In this message, we learn the importance of going first in our relationships.
Well, hi, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. It is great to be here with you today. It is great to be with our entire Valley Creek family. So can we welcome the family Denton, Flower Mound, Venue, Lewisville and online. So summer is well underway and that means that our summer series is also well underway and we’re talking all about healthy relationships. That’s our theme for 2017 and summer is actually a perfect opportunity to spend time with those that matter most. We’re talking about spouses, your kids, your parents, your coworker, your closest friends. It’s the people you see every single day. And last week, we talked about how to receive from Jesus. And that is a great first step to take toward having healthy relationships. And what I want to talk about with you today is another way to have healthy relationship is that is when you and I go first.
Going first. I will be honest, I did not pick this topic. This topic actually picks me, and what I mean by that is I think the Lord knew that I just kind of had some work to do in my own life going first. And it kind of surprised me because I actually like to go first. I mean in the grocery stores, when there’s somebody behind me, I’m pretty quick to step back and say, “Oh, no, go ahead.” Or in rush hour traffic with those maniacs, they’re going to catch you off anyway so I just tap the brake and say, “Go ahead. Bless you, go ahead,” you know. And I thought — and I thought, so, it’s easy for me to go first in extending grace and patience to strangers. But what does it look for me to extend grace and patience to my kids and my husband and the people that are closest in my life? And the more I thought about that, I thought, well, has there ever been a time that it was easy to go first with those close relationships? And the answer to that is, yes, when those relationships are brand new.
Think about your job, track with me for a second. The job that you’re in right now, the first week on that job, when it was brand new, if your coworker or your boss said, hey, we’ve got an opportunity for some extra hours, you know, overtime, some harder work, anybody interested in going first to do that? I bet your hand was the first one up. Why? Because it was brand new. But the second or third or fifth or sixth time that those opportunities came up, man, you’re just looking down and say, do not make eye contact, don’t look at them, maybe they won’t ask me. It’s no longer brand new. What about a brand new marriage? Remember the newlyweds? The newlyweds that are in the kitchen and she puts something in the trash and that groom comes rushing over, he says, “Oh, babe, let me go first. Let me take the trash out.” She says, “No, no, honey, let me take the trash out.” And they have this little tiff over who’s going to take out a practically empty trash can, so sweet. Then time passes. And that poor trash can, it gets stretched, it’s got pizza boxes and ice cream cartoons and coke bottles in it. And the conversation is something like this, “Are you going to take out the trash?”
“Why do I need to take out the trash? You take out the trash.” “I took out the trash last time. It is your turn.” “My turn? Oh, we got a turn?” So now it’s a tiff of a totally different kind. What about when you are a brand new parent? You bring home that newborn for the very first time. You put that little thing in the crib and on that long, both of you are just looking at that baby. In the first squeak, you’re quick to go first. And then when those three a.m. feedings come, it’s a contest between you to see who can pretend they’re asleep. I don’t hear no baby, there is no baby crying. It’s no longer brand new. And hey, listen, you students that are out there, you guys are kind of the worse defenders. Because when you were little, when you were that baby, do you know how you went first? When mommy or daddy would walk out of the room, you would cry. That’s how you went first. When you were new, you would cry. You turned 13 and you cry when we try to come in to the room. I’m just telling you, it is easy to go first when our relationships are brand new.
But how do we keep going first when the brand new wears off? When it gets a little comfortable? Maybe a little stressed? How do we keep going first when the relationships are no longer new? That’s the question. For the answer, take a look with me in Luke chapter 15, if you’ve got your bibles, turn to Luke 15, we’re going to look at a really familiar section of scripture, you’ve probably heard it before. It’s the story of the prodigal son and I’m going to summarize it for us just to save time. This is a story about a dad and two sons. The younger son comes to his father and he says, “Hey, I’m kind of out of here. I’m done with you. I’m done with the family so I want my inheritance so I can leave.” Couple of things wrong with that. First, it’s very rude and dishonoring to go to your father who was still alive and ask for your inheritance. I mean that’s wrong number one. And the other thing that’s awkward is the inheritance usually goes to the firstborn and he was the younger son.
Despite all of that, the father says sure. And he gives him the inheritance and he goes off, this younger son, and he does exactly what the father thought he would do. He blows it, reckless living, making tons of mistakes. And one day, he realizes all of this when he’s feeding pigs. Scripture says that he came to his senses and he went back to his father’s house to see if his father would take him in. In fact, the father did. He celebrated him. And when he celebrated him, well, that older son did not think too highly of that. He got pretty upset about it and the father is trying to get this older son to come in to the party and right there, we have a wonderful little cliffhanger in scripture. But there are several lessons in this story that you and I can learn about going first. And I want to look at it today and we’re going to learn something from the younger son. We’re going to learn a lot from the dad and we’re going to even learn something from that older brother about going first. So I’ve got a high five list. I’ve got five ways that we can go first to make our relationships healthy, all coming from this section of scripture and here’s the first one.
Let’s go first in admitting our mistakes. Admit your mistakes. This son had made a lot of bad choices that led to the separation from his father. But he decides to go first and turn around and go reconcile with his dad. Look at Verse 17. When he came home — when he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired service have food to spare? And here I am starving to death. I will set out and go back to my father and say to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and I have sinned against you.” Maybe he was sincere. Maybe. I think it’s interesting what scripture doesn’t say. It doesn’t say that he came to his senses and he just had a heartache over the shame that he had caused his dad and his family. He came to his senses because he was dirty, hungry and exhausted. But here’s the point. Regardless of whether or not his motive was pure, he still humbled himself and he took that first step to go back and admit his mistake.
And when he took that first step, grace was waiting for him. The steps of the humble will always land on the pathway of grace. 1 Peter 55 tells us this, it says, “God opposes the proud but he gives grace to the humble.” We can have the pride of man or we can have the power of God but we can’t have them both. And it’s the power of God that enables us to actually go first. Now, let’s be honest. Sometimes, we don’t want to admit our mistakes. I don’t want to and neither do you. But when we force ourselves, when we choose to go ahead and admit that mistake, even when we don’t want to, that’s an act of faith. And when we step out in faith, we step into his faithfulness. Listen, we all make mistakes.
We’ve all made them in the past and I hate to tell you this, we’re all going to make some more in the future. So the question is not will you make a mistake, the question is, will you be quick to go first and admit your mistake? I think that’s a lesson that we can learn from this younger son. The second lesson we can learn is to go first in vulnerability. This one is my least favorite. I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to vulnerability. But I will say this, I’m so inspired. I’m so inspired by the father’s vulnerability. Look at Verse 20, “So then he, the son, got up and went to his father. And while he was still a long way off, the father saw him, was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Picture it with me. Here is the son who has shamed and humiliated his father in public and yet, there is that dad looking for that son to come home. What do you think the people said about it?
I mean, can’t you just hear their gossipy comments behind that father? But there he is, looking for that son to come home. If he is my son, I wouldn’t let him come back home. Just — I can just hear their comments. And then when the son did come home and the father ran to him, do you think they thought him a fool? Because here’s what I would say, they didn’t realize the father was giving them a gift. He was modeling for them vulnerability. And if you have ever had anybody be genuinely vulnerable and share with you, then you know why I call it a gift. When I worked in Corporate America, I was privileged to know a great lady. She was one of our regional sales directors. And I worked with her and I remember we traveled to a global sales conference and she gave a very powerful talk to a roomful of over a thousand people, all decision makers. We were leaving and going down the elevators, just the two of us and she looked at me, she said, “Well, how bad did my voice shake in that one? Because I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as I was then.”
And it struck me because of really vulnerable statement. And it opened up a very vulnerable conversation that she and I had over dinner. And the reason it resonated with me is because her struggles were my struggles. She shared with me how, as a very young girl, she grew up fighting chronic insecurity. And I said, “Me too.” And she talked about how that insecurity shaped her to be someone who — was striving and performing to get man’s approval. And I said, “Me too.” And then she went on to say, “And that striving created the belief in my head that I was never filling the blank enough, never good enough, never smart enough, never successful enough, never pretty enough, never enough.” And I said to her, “Yeah, me too.” And with every vulnerable statement she shared, and with every genuine me too that I shared back it’s like we were exchanging gifts with each other.
It was like a gift of understanding and compassion, empathy, and our hearts connected so deep. And a lot of people in the company, they really admired her talent, but I treasured her heart because she modeled for me and taught me how to be vulnerable. And so I started doing that with my husband and with my kids. And every time I did it, Jesus would show up right in the middle of it. It’s like He was waiting for me to be vulnerable so He could be faithful. I mean I’m convinced when we push away and push back vulnerability, we’re robbing ourselves of blessings because He wants us to get to the end of ourselves so He can reveal Himself. And this father in Luke 15, he was so courageous because he wasn’t afraid to let the whole world see his vulnerable desperation for that son.
Fear is the barrier to vulnerability. You may say I’d love to be vulnerable with my coworker but, man, I don’t know, what’s I’m going to do to my career? If I’m vulnerable with my parents, are they going to judge me, are they going to worry about me? If I’m vulnerable with my spouse, can they handle it or will they leave? If I’m vulnerable with my closest friends, are they going to think less of me? You see the truth is, we want to be loved but we are terrified of being known because being known requires vulnerability and vulnerability requires risk. And we’re just not sure that it’s worth it, especially if we have had an experience in our past that tells us it’s not worth it. But can we just look at the model of Jesus? I mean when he was hanging on the cross for you and me, exposed vulnerable dying, a death for us and yet His father was that His most faithful when that son was His most vulnerable.
And He’s also faithful to us. I believe that God wants to show Himself faithful to you. Today, the question is, are you willing to show yourself vulnerable to Him? I mean when was the last time — it’s just us, right? It’s just us. So let me ask you a question, when was the last time you prayed a really raw prayer to Jesus? I mean just raw. Because I want to tell you that He can handle it. And more than just handling it, He actually desires it. You know why? Because He knows that that vulnerability is going to strengthen your relationship with Him, which means you’ll have a healthy relationship with Him. Going first in vulnerability. The third way we can go first is to go first by releasing offences. Now, you’ll hang with me, I realized these are some heavy go first some laying out here. We’re going to get to halleluiah moment a minute, I promise, just hang with me. The son admitted his mistake, the father was vulnerable, and then that father forgave and he released the offence.
Look at Verse 21, “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick, bring the best robe and put on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.’” The son states the obvious and that was a perfect time for this father to go first and cue up that, I told you so talk, but he didn’t. Instead he called for a ring, a robe and sandals. To forgive the son would have been to letting him home. That would have been forgiveness. But to release the offence would have been to fully reinstate that son’s identity and that’s exactly what the father did. And, you know, when our hands are holding an offence, they’re not open to receive the freedom that God wants to put there. God wants to put freedom in our hands but we’re holding onto an offence.
You may have forgiven somebody but you just can’t get over that hurt every time you see them. I would say maybe you’ve forgiven them but you’re still holding on to an offence. And that could have devastating circumstances. Think about the circumstances for David and his son, Absalom. If you want to read it, it’s in 2 Samuel Chapter 13, it’s a really good read. You see, David had two sons and one of his sons commits an unthinkable act against the sister of this son, Absalom. And when Absalom finds out about it, he takes revenge and he goes that he kills this son. This is the interesting part, David was actually in unity with Absalom over the unthinkable act that had been committed. But it’s when Absalom took the action of dealing with it, that’s when the offence happened. It says that Absalom cleared the area and David longed to go after his son but he never did, they never reconciled. David ended up losing his reign and Absalom, well, he got killed.
So here’s my question, have you ever been in a situation with one of your close relationship, did you guys agreed on the issue you were really were in unity on the issue but it’s how you went about resolving that issue, that’s where the offence happened. I’ll just say this way, David loses his kingdom, Absalom loses his life, that’s what it cost them to hold on to an offence, what’s it costing you? To hold on to one. And you even say, “Well, how do I let go of it?” Maybe a daily choice. Sometimes it’s a daily choice. We choose to forgive and then the next day and the next day, we choose not to pick that thing back up. The enemy is going to be there say hold this for me, you’re just going to need to say, no, I’m just not because my hands are open to receive the freedom that God has for me. The courage to go first and releasing an offence, it’s the key to freedom for them, but it’s key to freedom for you.
And if that’s not a good enough reason then I’m going to convince you with this one, go ahead and release that offense because it’s going to get you ready for the next go first, which is go first in having fun, go first in having fun. It is really hard to hold on to an offence when you were having fun. Look at the father, he teaches us this again, Verse 22, the father said to his servants, “Quick, bring that best robe and put it on him, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and let’s celebrate.” The father threw a party, no shaming, no explaining, no lecturing. He threw a party, why? Because he knew what was most important. And what was most important was that that son of his was home and he was going to celebrate it. How come in life we get so busy that we don’t remember what’s most important, which is our closest relationships and we don’t celebrate them? We are too busy, we’re distracted, we’re tired to have fun.
I mean think — just think of this question, what would it look like tomorrow? If you go to work on Monday morning and you just bring the fun, what would that look like? How would that change your workplace? What would it look like at home tonight if you just decide I just going to bring the fun, I’m going to do some completely crazy and just bring the fun. And you know, sometimes when we go first in having fun, sometimes it means that we sacrifice what our idea of fun is for them. A few years ago, my family and I went on a vacation and it was one of those vacations where there were excursions that you could do. And so one day I say, “Guys, let’s have some fun. Let’s go find something to do.” And they were all game and I went to the board where all the pamphlets were and I picked the obvious choice and it was a shopping guide of the city, that’s so fun. Nobody else thought it but me. And so they all start, “Yeah, I want to do this, I want to do that.” And I was kind of mopey really because I really want that shopping tour. And then all the sudden, I hear them get really excited and they say, “We found one, we found one.” And they hold up this pamphlet and it says, adventures in jungle zip lining.
It’s not my first choice or second. But the next morning, here we go and we’re going to go on adventures in jungle zip lining. And when we get to the place, you go in and the first thing you do is you sit down and then you watch a video of what’s about to happen. And in this video, they talked about their state of the art equipment and the word class platforms where their zip lining professionals will guide you through your jungle adventure. Okay. So we go to get our state of the art equipment and when we get there, that state of the art equipment is a one size fits, nobody harness thing, that’s made out of like a seatbelt, the most uncomfortable thing I have ever worn, I’m telling you. I put it on, they stick a helmet on my head and we go and we get in very small pick-up in the back of it. My family of four and a lot of other people and we start driving up. I think why are we driving up? I mean the zip lines are like — where are we driving, and drove a long time. We finally get there, we stopped and all these people, they jumped out and take off. And then my kids jumped out and my husband says, “Come on, babe, let’s go.”
I said, “You go ahead, I’ll be right there.” Because there were steps then you had to climb. I walked over the steps in the railing and I looked down. We were on the side of a cliff and I’m looking down and I’m thinking, “If I fall, injury is inevitable, death is possible. Where is my shopping tour right about now?” I said go up to the world class platform, the family is gone. They’re long gone. The world class platform is a couple of wobbly two by fours barely being hang into a tree bridge by a rusty nail but the best was the training professional — He’s a barefoot 15-year-old, couldn’t speak English. And I’m looking at him and he grabs a hold at my seatbelt and he clips me on to the thing and I’m looking at that going, I have got dental floss that is stronger than this. What are you thinking? There is no way that’s going to hold me. And I’m looking at him and he’s looking at me and then he says the two words in English he does know, ready go?
I’m holding on and I’m shaking my head, no. And I said, yeah, and that’s all it took, zing, my zip lining adventure began. The jungle of my life were all passing in front of my eyes. I’m going from world class two by four to world class two by four, I am being clipped on a zip up by a barefoot training professionals and of course, there’s a video to capture it all. You see my husband coming in. He has sunglasses and smiles. You see my son coming in. He’s got the no hands thing. My daughter is coming in. She is singing praise music for coming in and then nothing. And if you hear this sound, and it’s like the scraping of metal, it’s really high-pitched. And then I come in view. And this is me screaming at the top of my lungs and I am coming in hot, I’m holding on to my seatbelt, my eyes are closed and for whatever reason, I don’t know, unconsciously, I have –I’m like, yes, I’m drawn up in the fetal position. I think I thought it would make me weigh less so I can figure. They get me off that dental floss and I tell you, I had to get my breath. And you know, after you do something where you’re really scared, but when it’s over, and you think that was actually kind of fun. I wanted, you know, that feeling. I did not have that feeling.
I said never again. And then I looked over here and I see my family and they come running towards me and they are laughing and they are telling, “Mom, did you see the baby, did you see that?” And that moment, I lived Proverbs 11:25, “This is he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” And I was so full of joy watching my family have fun. Listen, guys, we live in a stressful time. I just really want to encourage you, go first and bring some fun into the life of the relationships that matter most. The last is this, go first by expressing love. And I’m going to emphasize that word expressing it, just loving them, expressing that love. And you see, this is not reserve for holidays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthday, every day. In fact, today is the perfect day to let the people you love know that they are loved. We’re learning it from the father again. Look in Verse 28, “The older brother became angry and he refused to go in. So the father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look, all these years I have been slaving for you, never disobeyed your orders, and yet you never even gave me a young goat to celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who squandered your property with prostitutes, when he comes home, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ My son, the father said, you’re always with me and everything I have is yours.” What we learn from this older son is two things. One, we learn, if you’re going to wait for somebody else to go first, you’re going to wait a while because I think he could have stood there a long time.
And the second thing I think we learn is what not to do. Let’s not be him. And here comes that precious going first father. He sees his son. He could have just walked past him and said, “Oh, he’ll get over it. He’ll come in the party in a little while,” he didn’t. He went out and he expressed love to that boy and I bet you, he’d done it a thousand times before. Maybe God puts somebody in your life that needs love expressed frequently. And maybe today, you’ll say “Yeah, I’m tired. I am just on empty tank.” Here’s one I want to say to you, you can still do it. You can still express love and I’ll say that with confidence. Why? Because we are Jesus focused spirit-filled life-giving people. And because of Jesus within us, we can go first and express love to that elderly parent, to that unruly toddler, to that uncaring spouse, even to that untrustworthy friend or coworker.
When was the last time you prayed this prayer, Father, would you give me your love for them so I can just give your love to them? It’s completely outside of me. It’s the love that he gives to me is the love that then gets given through me to them. 1 Corinthians 13 says love never fails so we may never fail to express love, go first. And before I wrap this up, there’s something I want to say to some of you that are sitting in this room this whole time, you’ve been thinking, yeah, well, I always go first. And just once, I’d like somebody to go first with me. Well, I’m going to do that for you right now.
If that’s you, if you’re the one in that relationship that always goes first, I’m going to validate that by saying, it is hard and it’s exhausting and it’s lonely. But there’s a promise for you in Galatians Chapter 6. Galatians 6 says, “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued in doing good. At the right time, we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all starting with who, the people closest to us in the community of faith.” What would a good crop of your deepest desire look like? You say I want somebody to go first to validate me. Can I tell you you’ve got a good crop of validation coming? I want to somebody to go first and encourage me and love me. You have got a good crop of that coming. Just don’t give up. And it might come in a different way than you’re expecting.
But until then, just keep living a life of going first. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only that which is helpful for building other’s up according to their needs that it might benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God was whom you were sealed to the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another. Forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you. Be imitators of God. He’s dearly loved the children. And live a life of love, live a life of going first because Christ went first. He loved us. And he gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering, the sacrifice to God. This whole message has been about how to make the relationship healthy.
But I want to end it by explaining why. Why should we go first? Why should we care? And the answer to that is because we are people of the kingdom. And people of the kingdom are followers of the king. And our king goes first. He took every mistake we made and he took them to the cross where he died a vulnerable death. And then he rose to give us an abundant life full of adventure and fun, and he did not pick up one single offense but he expresses his love to us every day in this life and throughout eternity. That is my King Jesus. That is who we follow and that is why we go first. Listen, he went first when it was brand new for us and he’s going to continue to go first every next step that you take. So today, can I just encourage you to take a next step with him because when you take a next step with him, he’ll enable you to go first with them. So you close your eyes with me. Father, I thank you, Lord. I thank you, Lord, for your word and your promise. And right now, would you just ask the Holy Spirit, who is he bringing to your mind, which one of the relationships is he bringing to your mind right now? And then would you ask him what step do you need to take to go first. And if you’re just willing to take that step with him, he will be with you and he will give you the courage and the words.
Some of you are saying, I don’t know what to say. He’ll tell you what to say. Just be willing to go first. Jesus, I thank you that you did set such a beautiful example and you continue every day to go first for me and for all of us. And so I thank you that through the power of your spirit, you are going to enable every person in this room to continue to go first with you and their relationships this summer are going to grow to a place, they’re healthier than they’ve ever been. And all of that is going to be for your glory. And so I praise you and I pray with bold confidence in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.