The writer of Hebrews tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:24 – 25).

There is a reason Christians are told to bind their hearts and lives with other committed followers. We’re commanded to stick together, to find people of like mind and spur each other on “toward love and good deeds,” and to meet together regularly so we can encourage each other to stay the course.

People need the community to survive. We need to be around people who think like we do, who share our values, who understand our struggles, who have been through what we’re going through. We need people who can say to us, “You can do this,” “I know you can make it,” and “I believe in you.” It’s through community that weak people become strong, and strong people become even stronger.

I’ve been a believer for nearly forty years, yet I’m convinced that I could not survive without the fellowship of other believers. If I had to cut ties with all my Christian friends and instead live only among ungodly, unrighteous people, I would find myself struggling to remain faithful. The same is true for you.

We all are affected deeply by peer pressure, both good and bad. One of the primary reasons Karen and I have a strong and healthy marriage is that we decided years ago to surround ourselves with the right kinds of people. When God stepped in and saved our marriage, he began bringing couples into our lives to set an example for us. People who saw the struggles we were going through and who were committed to guiding and encouraging us as we navigated the inevitable storms of marriage. People who had weathered the same gale-force winds and could serve as a beacon of light, showing us which way to go. People who were willing to take us aside and speak into our lives, helping us get where God wanted to take us.

If you’ve found yourself struggling in your marriage, I encourage you to take a long, hard look at the people you’ve allowed into your life. Look at your friends and acquaintances — the people you hang out with at church, your friends in the neighborhood, your co- workers, the couples you get together with on a regular basis. Are they the kind of people you want to emulate? Do they have the kind of marriage you want to have? Do they treat each other with love and respect? Do they hold themselves to godly standards of living? Do they influence your relationship for good?
These are critical questions that need to be dealt with honestly, because the people you hang out with have an overwhelming impact on the health of your marriage.

The friends Karen and I have in our lives are not by accident or default. We’ve allowed them in for a reason. Our friendships are intentional and chosen with great care. We pray about our friendships and have no problem cutting ties with people who drag us down as a couple. Our marriage is far too important to us to think or do otherwise.

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And our friends don’t believe in divorce. It is simply not an option for them, no matter how difficult things may get. They are committed to staying together, and nothing would convince them otherwise.

I often joke that if I ever threatened to leave Karen, my buddies would get together and drag me behind the woodshed to convince me otherwise. Anyone from Texas can tell you that nothing good ever happens behind a woodshed.

That’s why I call these guys my buddies. They hold me accountable. They won’t allow my sinful nature to get the best of me. They spur me on toward the good and encourage me to stay the course. And I do the same for them.

Those are the kinds of friendships that every couple needs. If you don’t have those in your life, you need to find them. You need to have a strong, godly support system in your life, a life-giving church to attend, a group of friends who will lift you up and hold you accountable. You need people around you who will call you on the carpet when you make poor choices, who will come alongside you when times get tough, who understand your struggles and are willing to help you through them, who know your hopes and dreams, and who share your value system. You need friends who will hold you to your word and keep you on the right track in your marriage.

Bad company corrupts good character. Good company has the opposite effect. It strengthens character and builds resolve. That’s why whenever you see a great marriage, you can be sure there’s a pack of other great marriages right behind it.

Adapted from  Life Long Love Affair

Copyright © 2012 by Jimmy Evans, published by Baker Books. Used with permission.

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