Healthy relationships should change over time

Healthy relationships, like rivers, have seasons of joining and separating.


As we grow our roles and relationships with others should mature and change too.   

Some common examples would be:   

  • A weaned child is initially unhappy with the new but necessary arrangement.
  • A father often feels a deep struggle in letting go of his daughter in marriage.
  • John the Baptist was essential to Jesus’s initial ministry – but then was placed aside.
  • Barnabas played an important role in finding Paul (at Tarsus) and helping him connect with his calling in Antioch and beyond. But later was not necessary.

Ministry partnership and friendships change as people mature. But we are like Bilbo Baggins (in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit).  We tend to like the comfort and familiarity of the shire.  Change is unseemly.  Oh how we need discernment, humility, and perseverance!   

In Acts 13:2 we read:  “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work for which I have called them….” But in Acts 13:13 the heirarchy has apparently already begun to shift:  “But Paul and his company set out…”  Barnabas went from being the initial leader to being part of Paul’s company!    

Can you allow someone with a greater gifting or God-ordered prominence to eclipse your place? You cannot if your personal sense of worth and identity is more about your role in ministry and the opinions of others, than about your relationship to Christ.   

There is a God-ordained “shelf-life” of many of our relationships over our lifetime.  Some people are only in our lives for a season.  And we play significant roles in some lives for only a season.  This can be the result of someone’s physical death.  But more often it’s because of some strategic purpose of God.  These new “times” and “seasons” are not always immediately recognized by us.  These transitions can be hard and sometimes involve a sense of loss that results in an actual grieving process!  This is normal.   

But we must let Jesus move us and others forward in His plan for our maturity and ministry.   

Paul and Barnabas had each become so fruitful in their present roles that they would now be more fruitful apart than together.    

THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO FLAKE OUT!  I can almost hear someone say, “Pastor, God has shown me that I’ve outgrown my marriage and need to move on…”     Sadly, there are a lot of splits and divisions in life and ministry that are not a result of fruitfulness and seasonal changes, but the fruit of ambition, rejection, and deception.   

Tomorrow we will consider how to avoid unhealthy dependency on others.  

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