The Sway of ‘They’
May 6, 2018
By Ed Young
“They always say…” But rarely do we ever consider the true impact that they have in our lives. But in this message, Ed Young brings clarity to a pronoun many of us use daily. Through the wisdom of Proverbs, he helps us discover the reality that our lives can be so much more powerful when we listen to the right they and stay away from the wrong they.
<Pastor Ed introduced.>
What a privilege! What a joy to be here at the great Celebration Church! I tell you, through the miracle of technology this is gonna be seen here and also at all of our campuses. In Dallas/Fort Worth, we have some in Florida and some other areas so let’s give a great round of applause to everyone. Also, too, I want to say something else. I love Stovall and Carrie Weems. You have two of the greatest pastors in the Western Hemisphere and I think it’s good to go ahead and do a shout… Weems! Weems! Weems! Weems! Weems! I think whenever we see him I think we need to start doing that, the Weems cheer. Stovall Weems. Please be seated.
Jesus changes everything. Wow. The cross, there’s the vertical aspect and the horizontal aspect. Jesus said in Matthew 22, they asked him, what are the greatest commandments? What’s the deal? What’s the net effect of it all? And he said basically love God with the totality of who you are, then he said love your neighbor as yourself. So there’s a vertical aspect and a horizontal aspect. I want to talk to you today about the horizontal aspect of life. I want to talk to you today about, well, I tell you what. It’s a four-letter word I’m going to talk about. A four-letter word. I use it all the time, and you use it all the time and it’s not a cuss word. It’s nothing profane, but we use this word all the time: they. They. Have you ever thought about how many times you use the pronoun ‘they’? They. And here’s the question I want to lob at you about they. What did ‘they’ influence you to do that you would not have done if ‘they’ hadn’t been around? The sway of ‘they’. The power of ‘they’.
I was blown away by how many times the word ‘they’ is used in the Bible. The Bible is littered with ‘they’. They, they, they. They said. They feel. They’ve been coming to me. Here’s how to mess somebody up. Just say, “Wait a minute. Who are they?” “They. Them!” “Them?” Those, those.” “Who are those?” Well they just end up being a few. They. It means several. Who are the ‘they’ in your life. I want you to do a they-ventory today. Who are the ‘they’ in your life.
Have you ever thought about how many times the Bible talks about walking? The Bible talks about ‘they’ and it talks about walking. Who are the people, who are the ‘they’ that you’re walking with, you know? I sometimes will kinda walk with a pimp limp. I like it. I do. People have made fun of me but I don’t care. It’s just the way I walk. I got some rhythm, you know? Back in the day I played basketball. You know I played basketball at Florida State University back in the early 80’s. I sat the bench a lot but I had the walk. Other people have the body-building walk, or those CrossFitters. You know? Do you know how many CrossFitters it takes to change a light bulb? Two. One to screw in the light bulb, the other one to say, “Hey bro, you look big, man. You look swole.” Was that funny? I thought it was. Other people, you know I’m from Texas. You know in Texas, people in Texas they don’t really open their mouths very much, a lot of the guys when they talk. They just kind of talk like this and a lot of them kinda walk a little bowlegged a little bit, and… People walk in different ways. The Bible is all about walking, and the Bible connects walking and friendships, walking and relationships. Think about how much Jesus walked. And having been to the Holy Land several times, I’m just like taken aback about how many miles Jesus walked just in a day. The guy was a beast, you know, physically! I mean, you had to be something else just to walk! Well, who are you walking with? Who are you walking with. When you say ‘they’, who are the ‘they’ in your life? Who are you walking with? Who’s a part of your squad, your posse, your homies, your boys, you know? Your frat, your team. Who are the ‘they’ in your life? Because ‘they’ always have something to say. ‘They’ have some serious sway.
Now you don’t just fall into friendship. Whoop! Tripped up and, you don’t just say, “Well, I was just doing life and we just started hanging out together and now we’re like, you know…” No! We’re intentional about friendships. Now when I’m talking about the ‘they’ I’m not talking about your spouse. I’m not talking about your immediate family, I’m talking about friends. Friends, the foundational relationship in everyone’s natural domain. Friend. A foundational relationship in everyone’s natural domain. Friends. You have friends, I have friends. And in friendship we’re constantly walking with people, we’re walking toward people, and we should be walking away from other people. Because some people in your life and mine keep us from being the kind of people that God desires. Obviously we should have friends in our lives who are far away from God. When I’ve had the opportunity to speak in different locations and situations sometimes I’ve spoken to Bible colleges, sometimes I’ve spoken to seminaries, and I usually ask them this question. It’s kind of a trick question because no one gets it. I’ll go, “Name the character qualities of Jesus.” And they’re like, oh! Grace and mercy and a teacher and rabbi and on and on and on and on. But they forget one of the main things they tagged Jesus with. You know, we like to tag Jesus these days. They tagged Jesus with this phrase and they forget it every time. A friend of sinners. So it’s OK to have lunch with people who are far away from God, to play golf with them occasionally, to go fishing with them and all that. That’s fine. I’m talking about people, though, that you do life with. I’m talking about people that you are deeply connected with. Here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people. The church should be the baseline of our relationships and our friendships. So I just want to celebrate the fact that I’m at Celebration, and let’s celebrate the fact that we have some amazing people here, and we have some people here one day who will become your best friends, but you don’t even know it yet! So how do I meet people? Well, ask God about it. Take the initiative. Roll the relational dice. Take a risk. One of the best ways is to serve. If you’re not serving, you’re swerving. Where are you serving at Celebration? Or where are you serving at Fellowship Church? Take a look to the right, take a look to the left, wow! You’ll meet the right ‘they’ in your life.
So let’s just kind of talk about that and think about that. The Bible says in the book of Proverbs, if you want a book on fear, a book on sex – I woke some people up – a book on dating, a book on anxiety, a book on joy, a book on practicality, read the book of Proverbs. You know, I wish it was relevant. Proverbs chapter 27, verse 19, and here’s a scary aspect of this verse. I could meet the ‘they’ in your life without even knowing you and the ‘they’ would tell me exactly who you are and who I am. Let’s check it out, Proverbs 27:19, “A mirror reflects a man’s face but what he’s really like is shown by the kind of friends he (what?) chooses.” I have an opportunity to choose who I’m going to walk with. I have that opportunity, so do you. And if you just fall into it, if you’re sucked into the vortex of, you know, we’re just hanging around. I don’t know. I just kind of became friends with her or him. Chances are you could be with the wrong ‘they’ <echoing ‘they’, ‘they’, ‘they’>.
Let’s talk about some negative verse stuff. Have you ever heard of this guy named Joel Osteen? I’ve known Joel for a long time. #Humbled. I have. I’ve known Joel, I bet I’ve known the Osteens, their family, because my father is also a pastor, he’s from Houston. Wow, 40 years, Stovall! So I can imitate Joel, and he loves it. “Amen.” You know, Joel, people sometimes ask me, they’ll go, “Is that guy really that genuine?” Yes! He’s that nice! I mean, he’s so nice I feel convicted every time I’m with him! I’m like, man that guy is nice! “Amen! I tell ya… we love you.” And he really does! I’m just not that nice. Why did I say that? What was I talking about? Joel Osteen, I just wanted to imitate him. What? Yeah, that’s right. Negative/positive. Yeah. Let’s talk about the negative parts. And Joel, I’m sorry. Now and then, I’ve heard Joel a few times get a little bit negative, but he’s not. He’s basically positive but there is some negativity, and you have to talk about some negativity before you get to the positivity. Even the gospel, there’s some negativity in the gospel. What’s the negativity? We have to admit that we’re fallible, that we’re sinners. That there’s this cosmic chasm between ourselves and God due to our iniquities, due to our mistakes and our mess ups and moral turnovers. So here’s some negative stuff, negative stuff, about the ‘they’. Here’s some friendships that you need to walk away from. I’m just gonna tell you right now, I guarantee it, the lion’s share of people in this place and in all of our different environments need to walk away from some friendships. I mean, it’s difficult but here we go.
Proverbs 14:7, I mean, this is up in our grill, man. “Escape quickly…” What does that mean? Quickly! “…from the company of fools.” I love the Bahamas. I think I’m maybe even part Bahamian, I’ve been over there so much. And in the Bahamas they have a saying that says, “You doing fool, man, you doing fool.” Don’t be doing fool when it comes to friendships. The word fool in the original language means open. I’m just open, man. I’m just open to anything, everything, and nothing. Don’t be foolish. The book of Proverbs is all about wisdom. Wisdom is not something that you learn, really. It’s something that you receive, it’s a gift from God. And in 1 Corinthians, I don’t want to get too much here, but 1 Corinthians says that Jesus is the wisdom of God. So when you see wisdom here, read Jesus, OK? I just wanted to help us here. So escape quickly from the company of fools. They’re a waste of your time and a waste of your words. Isn’t that the case? Think about, and I’ve wasted some relational time before, think about those friends, that person, you know, who just I call them the cray-they. Got any cray-they in your life? The cray-they will wear you out! Blow up your phone, you can give them counsel, you can help them and pray with them, and they’re still gonna be straightjacket crazy next year, too. You know that crazy person in your life? You see the whites of their eyes when they talk. They invade your personal space. It’s like, whoa! Cray! Say it, cray! The cray-they! Move away quickly. It doesn’t mean you’re mean to them but life is too short to hang out with cray-people. Any effective person – check this out, now – who loves Jesus, the devil himself, Stovall, will try to put about 10 cray-theys in their life, and you’ll waste so much time craying with the theys that you’ll miss the people that God wants you to really do life with! We should love everybody, even the crazy people. I’ve got them in my life, so do you. But you’ve got to keep them at bay. Oh this rhymes, on the dime, every time, peace of mind, yours and mine! I love it!
Also, we have the decay-they. Those are the people that just rot away in your life. I talked to a lady at a store, let me see, today is Sunday. It was this past Thursday. And she said, “You know, my home was devastated by the recent hurricane. It was interesting, it didn’t seem that bad but water just seeped in, in all these weird places, and after a while my husband and I began to smell this stench and the stuff had just seeped in. Water got in everywhere!” You show me somebody in your life who is the wrong ‘they’ and their conviction, really their lack of convictions, their values will seep into your life and one day <sniffing> something smells. No, it’s not you! They’ve rotted in your relationships! You can’t have people that close to you who are decaying your life! No! Heck to the no!
Then you’ve got the fray ‘they’. Those are people who are just kind of on the edge, on the fray, and they’re kind of with you for a season, then they’re gone for a reason. Just kind of fray. Cut the fray, man. Move away quickly from them. Maybe you have some who are stray ‘they’ people. Stray ‘they’ are people who will lead you astray. Read the book of proverbs. I encourage you to do this, 31 chapters, 31 days. Read the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs talks about walking, remember that? It connects friendships with walking. So we have a choice. We either walk in wisdom or we walk in the path of foolishness, which means you’re open, or folly. We have this fascination with folly. People who are stray ‘they’ they go, “Come on, come on. Come folly with me! Come on, let’s take the trolley and go play some folly.” Are you feeling me? And one day you look up and go, how did I do that? What happened to me? I’ll tell you what happened. You were walking with the wrong ‘they’. You were with the stray ‘they’.
And it keeps going. The betray ‘they’. I mean, betrayal happens. It’s very, very difficult to deal with betrayal. I read this about pastors recently, a very interesting subject matter. It said the average American has seven major betrayals in their life. In their relational life, the average U.S. citizen has seven betrayal stories. The average pastor has seven betrayal stories a year. Betrayal. It only happens with people that you trust, that you let into your squad, your posse, your team, your group. Whoomp! Social media… woo-hoo! Talk about betrayal! And social media is kind of redefining friends, isn’t it? Unfriending you. I’m not following you any more, you know?
And that brings me to the next day after the betray ‘they’, stay away from them. The display ‘they’. The display ‘they’ are people who always try to one-up you. I just kind of click, the bar’s been raised. Oh, you just got back from a vacation in Cancun? Well, I chartered Bill Gates’ yacht and we sailed the Greek Isles for two months! Oh man, I’m a nobody. I’m worthless. And social media, I mean I fall into the same trap. I scroll through it going, man. They live the life of an A-lister, of a rock star. I really am a failure.
You know, somebody yesterday, I have to confess this. Yesterday I was out fishing and I took a selfie. This was a joke. I took a selfie, I’ll confess it – we’re in church. It took me like 8 different photos to do a selfie, because I had my shirt off, where I looked good and finally I got an angle where I was really flexing and I sent it to my wife. And of course, she was laughing. And I said, “Lisa, I hate to confess this but it took me 8 shots because…” You know, the older you get things just sag. So I’m saying this. I’m saying social media and your friends and stuff, all this stuff, it’s highlight reel living. It’s not real living. So if you’re around somebody and they’re always one-upping you, or #namedropping, give me a massive break. Call me a taxi. I’m a good friend of this Pentecostal preacher. Do you know J. Don George? Have you ever heard of him, Stovall? Old school Pentecostal. He would get to going. When he’s preaching-ah, every word-ah, is pronounced like this-ah. And when he gets going-ah, he will lift his feet up in the air and he will say, “Call me a taxi. Hmmm-mmm.” I love him! He preached at our church this past year, oh I was going wild. I was taking laps. And some people walk like that, I guess, don’t they? Is that a great line? Call me a taxi. Hmmm-mmm.
OK, so those are the relationships to walk away from. Are you feeling me? Are you feeling me? And it’s not easy. This book, this whole message, is from my book “Fifty Shades of They.” It is. And it’s available I think at all of the different environments. Yeah, Stovall’s gonna say something.
Stovall: … (can’t hear) after call me a taxi. What is this follow up line to that?
Ed: Hmmm-mmm. And
Stovall: Does he say I’m getting out of here!
Ed: Yeah, yeah. Call me a taxi. I need a massive break-ah. Get me out of this place-ah. Like that. Yeah. I’m sorry. I fell. Hey, can you imagine Joel Osteen doing that? Call me a taxi. Victoria, call… I can’t. Whoa.
I’ve gotta send this to Joel. I’m gonna send him this message. Joel, you know I love you, you know. He knows. He knows it. And the great thing about Joel, let me tell you something else about Joel that I love. Joel laughs at himself. I went to his church one time, it’s somewhere on YouTube. Have you seen that, Stovall? Where I imitated him and, yeah. He laughed. Laugh at yourself. Man, you know what? Take God. Here’s our problem. We take ourselves too seriously, and we don’t take God seriously enough. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at yourself. That’s so important!
OK, let’s talk about relationships. I love it. Relationships to walk to. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Be friends (remember that’s the foundational relationship involved in everyone’s natural domain) with those who are wise and you’ll be come wise.” OK. Choose friends, there we go. I mean choose fools, choose fools to be your friends and you’ll have trouble. The right ‘they’ always has HE in the middle. HE. I mean, they, they’re people who love God with the totality of who they are, and they love their fellow man. They know and they have been a part of this change that Jesus has brought about and it segues into their friendships and their relationships.
How many singles do we have here? If you’re single lift your hand. If you’re single. OK, wow! I love singles! This is the best place to meet somebody! Now, I want to read you, how many high school students? Do we have any high school students here or do they have their own deal right now? OK, high school students, junior high students, this is massive advice right here. I go into it a lot in this book but let me just give you the Cliff Notes right here. Are you ready for this? The Bible says this. The Bible says that, well, this is the most unpopular Scripture verse, to those who are dating, in the Bible. And when I read it you’re going to say come on, somebody! But I’m telling you it’s true. 2 Corinthians, it’s God’s word, chapter 6, that’s right, verse 14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers for what do righteousness and wickedness have in common, or what fellowship (great name for a church) can light have with darkness.” Oh my goodness gracious! If you believe that, which we do as the Word of God, two-thirds of the potential candidates <whoomp!> are off the table. Some are like, man, is God being capricious or cruel? Is he being discriminatory? Is he profiling? No. He has our best interests in mind. Why does God insist?
OK, let me give an example of this. I’ll tell you why God insists on being equally yoked, because he cannot imagine, and he does not want two people, being together in marriage who cannot share (or dating) who cannot share that which is most near and dear to their heart, a relationship with Jesus. The other day I was speaking somewhere, sat down before I was speaking, and I sat down by this guy. I mean, he just looked boring, you know? Kind of… and I’m thinking to myself, what am I gonna talk to him about while we’re eating before I speak? And so, you know, I’m trying to kind of converse with him, trying to pull stuff out. And finally I just said,
“Hey, what do you like to do recreationally?”
“Uh, well, I really like to fish.”
“Fish?” That’s my favorite thing in the world, fishing. If it has fins and scales I’ll chase it. “Fish? You like to fish?” and it was like <blah-blah-blah-blah>. Boom! We connected. Now I’m passionate about fishing, so is he. We had that connection. That pales in comparison to the connection of Jesus. That’s why God insists on it. Also, too, God insists because, check this out, when you get married there’s a great chance you’ll have kids. It just happens. So when you have kids you see the genius of God. We’re operating off the same set of plans when we’re equally yoked. We trade in our agenda, our plans, for God’s plan. Because raising kids is not easy. But here’s something that will help you. Just take your kids to church. It’s very simple. You take them to church and don’t say,
“Well, what do you want to do this morning? Do you want to go to church?”
“No! My friends aren’t there!”
Hey, you’re the parent! You’re the parent! You say, “In this house, we’re going to church. I don’t care what the situation is, we’re going to church.” God’s house, the bride of Christ. Stovall, can I rap for a second? You know I’m a frustrated hip-hop artist. I have a rap. I have a rap. Now, parents, let me tell you this. Sometimes you’ll have to just go Jay-Z on your kids, so if they’re not listening to you, if they’re giving you this or that, have some kind of attitude, you just go Jay-Z on them. Here’s the rap, it’s called the Parent Map Rap. Are you ready for it? So, when they start talking back to you, “I don’t wanna go to church. My friends aren’t there,” just go,
“Whoa, I’m the parent, I’m legit. There’s no use arguing, you might as well quit.
You can roll ya eyes, and say it’s not fair. You’re telling God you really don’t care.
So do what I say, all the time, then your life will have serious rhyme, on the dime, yours and mine, peace of mind!”
Just rap. You think I’m kidding you. Another reason why God insists on spiritual compatibility, I’m talking about the man/woman relationship. How about when you argue? Arguments happen in marriage. Guess what? When I became a believer, when I took the hand of Jesus, the ultimate friend here and forever, boom! He came inside of my life, the Holy Spirit is inside of my life, and I have the ministry of reconciliation. So when I have messed up, even the Bible tells me when I’m 0.1% wrong and Lisa is like 99.9% wrong, which is rare. But she’s not here so I can say that. I am called to do what? Because of the cross, vertical, horizontal, to reconcile. To say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” And that, see the genius of God? And listen, when you apologize, this is not an apology. Let me tell you what’s not an apology: Hey, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. What in the world is that? Honey, I’m sorry if you took it the wrong way. In other words, you’re an emotional basket case. You’re hypersensitive. No, when you apologize, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” That’s how you do it. That’s how you do it. That’s how we do it.
So yoked, some are like, I don’t like yolks, I like egg whites. No, no. A yoke is a piece of farm equipment you hook up animals with the same nature, same strength, and they help you plow in straight lines. So you have a couple of oxen <oxen sound effect> you’re fine. Equal size, strength, nature <oxen sound effect>, you’re gonna plow in straight lines. Well, you would never think about hooking up an oxen <oxen sound effect> and a donkey <hee-haw!> . Different nature, different strength. It’s gonna be chaos! Again, you see the genius of God. In Deuteronomy chapter 22:10 says, “Do not plow with an ox <oxen sound effect> or a <hee-haw> yoked together. Why? Well, I’m a why guy. Donkeys eat poisonous plants and in some cases their breath is so toxic it can make the oxen sick and some oxen have died because of it. What kind of breath does this person have that you’re dating? I’m not talking about halitosis, I’m talking about Hellitosis! Call me a taxi-ah. Let me get outta here! Hmmm-mmm! I’m preaching better than you’re shoutin’-ah. OK. OK, I’m gonna right now spur the oxen to the barn because I’ve gotta go through really, really quick some quick character qualities from the book of Proverbs who are the right people to walk with. Because some of you are going, OK, Ed, whatever. Help me. Help me. Help me. All right.
#1 – They have to be teachable. OK, that’s what I love about Stovall Weems. Weems, when Weems and I talk, Weems is a teachable person, he’s a humble person. You’ve gotta hang out with people that want to learn, who are open and who listen. Also, who ask questions. Ask questions. Don’t ever stop asking questions. Ask questions. When I ask I’m always seeking knowledge. Get your ask in gear and ask questions. Proverbs 9:9, “Give instruction to a wise man and he will still be wiser. Teach a righteous guy (or girl) and they will increase in learning.” So instruction, you’ve got I’m receiving information, you’re asking questions so you have this beautiful teachable thing going. I’m not Mr. Arrogant or Ms. Narcissistic person. No, no, no. I’m teachable. I don’t have everything figured out yet. Help me, show me.
#2 – They better be honest. They better be honest. Do not tolerate lying at all. Well, he just has a little lying problem. RUN! Head for the hills-ah! I may have to go Steven Furtick on somebody. Steven Furtick! He holds the microphone! I love Steven! That’s Steven Furtick. But I’ve got Bishop Jakes: “Come Hell or high water, head for the hills. Broke, busted, and disgusted, head for the hills!” OK, all right. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them…” Is this person of integrity? “… but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys him.” The word integrity comes from the word integer. You’ve got a whole number. The fools in your life and mine throw out fractions. You don’t really know about the cray, the decay, the pray, the stray, the betray, the display… just fractions. But there’s a wholeness to someone who’s honest.
#3 – Encouraging. I want people to encourage me and you do, too, not discourage me. And I don’t mean they don’t tell the truth. We know that. I don’t mean that every single word is like you’re the greatest and I love you. I mean, some of that’s like give me a break, man. I mean, you know what I’m saying to you. It can be too much. But they encourage you. I want to go, I want to hang out with people where I’m celebrated, not tolerated. For far too long, even back when – I have to confess this – back when I was in the first grade during recess I remember there were a couple of people that didn’t like me. I just knew it. So I would try to get them to like me and do all this stuff. Try, try. They still didn’t like me. And then as I’ve gotten older and older, I’ve wasted time before even as the pastor trying to get certain people to like me that didn’t like me. Well, they just don’t like me. They kind of tolerate me. So I thought, I’m gonna go where I’m celebrated, not tolerated. So we waste time trying to get the not-like-me’s to like me. Don’t waste time. Don’t waste your time. And it’s like, oh yeah, if I explain myself to the people that don’t like me, they would like me. No they wouldn’t. They don’t like you.
#4 – Yielded. They need to be yielded. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.” I commit everything to God. Everything. Everything to him. Again, Matthew 22, the totality of who I am. Heart, soul, mind, body, future, mold me, break me, shake me, I’m yours, God. And I’ve got to do life. I’ve got to walk with someone who’s yielded. And I love that word commit, don’t you? Because in our culture we would rather quit than commit. We would rather throw in the towel than stay in the game. We would rather bail out than blast through. We would rather leave than last. But too many people have that vow-forgetting, work-faking, job-shaking mentality that runs from commitment. I want people who have a commitment track record. Look at her. Look at him. Look at that person over there. Look back in their life. Are they people of commitment?
I just spelled THEY. Did you get it? Did you get it? Teachable, honest, they’re encouraging, and they’re yielded. We spend so much time and energy, oh my goodness, trying to find the best dentist, the best person to sell the apartment complex or the building or the house. We spend so much time. Oh, I’ve gotta get the best accountant! We spend so much time. I’ve gotta have somebody to train me. The best trainer, who is it? And if you live in Dallas you spend all this time trying to find the best plastic surgeon. We waste so much time, oh the best golf coach. We spend so much time doing that, and good for you. Good for you! How much time, though, do we really spend studying and training for the right ‘they’, which far outweighs anything else? Are you ready to walk with the right ‘they’? Are you ready to turn and leave? I don’t mean to dis them or to be rude, to leave the wrong ‘they’ and to begin to walk with the right ‘they’. It begins with Jesus. Study his life, watch his life. And it really begins, I’m talking about the crux of the matter, it begins with a decision to know Christ, because he has extended his nail-pierced hand to every single person. And Jesus says, I want to be your forever friend. I want to walk with you here and through eternity. Have you received Jesus? Have you received the Lord? Because that, friends, is the most important friendship ever. Let’s pray together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]