
Today, my prayer for you is to develop friendships whose influence you find irreplaceable.