Every year, I schedule a meeting with two mentors who have encouraged me in my walk with God. Our meetings seek to review the previous year. (We take stock of achievements, lost opportunities, new learning opportunities, just to name a few.) We then plan ahead for the next year. (This includes assessing fresh ideas, new risks, a change of strategy, etc.)

One year, one of the meetings was scheduled for early in the morning and the other one was for later that same day. An hour before my first meeting, I wore my Sunday best, with very mild make-up as I began to prepare my mind for the barrage of questions that would be hurled at me.

At my first meeting, after exchanging pleasantries and catching up on all that happened in the last year, there was a lot of commendation, no disappointing remark. We discussed new frontiers for ministry, we prayed and went our separate ways. I enjoyed my meal at this new restaurant and the dessert was really nice. I went back home and spent the rest of the afternoon reading a book he had recommended.

“As long as you hang out with certain people, you will not hear God’s voice clearly. Your passion and zeal for God will be diluted or wither on the vine.”

I didn’t realize that it was almost half five and almost time for my second meeting. This meeting in the evening had little or no preambles. After a short prayer, I felt like I was at an interview for a job I wanted so badly. Feeling really good with myself, I reviewed the details of the previous year and all that had happened; I waited in silence for a few minutes. He said nothing as he looked over my notes.

When he finally spoke, I was gobsmacked. He said that he was disappointed. He had a long list of expectations based on our meeting a year ago and was surprised that even though I had completed bits and pieces of those expectations, I had clearly not gone the extra mile. ‘The harvest is plentiful, God is counting on you, He’s expecting much more’. He went on and on as I hung my head, struggling to keep an eye contact with him.

I hadn’t listened to two audiobooks that he had recommended last year, I put a bold asterisk on those points in my notes to ensure that I attend to them by the weekend, at the latest. I took notes, I was heartbroken. But I had a new resolve. After enjoying my appetizer of chicken corn soup, I had lost my appetite for the main meal and dessert. How do you eat when your jaw muscles have suddenly become stiff?

He asked me to update my year plan, considering all that he had said and send it to him before I went to bed that night. We prayed and even after he stood up to leave, I stayed back thinking over all he had said. ‘What a day’, I thought: Same report, two different reviews and two different impacts on me.

As I drove back home that night, my eyes were teary. I wasn’t in a hurry to get home. I had listened to what two men thought about me but now, I was much more concerned about what God thought and if I was even pleasing Him and doing what He has called me to do.

It’s been a while since the meetings with my mentors. But I won’t forget the last words from the second meeting: Life is too short to live a normal life; make God proud. I’ve made little posters of those words on my bedroom’s mirror, on the fridge, on my steering wheel and on my front door.  I put one also by my bedside. It’s my reminder to stay focused and give God my all.

It’s never late to pick up the steam and start running again. What vision did you have at the start of the year; get down to work! Don’t wait for the applause of anyone. Keep your eyes on the finish line when God will say to you, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. Give God all you’ve got.

If our lives must be purpose-driven and count for eternity; if we will finish the race and leave an impact on our generation, it’s time to surround ourselves with those who will support our upward path of growth. We don’t need fair-weather friends; we don’t need popular opinions of others to please God. The narrow path is a solitary walk; not many people are on it.

What has your choice of friends got to do with your pursuit of purpose? At some point, we all have to ask some pertinent questions: Who are my friends? Why are they my friends? Are they being great examples? Every time you speak to them, do you feel challenged to strive for excellence or do they celebrate your mediocrity?

Are your friends praying for you to be all God has called you to be and do or are they jealous and discouraging you from moving ahead? It’s easy to assume that because someone’s contact details are on your phone or because people ‘follow you’ on social media that they have earned the right to be called your friend.

They are probably just occupying space and adding no value. Many of us are stuck in casual relationships with people and assume we know them, but we really have no clue who these people are. We may know some casual details about who they are, their job descriptions or their families but we know nothing about their aspirations or their daily struggles.

Many of us have succeeded in maintaining superficial friendships with people who couldn’t care less about us. It’s time to end the deceit and identify friends who will support, encourage and challenge you to be more.

In a world where everyone’s looking for what they can get, genuine friendships have become a rarity. In order to go the distance with God, we can’t afford to squeeze into old moulds we should be growing out of. You need friends who are speaking God’s promises over your life, praying fervently for you and challenging you to step out to new territories.

Who are you hanging out with? Small minds that have deceived you into thinking that you have become great when you’re not? When we hang out with people who are not as good as we are, we begin to think that we are the best, or have the best and we feel so much pressure to prove that we are the best.

“If you surround yourself with people who are heading nowhere. It won’t be long before they take you down a wrong path.”

Then we will become proud and continue to stumble until we fall. Instead, let’s hang around people who are far better than us, who challenge us and keep us hungry for more. It might be time you changed your circle of friends.

Pay close attention to so-called friends who don’t clap when you win. If your friends are not excited about what God is doing in, with and through you, they cannot be called your friends and they don’t deserve your time and attention. Many people want you to remain a victim on their prayer requests. They become very angry, jealous and afraid when you make any progress.

Not everyone deserves access to your life. Not every opinion should be considered. Not everyone you think is your friend is in touch with God. You may have known them for so long and shared common interests, but at some point, you have to make a decision about who is having an impact on your life. We will have to make the hard choice between our calling and some companies we keep.

No man is an island; therefore, every one of us needs the right team to lay hold of all God’s got in store for us. Who’s speaking into your life? Who are your silent encouragers? Who are the men and women holding you up in prayers as you fight to win? Who are those working behind the scenes, reminding you not to give up?

Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces. (Proverbs 13.20 MSG). We all need to ask ourselves a very important question: If hanging out with a certain person or a group of people isn’t making me wiser, is it not time to move on?

Do yourself a favour: don’t wait to watch your life fall to pieces. Stay away from anyone that doesn’t challenge you to pursue more of God. God had great plans for Abraham but till he parted ways with Lot, God didn’t reveal His next steps for Abraham. As long as you hang out with certain people, you will not hear God’s voice clearly. Your passion and zeal for God will be diluted or wither on the vine.

David said: ‘I am a companion of all who reverently fear you, And of those who keep and honour Your precepts’. (Psalm 119.63 AMP). Do the people you hang out with fear God? Are they just ‘going’ to church or truly zealous about pleasing the Lord? Are they serving God in public but also serving idols in secret? Are they keeping up with a façade of success but are all failures in private? Are they godly examples or do they have questionable characters?

If we want to chase after God and all that’s important to Him, any friend or group of friends who do not fear God will be put a lid on our steam and will get in the way of us finishing strong. Can two walk together unless they have agreed? (Amos 3.3). If people who don’t share your values and priorities are your closest friends, it won’t be long before they convince you to abandon God’s purpose for you.

When we were younger, we were worried about what people thought about us. But many have found out in the twilights of their lives that no one was really bothered about them. This means they wasted their entire lives pleasing people who cared less about them and who added no value to their life.

Sadly, many of us are worried about what people would say and we keep up with friendships that no longer add value. We can’t please God and please people at the same time. Who is denying you from moving ahead in life?

Beware of these categories of ‘friends’: They can be a blessing but they choose not to; they have a secretive life but accuse you of not being open; they offer counsel they haven’t applied themselves; they don’t celebrate when you win; they don’t challenge you to be a better version of yourself; and they are always on the lookout for only what they can get.

There are friends we call when we need a joke or want to share a funny incident that happened during the day. There are friends we run to in an emergency because we know they’ll bail us out. There are also friends with whom we are neither ashamed or afraid to share the new ideas and plans God’s placed in our hearts. There are only a handful of friends we can count on to challenge us for more.

Lord, please don’t send our way people who will celebrate our dysfunction and make us comfortable with mediocrity. We don’t want people who would put a limit on the grace you’ve given us or derail us from the assignment you’ve given us. We want people who will support, encourage and challenge us to give our all to the service of the Master. Amen.

Lord deliver us from dishonest and ungodly friends who make us comfortable with sin. Rather, surround us with those who will provoke us to live a holy life – those who won’t put any more pressure on us to keep up with the temporal chase of earthly pursuits. Surround us with those who would speak the truth and enable us to truly lay hold of eternal life. Amen.

I’m grateful to have friends who give me godly counsel, who look out for me and support me with prayers and encouragement to be all God has called me to be. Do you have friends who are going above and beyond to influence your walk with God and your pursuit of His purpose?

What sort of friend are you? Are you available to add value to others? Or you are a last resort when people who have nothing else to do come to? If you place no value on yourself, the world won’t. If you surround yourself with people who are heading nowhere. It won’t be long before they take you down a wrong path.

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