Find Your People

This is the rough draft of part 5 of Pastor Steve’s message from the series, '“The Last Arrow” from March 10, 2019. You can also watch the message here. We hope you find this helpful as you pursue your next steps in Christ.

“We were on the gym floor or senior night for the football team this fall with our son Aaron.  Each senior was expected to write a few sentences that would be read by the announcer as they recognized each student athlete.  One by one we heard each of the senior’s answers being read. Kids where thanking their coaches. They were thanking their parents.  They were recalling their favorite memories.

We are standing at center court as they announce the name, “Aaron Gill”.  And up to our left in the bleachers, a whole group of students go crazy shouting Aaron’s name. It made him smile and it made us smile.  As they are reading Aaron’s statement, he’s saying some similar things. He’s grateful for the opportunity to play football. He’s grateful to his coaches.  He’s grateful to his parents. And then the announcer gets to this part. And I’m paraphrasing Aaron’s words. “Some of my greatest memories as a senior are playing football and hanging out with my squad’.  When those two words ‘my squad’ were read, that whole section up on the bleachers and more students erupted and shouted Aaron’s name. It was a fun moment for us but more so for him.

Those two words, “my squad” were newer to us this past year.  I heard my kids using it over and over again. It’s the way teenagers refer to their closest friends.  Now depending on what generation or culture you grew up in. You might call your closest friends something else.   According to slangpedia, how about these? BFF. Cuz. Amigo. Peeps. Homeslice. Bud. Pal. Besties. Dawg. Brotato Chip.  I’m sure you have some too.

Today as we get closer to landing the plane in this series, I want to focus on this idea of how relationships are key in living a life where we don’t give in.  Where we live with little regret. A life that we live as Jesus says, “to the fullest.” So today here is our key idea. To live a life where I don’t settle, I must find my people.  People who will  stand with me. People who have my back.  People who share the same heart and the same vision for life.  

There are many real-life stories in the Scriptures that give us a picture of what it means to find our people.  I’m captivated by a friendship in the OT between two guys by the name of David and Jonathan. Let me give you a little of context.  David was a shepherd boy. As a child, we get the picture that he was always overlooked. Overlooked by his dad. Overlooked by his seven brothers.  One day the prophet of God walks into David’s house and anoints him as the next king. God’s choice! To say that his family was shocked is an understatement.  

Then there was Jonathan.  Jonathan was the son of the current king; King Saul.  King Saul began to turn his back on God and so David would now be the future king.  The issue here is that by his birthright, Jonathan, the king's son, should have been the next king.  So naturally, Jonathan should be jealous of David. They should be mortal enemies, right? But early on in these experiences, Jonathan sees that David is God’s choice.  And David finds that Jonathan has his back and knows how his father, the current king, has turned his back on God. One day, David goes to Jonathan and tells him how his father, King Saul, wants to kill him.  

David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?” 2 “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!”  1 Samuel 20:1-2 (NLT)

David comes to Jonathan and says, ‘What’s up with your dad?  He’s trying to kill me. What the deal?” Jonathan says, “come on, it can’t be true.  And even if it is, my dad isn’t going to hold back from telling me.”

Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!”   1 Samuel 20:3  (NLT)

David promises,  “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.  Dude, I’m not lying.”

Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”  1 Samuel 20:4  (NIV)

That is some serious friendship.  That is someone you could call “your people.”  “Your tribe.” “Your squad.” He says, ‘Hey in this life and death situation, I’m with you.  So, this takes us to a key question in this story and for us. What should “my people” look like?  Here’s what I see.  One, they will have your back.  When you look at their friendship over time, they had each others backs.  In our lives, let me qualify that a bit to get started. People who have your back, they are not enablers.  They don’t justify things for you.  They don’t help you do things that are outside of God’s purposes.  That’s enabling. They are not “yes” people.  They provide some accountability.  They are going to challenge you. And last, they are not everyone.  This is key.  You can’t have everybody’s back.  You can’t expect everybody to have your back.  That is a small circle of people. The proverbs reaffirm that.  

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Prov 18:24

In other words, your people are not found in the crowd.  “My people”, they stick with you. Another way to say that is like this.  They are there when it matters.  You know you can count on them.  They are a phone call away. They show up physically.  They show up spiritually. Ultimately we all need people like that in life and in faith.  

So, before going any further, here is a good question for reflection.  Do I have people in my life who would do anything for me?  Maybe your answer is yes.  That’s awesome. Maybe your answer is “I wish or  I’ve tried.” Maybe your answer is, “I thought I did but they walked out.  They gave up. They hurt me.” And I know that for some of us, there is a real sense of pain there.  We’ve all experienced that haven’t we? Unfortunately, yes!

But let’s take a different angle on this today.  Instead of talking about the pain. Instead of blaming others.  Instead of maybe getting frustrated on what we lack or what has happened, let’s look at it from a different angle.  What if we asked this of ourselves today? Am I the kind person that would do anything for someone else?  In other words, to have those kinds of people, I need to be that kind of person.  To find people that have my back, I must take some risks and have someone else's back.  And Jesus followers here today, no matter what has been dealt to us, there is a mountain of evidence from the life of Jesus alone that is the standard he calls us to.  We can’t have in relationships, what we aren’t willing to do. I’ll say it this way.

To have ‘great people’ in your life, you must first be ‘great people’ to other people in your life.   

We see that here in the lives of Jonathan and David.  It’s definitely what we see expressed in the teachings of Christ.   Maybe you remember this? “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  

We all have these moments in life where we are caught off guard by someone's negative reaction to us.  They respond in frustration or anger and it causes us to pause. But have you ever had a similar experience when someone was super affirming to you.  I saying that someone responded to you in this way; “I’m so glad you are here right now.” Aren’t those moments cool? Maybe you experienced that as you sat by someone’s bedside while they were sick?  Maybe it was simply having a cup of coffee with them to let them unload a bit. Maybe it was just doing something kind like watching their kids when they were tired. “Ah, I’m so glad you are here.”

I had one of those experiences a few months back.  I found out through social media that the first senior pastor that I worked with died.  I was deeply saddened by that because he was a great, great man. I asked Keisa, ‘hey, I have to figure out how I can at least get up there.  That family has been there for us in so many ways in the past. You cool with that. She said, yes. She wanted to go to but I worked to find a ticket where I could get up there and back within 36 hours.  I got there and snuck in the back of the funeral home and saw all kinds of familiar faces. We were all re-telling awesome stories of Pastor Leo. How he cared for people. How he remembered people’s names.  How he loved to play the accordion and how we all didn’t like the accordion.

Randy is his son was my pastor for the first 8 years of my life.  Today, he’s a very good friend and mentor in my life still. He comes up and bear hugs me like crazy.  He’s super emotional. And he said, ‘man, what a surprise. I’m so glad to see you hear today. It means so much to me that you are here.”  Over the next 36 hours that I’m there at the showing and at the funeral, he says the same thing but in different ways. “Ah man, I’m so glad you are here.”  I’m not used to that because of the longest time that I’ve know Randy, he’s very stoic. Gathered.

It moved me how emotional he was.  It really moved me by what he said to me.  I didn’t go there for that. I went because I loved his dad and because I love him.  Both of those men have played a big role in my life. But you know why I also did it.  I did it because I know Randy would do it for me. I did it because in other parts of my life, he has stood with me.  He’s had my back. I believe that Randy would do anything for Keisa and I. I believe that.

Now, I’m not telling you this story to somehow elevate myself.  I’ve had hurts and betrayals. I have selfish tendencies in me that want to do it on my own.  But what I’ve learned is that is not how God wants us to live. It’s not how we experience the future that God wants for us.  It’s not. I’ve learned that If I want those kinds of people in my life, I have to be that kind of person first. I have to set aside my agenda.  I have to set aside my hurts. I have to be inconvenienced. I have to be there when it’s easy or when it’s hard. I have to listen. I have to make myself available.  David and Jonathan remind us of what it looks like. To find ‘my people”, that starts with me. I have to ask myself this question: Am I the kind person that would do anything for someone else?

Jonathan and David come up with this creative plan to see if King Saul really wants to kill David.  You can read it on your own in chapter 20 but it goes something like this. ‘OK, Jonathan, tomorrow night the king is expecting me at his table for supper.  I’m not going to come but I’m going to go hide out in the field. And Jonathan say this to your dad. I begged you to go home with to Bethlehem for a family reunion.  If he’s chill that I’m not there, then Jonathan, you are right and all is good with your dad. But if he freaks out, then you know I’m right.

Their plan is in place and then we see why they have each others backs.  There is a deep loyalty here. It goes back to our question. What should “my people” look like?  Two, they will have shared loyalties.  Just look.

Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend—for we made a solemn pact before the Lord—or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!” “Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I had the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.”  1 Samuel 20:8-9

Remember, these guys should have been enemies.  One was the heir to the throne (Jon) and the other was God’s choice (David) to sit on the throne.  On all accounts, they really shouldn’t have been loyal to one another. Yet, something deeper connected them.  What is it that went beyond title or power or pride?

And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, 15 treat my family with this faithful love,  1 Samuel 20:14-15 (NLT)

There is the why.  Their deep relationship was rooted and anchored in God.  They considered one another “my people” or “my squad” because they shared some common values and standards.  They had common worldviews. And that common heart was rooted in Christ. And here is the challenge for us.  If we are going to have these kinds of people in our lives, we have to have an anchor called Christ. Listen, it’s great to have in common a love or hatred for the same football program.  It's great to have grown up in the same part of the country. It’s great that you have some common political affinities and beliefs. You went to the same high school or love the same kind of pizza.  But at the end of that day, more is needed.

All meaningful relationships must have an anchor  bigger than the both of you. When I talk with people who are maybe living together, they talk to me about their frustration with their boyfriend/girlfriend.   Listen to me, I’m not here to throw you under but bus is this is you. Just hear me out please. I here one of them say something like ‘“Ah, I don’t know if they will stay.  They just don’t seem committed.” You’re probably right. But here is my question. Why should they be committed? Let’s be honest. You guys are both wanting the benefits of marriage but aren’t willing to commit to marriage.  When the relationship isn’t anchored to anything more than feelings or sex or friendship, it has nothing to hold it down when the relationship gets hard. Marriage is the anchor. It’s the commitment that says, “I’m in this with you to the end.  Not matter my feelings.”

I also say similar things to married couples.  They say to me, ‘ah, he’s not committed. She’s up and down.  I don't’ feel in love anymore.” And maybe that’s true? Maybe that’s how you feel?  “Well, then I’m out. I’m done.” It’s the same tree from dating, just a different branch.  That means that you just see your marriage as a piece of paper. You see your commitment to one another as determined by your feelings.  It’s more than feelings or a piece of paper. It’s a covenant. A covenant is a promise the two of you made. It’s a promise that should be anchored to God.  And Jesus, he doesn’t leave you based on his feelings. Real marriages that grow, they are anchored to Christ. Because there will be times where you are angry.  There will be times where you don’t care. Where love is NOT enough. Christ is the anchor. You take the anchor of Christ out of a marriage, and good luck.

David and Jonathan come up with this creative plan to let David know one way or another what happens.  “David, I’ll get word to you whether my dad freaks out or is ok. Remember, I’m loyal to God so I’m loyal to you.  David is out hing in the field during the scheduled dinner. King Saul asks where he is to Jonathan. “Um, Dad, he asked me if he could head to Bethlehem for a family reunion.  I told him it wouldn’t be a big deal.”

Guess what King Saul does?  He freaks out. He insults Jonathan’s mother.  He tells Jonathan that his life is a waste. He basically says, “I know you are on David’s side.  And guess what you will never inherit this throne as long as David lives. So, tell me where he is so I can kill him.”  Jonathan says, “why would I give him up? He’s not done anything to you at all.” King Saul responds by hurling a spear at his own son to kill him.   No lie. And you thought you had family issues? Jonathan leaves angry and feeling betrayed and he finds David in the field.

At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.”  1 Samuel 20:42 (NLT)

They were deeply connected friends.  Jonathan would be a pillar in the life of David.  David would later climb to power over Israel. David had groups of men around him that you read about in the OT that were incredible.  They stood with him. They fought with him. They encouraged him. They shared a common bond and focus in their Creator. There was a group of thirty elite warriors that walked with him.  Then there as a small group of three. It was these men that help David become the person that he became. Without them, David would not have accomplished what he did or fully experience what God had for him.  You and I, we need that too.

“As long as you walk alone, you will never know your greatest strength.”  Erwin McManus

You’ve heard me say before that I love basketball.  I grew up playing it. I had the opportunity to play in high school and in college a bit.  There is a role within the NBA called the sixth man. This typically is a person who is good enough to be a starter, but comes off of the bench and plays a role.  A key role. A team who has a great #6 and #7 man is key. These players usually push their teams to the next level. In 2015, the sixth man for the Golden State Warriors was a guy by the name of Andre Iguodala.  He wasn’t a starter at all in 2015. And if you go back and look at the coverage in 2015, it was not secret that Iguodala didn’t like being the sixth man.

In the 2015 NBA finals when they faced Lebron and the Cavaliers, Iguodala’s job was to come off of the bench and play guess who?  Lebron. Can you imagine having that task? He comes off of the bench and does his job. The Warriors go on to beat the Cavaliers 4 games to 2 in the NBA Finals.  On top of that, Iguodala won the NBA Finals award. Pretty impressive. Let’s be honest though. Wouldn’t we rather be Lebron or MJ or Curry or Dr. J? We’d rather be the star.  We’d rather be that any day that be the sixth man. My game instead of our game.

My boys and I always talk basketball.  We talk Golden State and Cleveland. We talk Lebron and KD and Curry.  We were talking about how players now a day will look for the max contract.  They are willing to get paid big bucks if they can go to a city and the man. They wills be the guy who leads the team but they may never really win a championship.  It seems like a lot of players will leave a championship team to get the money. Money and fame is more important than winning the championship.  

So, they asked me. Dad, if you got to play in the NBA.  No guys, that would never happen. OK dad, if you got to play in the NBA, what would you do?  If you had a chance to be the starter. Get a max contract, but you played on a team that would probably not win a championship, would you go there.  Or, would you go to a team and get less. Maybe not be the starter but come off of the bench. But you know that you could win a championship. Which would you want to be?  I said, ‘for me, I’d want to win a championship. I’d be willing to be paid less. I’d be willing to come off of the bench. I’ve love to have a future that wins rather than a future where I have all of the stuff and I lose.  Now, I hope if I was ever put in that situation, that is how I would respond.

But the more I thought about that question, the more I realized how spot on they were.  Every single day we make decisions that impact our future. Everyday. And we and can choose to the superstar and maybe leave a legacy with our lives.  Be the superstar and maybe have a fulfilling future. Or maybe we can live like Christ. Or we can be a role player on a team with other Christ followers. And together in community we set aside self.  We set aside pride. We find others in Christ. My people. My squad. My Brotato Chips. We find our people because a life that has the greatest future is with others helping you live it.

It boils down to this. What is your step today? For some of us, it means we need to be greater people to other people. If we want what David and Johanthan had, it means we need to be that. So, what needs to change in us. For some of us, it means getting a circle of people around me that are like minded. People who are Christ centered. People who can challenge me to live my faith out fully. And guess what? We are willing to help with that . Continue to participate in this experience each weekend. Take that step to grow your faith. Meet other people. Sit in rows. But eventually, we want to see you take the step to sit in a circle. To be a part of a life group. To sit down and journey with others through faith. Again, what if your step today? Let’s pray.”