This is the third week of our series entitled “5 Easy Ways to Wreck Your Life”. My name is Brian Morrissey and I am the Worship & Teaching Pastor here at Connect. Our Senior Pastor Mike Edmisten is taking a well deserved vacation and I’ll be filling in for him this Sunday.
And he’s probably going to kill me for doing this, but I work closely with him and I just don’t care. I know he’ll be checking this video when he gets back and I want you guys who call Connect home to know just how blessed we are to have the man of God that our Senior Pastor is and would you join me in thanking him for all that he does? Mike, we love you and appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.
This series is based out of the book of Ecclesiastes which was written by Solomon, who was a son of King David. We would like to thank our friends at Southland Christian Church for their assistance on this series – the concept and the outlines for these messages. As a matter of fact, next Sunday, we’re going to hear from the architect of this series, Mike Breaux, one of the men who teaches from time to time at Southland so you won’t want to miss that.
So as we dive into this word this morning, let me pray for us and we’ll get started.
I love a great story. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love a great story. I’m one of those weird people who likes to read. And I’m not talking kindle or e-reader, or something fancy like that, I’m talking a good old fashioned, page crinkled book. There are some fantastic stories and in most of these stories, you have a hero and a villain. Whenever the hero goes up against the villain by himself, he usually loses and that’s why literary craftsmen invented the sidekick. And since that wonderful invention, almost every hero has been given a sidekick – someone who tags along on their adventure and assists them. Think of some of the more famous sidekicks:
- Frodo & Sam
- The Lone Ranger & Tonto
- Batman & Robin
- Dora & Boots
- Zach & Screech
- Jordan & Pippen
- Dumb & Dumber
And there are many, many more. We could go all morning if we wanted to. Here’s the interesting thing that I’ll bet you didn’t know – Most heroes in the Bible had a sidekick as well.
- David & Jonathan
- Elijah & Elisha
- Joshua & Caleb
- Paul & Barnabas
- Solomon & ? (no one)
Solomon didn’t have a sidekick. Oh he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, but not a sidekick. And towards the end of his life, when he penned the words of this book, as he reflected on how he had chased after the wind and found everything to be “hebel” (meaningless), he discovered too late that great leaders should surround themselves with others.
He discovered that we were not meant to be alone.
Solomon was a smart, rich, powerful, envied king – but under that outer façade, he was really the poster child of loneliness and misery. And sitting down, penning his memoirs at the end of his life, his life experiences all came together to teach him that real connectedness was not just about knowing people.
How many of you have a Facebook account? Put your hands up. Okay, now keep them up if you personally know every single person that is on your “friends list” and by know them I mean, you hang out with them, you are involved in their lives, etc. You can put your hands down now. Most of us would say that there are quite a few people in our friends list that we really don’t know well. We may have gone to high school or worked with them at one point, but we don’t have a real connection with them.
Solomon understood this and he wrote about it in his journal towards the end of his life. He taught us that if we want to wreck your life, let pleasure drive you, let success consume you and if you really haven’t had enough yet, and you absolutely want to wreck your life, isolate yourself
In today’s culture, we know more about the value of human connectedness and the destruction of isolation more than anything else. Physically emotionally, spiritually – everything we do is affected by these two factors
Robert Putnam is a doctor from Harvard who did a study on isolation. After studying 1,000 different people, his conclusion was this: “The single most common finding from a half-century’s research on life satisfaction, not only from the U.S. but around the world, is that happiness is best predicted by the breadth & depth of one’s social connections.”
Thousands of years prior, Solomon determined the same thing. He conducted his own research. Let’s dive into the book of Ecclesiastes again. It’s in the Old Testament and if you don’t know where it is or don’t have a Bible, don’t worry – we’re going to put it on the screen for you this morning. Let’s start reading in chapter 4:
Solomon wrote, “I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.”
Solomon’s done the research, now here’s his conclusion:
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12, NLT)
Solomon is telling us that we flourish when we have a healthy connection to God and to others, but we shrivel up and we die inside when we are disconnected from either
The research is very conclusive on this. Research tells us that isolated people are more susceptive to depression, anxiety and low self esteem. They are more prone to engage in substance abuse, as well as get caught up in all kinds of sexual addictions, eating and sleep disorders
This next statistic blew me away. Isolated people are also between 2-5 times more likely to die from any cause than people who are closely connected to family and friends.
Even people who have bad health habits like smoking or elevated blood pressure or physical inactivity but who have strong contected-ness, studies show they live longer than people who have great health habits but are disconnected from people.
Winston Churchill was a great leader in Britain during World War II who had terrible health habits. He had a hobby of smoking enormous cigars and he had the stress of a world war on his shoulders. While out amongst a crowd one time, he was asked “do you ever exercise?” I love his reply. He said, “The only exercise I ever get is serving as pallbearer for all of my friends who died while exercising”
There is so much value in connectedness. When you and I live in isolation, we are much more likely to give in to temptation or discouragement. We’re much more likely to become self absorbed. We’re much more likely to spend our money in foolish and selfish ways.
But not only do we miss out if we live in isolation, other people get cheated out of the love God intended to show them through us.
Proverbs 18:1 (MSG) – Loners who care only for themselves spit on the common good.
Now that’s pretty strong. He saying that people who live in isolation are not only cutting themselves off from community, but they are cheating everybody else out of the gift that they were supposed to be to other people.
God designed us to be a gift to each other. He designed me to be a gift to you and he designed you to be a gift to me.
Let’s go back to our text and read what Solomon wrote starting in verse 9 – Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
Now I love movies and I love to relate everything to the movies. When I think of what Solomon says here, I think of Forrest Gump. We were not meant to do life alone. Forrest Gump and Bubba knew it, Solomon knew it and deep down, you know it.
It’s like there’s something missing from your life – a hole that you may have tried to clog up with absolutely everything, but nothing seems to satisfy it. Nothing seems to fill it. That’s because isolation is damaging and it’s completely contrary to what God wants for your life and mine.
Guys, let me talk to you for a moment, because we are the worst offenders when it comes to this. Guys like to do things on their own. We like to be independent and self-sufficient and that’s exactly when the devil comes and picks us apart.
David Smith said it this way, “within each man there is a dark castle with a fierce dragon to guard the gate. The castle contains a lonely self, a self most men have suppressed, a self they are afraid to show. Instead they present an armored knight – no one is invited in the castle. The dragon symbolizes the fears and fantasies of masculinity, the leftover stuff of childhood.”
Men, when we take the risk and let the drawbridge down and let other people into the castle, that’s when life will start to take off for us. The very thing we’ve been resisting for so many years is the very thing that will set us free and propel us to a better life and a better story.
Mike Breaux said, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together because two are better than one.” Think about it for a minute, people who are struggling to beat an addiction can’t do it until they join a group. People who are struggling to lose weight, exercise or eat right have much better success when they’re not trying to do it themselves. People who need to heal up from relationship wounds often find support from other people who have already been there. It’s just they way God designed life to work.
Your heart, your soul, even your body responds to relationships with other people. In fact the chemistry in our brain changes when we know we have support.
They did these tests with a monkey in a cage where they put him in a high stress situation – Loud noises, bright lights, Lady gaga music, you know…and they measured his stress hormone and as you can imagine, his results were off the chart. Then they put him in the exact same situation except this time they put another monkey in the cage with him and you can guess what happened, his stress levels were cut in half just because he had a buddy, a companion in there with him.
And maybe the lesson for us is to get some other monkeys in the cage with us. The Bible is very clear on companionship. Did you know that there are 57 “one another” phrases in the New Testament alone.
Solomon says in verse 11, “Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:11, NLT) This is where things get interesting because Solomon is talking about the warmth and encouragement and the joy that comes with meaningful friendships. Not necessarily in marriage although that applies here as well, but in your friendships. As we saw in the movie clip earlier, Forrest and Bubba leaned up against each other so that they could help each other.
We need friends to help us be warm. That’s the way it is – we’re a gift to each other. There is warmth, there is encouragement, there is joy in friendship. You need a friend because when life gets cold and you know as well as I do that it does, when we get exposed to the elements, when we’re out there and it’s raw and we’re vulnerable and wide open, we need a friend.
On your first day at a new school or a new job, you need a friend. Sitting in an ICU, waiting for answers, you need a friend. Getting laid off from a job you’ve worked at for twenty years, you need a friend. Walking into rehab, you need someone walking with you. You need a friend. When we start thinking, how in the world am I going to make it through this, we need a friend. It’s so much better to have a friend who’s walking with you. Two are better than one. It’s hard to stay warm alone.
You ever had a friend who just disappeared for a while? I have a friend who’s doing that right now. You ever experience that with someone – you try to reach out to them but they won’t return your calls or e-mails? They won’t respond to your attempts to reconnect with them on Facebook or Twitter? It’s like they dropped off the face of the earth.
Sometimes I’ll run into people I haven’t seen for a while and when I ask them what’s going on and where they’ve been, they’ll say “well you know, we’ve just had some stuff that’s been going on lately and it’s been hard to go anywhere.” You want to look at them and say exactly! And why are you trying to do it alone? Why are you trying to pull away and isolate yourself, you need support now, more than ever. This is the worst time to be alone.
But you know how it is. Sometimes it’s pain, sometimes it’s embarrassment. Sometimes it’s another level, shame that will make you hide. It will make you not want to answer the phone and isolate yourself. Our enemy, the devil, loves to use shame because it’s an effective isolater because once you’re isolated, he can pick you off that much easier.
In our shame we get to thinking, “I am so worthless. No one has ever messed up this bad. After what I’ve done, I could never show my face around there again. I might as well walk away from everyone who loved me and everyone who ever cared about me because my life is over. I will never recover from this.”
We also think this, “I’m the only one dealing with this.” That’s deadly. A lot of addicts think that way. They think, I am alone in this. And then when they actually show up to an addict meeting, they see that everyone else is saying, I deal with that too. It creates a safe place for them to share their story and begin to find healing because they realize that they are not alone.
Brene Brown is an author who wrote a book on shame and its effects. She had this to say about shame – “shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it. It can’t survive being shared.”
When you tell a trusted friend your shame, doesn’t it feel like a ton of bricks fell of your back? You want to run to the scale and see if you’ve lost weight. True friendships give us a place to deal with our shame.
Two are better than one.
Solomon then concludes his thoughts in verse 12 – “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT)
It has been said that two is company but three is a crowd. Solomon tells us here, three is better than two. When you weave all of your friendships around Jesus it creates a really strong bond that creates a strong life – one that can’t easily be wrecked.
So here’s some questions you might need to ask yourself this morning:
When something goes wrong do I have at least one friend that I could easily talk with about it? Who could I call that would even come over at like 3 in the morning to come right over and talk with me? Do I have a friend that I could drop in on at any time – do I have a friend that has given me “fridge rights” (like Kramer)? Is there someone in my life that could accurately name my greatest fears and temptations? Is there someone in my life that I know well enough that I could share anything with and trust their confidentiality? Is there someone that if I received great news – I could call them or text them immediately with it? Do I know Jesus as an intimate friend? Is my life intertwined with his?
If you can’t say yes to most of those questions, then let me encourage you today to start taking some proactive steps to get connected in meaningful relationships. We offer Small Groups as a part of our vision here at Connect. It’s the purpose of our Growing step. Small groups are how we grow with God and with others. You can sign up for one of those here in a couple of months and get plugged in with a group of people. That’s one way.
Maybe talk with some people you’ve met here and get your families together. Get together with someone for coffee or dinner because here’s the deal. God uses people to form people. In his earlier book, Solomon wrote these words: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV) The Holy Spirit is at work all the time and he works this way through us.
That’s why we have the Church. It is that safe place where you can come as a sin addict and learn that you’re not alone and that we were not meant to go through life alone.
For some of us, it’s an epic battle to go to Church. But the Church is where we need to be because we’re not alone in the Church. Think about it, why would Satan fight us so hard when we try to go to church if it wasn’t where we needed to be?
There’s unbelievable value in community, in the Church. Some people would push back and say, “well I don’t have to be at church to worship, I can go to the mountains, or the beach to worship” and I would agree, but you’re also isolating yourself when you go to those places.
The point of the Church is not just to worship Jesus. It’s also to understand that we are not alone and that helps us to reach the world. Here at Connect, we’re all about Connecting, Growing, and Serving and if you’re a guest this morning, we want you to know that everything we did today is for you. We want you to understand that all of the setup and work that goes into a portable church, all of the volunteer hours we spend are all because we want to connect you to Jesus. That’s what it’s all about because Jesus wants you to know that you don’t have to go through life all by yourself. You don’t have to go through life alone.
We all have things that are valuable, wouldn’t you agree? When I get ready to leave the house in the morning, I grab three things – my wallet, my keys, and my…cellphone. My cellphone is valuable because it has all of my information on it. I can’t get along without it. What if someone came to my house or your house today and grabbed your cellphone and threw it up against the wall? How are you going to react?
You would probably be upset because our cellphones have a lot of value to us. We have invested a lot in them. We paid a high price for them. When something is of value to us, we care about how we treat it and how others treat it as well.
Do you think Jesus cares about the church? Read Acts 20:28 with me. “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which [Jesus] bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28, NIV)
Jesus gave his own blood for the Church because it’s that valuable, because he knew that not only would we need to know the depth of love and sacrifice that he was willing to go through for you and I, but that we would also need each other to make it through life.
I want to close today with the words of Jesus. Jesus said this in John 15 – “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13, NIV)
We are to love each other as Jesus loved us and Jesus loved us enough to give his life for us. Now, you may not have to die for someone, but there are other ways to practice sacrificial love: listening, helping, encouraging, giving. I want to challenge each of you today to think of someone in particular who needs this kind of love today. Let me challenge you to listen to them, to help them, maybe to offer a word of encouragement to them, but do it because that person may need to know that they don’t have to go through life alone. They may need to know that someone else cares about them.
Maybe you’ve isolated yourself for a long time. Let me encourage you today – You’re not alone. There are people in this church, in this room this morning who have walked in your shoes. You’ve just got to be willing to open up and be transparent. It isn’t easy – the first step never is, but I promise that if you do it, your weight will be easier, your stress will be less because you have discovered that we were never meant to do life alone.
If you don’t know who to talk to, the band is going to lead us in one last song today and as they do, if that’s you, let me encourage you to come find myself or one of our leaders. We will be in the back right by these doors. Talk to us – we’ll listen, we’ll encourage you, we’ll pray with you and we will remind you that you’re not alone.
Maybe you want to know more about Jesus because you’ve been trying to do life without Him. Listen to me, Jesus loves you and he wants to show you everything that he has for you. Come and talk with us and we’ll get you started. You can do that right now as we all stand and as we sing.