Siblings: Best Friends Forever (April)

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by Sarah L. Bryant

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This month, KBR is hosting an “Encourage Your Siblings Challenge.” Throughout April, we are posting one article each week by big sisters, who will share encouragement and ideas for how to bless the younger siblings in our lives. We would love to hear your ideas as well – feel free to comment.

Feel free to tell your friends about this challenge and encourage them to join you as you “Encourage Your Siblings”!

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 Siblings Challenge April 2014

 “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
{Proverbs 17:17}

Dear Genevieve,

Greetings to you on this lovely spring afternoon! I am enjoying the breezy spring  weather on our front porch, as I reply to your thoughtful letter. It is always a blessing to hear what the Lord is teaching you. I am so happy to hear what you shared about your relationship with your siblings and yes, even the struggles that you’ve faced. Even these difficulties have been put in our lives, as opportunities to show patience and love to our siblings. You sounded a bit discouraged about the struggles you’ve faced lately as an big sister, but I want to encourage you that having strong relationships with your siblings is so worth the effort.

Honestly, the Lord has been working in my own life about my sibling relationships, too. You might think that when you get older, you won’t struggle with something as “simple” as this — I certainly thought that when I was fourteen! Let me tell you, that at age 22, I still face the daily choice of whether I will diligently cultivate these relationships God has placed in my life. Whether I will continue to build these relationships that God has given me into strong friendships that will last throughout the difficulties and seasons of our futures. Whether I will forgive wrongs…be patient with shortcomings…and admit my own sins before them.

You see, we never reach a place in any relationship where there are no more struggles to overcome. Relationships require constant work and humility. We will have to work at every relationship we have throughout our entire lifetime, whether it is with our siblings, parents, spouse, children, friends, or church, because we are dealing with sinners—and we are sinners ourselves! The sin that remains in us causes friction, disagreements, and failures; and of course, God uses this in our sibling relationships to refine us. This is a training ground for bigger things ahead that we will face. Realizing that these struggles are actually opportunities to “be Christ” to others, is a big key to building lasting, Christ-honoring relationships. As Christians, these very difficulties give us a beautiful chance to forgive, show grace, and walk in love as Christ has called us.

“Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us,
and hath given himself for us an offering and
a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”
{Ephesians 5:2}

It is encouraging to know that relationship struggles actually sanctify us. Also, as I realize that these things are not caused by my circumstances, but rather spring from my (and other’s) own sinful heart, I know then that I will face these struggles wherever I go in life. This challenges me to face them head-on, instead of dodging the uncomfortableness. If I thought, “Well, it’s just MY siblings. If they were not so annoying, I would actually be really patient!” or “I don’t have to really work on being a more loving sister, because I am sure it will be easy to love my own children and I won’t struggle with this as a mom,” or “No need to try to learn to communicate better with my brother—I won’t have this problem with my own husband. It’ll always come natural to talk with him about everything — so why try so hard with my brothers?” — then it would be easy to just try to “get along” in my relationships now and put off the struggles. However, if we as daughters put off areas of weakness that the Lord is trying to point out to us through our family relationships, rest assured that we will face the exact same struggles as wives and mothers. We need to be diligent to strive toward the mark Christ has called us to—today!

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You shared that you are not sure how to be better friends with your little sisters since they have different interests than you. This is not unusual; most siblings do have different interests, talents, and personalities, but it is not an excuse to “not have a good relationship.” This diversity actually adds to the beauty of the family unit. If we learn to work alongside our brothers and sisters in their unique interests and gifts, we as a group can actually accomplish much more for the Kingdom of God than we could individually, because when we work together with love and patience, these gifts can bless many (and show the world how God-honoring siblings can work together). We can lay aside our pride, as the older sister, and recognize our siblings’ strengths and knowledge, and learn from them and work together.

While you do have differences in your siblings, remember all that you have in common!  You have the same parents, upbringing, life experiences, similar tastes, environment—and you are united by common blood. My siblings will always be closer to each other in this sense, than we will be to any other human on earth. What a blessing! So, you might think that your brother or sister is so different from you, that you can’t be best friends—but that simply is not true. God has given much room for diversity among siblings, and this is a blessing—not something that should cause us to drift apart. It sharpens us because we learn to deal with the different personalities and characteristics in one another.

My sister and I are seven years apart, and have very different interests and personalities, but we are closely bound and are truly best friends. It has not always been that way—if you are struggling in your relationship with your sister right now, do not feel like it is a hopeless vision for you. In fact, several years ago, I thought it would never be true for my sister and I; our differences, age gap, and misunderstandings seemed to hinder a close relationship. However, the Lord has worked in our lives as we have sought Him, and bound us through kindred fellowship, because we both love the Lord and His Word. Christ must be at the root of a lasting friendship, and I praise the Lord that this is so in our relationship. This is the bond that is stronger than any conflicts or differences we might have. As we have grown, we have developed a strong friendship and interest in one another’s interests; we love to talk and work together.

Like any relationship, a sister relationship requires sacrifice—and we must initiate it (not wait for the other party to do it). If your little sister loves to play with dolls and you would rather cross stitch, you need to sacrifice your own pleasure to spend some special time with her. Being willing to lay aside our time to be together and talk—even if we have something we think we “need to do”—goes a long way in building a friendship with our siblings. I struggle with this and have been trying to remember that someone in my life is more important than that something that I need to do. My siblings have souls that need to be watered with love (read Luke 10:40-42). A few extra minutes spent with my sibling will not cost much, but can mean a world to them. Show interest in them and make an effort to have a fun time together. Maybe you could suggest a special afternoon tea party with your little sisters, and ask them to help you make some scones and tea, decorate together, dress up in matching outfits…having fun talking and laughing together as you do so. Make it a special and fun time for them. It will only take you a few hours but will light up their whole week.

Rachael and Sarah

Although sibling relationships can require work and sacrifice, it can also be fun—we just need to be creative about ways to spend time together and show love. Little hearts are eager to soak up big sister’s love and are eager to love back in return—and to forgive wrongs.

Dear Genevieve, don’t think you are the only one facing these kind of struggles. Being a big sister can be difficult, but such an important and blessed role. Do not grow weary wherever you find yourself in your sibling relationships. Keep pressing on, day by day; be faithful and slowly, yes, slowly, progress will be made. There are times when the going is very difficult. Remember when you are struggling the most that God is trying to teach you something important. At one time recently, I felt very discouraged about the difficulties I was facing. However, the Lord then showed me an area in my life that was a block to the growth I was striving toward. He showed me my own pride, which hindered a positive response from my siblings.

For example, I must be willing to humble myself, admit and apologize when I am wrong (not try to act like I am perfect), and show that I want to try to do right and build a stronger relationship with them despite my failures, before I expect any growth to come. If I will not lay down my ideas, take a true interest in the lives of my siblings (at the cost of laying aside my own), and show sacrificial love—then they only see pride and selfish ambitions in my life. They must see me lay down myself, for 1 Corinthians 13 says this is true love. This will help develop trust and friendship.

Actually, in your letter you asked how we as big sisters should take advice and rebukes from our little siblings, and this goes hand in hand. The reason it is so hard for us to take a correction from our siblings is because of our pride. If we will not humble ourselves, how can we expect our siblings to listen to us? Little eyes are quick to pick up these inconsistencies. They will eventually pick up on the lack of humility in our lives, which can make them resentful of us, especially if we are hypocritical about living how “we preach.” It’s not going to hurt us to listen to a suggestion from a little brother (even if we do not think it is the best option) to show him love and respect. It’s really not that hard to receive correction from them—we just have to swallow that pride! And it is good to admit we are “wrong”—we don’t always have to have it “all together.” After all, we are just as imperfect as our siblings! Matthew 23:12 says, “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

Genevieve, we are not promised another day with our siblings. Let us not regret how we spent the days God has given us together. James 4:14 minds us, “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  What a blessing it would be for us to look back and say, in the years to come, that by God’s grace, we strove to establish relationships with our siblings that encouraged beautiful fruit of godliness in their lives as Christian adults. Our resolution to this goal is daily tested—but we must strive, by God’s grace, to become best friends—friends that stick together through all the changes and storms of life! I will be praying for you and look forward to hearing how God is working in your family relationships in your next letter. Keep pressing on, sister in Christ! ♥

With His love,
Sarah Lee

P.S. You can also read this article written last year by Sarah, which contains more practical ideas for how to encourage and invest in our siblings.
This is an encouraging article about the influence of sisters written by Timothy Arthur.

Feel free to tell your friends about this challenge and encourage them to join you as you “Encourage Your Siblings”!

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The Power of the Tongue, Part 2 (March)

Part 2 (read part 1 here)
by Sarah L. Bryant

Every word of God is pure:
he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.”
(Proverbs 30:5)

Last month, we looked at the power and influence of our words—they hold the power of life and death. What an encouragement this is to seek out how our Lord would have us to speak honorably. Proverbs 25:11 says that “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” The blessing that our words can bring to others is incredible. Have you ever received a kind word on a day when you were discouraged—and been blessed? We all have been given the ability to uplift and exhort one another with our tongue.

“The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters,
and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.”
(Proverbs 18:4)

What a beautiful and peaceful picture is given here—the words of the wise are overflowing with wisdom, as a deep flowing brook. We remember from Proverbs 31 that the words of the wise woman are filled with wisdom and kindness. Isn’t the mental picture of a prudent Christian woman beautified, when we consider that her words spill forth with wisdom—not folly and idleness? James 3 says that “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” Wisdom is shown/proven through good conduct and wise, meek conversation. Our words need to reflect that which is pure, peaceable, gentle, merciful, without partiality—and without hypocrisy.

“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious.”
(Ecclesiastes 10:12)

Our words should not only be wise and purposeful, but also overflowing with grace…refined and gentle. Foul words, idle phrases or crude exclamations, flippant remarks, and degrading judgements should not be found on the lips of a wise woman. Some phrases and exclamations that are commonly heard in our culture are so easy to pick up, and before long, they become a habit. I encourage you to stop and think carefully about the phrases you commonly use. Are they gracious? Seek the Lord humbly, and ask Him to set a watch over your mouth. Ask for His grace in your life, to guard your lips before ungracious words come forth. The fool speaks before he thinks, and later regrets. Therefore, a wise woman must be one of few words. “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). We must ask that the Lord would purify our mouths and help us use self-control in what comes forth.

Ephesians 5:1-4 contains some powerful exhortations on this topic. Let us break it down as we read…

“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;”

Are we saved by God’s grace? Are we His own precious, adopted children? Then let us take careful note of what follows—

“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us,
and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God
for a sweetsmelling savour.”

We are commanded to walk in pure love, because Christ Himself walked in love, giving Himself for the redemption of our souls. We know this truth to be life-changing…

“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness,
let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;”

Now, we might feel justified as we read—“Okay, I don’t usually have a problem with that list…”

“Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting,
which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”

Wait—we need to stop and examine ourselves here! Fornication is very wicked, a sin that we tend to think we would never fall into. However, foolish talking and jesting? Now that something we all do at some point or another. Foolish talking in this passage refers to silliness, ridiculous talk, nonsense, useless/idle words, or “buffoonery.” Certainly, this is not a category that I want to fall under—but do I?

And what exactly is jesting? It is joking, teasing, making puns, or being “witty” just to gain attention. Wow! I find myself convicted by this very potent passage—a lot to evaluate in my own life. We find here in God’s Word that foolish or silly talking and teasing is not to be our regular practice and habit as Christians. There are possibly appropriate times for joking with those we love, but we need to guard against this becoming a regular occurrence, since it can so easily become a habit. It is easy to constantly tease our siblings to the point that we cannot have a sober, edifying conversation with them, to joke with our friends because we are uncomfortable with getting around to serious subjects, and constantly make idle remarks just so that others think we are funny.

This passage gives us a needed reminder to steer against light-heartedness, joking, and foolishness. This is a very heavy topic to consider and pray about, for I am sure most of us struggle with this at some point or another.

“Speak not evil one of another, brethren.
He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law,
and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law,
thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.”

(James 4:11)

Once again, we are shown in God’s Word that our words carry so much power. Speaking evil of one another, slandering one another, speaking unkind words—all of these things are using the power of the tongue to bring death, rather than life. It can be easy to let our guard down around our family, who we are around the most. We can let unkind words fall on those we love the most, sometimes speaking evilly against our family members behind their back. This should never be our practice as God’s children. We need to carefully guard against this, for the consequences can be far-reaching, beyond our imaginations.

“My tongue shall speak of thy righteousness 
and of thy praise all the day long.”
(Psalm 35:28)

Here is one of the positive ways we can use our tongue—God’s praise! God is richly glorified when we open our lips in praise and adoration of His infinite goodness and mercy. His praise should be on our tongue all the day long. It should spill forth in every conversation and lighten our countenance. Our Lord desires and is magnified by our humble praise. He has done so much for us—loaded us with daily and hourly benefits (Psalm 103:1-5). How can we but speak His praises? This is one way we can open our mouth and give forth life!

“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things:
and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak,
they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 

For by thy words thou shalt be justified,
and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

(Matthew 12:35-37)

Here, our Lord Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. What comes forth from our lips is what is in our heart. Sister, if your heart has not been regenerated—cleansed and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ—you abide under judgement and will find no power within yourself to conquer the tongue (Romans 3:23). You must repent of your wickedness before a holy God, and beg forgiveness under the atonement of the Lord Jesus (Romans 5:8). He is ready and able to forgive, and wipe your heart clean (Ezekial 36:26). Jesus alone can cleanse your mouth and set forth His praise forevermore thereon (Romans 10:9-10)!

As I have studied God’s Word on this topic, I have felt the Lord’s conviction. I have seen areas that need to be changed. At first, I thought that it would be very difficult to discipline myself to be purposeful about my words, but as I sought the Lord in prayer to assist me in this goal, I found victory in Him. He enables that which He commands.

Sister, please stop and consider the words of your mouth. What category would most of your words fall under—wise, gracious, kind, foolish, idle…? This is no light matter before our holy and gracious Lord. We will be called to give account of every word (Matthew 12:37)! If you find that your words need to speak more life and your vocabulary needs refinement, please ask the Lord to purify your mouth! It is definitely not unattainable; the Lord’s grace is more than sufficient. He blesses our efforts to be obedient to His commands.

We have been saved by the precious blood of a Savior, Whose Words spoke this world into being (Hebrews 1:1), Whose every word was pure and loving. Who, by being the very Word (John 1:1-3), has shown us the way of redemption. He has given us the privilege to speak words as well. We can choose to embrace the power of the tongue to be a blessing on a daily—hourly—basis, if we refrain our lips from guile. “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.” (I Peter 3:10)

I don’t know about you, but I want my heavenly Father to be the doorkeeper of my lips!
Will you pray with me—

“Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth;
keep the door of my lips.”
(Psalm 141:3)

At His mercy,

P.S. There are countless other verses God has given us about the power of our words, and I encourage you to personally study this topic and seek the Lord as you evaluate your own life.
 

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