I only remember two things about Margie. She had long brown hair, and she was smarter than me. Maybe she recited her multiplication tables faster or got better grades or turned in tests sooner than me and the other dozen or so kids in the third grade—I don’t remember, exactly. But do I remember crying to my mom, feeling sorry for myself that she was so much better than me.
And the reason that I remember Margie at all is because of what my mom said next: “You’ll always have a Margie in your life, Nicole. There is always going to be someone who is better than you. No matter where you are, who you know, how much you excel, God is always going to put people close to you who are better than you.”
Boy, was she was right. I don’t think Margie returned to my school the following year, but she’s been with me ever since. Sometimes she is a mother who is a more consistent and creative mom than me. Other times she’s a writer who can write circles around me. She’s the woman who is much prettier than I am. She has more friends than me. She has more money and a nicer house. She’s more artistic than me.
Everywhere I turn, every time I try my hand at something, every time I think, even for a split second, that maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally earned a blue ribbon, she shows up, just in time, to grab the grand prize.
What would I do without her?
I would be puffed up and self-satisfied. Apathetic. Unmotivated. Hard-hearted. Unhappy. That’s why I thank God for all the Margies in my life. Not always right at first, but sooner than I used to; because I have come to see each one—not as a threat to my happiness and success—but as a gift from God: a token of his particular, adopting, sanctifying love for me.
God uses Margie to expose my heart. She shows me what the wise old preacher once said: “What hurts ain’t dead yet.”
God uses Margie to challenge me to grow. She shows me that I really haven’t “arrived” in the Christian life but that I can, and I should, make progress.
God uses Margie to purify my heart for service. She eclipses my glory, and so, with the silt of my ambition strained out, I’m more apt to serve for God’s glory.
No doubt you have a Margie or two in your life. She’s probably the woman you’re thinking of right now. If so, thank God. He loves you, and he is not done with you yet.
The messages from Next are online and I’m working my way through all of them. I love how the Internet makes it possible for a thirty-something mother of four children to benefit from a conference for teenagers and twenty-somethings that happened two weeks ago, a thousand miles away.
But I wanted to mention one session in particular, because in his message The Church and Friendship, Kevin DeYoung touches on a topic we’ll get to later in our series—that of technology and friendship:
“Friendship is wonderful when you can get it, but it is frequently hard to come by…There is a real sense in which that technology can foster friendship… And yet as good as the technology is…the danger with friends today is that we have friends everywhere and friends nowhere. We have a lot of relationships but how many friendships? We have more acquaintances than ever before, we have more people in our networks than ever before, we are known by more people and can know more people than ever before and yet have no friends.”
Do you have friends? Or, more importantly, as Kevin asks, “What kind of friend are you? A fake friend, a foul friend, or a faithful friend?”
Listen and learn how to be a biblical, better, friend.
Are you a fake, a foul, or a faithful friend? Kevin DeYoung is part-way through a series on what the Bible has to say on the important topic of friendship In “Talking Shop” Nancy Wilson has wise words for young moms on how to give and receive advice from friends. And Paul Tripp exhorts us to bring God’s wisdom to bear on our relationships.
“For we ourselves were once…passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” Tit. 3:3 I wonder if part of Jesus’ motive for rebuking Peter’s sinful comparison was to preserve Peter’s relationship with John. Envy is a relationship destroyer. It squelches love and stifles kindness. We cannot cherish our friends and envy them at the same time. “Love…does not envy” (1 Cor. 13:4). And as Jonathan Edwards put it, “Surely love to our neighbor does not dispose us to hate him for his prosperity or be unhappy at his good” So, for the sake of our relationships, the Savior asks: “If it is my will that she ___________ what is that to you?” Genuine love rejoices with those who rejoice (Rom 12: 15). It is happy when someone else gets honored, gets a promotion, gets married, gets pregnant, gets any good gift from the hand of God. So let us put away all envy and love one another.
Today we conclude our discussion on friendships for the single woman by taking a look at Colossians 4:5-6. This verse tells us to, “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” One application from this verse is our conduct with unbelievers. Obviously, in writing this verse Paul assumes that we have contact with those outside the faith. So if all of your friends have grown up in a Christian home or been a Christian for twenty years, you’re missing someone—friends who need salvation. Often it can be so easy for us as women to get consumed by our school or work and we neglect the priority of evangelism. It’s like we walk around campus, through the office cubicles, in and out of the store, and across the street with our head down and blinders on. But we are supposed to be reaching out and having gracious, gospel-motivated conversations with non-Christians. You don’t know any? They are not that hard to find. Maybe all you have to do is look up! So, we’ve considered: Friends who sharpen Friends who mentor. Friends who need a friend. Friends who need salvation. May all these friends be found in your network of relationships. When we choose friends according to God’s criteria, much blessing will result
For the single woman, friends are one of the best deals of your season. As it says in Proverbs 12:26, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully” (NKJV). Yesterday we considered friends who sharpen and spur us on to godliness. Today we want to look at two more friends that Scripture exhorts us to pursue. First we should pursue friends that mentor. Titus 2:3-5 commands the older women to be training the younger women. We should all be aggressively seeking out other women to help us grow in the admirable qualities of biblical femininity. And if you are that older woman, I want to encourage you to consider passing on your experience and wisdom to those behind you. We need it! So, stop a moment and consider your friends. Young women, we should ask ourselves: “Do I have a friend from whom I am learning some aspect of biblical womanhood?” And older women, ask this question: “Am I faithfully imparting biblical womanhood to at least one friend?” And secondly, let’s look for friends who need friends. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to get comfortable with our close friends? While longtime friends are a huge blessing from the Lord, we are also called to reach out to the new person and the lonely. “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” exhorts Hebrews 13:1-2. Remember what it was like to be new or not know anyone? To see other women chatting excitedly and to have no one to talk to? To choose our friends carefully means we must guard against selfishness and laziness. So let’s take a look around us: “Who is one woman I should reach out to?” It can be as simple as introducing ourselves to a visitor at church, or inviting a quiet woman out for coffee, or including someone new at our weekly lunch with friends. May we all commit to helping new friends not feel new for very long. Let’s not miss out on these two great friendship opportunities. Somehow I think we may all be surprised to find that we are the ones that end up with the good end of the deal.
How about our friendships? In addition to family, who are we to pursue? Proverbs 12:26 tells us that: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully” (NKJV). What does that mean? A brief look at Scripture gives us a good grid whereby we can evaluate our friendships. It tells us exactly what kind of friends we are to have. First, we should have friends that “sharpen.” Our idea of a best friend might be someone who’s easy to get along with, shares our opinions on fashion and food, finishes our sentences, sticks by us in the rough times, and is free to hang out on a Friday night. All plus-points of course (especially the food part) but Scripture says there’s a friend quality of much greater value. A friend we can’t afford to do without. The best of friends, according to Proverbs 27:17, is one who sharpens us as “iron sharpens iron” (NKJV). Hebrews 10:24 tells us that this friend is one who “[stirs us] up…to love and good works.” We need to have at least one-and preferably many-friends who inspire us to serve, provoke us to love, help us to grow in godliness, correct us, strengthen our faith, and spur us on to passion for the Savior. Got any friends like this? Maybe you simply need to take a current relationship in a new direction. Invite your friends to point out your sin, encourage you in the gospel, and stir you up to love and good deeds. Ask them to become friends that sharpen. But maybe, as we assess the spiritual maturity of our friends, we realize that we need to add some godly friends. This may require a step or two outside the old comfort zone. But even if it’s a little awkward at first, we need to initiate friendships with people we’re confident will sharpen us. Tomorrow, we’ll look at more great friendship deals of the single season.
It’s time to take a look at the second great deal of the single season: Relationships. Women are, for the most part, relational creatures. Our world is often centered on family and friends. Yet, we are often more passive and receptive than we are intentional and purposeful in our relationships. We may allow people to drift in and out of our lives. We don’t usually slow down to consider why we pursue certain friendships or neglect others. Emotions and feelings often dictate the way we go about our relationships. If people are so important and consume such a big chunk of our time, then we must stop and prayerfully consider our relational priorities in light of God’s priorities. Do our relationships—the time we spend with others—bring glory to God? Are we investing our lives in the people God has called us to love and serve? Tomorrow we’ll consider the question: “How does the single woman display her God-given femininity in her relationships with men?”
There is one more question we must add to our list of fellowship questions, and it is the most important one of all:
How are you preaching the gospel to yourself every day?
Milton Vincent, author of The Gospel Primer makes the case for why the gospel is vital to Christian love and fellowship:
“The greatest gift I can give to my fellow-Christians is
the gospel itself. Indeed, I love my fellow-Christians not simply
because of the gospel, but I love them best when I am loving them with
the gospel! And I do this not merely by speaking gospel words to them,
but also by living before them and generously relating to them in a
gospel manner. Imparting my life to them in this way, I thereby
contribute to their experience of the power, the Spirit, and the full
assurance of the gospel. By preaching the gospel to myself every day, I
mature the bond that unites me with my brothers and sisters for whom
Christ died, and I also keep myself well-versed in the raw materials
with which I may actively love them in Christ.”
Mr. Vincent references 1 Thessalonians 2:18 where Paul tells the church that: “Having
so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not
only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become
very dear to us.”
We may say that our friends are “very dear
to us;” but if we do not live in the good of the gospel, we stifle the
source and limit the scope of our love for them. May this motivate us
to preach the gospel to ourselves every day—so that we can “actively
love” our friends.
Marsha, a reader and seminary wife, wrote to tell us that she and a friend are going to begin “holding each other accountable to the tough things of the faith.” They are comprising a list of helpful questions and she wanted to know if we had any to add to their collection.
Several years ago, we put together a list of questions to encourage fellowship among women: to provoke one another to pursue Christ-like character and cultivate biblical womanhood.
We hope these questions get you started, Marsha. And for all our readers, we hope they spark many Christ-honoring girl talks!
Describe your current practice of the spiritual disciplines.
What is a passage of Scripture you have been meditating on recently?
What fruit of the Spirit are you cultivating?
What sin are you seeking to weaken?
How can I pray for you?
Here is an evidence of grace that I observe in your life.
How are you seeking to grow in expressing biblical femininity?