Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 2

What are your "Prime Relationships"? In the last UPGRADE post, Dawn asked this question and said we can all invest more in our prime relationships. First we invest in our relationship with the Lord, and then we invest in ourselves (so we will be strong and ready to serve God).

There are three other priority relationships, and investments in each of them can make a huge difference in OUR lives - and in THEIRS!

          Investment #3: INVEST in YOUR SPOUSE

If you are married, this is your prime relationship after your relationship with God. 
There are so many ways to invest in a spouse. Here are only a few:

1. Communicate Love and Appreciation.
  • Learn and apply the "love list." There are many aspects to biblical love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Try to apply as many as you can each day!
  • Make regular verbal "deposits." Loving verbal "deposits" will strengthen your spouse and marriage. Tough times will come to every marriage, but a couple who take time to communicate lots of "love investments" will find they have together-strength to weather problems.
2. Develop a Partnership.
  • Don't try to go it alone. You are "heirs of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). Understand how two can be better together: "Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow ... Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).
  • Become friendly warriors together in the battle against temptation. Prayer can united you, so pray about various struggles in your marriage and look for that "way of escape" together. (Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • Seek the Lord together for His purposes in your home.
  • Ask, "How can I help?" What can you do to help your partner become the person God intends them to be? To help them achieve their goals? To help them dream, and step out and take risks?
3. Value Gifts and Skills.
  • Discover your Partner's spiritual gifts. Your partner has special God-given gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-9; Romans 12:6-8). Seek ways to help your partner use those gifts at home, church and in your community.
  • Notice your partner's skills. They can not only be used to bless your marriage, but also to serve the Lord in many ways.
  • Help cultivate these gifts. Use your time and resources to help them develop. 
  • Appreciate and value your partner. Praise their accomplishments in public.
4. Fulfill Your Role.
  • Study the Blueprint. The biblical pattern is found in Ephesians 6:21-33. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but there are practical ways "roles" might be exhibited in the home.
  • Husbands can:
  1. Protect, provide for, lead with love and wisdom.
  2. Watch for problems they might help their wives solve and assist her in ways she desires to bless the home.
  3. Respond in gentle, loving, kind and respectful ways to honor their wives (1 Peter 3:7)
  4. Share appropriate public praise or recognition of their accomplishments.
  5. Study their wives and help them become the women God purposed them to be.
Wives can:
  1. Support and encourage the husband's leadership in the home.
  2. Appreciate their need for work outside the home.
  3. Use wisdom and skills inside and outside the home. Manage their home well.
  4. Show her husband respect (Ephesians 5:33b)—and when this is difficult because of bad behavior choices, she can still focus on good qualities, and give kind, supportive input. (She can pray for and allow the Lord to change her husband, patient and trusting Him with her highest hopes for her man.)
  5. Understand and appreciate her husband's God-given sexual needs.
          Investment #4: INVEST in YOUR CHILDREN

After your spouse, your children are the next priority investment—not the other way around.

1. Love Them Unconditionally.
  • Don't expect perfection. Your kids are going to mess up. They're kids! (Some days, be glad if they do one awesome thing!) Regardless, love them without any conditions; let them know you will love them no matter what.
  • Express your love privately and publicly. Speak well of your children to others; that's what people will remember. So will your kids!
  • Help them see the value of "family." Do all you can to strengthen bonds of love between family members to give them a loving heritage.
2. Teach Them to Seek the Lord.
  • Help them see their need for the Lord. Do not be harsh, but use teachable moments to show them how they are sinners in need of a Savior.
  • Don't give answers too quickly. Challenge your child (and teach them how) to search the scriptures for the tough questions ( You want to prepare them for life!)
  • Teach them how to pray. Teach them to talk to the Lord as a loving Heavenly Father and friend, but also as the Sovereign God of the universe! Encourage prayer times that worship more than whine, and praise more than petition.
  • Promote a godly legacy. Make sure your children understand how the Lord has worked and blessed in your family (Psalm 78:4; Deuteronomy 6:5-7; Isaiah 38:19).
3. Discipline Wisely.
  • Distinguish between immaturity and defiance. Defiance is one thing, childishness is another. As one pastor wrote, life shouldn't feel like a "perpetual spanking" to a child. Major on the majors; don't get hung up with petty things.
  • Discipline quickly and wisely. Don't stay angry; deal with willful sin and usher the child into a place of repentance. Don't provoke your children (Ephesians 6:4), but pursue a biblical balance of dealing with sinful, rebellious behavior in a spirit of love and mercy. Follow your Father's example (Psalm 103:13) There is no room for verbal or physical abuse to vent anger, but there is a place for discipline too (Proverbs 3:12; 13:24; Hebrews 12:10).
  • Encourage proper respect. Teach your child to fear (reverence/respect) the Lord (Proverbs 1:7) but also your authority (Ephesians 6:1-3; Hebrews 12:9).
  • Encourage growth and change. Train them in "the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6). Help them learn how do deal with temptation. Always remind them of the grace of God.
4. Model Good Character.
  • Model behavior you want repeated. Children are always watching. They are looking for the fruit of the "sermons" you speak to them.
  • Reward good behavior. Catch the doing good and praise it. Don't always dwell on what they're doing wrong. Help them grow in godliness (Hebrews 12:10).
  • Train them to be responsible. Focus on skills they'll need as functioning adults.
  • Help them cultivate godly friendships. Peer influence will grow in their pre-teen and teen years; encourage wisdom in choosing friendship (show them examples of godliness) and help them be good, godly and loyal friends themselves (Proverbs 12:26; 13:20; 17:17; 1 Corinthians 15:33. Model positive friendship in your own relationships.
5. Encourage Creative Growth.
  • Don't overschedule their lives. Children respond to routines and schedules—but don't forget to schedule in plenty of blocks of free time.
  • Encourage their creativity. When they're young, play with them. Play "pretend" to give them opportunities to "try on" different ideas, skills, etc.
  • Help them stretch. As they grow, help them take reasonable risks to stretch outside their comfort zones. Let them make messes (and teach them how to clean up afterward).
  • Give them space to pursue their dreams.
          Investment #5: INVEST in YOUR FRIENDSHIPS

Good friends don't just happen. Friendship requires intentional investment.

1. Practice Committed Encouragement.
  • Be intentional. Hit-and-miss doesn't work in friendship building (although I do believe friends can pick up where they left off).
  • Practice loyalty. Aim for comitment and consistency. Be persistent to find ways to encourage your friend with love, especially in times they struggle (Proverbs 17:17).
  • Be generous. Share your time and resources.
  • Build into their lives. Make it your goal to "bless" your friend in as many ways as you can.
2. Listen More and Better.
  • Listen to their heart. To invest in a friend's life, first stop talking about yourself! Listen carefully to what they say, but also to how they share what's on their heart.
  • Listen with compassion. Squash judgemental thoughts.
  • Ask questions. Seek to understand so you can encourage. It will a breath fresh life into the relationship and "sharpen" your friend (Proverbs 27:17).
3. Challenge Greater Growth.
  • Go deeper, with purpose. If youi've developed the kind of friendship that can bear the weight of accountability, ask deeper questions that challenge your friend to greater growth (Proverbs 12:26; 27:5-6). Share scriptures that will build strength and faith.
  • Come alongside. Help your friends move outside their comfort zones ... and be willing to go there with them, if you can. A friend that comes alongside is valuable indeed!
  • Pray for your friend regularly. Ask for specific requests, pray, and check up later!
Can you apply any of these strategies to your own prime relationships? Which one would make the biggest difference today?

Note: There was a lot of territory covered in these two posts, and by all means, it does not cover everything that will encourage wise investments in your relationships. I encourage you to discover more as you "read the manual" for all relationships: the Word of God.

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