LCN Article
Develop Godly Relationships

September / October 2023

Richard F. Ames

As we prepare for the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles, we may think of the enjoyable activities at our site, the inspiring messages from ministers who have prepared “meat in due season” for us, and the opportunity to enjoy delicious meals in a millennial setting.

And we may think of the people we’ll meet—old friends and new. One of the great blessings of the Feast of Tabernacles is the opportunity it gives us to nurture and develop godly relationships with the people around us. That opportunity isn’t just for eight days of enjoyment—we can think of it as practice for eternity. God has created us as potential members of His family, and when we are born into that family we will experience godly relationships forever.

Love God, Love One Another

God desires to dwell with us as His family. The Apostle John emphasized our need to develop nurturing and loving relationships. We will enjoy those godly relationships for all eternity, and we are learning now how to love one another. 

Our obedience to God is directly related to our love for the people around us. We read, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20–21).

So, when we love God, we naturally demonstrate that love by loving one another. Loving relationships are interconnected, and our love must radiate in all directions. The way we demonstrate that love toward God is by loving our neighbors—and even loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

Jesus Christ came that we might have life and “have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). But how do we experience and practice that abundant life? Life is based upon relationships, and eternal life is based on the relationships between God and His family, between Jesus Christ and His spiritual brothers and sisters.

What is your purpose for being? When a Pharisee asked Jesus to identify the greatest of God’s commandments, our Savior replied with His own words from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18: “Jesus said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:37–40).

Are you fulfilling those commandments? Dear readers, loving relationships are God’s very purpose for our lives! When we are selfish, we are putting ourselves ahead of God and failing to carry out His desire for us. So, let us briefly consider seven keys for developing the godly, loving relationships He wants us to have.

Share Your Life

Paul exhorted the Christians in Rome, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1–2). How do we do this? We sacrifice our selfish desires in order to serve those around us.

That may mean sacrificing some of your time. Maybe you’ll provide physical service like taking a widow shopping, or giving brethren rides to Sabbath services and other Church activities. It may mean helping a disabled person with housework or yardwork.

Or it may mean simply showing outflowing concern by having a conversation with someone. Face-to-face conversations can be not just a great joy, but a source of encouragement for ourselves and others. And there is of course the Internet, though we need to be careful of the many dangers of social media.

Another way to improve interpersonal communication is by sharing personal information. One of my textbooks makes an important point about self-disclosure: “For someone to be important to you, you must know something about him/her that matters to you and that makes a great difference to you. If you don’t know much about the person, it’s not likely that your acquaintance will amount to much of a relationship” (Bobby Patton and Kim Griffin, Interpersonal Communication in Action, 1981, p. 345). Now, we must use caution, and we shouldn’t think that we are so important that others need to know about everything we think and do. But if you care about someone, you will naturally want to learn about his or her life experiences, hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. 

During the Feast of Tabernacles, more than at some other times of the year, we may have discretionary time to converse with one another and to get to know one another better. Our speech matters to God. We read:

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him. Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (Malachi 3:16–18).

Do you fear God and meditate on His name? God is writing a book of remembrance—and some of the conversations that you’ve had will be in it! And we know that personal sharing is an important part of our relationship with God the Father. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Remember David’s heartfelt prayer when he was sharing his life with God. He said, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). David was saying, You’re taking too long to answer my prayer! He was open and heartfelt when he communicated with God in prayer.

Of course, we must make sure what we are sharing is the truth. David prayed, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). He also prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Honest communication is vital.

Get to Know Others

How can you be sure that you really know your Savior? Scripture gives us this vital sign: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). When you obey God, you are developing your relationship with Him, knowing Him better by knowing and practicing His ways.

We know that most of the world around us knows little or nothing about the real God the Father or the real Jesus Christ. But we should be honest with ourselves: How much do you know about God the Father? How much do you know about your Savior Jesus Christ and His life?

Advertising executive Bruce Barton wrote a book entitled The Man Nobody Knows. He was a co-founder of what became the major advertising agency BBDO. I visited his office in Atlanta when we were doing a broadcast for The World Tomorrow. For many years, he had a false concept of Jesus of Nazareth. But then he resolved to set aside the many sermons he’d heard about the stereotypical Jesus portrayed by mainstream Christianity. He said to himself, “A physical weakling[?] Where did they get that idea? Jesus pushed a plane and swung an adze; he was a successful carpenter. He slept outdoors and spent his days walking around his favorite lake. His muscles were so strong that when he drove the money-changers out, nobody dared to oppose him! A kill-joy[?] He was the most popular dinner guest in Jerusalem!” Barton came to the conclusion that Jesus “is a man nobody knows” (1925, p. iv).

Like Barton, we in God’s Church should strive to know the real Jesus as intimately as we can. So, how much do you know about His life? Do you know His many titles? He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He is “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,” and “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). He is the “Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). He is King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16; 17:14). He is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:15). He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). He is “the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48). And that’s just a few of so many you can find in your Bible.

And just as you will get to know God better when you know His many names and titles, that principle applies in our day-to-day interactions with other people. You probably interact from time to time with service workers wearing nametags. Interactions can be much more pleasant and personal when you address the other person by name. Dale Carnegie brought out that principle in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. He wrote that “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language” (1981, p. 79).

As we age, it can be harder to remember people’s names, but we should try as much as we can. The personal touch in communication can make a world of difference. Your prayer list can help with this, as well.

Submit to One Another in Service

We all know Christ’s admonition about servant leadership: “Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant’” (Matthew 20:25–26).

The Apostle Peter also wrote about godly submission: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5).

However, it may be more difficult for some of us to follow another of Peter’s admonitions: 

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God (1 Peter 2:18–20).

Peter wasn’t saying that we should endure or tolerate child abuse or spousal abuse. But we should look to our Savior’s example when we are treated unjustly, and endure that treatment with humility and patience. As we do so, God is pleased with us, and we are developing His character in our own lives. If a loved one or a supervisor at work mistakenly accuses you of some fault, you may want to think twice before lashing out and claiming you’ve been wronged. Examine yourself and consider whether the other person might have been right after all—and if not, proceed with humility rather than anger. Remember: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

And we have a special responsibility to serve our brethren. Paul admonishes us, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). At the Feast, we have so many opportunities to shine our light to carnal people we meet, whose only exposure to God’s Church may be through their experience with us. And even more so, we have opportunities to submit to and serve our Church brethren.

Develop Communication Skills 

Sometimes we may think of “communication skills” as the ability to speak meaningfully and persuasively. But listening is also a vital communication skill. God tells us, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). And the Apostle John seven times heard in vision, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).

How well we hear God will even affect our eternal reward. In one of His parables, Christ explained, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him” (Luke 8:17–18).

I grew up in a family where I didn’t get to converse very much, and I had to learn how to speak to others. When I went to Ambassador College, I learned how to introduce conversation. Young people at our LYP Teen Camp have learned conversational skills; Mr. Wallace Smith has taught classes from a book titled How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends. So, if you feel you are too shy, you might want to look at that book. Or, if you are a teen reading this, that’s one more reason to plan to attend Teen Camp, if you can. Conversation can be a wonderful part of your Feast of Tabernacles experience.

And it is never too late to learn. I had been married for 14 years when I started my master’s degree program at Stephen F. Austin University, and I had to take a class titled “Interpersonal Communication.” Students were given an assignment to improve one of their personal relationships, and of course I chose my relationship with my wife. I realized I was spending so much time playing basketball and golf at Ambassador College in Big Sandy that I was not giving as much time to my wife as I should have been. So, I made the living sacrifice of doing something she wanted to do. She wanted to go canoeing on Lake Loma. I didn’t really want to do that, but one Sunday I got the canoe and took her out canoeing on the lake—and it improved my relationship with her. Sometimes we must sacrifice our personal preferences—and we will find that we are glad we did.

It can be easy to take offense at someone else’s communication. Sometimes it comes in the form of a question, not a statement. We may be tempted to answer a factual question with an emotional response. Of course, sometimes someone comes to us with what seems like a question, but is really a request to be helped or simply to have a problem acknowledged. But we should resist the temptation to respond emotionally to another person who just wants the facts from us. When someone wants emotional support, give that support. But when someone wants information, give information if appropriate, not your emotional response to their request. We know that there are times for emotion; Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there is a time to laugh and a time to cry. But always we are to be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). We must learn to listen accurately and generously, and we must learn to respond with patience, humility, and love.

Pray for One Another

One way we respond to each other and help one another is through our fervent prayers. We have published so much about this and had many fine sermons on the subject, so I won’t spend too much time here trying to write something new. Instead, I’ll point to some excellent resources that other ministers have shared, which you can find at There’s “Pray for One Another Always” (DVE 1248) by Mr. Rod McNair. He added “Always” to his original sermon title because I had ten years earlier given a sermon titled “Pray for One Another” (DVE 654). And for our July–August 2023 Living Church News, Mr. Jonathan McNair wrote a fine article, “How to Pray.” And, of course, there’s our foundational booklet by Dr. Meredith, Twelve Keys to Answered Prayer.

Are you continuous in prayer, as the brethren were when Peter was delivered from his ordeal in prison (Acts 12:5)? So many of our brethren have needs and trials to overcome, and one way to develop a relationship with them—and also with God, who wants to hear our supplications—is to pray fervently. Do you have a prayer list that keeps you in touch with the needs of your brethren? Do not neglect prayer as a vital way to develop loving relationships with your brethren.

Choose Your Relationships Carefully

I’m sure you have read the proverb that goes, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26). It is never a good idea to develop relationships with people who will try to turn you away from practicing God’s way of life. Young people are especially vulnerable to peer pressure—however, over the years I have seen some among our Church youth standing up for truth against the crowd. And adults are not immune to peer pressure, either, and may face the temptation of trying to fit in at work or in social situations instead of practicing righteousness.

Some of you may be aware that the KJV and NKJV translations of Proverbs 18:24 aren’t quite accurate. But it is an important verse that teaches a vital principle. The New International Version translation tells us, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Do you have unreliable friends? Are you an unreliable friend?

The NKJV translates the first part of the verse as, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” That’s not actually what the verse says in Hebrew, but it, too, is a valuable principle. Yet we should not extend our friendship to those who would corrupt us. “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge” (Proverbs 14:7). And “if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Proverbs 1:10). No carnal friendship is worth the loss of eternal friendship with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and our brothers and sisters in the Family of God.

Do you realize that God has chosen you as His friend? Abraham “was called the friend of God” (James 2:23). And Jesus Christ made this amazing statement about faithful Christians: “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

To be a friend of God, we must not let ourselves be drawn into sinful friendships with the world. And we must not be prideful; we should remember the admonition to “let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3). That doesn’t mean that the ungodly are better than we are; it means that if we can help a sinner come to righteousness, it is worth doing so. That sinner is a potential friend of God and eternal member of His family. This leads us to our final point for developing godly relationships.

Fulfill Your Mission

God’s Church has a mission, and each of us in His Church has a part in that. Christ told us, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). We work together as God’s people to complete the Work that He has given us to accomplish.

Are you developing a relationship with that Work? By reading the Living Church News you are doing that, taking advantage of godly exhortation and teaching to help you grow closer to God and His Church. And even though the Tomorrow’s World magazine is meant primarily for those who do not yet participate in the Work of the Church, by reading it we gain insight into the Church’s mission to preach the true Gospel and proclaim a warning.

Though there isn’t space in this article to recapitulate it in full, I also urge you to review and meditate on the “Sevenfold Commission” of God’s Church, as Dr. Meredith described it some years ago. You can read about this in more depth in his May-June 2009 Living Church News article “The Purpose for God’s Church,” which is available online at

We have a mission as a Church, and each of us individually can advance that mission by our godly conduct and relationships. As we prepare to share our lives with our brethren at the Feast of Tabernacles, let us pay particular attention to the quality of our relationships—both with God and with one another. God promises to draw near to us as we draw near to Him. 

So, let us strive to develop and enhance godly relationships in all areas of our lives. Let us “love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). And let’s rejoice in the promise of God’s soon-coming Kingdom, where His eternal love will foster godly relationships that will last for all eternity. God has called us to be a part of His loving family—our very purpose in life! Let’s rejoice in the development of our godly relationships, now and forever.