"Cultivating Friendhships"Proverbs 17:17
17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
If you have ever planted a garden, then you understand that with gardening comes a lot of adversity. Poor soil, drought, pests, diseases and even too much rain all pose threats to a healthy and productive garden. And if simply preventing all the catastrophes wasn’t enough, you also have to put in the backbreaking work of tilling, planting, fertilizing, weeding, and watering. And yet, as any gardener will tell you, all of that work is worth it during the harvest! Dear Friends! friendships are very similar to gardenening in many respects. They take a lot of work, and there are many calamities that seek to destroy friendships along the way. But if we put in the work, then the reward of true friendship lasts a lifetime. The Word of God is full of so many profound truths and such marvelous mysteries that I think at times, we overlook some of the more “simple” and practical things. There may be no more practical and usable advice concerning relationships in the bible than the biblical teaching concerning friendships. Why? Because even if you don’t have a spouse, children, or close relatives, we all have friends, and everyone of us is also a friend to someone else. God honoring friendships are foundational to a healthy, thriving local Church, as well as vital to a healthy and thriving life. This week, as I have been studying the scriptures, I once again came across Proverbs 17:17, and I said to myself, “Am I the friend the Lord has called me to be?” How about you? Let’s look together. First, a friend will love at all times, both in good and bad. But how does that play out in everyday life? Well, it’s simple, the Lord literally tells us that deep friendship are for times of adversity. God gives us friends primarily for when things go bad. Meaning, anyone can be a friend when things go exactly how they want them to go, but a true brother or sister in Christ will prove themselves true during times of the deepest struggle and adversity. They will stick it out through thick and thin. Stand with their friend, not abandon. Solomon has a lot to say about friendship. As the king of Israel, he saw all sorts of people come and go from his life. Many people were friendly to him to gain an advantage, many people just wanted to be close to the king. There were probably dozens of motives people had to be friends with Solomon, and yet he observed throughout the years of his life that during times of great adversity, struggle and failure is when friends proved to be true or not.
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
When times of difficulty arise in our lives, having friends that will stick with us through thick and thin is literally a matter of ruin or flourishing in our lives. Friends that are willing to stick by at all times can literally make the difference between prosperity or failure. Elijah had Elisha, Jeremiah had Baruch, David had Jonathan, Paul had Luke, Timothy, Silas and Barnabas and Moses had Joshua. The list could go on. The bible speaks much of true friendship and the power of true friendships to overcome even the greatest adversity.
9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.
I do not know if you either have a friend like this or if you are a friend like this to anyone in your life. If not, then I pray that God will bring you someone whom you can trust in this way, and that they can trust you in this way too. And that God will prick your heart to lead you to learn how to love in this way if you currently do not know how. We live in a culture that is so superficial and that has affected how we befriend others. I think often times we would rather keep people at arm’s length and let our friendship only develop skin deep. A type of friendship that is nothing more than a “smile and nod” while never getting close enough to offend or to be offended. But the word of God says this…
5 Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
God says that a true friend will openly rebuke at times, even offend at times, and the good in this is that at least you know the truth of what they are thinking. And that is better than the superficial friend that only gives kisses and outwardly acts pleasant at all times but behind your back they are deceitful and slanderous. I know that I would rather have honesty at all times, even if that honesty hurt, than a superficial dishonest “friend.” Finally, God tells us this…
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
While we will not be “best” friends with everyone, are we at least willing to hold ourselves to this standard of kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience as we serve one another in Christian love? God has called us to unity in Christ! Let us then stand firm in our unwavering love and support for one another. Making and keeping friends is hard work, it takes time, effort, forgiveness, encouragement, and most of all, love. And even with all of this work, like a garden, they take time to grow! This week is as good a time as any to deliberately continue the work to create lasting friendships! Blessed is the man who has true friends and is a true friend to others.
Yours in Christ,