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Networking 101

What is 'networking' in the business world? In the most literal sense it is getting to know others. Some people 'network' because they know they can be of help to others, while others do so because they hope others will help them accomplish something they desire. We all probably have asked the question, "What's in it for me?" Networking has some risks, but it also has some potential benefits. People always seem to have an underlying need to know the risks of taking certain steps - but they also want to know the benefits. This is why surgeons go over both the risks and benefits of the surgery being considered. Going under the knife carries the possibility of good outcomes (the disease is removed), but it also comes with some pretty unwelcome risks such as bleeding, infection, and even death! Knowing the "benefits" of certain actions helps us determine if they are best for our lives. If you 'network' with the wrong people you might not get the 'benefit' you had hoped for.  We don't just 'network' with God - seeing if we can help him, or if he can help us in some way. We need to have a deeply intimate relationship with him and that goes way beyond just the casual acquaintance with him! God doesn't ask for us to 'network' with him - he asks us to live in him - enjoy his company, be challenged by his presence, and thrill with his movements.

But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard — things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The lack of wisdom exhibited in using our freedom in Christ as a means to justify our continued sinfulness becomes very evident in choices, but those choices are often influenced by the 'network' we maintain. Scripture takes great pains to lay out the differences between being secure in the one-time sacrifice Christ made at Calvary and the futility of continually trying to do things to justify ourselves through our good works. God also wants us to realize the benefits of letting go of our need to constantly prove ourselves worthy of his love. We might 'network' with God because of what is in in it for us. Those blessings - Good gifts! Changed character! Different focus! Allegiances which really matter! A position of great authority! Wow! In today's vernacular, I think our response would be, "Sign me up!" These are the easily accepted and appreciated benefits of 'networking' with God, but we only scratch the surface of these when all we do is have casual relationship with him.

Here are but a few things God desires for us, but they are the result of more than just a casual, now and again meeting up with him for a 'short visit':

- Affection for others - no longer being so self-focused and independent, but creating in us a true desire to "attach" and be "devoted" to others. The benefit of "connected" relationship is being described here. When we understand the importance of connection, we begin to guard against things that interfere with that continual connection. We don't want any 'break' in it. We desire more than just a 'networking' experience, but a deeply intimate one instead.

- Exuberance about life - not just exuberance "for" life, but exuberance "about" life. Abundant and lavish enjoyment of today, not because we are still taking in breath, but because of the promise of profuse growth and awesome enjoyment of each day. Those who approach God as one they 'network' with for the benefits of being associated with him don't fully appreciate the exuberance they could enjoy if they just settled into relationship with him. Sure, they enjoy 'good things', but they don't appreciate life in the same manner as those who find their beginning and end in God himself.

- Serenity - calmness of character is something many strive for, but few actually realize. Instead, we live with continual chaos. God's plan is for us to know the tranquility of his presence each moment of our day. Network relationships are not usually 'constant' ones. There may be frequent contact, but it 'serves a purpose'. God isn't a 'let me serve your purpose' kind of God. He is intensely in love with us and he desires our hearts, not just our minds!

- A willingness to stick with things - some call this tenacity; others will call this commitment. Either way, it conveys the idea of standing firm. It is the idea of being persistent - getting on course and staying on course. It is always good to have direction in our lives, but if the ones we are taking up the course with are not helping us develop a deeper appreciation for the grace of God in our lives, the direction we travel may not get us to the destination we truly desire.

- A sense of compassion in the heart - there are times we are moved to meet a need, just because of what we see or hear. The heart of man is made up of our mind, will and emotions. The mind takes in the need, the emotions drive our response, and the will moves to meet the need. Christ's Spirit helps to align our heart with the good we need to be doing each and every day. The connection we make with him each day is important because it begins to affect our heart. Since heart drives our passions, it is important to have it affected by the right influences.

- A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people - in other words, we learn to judge less and extend grace more. We don't overlook sin, but we don't judge the sinner, either. We embrace the sinner, extend grace, and await the move of Christ's Spirit in their lives. There is also an ability to direct our energies wisely - because of redirected focus, we don't spin our wheels quite as much! There are times we 'spin our wheels' in life, not even realizing we are doing it. God's Spirit helps us to recognize when we are just 'taking steps', but those steps are kind of 'aimless'. The enjoyment of freedom in Christ is summed up in the benefits. How do we know if someone is enjoying and living in the freedom Christ brings - we look for the fruit! Network with those who reveal fruit in their lives and you won't soon be disappointed! Just sayin!

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