Webster's 1828 Dictionary gives this as his first definition for friend: "One who is attached to another by affection; one who entertains for another sentiments of esteem, respect and affection, which lead him to desire his company, and to seek to promote his happiness and prosperity; opposed to foe or enemy."
He also defines friendly as: "Having the temper and disposition of a friend; kind; favorable; disposed to promote the good of another." While we cannot be friends with everyone we meet, we can always choose to be friendly.
Last week, I preached again on The Work Of Thy Hands, and in it I also covered the verses about God being the Father of the fatherless and setting the solitary in families. Afterwards, I had someone come up to me and make this statement: "I would rather be surrounded by friends than family because you can choose your friends; you can't choose your family." How true that is, when it comes to our physical families.
Yesterday, I asked several friends to come up with some statements about friendships, such as "a friend loves you" and "a friend encourages you." Here are some of the statements or descriptions they gave me: Cares for you, will earnestly pray for you, will want to be around you, will tell you when you are wrong, will encourage you, will teach you God’s Word; patient, forgiving, forbearing, sacrificing/self-denying, honest (truthful), edifying/nurturing, encouraging; reaching out, watching your back/looking out for you, rescue/help you when needed.
Clarence Sexton gave the following three main points in his sermon on Friendship: Compassion, Confidence (ie. someone you can confide in), Companionship.
All of these are essential elements of true friendships. It is interesting to note that all of these qualities can be found in our Lord Jesus Christ's friendship towards us.
The best Biblical examples of friendship are Jonathan and David in the Old Testament, and Christ toward fallen man (especially those who trust Him for salvation). If you want to learn how to be a true friend to those the Lord places in your life, study out how Jonathan befriended and watched out for David when his father Saul was seeking to kill him, and how David took care of Jonathan's son after Jonathan was killed; then see Jesus' compassion and love to those He encountered day by day during His years of public ministry. There is much we can glean from these examples.
Three times in the Bible Abraham is called the friend of God (see 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; and James 2:23). We can study out Abraham's relationship and fellowship with the Lord to learn more about this theme.
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
One of the saddest notes in all of Scripture is related in the following passages:
Zechariah 13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
Jesus came to the house of Israel, became a man, a descendant of the Jewish nation, to one day die on the cross for our sins. While we knew this had to happen to pay the price for our redemption, it is so sad to note that it was the nation of His friends that were directly involved in His death (though ALL of mankind is guilty in this regard - it is the sins of all mankind that sent Him to the cross). He was even betrayed by someone He called His friend - Judas Iscariot.
Psalms 41:9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.
Matthew 26:47-50 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
For the rest of this study, I mostly want to focus on some positive statements about friends from the book of Proverbs and the Gospels. As you read the following passages, consider where you can apply these principles in your own life.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Troublesome times in our lives will prove whether our friends are true friends, or just "friends" when it is convenient for them, friends only while the money and gifts are flowing. (See Proverbs 19:4, 6-7.) A true friend will stick by you no matter what, and will be there for you when the trials come.
Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
I have always been a loner for as long as I can remember. It is often hard for me to reach out to others whom I do not know. Because of this drawback in my character, I am grateful to be working at a Gospel Mission where I am forced out of my comfort zone and continually interacting with new people, where I am in a position to touch lives I might otherwise have not. If we want friends, WE need to be friendly! I remember speaking to a young man once shortly after I got saved. He was grumbling about how no one in church would reach out to him - yet he stayed by himself and didn't reach out to anyone else either! Yes, more mature believers should be doing what they can to make visitors feel welcome into their fellowship, BUT God's Word says if we want friends, we need to be friendly. God's Word is true, even when it contradicts us.
I love the second half of this verse: there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. That True Friend is Jesus! Even the best of our earthly friends cannot always be there. Perhaps they may move away or pass on, perhaps something may happen to strain our relationship, but the Lord Jesus Christ is the Friend that will always stick with those that place their faith in Him. He will never leave us or forsake us!
Proverbs 27:5-6 Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
An enemy or false friend will flatter you, but a true friend will always speak the truth. Rebuke not only refers to correction, but carries the idea of reproving with the intent of stopping the errant behaviour. That honest confrontation from a friend may hurt at first, but it shows that they really care. Consider the following verses about rebuking in the context of loving someone else:
Leviticus 19:17-18 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
In a time where tolerance is preached, we need to listen to God's Word again, and love our neighbours and friends God's way, in a way that shows we care by taking a stand against the sins that are destroying them and harming their families. Rescue the perishing; have compassion, making a difference.
Jude 1:22-23 And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Proverbs 27:9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.
When we seek to encourage and edify our friends, the words spoken are sweet to their soul. I could probably do a whole message on this theme. Lord willing, I will save it for another time.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
True friendships will sharpen one another. Sometimes this may result in sparks flying, but the end result is that their friend’s personality, efforts, thoughts, etc. are challenged and transformed for the better.
Countenance means "face." How often have you seen someone's face or eyes light up when their friends were near or when they talked about them? One man at the Mission told me and another coworker last month that he saw the way our faces brightened up whenever we spoke about Jesus, and that caused him to desire what we have! The excitement and changes in this man have been amazing. His face is always lighting up when he sees me and several of the other workers at the Mission, and when he hears our devotions or testimonies we share at the Mission.
Song of Solomon 5:9, 16 What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?... yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
Jesus is altogether lovely! He doesn't just desire to be your Saviour, but He longs to be your Friend. That is a more tender relationship, a closeness, an intimacy that this world can never give us.
Matthew 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
Jesus' enemies slandered Him during His ministry, yet I find their charge against Him a reason for tremendous comfort. Jesus is a friend of publicans and sinners. He is the Friend of the outcast in society, a Friend to the one who is down and out and in need of help. He is a Friend to the sinner. In fact, He came to die on the cross and shed His blood so that sinners could be reconciled to Him - because He loves us! Truly, He is the Greatest Friend any of us could ever ask for!
John 15:9-17 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.
Some points from this passage:
A. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
The Old Testament teaches us to love one another, but it is in the New Testament that we are shown love by Jesus' example. Now we can know what it means to love one another as He loved us.
B. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
True friendship will involve sacrificial love, self-denying for the good of others. Jesus provided the best example of sacrificial love by dying on the cross for us. He laid down His life for His friends.
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
C. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
The Bible is filled with commands from cover to cover - not just the 10 Commandments. Many find the thought of obedience to these commands burdensome; but the true believer who desires to do the Father's will seeks to obey the Lord out of love - because he cares about his Saviour and desires to please Him in all things. This is what true friendship involves: learning what pleases our friends, and seeking to do those things out of love. It is interesting to note that Jesus told us these things so that our joy might be full.
I came across this quote shortly after preaching this devotion today, yet it fit so well, I wanted to include it in this study:
"Paul is saying that you can keep every commandment and still not live the Christian life. You can not only keep all Ten Commandments, you can follow every commandment others put down for you to live by, and you still would not be living the Christian life. Also there are the antinomians who think they can do as they please and be living the Christian life. These folk are as extreme as the legalists. The Christian life is not either one; it is liberty in Christ. 'Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh.' What does the gospel of grace do for the believer? It is grace, not law, that frees us from doing wrong and allows us to do right. Grace does not set us free to sin, but it sets us free from sin. You see, the believer should desire to please God, not because he must please Him like a slave, but because he is a son and he wills to please his Father. He does what God wants, not because he fears to do otherwise like an enemy, but because he wants to do it, for God is his friend." (J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary, Volume 5, page 187.)
D. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
While we are to serve the Lord, Jesus considers us more than mere servants - He considers us friends. Part of true friendship involves telling each other what is important to us, what pleases us, what we want them to know - and Jesus does that in His Word. He teaches us how to live for Him, reveals what the future holds, and exhorts us to be faithful until His return.
What a Friend we have in Jesus! He surely is a True Friend to us! Let's take His example and be a true friend to those around us.