Summer Wise Summer Not
Week 5 – Cultivating Friendship
We’re in a series looking at the major themes of Proverbs, things like work, money, time, and our words. Today our focus is on friendships.
In the 1960’s, Jack Warner, who was the last of the five living Warner Brothers sold his stock in Warner Brothers for 640 million dollars (over 60 years ago!). A reporter asked him, “How many friends do you have in the world?” His response was so sad. “I don’t have a single friend in the whole world.” That’s an example of a man who’s very rich but still so very poor.
Loneliness is rampant in our society. It’s the number one emotional problem. One of the top bestselling books of the past century, was How to Win Friends and Influence People. Everybody wants to have friends. Everybody needs friends. We all do.
It’s part of God’s plan for our life.
When God made the world, He put man in a perfect environment and said, it is not good for man to be alone. “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.” – Proverbs 27:19 (TLB) We need to be INTENTIONAL about our friendships. Most of us have at least one story of a bad choice when it came to choosing friends.
I have seen some who would say they derailed their life because they chose the wrong friend or the wrong group of friends. The fact is, God cares about the kind of friends you have. He wants you to have positive friendships. So, how does that work? What is the key to developing positive friendships?
From the book of Proverbs we find at least six Qualities of Great Friends: These qualities apply not only to friendship, but also to having a great marriage.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24 (ESV) A man of many companions… Is it wrong to have a lot of friends? No. The point he’s making here is that we should focus on quality, not quantity, when it comes to having friends.
The truth is you can’t be committed to everybody. Concentrate on the quality of the relationship. There are different levels of friendships. There are acquaintances. That’s people you send your Christmas cards to. There are companions. Those are people you hang out with, work with, have fun with.
Then there are genuine close friends that people you have close meaningful relationships with.
Can you be popular and have lots of friends on social media and still not have any close friends? Of course, you can. Your social life might even prevent you from having any deep relationships because you’re so busy trying to impress people on a superficial level that you don’t have time to get to know anybody in depth.
To be committed means you are a real friend who is going to hang in there through thick and thin. It means you will be there no matter what. “There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24 (NLT) A real friend is loyal. They are committed. True friendship begins with commitment.
In the Bible they made covenants of friendship. You see examples of this in people like Joseph, David, and Jacob. How many committed friends do you have? More important: Who are you committed to? Who knows that you are committed to them? Point #1 is about commitment. You don’t need a lot of friends. You just need a few good ones.
“Kindness makes a man attractive.” – Proverbs 19:22a (TLB) Men, how many of you would like to be more attractive? Try on a little kindness. Solomon says that kindness is what makes a man attractive. One way to find out who your real friends are is to make a mistake. A friend will never say things like, “I told you so. I knew that was going to happen. How could you be so dumb? What a stupid thing to do!” Real friends don’t kick you when you’re down. They’re considerate. “Love forgets mistakes. Nagging about them parts the best of friends.” – Proverbs 17:9 (TLB)
Another way of saying it is that friends are good forgetters. They’re not blind, they just choose to overlook things. They’re forgiving. They choose to look past your faults. A friend is the kind of person who might send a card that says, “You’re a good egg…even if you are a little cracked.” We’re all a little cracked.
Friends are committed and friends are considerate. If you want to have friends that are considerate, treat people the way you want to be treated. And that leads to quality #3…
Can you keep a secret? The quickest way to kill a friendship is to gossip or to break trust. “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” – Proverbs 11:13 (NLT)
Three pastors who were out fishing one day. They were all relaxed and feeling comfortable with each other when one suggested that they all share their deepest darkest sin. He said, “Let’s all share our greatest struggle.”
One said, “I am ashamed to admit it, but by biggest problem is with greed. I have an unquenchable desire for more money.” The next guy said, “My problem is lust. I can’t keep my eyes off other women.” The third pastor said, “My problem is gossip and I can’t wait to get back to tell everybody about you guys!” A friend is one who can listen confidentially and never repeat what they hear. They have learned to be confidential.
A good friend is open and honest. A true friend will level with you. They know how to shoot straight. They’ll tell you the truth, even when it hurts. This is such an important quality because all we all have blind spots. We need people who can tell us the truth and let us know when we’re blowing it! “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:5-6 (NLT)
So many people have never experienced this level of friendship. That’s sad for several reasons. And the truth is, this can prevent us from growing spiritually. We all need people in our lives who care enough to say, “You’re blowing it! You’re making a mess of your life. You’re heading down the wrong track. You need to rethink some things.”
Is there anyone in your life, who has the freedom to speak that kind of truth into your life? Can they tell you the truth because they love you…without the fear that you will turn your back on them and walk away? That’s often what happens. We’re best friends until you tell me something I don’t want to hear, then we are done!
We need some friends who will tell us the truth whether we want to hear it or now. But according to Proverbs we know that they will speak the truth in love. “An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.” – Proverbs 24:26 (NLT) When you have a friend who can give you an honest answer, that is the sign of a true friend. Friends are candid. They don’t keep secrets. Even when it’s painful they tell you the truth.
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” – Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) Friends sharpen friends. Friends shape friends. Friends make friends better. Most of the time we are unaware of how much influence we have over other people. But the truth is, you have tremendous influence on the people in your circle of friends. You are helping shape the people you come in contact with each day. And they are also helping shape you. We’re either building people up, or we’re tearing them down. We’re either healing people or we’re hurting people.
This applies to your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, and your friends, etc. A good friend is constructive. They encourage people. They lift our spirits. They build us up (should we sing?), and they don’t tear us down. We need our friends to build us up, don’t we? Who else is going to do it, if they don’t? That is such an incredible responsibility. And this is why it is so important to carefully choose the type of friends you have.
There are different kinds of people mentioned in the book of Proverbs that it says you don’t want to have as your close friends. Fifteen or sixteen times it says, “don’t hang out with this kind of person”. As you are reading through the 31 chapters of Proverbs, watch for those references.
Parents, this would be a good study to do with your kids. Solomon is showing us the kind of friends we ought not to have. Friends sharpen friends and friends shape friends and friends make friends better. Aren’t there some people who just make you better. You are a better person when you are around them.
And then there are others, who drag you down. You are not the same when you are around them. You are not the best version of you. Here is why you need to be careful about choosing your friends. Chair illustration. It’s always easier for someone to pull you down than it is for you to pull them up. Always.
Real friends are constructive. They build each other up. They raise each other up. They build self-esteem. A real friend helps us reach our potential. We are better when we are with them. A word of encouragement at the right time can make such a difference.
A great test of friendship is how you handle your friend’s SUCCESS.
How do you handle it when your friend gets to do something you didn’t get to do?
Or they get to buy something you don’t get to buy? Promotions at work can ruin a friendship. Jealousy sets in. Do you get jealous of your friends? Do you secretly compete with them? A real friend will love you even when you’re a success.
A real friend will let you talk about your victories, and they won’t think you’re bragging, and they certainly won’t try to hold you back or put you down. They are FOR YOU. The secret to having a lot of friends (and the secret of a great marriage) is to be enthusiastic about other people’s accomplishments.
Find a few friends and become their cheering section. You could be the head of their fan club. We all need some people that we know are pulling for us. This is important because so many are trying to discourage them and drag them down. We all need a few encouragers. If you learn to get excited about other people’s successes, I suspect you will have all the friends you want.
Inconsistency destroys friendships. “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” – Proverbs 17:17 (NLT) A friend can be counted on at all times. They are dependable. A friend is in your corner when they see you’re cornered. A friend will see you through when others think you’re through. A friend walks in when everybody else is walking out. A friend is consistent, and they will stand with you through thick and thin.
If you’re consistent, you will stand by your friend at all times, even when it’s inconvenient, even when they don’t deserve it, even when it costs you to do so. One of the most obvious barriers to friendship is BUSYNESS. We’re too busy to develop deep and meaningful friendships.
Can we be honest? If you are too busy to be a friend or have a friend, you’re too busy.
It might be fair to say, you are operating outside of the will of God for your life. God wants you to have friends. He wants you to be a friend. He wants you to have close friendships that build you up and not tear you down, that encourage you spiritually. God wants you to be a consistent friend.
You will typically attract THE KIND OF FRIEND YOU ARE.
It is back once again to the matter of sowing and reaping. Let’s do a quick PERSONAL INVENTORY before we wrap up.
1. Am I a committed friend? Who knows you’re committed to them? Have you ever gone up to your friends and said, “I just want you to know I’m committed to you.”
2. Am I a considerate friend? Are there tangible ways that you show consideration to the people in your life?
3. Am I a confidential friend? Can you keep a secret? Do you know how to forgive and forget?
4. Am I a candid friend? Do you have a relationship with anybody that if you were blowing it, they have the freedom to let you know? And can they let you know when you’re making a mistake? This can be such an asset, but you have to be secure enough to hear the truth.
5. Am I a constructive friend? Do you build people up or do you tear them down? You’re helping to shape them, one way or the other.
6. Am I a consistent friend? That looks like a lot!
You may be wondering how can I be a friend like that? Look to Jesus. He is our example. This is a picture of Jesus. This is how Jesus treats you and me, isn’t it? He is so committed to us that He went to the cross and died on it, shed his blood. He is considerate, forgiving, understanding, loving, candid, and faithful. He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother. And He always tells us the truth – the truth that sets us free. He’s constructive. He builds us up. He never tears us down. He’s consistent. He said, “I am with you always. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
In the book of Timothy we are told that He’s faithful even when we’re unfaithful.
Jesus modeled each of these qualities of a faithful friend. And God wants you to treat other people the way He treats you. So, what do you do about this?
Practical Steps of Application.
Here are three ideas for how to put this message into practice:
1. Get connected to a SMALL GROUP.
When you get into a small group you’ll meet 4, 5, 6, 7 other people and those people can become spiritual encouragers to you. You need that for your own spiritual health. You can’t become friends with this everyone in this service. Nobody has that many close friends. But you can get to know your small group.
2. Invite someone to LUNCH.
And don’t want until later, do it this week. Otherwise, it will get pushed to the back burner and it won’t happen.
3. Have someone (individual or family) over for DINNER.
This could be the start of some great friendships, meaningful relationships, and wonderful fellowship. Have some people over and begin developing some close friends.
And by far, the most important thing you could do for somebody is…
4. Introduce your friend to JESUS.
That is the friendliest thing you do. Over 80% of the people that come to Jesus do so because they were invited by a friend or relative. Who invited you? Who have you invited lately? The friendliest thing you can do is share Christ. Let them know “God wants to be their friend.” If you had the cure for cancer, wouldn’t you tell everyone you know? You have something far better than that. When you make a friend for Jesus, you make a friend not only for life, but for all eternity.
5. Become a friend of GOD.
“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. – Romans 5:11 (NLT) Friends with God? You mean I can be a friend with God? I thought God was somebody I was supposed to be afraid of.
Because of what Jesus Christ has done, you can be a friend of God. He is a friend who will never leave you or forsake you. He is a friend who will never let you down. What an incredible verse — God wants to be my friend. He wants to be my friend. He wants me to be His friend.
That’s what Christianity is all about. This isn’t about religion. It is all about a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Jesus makes us friends of God by bridging the gap between us and God. Sin separated us from God. Because we have all sinned, we are all separated from God.
But Jesus Christ is the Bridge to life! “Christ suffered[a] for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.” – 1 Peter 3:18a (NLT) Jesus bridged the gap that separates us from God. He paid the price for our sins. He opened the door to the most important relationship in the world. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, I can be a friend of God!
Talk about freedom on this Independence Day weekend. This is freedom in its highest form. All you have to do is ask. Say “Jesus, I want to accept the gift of eternal life. Thank You for making it possible for me to be a friend of God. I am done running. I am done turning my back. Yes! I want to be God’s friend. I want Him to be my friend. This is the most important relationship we will ever encounter in this life. It is a relationship you can begin right now.