Separating Admirers from Friends (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 329

“Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him” (Luke 23:8, NKJV).

Admirers are shoppers. They are constantly shopping for pleasure and satisfaction. If you happen to possess what they like, they will cling to you. You become the object of their fascination. To the admirer, you are a beautiful and useful tool, but a tool nonetheless. You meet a need. In this sense, admirers can be manipulative, possessive and controlling. They have a deep need to mold you, if they can, to satisfy their expectations and to have you do their bidding.

 Moreover, admirers want to be entertained by you. If you lose your entertaining abilities or if someone more entertaining surfaces, they will let go of you. Because they are addicted to you, admirers need a constant supply of the thing which draws them to you. If supply ceases or dwindles, they must look elsewhere for satisfaction. The day you no longer meet their expectations, it’s over for you. That is what admirers do. And that is why they are in your life for a season. How long the season lasts depends on how long you can sustain their interest. Admirers are unstable. One minute, they love you; the next minute, they despise you.

Friends, on the other hand, have bonded with you. You are like a part of them. They see you as a soul to be loved not a tool to be used. You are like their twin brother or sister. Even when separated by thousands of miles, friends know their spirits are in communication. Friends do not need to manipulate or control you, because they are secure in their love for you and in your love for them.

Your mistake is not realizing the difference between an admirer and a friend. So, when the admirer suddenly turned against you, you got depressed because you thought you had lost a friend. The fact is, you did not lose a friend. You lost an admirer. And for every admirer who ceases to like you, there is another ready to fill the vacancy. Admirers are your fans, not your friends. Therefore, do not lose sleep over their actions. And do not make the mistake of depending on admirers for love. So long as they remain admirers only, they cannot love you. Make peace with that. One loyal friend is worth more than a thousand admirers.

We have said much already. Let us look briefly at our opening Scripture. Herod, the ruler of Galilee, was a big fan of Jesus. Note that. But he never got a chance to meet Jesus in person. One day, the opportunity came. When Jesus stood trial, Pilate sent Him to Herod (Luke 23:5-7). When Herod saw Jesus, the Bible says, “he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him.” In his excitement, he hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle for him.

But here is the crux of the matter. Herod admired Jesus because the latter was a miracle-worker. He was no friend of Jesus; nor was he interested in becoming one. He needed Jesus for entertainment purposes. For him, Jesus was a tool – a means to satisfy his craving for attention and entertainment.

For someone who was exceedingly glad to see Jesus, you would think that Herod would care about giving Jesus a fair trial. He was disappointed when Jesus refused to answer any of his questions. Of course, Jesus knew that Herod was no friend of His. Therefore, He denied him the pleasure of being entertained even by His words.

When Herod noticed that Jesus would not succumb to his wishes, this is what happened: “Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him . . .” (v. 11). One moment, Herod was exceedingly glad to see Jesus. The next moment, he was filled with contempt for Him. Was Jesus surprised? No. Herod was just being Herod, an admirer and not a friend.

To sum up: Knowing the types of people in your life will help you to adjust your expectations accordingly. It will help you to invest your energy where it matters. It will keep you from falling into relationship traps. Discern well. Know your friends, and stay blessed. Amen.

For further study1 Samuel 18:1-28 and John 6:10-11

Separating Admirers from Friends (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion | Day 328

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25, NKJV).

Friends are forever. Admirers are for a season. Understanding the difference will spare you confusion and heartache. Friends are committed to you. Admirers, on the other hand, are addicted to you but they are not necessarily committed to you, even if they appear so. We should clarify that there is nothing wrong with admiring others. We all have people we admire, for different reasons. It is a problem, however, when we give (or are given) the impression of friendship when, in fact, what is at stake is admiration and not friendship. Friendship and admiration may overlap but they are not identical.

In this teaching, we will identify important distinctions between friends and admirers. Our goal is to discover insights from the Scriptures which will help us become more aware of the different types of people in our life and how we can best relate to them.

Often, people confuse admiration with love. Because we admire certain people, we suppose we love them, and we give that impression when what we mean is, we are attracted by something they possess: status, charm, charisma, physical features, talent, money, power, etc. Conversely, when people admire us, it gets into our head. When they shower us with praise and affection, it gives a boost to our ego. Our emotions are aroused and we feel loved. Subsequently, we naively assume that those people are our friends and we draw them closer and closer to our heart.

The inability to differentiate between admirers and friends has led many into confusion and heartbreak. But here is the reality: While all your friends are your admirers, not all your admirers are your friends. Discerning this distinction will keep you safe and sane.

Let us look at an example from today’s opening Scripture. Jesus was a magnetic and charismatic figure. Not surprisingly, He attracted a large following. His ability to make miracles look like daily routine made Him even more appealing. On one occasion, He traveled from Capernaum to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. John tells us that while Jesus was in Jerusalem, “many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.” This sounds like great news. However, right after making this statement, John adds a curious comment. He says, “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men” and “He knew what was in man.”

Jesus could tell the difference between those who were His committed followers (friends) and those who followed Him for the sake of His miracles or for other reasons (admirers). Many believed in Him, but He was not fooled by the numbers. He cared not so much about the numbers who followed Him, but rather their motivation for following Him. This awareness kept Him from falling into the trap of false friendship. A lot of people admired Jesus and were attracted to Him, but not all His admirers were His friends. The point is: Jesus does not want admiration. He wants friendship. And He knows the difference between the two.

We, too, need to discern the difference between our admirers and our friends. It is unwise to commit ourselves to people on the sole basis of their admiration and praise. May the Lord give you wisdom to understand the people in your life. Amen.

To be continued tomorrow, God willing.

For further studyMatthew 7: 15-23 and John 6:60-71

Ruth: An Icon of Loyalty (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 327

“But Ruth said . . . For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17, ESV).

[Correction: In yesterday’s message, I incorrectly referred to Ruth as the grandmother of David. The fact is, Ruth was the great grandmother of David]

We began yesterday to reflect on Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi. In addition, we spoke briefly about the value of loyalty and the role it plays in love and friendship. Today we will conclude the message by taking a close look at the content of the vow Ruth made to her mother-in-law. Our words are part and parcel of who we are. Consequently, we cannot separate ourselves from our words. The integrity of your words affect the integrity of your character. The stakes are even higher when you make a vow or a promise. Ruth’s words fall into the latter category. She did not simply express a desire to follow Naomi. She vowed she would. Her vow was solemn, specific and comprehensive. She meant every word she spoke, and she made good on it.

What is interesting is that Ruth was not entering into a covenant with Naomi. A covenant usually involves two parties who both make a mutual commitment to fulfill the terms of the covenant. Naomi did not ask Ruth for any commitment. Nor did she pledge any commitment to Ruth. Therefore, this was all Ruth’s initiative and hers alone. Her vow looks similar to the marriage vows we have today. But Ruth was not getting married to Naomi. She was not taking office, either. No one had promised to give her any benefits in return for her commitment to Naomi.

When a man and a woman exchange marital vows, they anticipate mutual benefits arising from their union. These benefits include, but are not limited to, offspring, carnal intimacy, financial security, job security, tax benefits and social status. In Ruth’s case, she could not count on any of the above-mentioned benefits. She had little to no expectation of receiving any favors from Naomi in exchange for her loyalty. Her vow, therefore, was primarily a unilateral commitment of loyalty motivated by genuine love for her beloved mother-in-law. If Ruth could be this loyal to her mother-in-law, one wonders how loyal she was to her late husband. If you are a man and you get to marry a woman like Ruth, I say, blessed are you among men.

Before we sum up, let us point out something else about the things Ruth said. First, she said would go wherever Naomi went. Geographical boundaries would not make her abandon Naomi. She was not afraid to travel beside the one she loved. Second, she said she would lodge wherever Naomi lodged. In Ruth’s eyes, Naomi was family. If all Naomi could afford was a single room, she would be with her. If she even ended on the streets, she would not leave Naomi’s side. Third, Ruth embraced Naomi’s people as her own. Race, ethnicity and nationality would not come between her and her loyalty to Naomi. Because she loved Naomi, she loved her people also.

Fourth, she embraced Naomi’s God. She did not despise the LORD, but was willing to abandon her own gods and serve JEHOVAH. Keep in mind, Naomi did not ask Ruth to abandon her religion. This step of faith was Ruth’s alone. Fifth, Ruth vowed to die and be buried where Naomi would die and be buried. She determined to honor, cherish and love Naomi even in the latter’s death. And to seal her commitment, she invoked the LORD, asking Him to judge her if she failed to honor her vow to Naomi.

Ruth’s loyalty knew no bounds. It did not fluctuate. It was stable and it extended to the very end of life. By her loyalty, Ruth became the daughter Naomi never had. In this, she became a true icon of loyalty. Looking to her example, let us review how we treat the people we say we love. Amen.

For further studyRuth 2:1-23

Ruth: An Icon of Loyalty (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion | Day 326

“But Ruth said [to Naomi], ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17, ESV).

Loyalty is a precious virtue and an essential aspect of love. A sure way to demonstrate love is to show loyalty. It is loyalty that makes you stick with people you love no matter their color, race, ethnicity, nationality, economic or social status. Loyalty distinguishes a true friend from a false one. Therefore, loyalty is the essence of friendship. Loyalty gives friendship the ingredient it needs to thrive. A loyal person is not in your life to use you or to take advantage of you. A loyal person is in your life to bond with you (heart and soul) and to be your companion through thick and thin – to the finish line. In your presence or absence, a loyal friend will not undermine your good name.

 If people describe you as a loyal person, blessed are you. And if you have a friend who is loyal, you are fortunate because loyalty is priceless. In fact, because of their loyalty, certain friends are preferred over biological family. The Holy Spirit put it so well when He said, “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

This series will look at Ruth as an icon of loyalty and draw inspiration from her story. We will divide the teaching into two parts. God willing, we will tackle the second part tomorrow. Let’s start by looking at some key facts about Ruth.

In the Bible there are only two books which are named after women. They are Ruth and Esther. This fact speaks volumes about the exemplary life of these women. Ruth is also one of only five women who are named in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-16). The others are Tamar (v. 3), Rahab (v. 5), Bathsheba (v. 6; Matthew refers to her as “wife of Uriah) and Mary (v. 16). Another significant fact about Ruth is,  she was the grandmother of king David (v. 5).

Ruth was Naomi’s daughter-in-law. Over time, Naomi’s sons died. Previously, her husband too had passed away. Having no life left in the land of Moab, Naomi decided it was best to return to her homeland in Bethlehem of Judah. So, she bade farewell to her two daughters-in-law and urged them to stay in Moab where they had a better opportunity to regain a descent life. Orpah took Naomi’s advice and left. But Ruth would not leave Naomi. Every attempt to convince her otherwise proved futile. Not only did she refuse to leave, she vowed to stick with Naomi till death separated her from Naomi. Our opening Scripture (Ruth 1:16-17) captures that vow. It is breathtaking.

Ruth had nothing to gain from clinging to Naomi. In fact, she had everything to lose. Naomi had virtually nothing to offer her. At this point, the most reasonable option was for Ruth to separate from Naomi and seek a life of her own. Yet, she risked everything and stuck with Naomi. Ruth had come to love Naomi. She wanted to be a daughter and a companion to Naomi. She knew Naomi had lost her husband and sons. And she would not let Naomi lose her also. This was loyalty at its best.

Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi is for our inspiration and imitation. Love without loyalty is no love at all. Let us not betray friendship. Let us prove our love by sticking with our friends through thick and thin. Amen.

To be concluded tomorrow, God willing.

For further studyRuth 1:1-22

Offering Peace to the Peace-Loving

DAILY DEVOTIONAL: DAY 212

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18, KJV).

God wants us to be people of peace. He wants us to be bearers of peace, spreading peace wherever we go. Peace is an essential part of love. Where true love exists, there also will be peace. In today’s world, too many people seem to be on edge, easily irritated, quickly losing their temper. Peace is one of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23.

We need peace in our hearts to function as Christians. Not only that, we need peace to be able to live with others, including our spouses, siblings, children, parents, friends, co-workers, classmates, church members, etc. Today’s Scripture passage is taken from a set of instructions Paul gave to the Christians in Rome. His message is simple: If it be possible, as much as lies in us, we should live peaceably with all people.

Paul chooses his words carefully. He does not say we must live peaceably with all people. He qualifies his statement with, “if it is possible.” This means, the ideal is for us to live in peace with all people. But at times this is not possible. You may want to live in peace with all people, but you can’t force peace in a relationship if the other party (or parties) do not want peace. The fact is, not everyone appreciates peace. Some people hate peace, whether they are aware of it or not. Such people tend to create a climate of constant strife, argument and anger. The Bible talks about the frustration of living with people who resist peace: “My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peaceI am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:6-7).

Let’s make every effort to live peaceably with all people. But let us not stress over those who don’t want peace.

The peace of the Lord be with you today! Amen.

For further study: Matthew 10:1-14