This morning, we’re continuing our new message series entitled, “Understand” where we’re learning just how powerful and critically important understanding truly is. This becomes the foundational requirement to fulfilling our vision this year. After all, we cannot truly connect with someone unless we understand them and we cannot begin to understand someone until we connect with them.
This morning, we’re gaining a better understanding of friends. God designed us to be connected through relationships with Himself, other believers, and the world around us. The Bible is full of examples of friendships and how great they can be like David and Johnathan as well as how dangerous they can be like Judas and Jesus.
We all need friends. However, many of us have been so hurt, betrayed, and deceived by friends in the past that it is hard to let people into our lives to that place of being a best friend. We keep people at arms-length and have a really difficult time trusting people and sharing our lives with them. However, the risk of getting hurt is nothing compared to the reward of having a healthy friendship with others.
Maybe some of us have had bad friendships like David:
Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.
12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers.
20 My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.
As hurtful as this friendship was to David, it still didn’t stop him from ending this bad friendship and pursuing a good and healthy one. This is important for us to understand. There is no such thing as being stuck in a friendship. There are times and seasons in life and sometimes, people are a part of those seasons. Some people will be close to us for our lifetime and others just for a part of our lives.
It’s OK to distance yourself from others and it may even be necessary to intentionally do so at times; especially if their influence in your life isn’t a good one. If you find yourself in an abusive situation or if you feel pressured and forced to be in a friendship, those may be warning signs to switch those people from friends to more distant acquaintances. Even after bad experiences like that, we still should be intentional about pursuing good and healthy friendships.
In fact, David did just this and found himself a life-long bestie! After slaying Goliath, David obviously caught King Saul’s attention. Sometimes it is in the biggest battles of our lives when the closest bonds of friendships are formed. This seems to have been the case for David as well.
1 Samuel 18:1-4
1 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 2 From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.
Now you don’t exactly find guys in our culture so close that they share clothes, so we’ll say that Johnathan took his mechanic’s toolset, welder’s helmet, skill saw, and 9mm and gave them all to David. We get the idea, though, that they became life-long, best friends.
Their friendship was definitely put to the test from time to time, but it stood the test of time and many hardships. In fact, it was so put to the test once that Saul, Johnathan’s father and the king of Israel, wanted to kill David. When Johnathan defended his friend, David, Saul tried to kill his own son. To actually put your own life on the line to defend your friend is a good friendship for sure!
David’s son, Solomon understood the benefit of a healthy friendship, too. He wrote:
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
All of the benefits of a good and healthy friendship far outweigh the risks of hurt and disappointment that we can experience from a bad friendship. How is it, though, that we can find friends like this and how do we avoid getting tied up in bad friendships? I mean some people have literally ended up in jail, tied up, because of bad friendships.
Paul warned us:
1 Corinthians 15:33-34
33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame.
This is a fairly straight forward and stern warning about the kind of friendships that we choose in our lives. If we choose bad company, our character that we’ve worked so hard to build will begin to be corrupted and we will be lead into sin. It’s a slow eroding process that happens from situation to situation as we’re lead astray and usually isn’t an intentional. For this reason, we absolutely must keep ourselves aware of the influence that people around us are having. People who are challenging us to become better people, we should draw closer to. People leading us away from Christ and into sin, we should distance ourselves from.
I believe that the first step in finding a good friend is being a good friend. Like they used to say in those 90’s commercials, “Don’t be afraid, be a friend!” This seems like common sense, but it’s certainly not commonly found in our behavior if we’re honest with ourselves.
It’s time for us to stop being victims of the past and start being the victors of our future! It’s time for us to stop hurting everyone because we’re hurting and start allowing God to heal us through forgiveness! We can’t expect people around us to befriend us when we’re anything but friendly toward them. We have to stop saying, “That’s just who I am, you’ll get used to it.” and start saying, “Holy Spirit, change me to be more like Jesus.”
Jesus lived out our example and then also called us to be the ones who walk the extra mile, give the shirt off our back, turn the other cheek, and bless those who curse. He has called us not to treat people the way that we’re treated by them, but rather to treat others the way that we would want to be treated. The best way to find a good friend is to first be friendly.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
Jesus was a friend of sinners, in fact, this was a huge part of His ministry. Here’s the key, though. Though Jesus hung out with sinners, He didn’t allow them to get anywhere near as close to Him as His disciples were. He shared His thoughts, His feelings, His literal life with them. They were His best friends and experienced the best that He had to offer! The crowds may have been acquaintances and He was friendly toward them, but they didn’t have access to Jesus like His close friends did.
We should be friendly toward people, even those who aren’t our close friends and ones we would consider to be our enemies. Jesus lived it, and He taught it like this, the teaching that we have dubbed, “The Golden Rule”:
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Jesus calls us to be more than mere sinners. Why? Because we are far more! We’re children of God, princes and princesses of the King of Kings! We’re a new creation being transformed to be like Jesus! We need to start thinking and acting like it!
He calls us to go above and beyond, especially to people that don’t deserve it. He calls us to be friendly toward all people. However, we also see by His example that it is just as important for us not only to be friendly toward everyone, but to also choose for ourselves a small group of individuals who are our close friends that we share our lives with. Jesus had His twelve disciples who were close friends, three of them who were His best friends, and one of them whom was the one He loved most; His BFF.
We are called to be friendly always from inside us outward toward others. However, we setup a firewall and carefully choose who we allow to be those friends who have access from the outward and inside of our lives. It is those who have that access that can corrupt our character and lead us into sin. It is also those who have that access who can challenge and grow and mature us to reach our full potential and become more than we could ever be without them!
Finding a good friend requires us to reach out to others. Jesus prayed to His Heavenly Father for guidance and revelation of who those people should be, then He went out to meet those people where they were at and invited them to become His best friends. The disciples didn’t chase down Jesus and begin to follow Him, they responded to His invitation to them. This is the perfect example of how we should select those close friends for ourselves as well.
It’s our right and responsibility to invite people into our lives. First, we should pray and ask God to reveal who He desires to be our close friends. Then, whatever you might be doing, invite them to share that experience with you. Whether it’s making a meal, going to a game, fishing, shopping, hunting, catching a movie, whatever it might be, invite them to join you. This sounds easy, but for those who have been hurt in the past, it can feel like asking the impossible.
What if they don’t like me?
What if they think I’m boring?
What if I say or do something to embarrass them?
What if we don’t have anything in common?
What if they reject me?
Satan will use these kinds of questions to keep us isolated and alone. We have to silence these questions, leave our past in the past, and push ahead pursuing healthy friendships. If any of these things become true about that person, then that’s simply not the person who is going to be that close friend for us. It’s OK and it’s not the end. Just move on and try again with someone else.
We were created for friendships and our souls literally need them as much as our bodies need food and water. We were created to be connected with others through friendship. Yes, bad friendships can bring us to ruin, but good friendships can take us further than we could ever go in life on our own!
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
The next tip in finding a good friend is to look in the right places. You’re more likely to find a good mechanic in an auto shop than in the car section at Walmart. You’re more likely to find a good hunting buddy at the sportsman’s club than in the butcher shop. You’re more likely to find someone to draw you closer to God in a church than sitting at a bar.
That’s not saying that everyone in an auto shop is a good mechanic or that everyone at the sportsman’s club is a good hunter or that everyone at church is a good Christian. It’s just far more likely that you’ll find one there.
We can’t say that we want a Godly best friend and then try to force that generally good person who doesn’t know Obadiah from Jeremiah to fit the bill. That’s really not fair to you or them. If we want people who will give us Godly advice, act Godly with us, and lead us closer in our relationship with God, then we have to find a person who knows God’s word, acts rightly, and shows evidence that they desire to honor God.
We cannot expect people to change to suit us or to be just like us. Instead, we should list off some of the attributes in a friend that are most important to us. Common attributes that you might be looking for in a friend are things like honesty, common interests, trustworthiness, openness, a positive attitude, reliable, and available. Find people who fit the list of things you would want in a best friend and connect with them. You’ll find yourself a lot less frustrated in life and you’ll offend a lot less people by doing so.
It may also be a good idea to consider things that caused problems in some of your past bad friendships and to list things that you want to avoid in future friends. The scriptures give us some of those things to avoid as well. It would be wise for us not only to avoid friends with these traits, but also to watch our own lives to be sure that we rid ourselves of them.
24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
do not associate with one easily angered,
25 or you may learn their ways
and get yourself ensnared.
A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
This morning, God is reminding us of His divine purpose and desire that we be connected with close friends. Two are truly better than one and when the Lord is also a part of those friendships, a three stranded chord is not easily broken. He desires to bring healing to our past hurt and wholeness to our current brokenness through a friend.
If our Heavenly Father pointed out twelve unlikely guys to be close friends with Jesus, then surely He will reveal to you those close friends whom you can also share your life with. We’ll believe that He won’t send you a Judas, either, since I doubt that it’s His will for us to suffer and die at the betrayal of a friend.
I believe that it’s God’s desire to show us life-long friends who will stand beside you in your battles, laugh with you in your happiness as well as cry with you in your mourning, challenge you to reach your full potential, call you back onto God’s path when you begin to stray, and be there for you in your time of need. Go out there, be friendly, and invite those close friends into your life!