“A friend is a gift you give yourself.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Kidnapped)
In our Western-World we’re rich beyond compare – even those of us who by our standards aren't wealthy. And to catch a glimpse of somebody who is really down and out, really in deep need, isn’t all that common. We insulate ourselves from that world – safe and sound in our own little cocoons.
In REVELATION 3:16, in a letter that Jesus wrote to the church in a town called Laodicea, He said, Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked ...
And herein lies what I call THE GREAT DISCONNECT …
How we see ourselves.
How we really are.
Remember the story THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES? That's what I'm talking about here. We're prancing around thinking we've got clothes on, and everybody else is so impressed with the image we're "trying to project" that they won't speak up about what they "really see". How embarrassing.
And even though Jesus was referring to the spiritual condition of a church body that was missing the mark in His words in REVELATION 3:16 – these words can also really ring true for you and me as we look at the common condition of the lives of people in this world who are seeking to live apart from a living, vital, transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
We’re all trying to fill the void of loneliness left by shattered family relationships, or by jobs that have left us less than fulfilled, or by friendships that have turned out they way we hoped they would, or planned they would, or even prayed they would.
And this reality of loneliness and disconnectedness is something that we’ve all either gone through in the past, are going through right now, or will go through in the future. It’s part of the human condition – and for many of us, it’s maybe even part of what drew us to Jesus Christ in the first place … or to the church … o even here this morning.
Sad to say, we can even find ourselves feeling alone in the midst of a flock of fellow Christ-followers. Have you ever felt alone, abandoned, with no one to turn to or talk to, even in the church? I think that we all have. How can this be among people who strive to be like Jesus on a daily basis? Maybe, the crux of the matter is that we see ourselves as being the kind of man who knows how to build true, Biblical, Christ-centered friendships, when in fact, we’re not really that good at it at all.
If we every bullied, cajoled and used our friends in one form or fashion in the world, then becoming a Christ-follower won't magically transform us into someone who knows ho to make friends and be a friend.
Becoming a Christian opens up a new friendship-making tool chest, but to fully develop the ability to properly wield these tools requires Biblical and flesh-and-blood examples of those who are expert at making and sustaining friendships. But as we learn the proper skill sets, we can go about making life-changing friendships.
Here’s what Solomon writes about friendship in ECCLESIASTES 4:9-12 …
they get a better return for their labor. 10 If one person falls,
the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone
when they fall are in real trouble. 11 And on a cold night, two
under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But
how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can
be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and
conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord
is not easily broken.
And in MATTHEW 18:20 Jesus says …
because they are mine, I am there among them.
There are two major kinds of friendships modeled and taught in God’s WORD … PEER FRIENDSHIPS and MENTOR FRIENDSHIPS.
Why do we need to get into God’s WORD and invite God’s WORD to get into us? So that we can begin to take on the character of Jesus Christ (think, say, do), so that we’ll be equipped to live out the will of God.
But also, getting into God’s WORD acquaints us with a great library of character studies that prove invaluable. One of the better PEER FRIENDSHIPS in God’s WORD that comes to mind is the deep friendship shared by David and Jonathan.
And outside of Jesus and His twelve disciples, one of the clearest examples of a MENTOR FRIENDSHIP is demonstrated in Paul and Timothy's relationship.
DAVID AND JONATHAN
One of the interesting aspects in putting this study together … and in looking forward to going through Erwin McManus's book CHASING THE LIGHT together this next year, is that I sometimes forget that Jonathan wasn’t some weakling who craved David's attention, but rather … he was a fierce warrior who with the help of his armor bearer killed 20 Philistine warriors single-handedly. Maybe, when David later faced down and took down Goliath, he remembered Jonathan's earlier example and was inspired by it.
Jonathan and David developed such an amazing friendship that David laments Jonathan's death with these words in SECOND SAMUEL 1:25-26 …
Jonathan lies dead upon the hills. 26 How I weep for you, my
brother Jonathan! Oh, how much I loved you! And your love
for me was deep, deeper than the love of women!
- Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. (FIRST SAMUEL 18:1)
- Jonathan made a covenant with David. (FIRST SAMUEL 18:1)
- Jonathan gave David some of his most prized possessions like his robe, tunic, his sword, his bow and belt. (FIRST SAMUEL 18:4)
- Jonathan defied a king and warned David that his father was trying to kill him. (FIRST SAMUEL 19:1-2)
- Jonathan interceded on David's behalf with Saul. (FIRST SAMUEL 19:4-7)
- Jonathan improved David's lot. (FIRST SAMUEL 19:7)
- Jonathan and David confided in one another. (FIRST SAMUEL 20)
- Jonathan was willing to lay everything on the line for his friend David. (FIRST SAMUEL 20:4-31; 35-40)
- Jonathan literally put himself in the line of fire for David. (FIRST SAMUEL 20:33)
- Jonathan grieved on behalf of David for the mistreatment he had to endure. (FIRST SAMUEL 20:34)
- David and Jonathan wept together and for one another. (FIRST SAMUEL 20:41-42)
- Jonathan went out to David and helped him find strength in the Lord. (FIRST SAMUEL 23:16)
- Jonathan was neither threatened nor jealous of David's success. In fact, he welcomed David’s successes. (FIRST SAMUEL 23:17)
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS … Based on Jonathan's example, what might being lacking from some of your friendships? Does the level of intimacy of Jonathan and David's relationship make you uncomfortable? Why? Why do you think Jonathan and David were so close? Do think it is possible to have friendships like this in our sanitized, fast-paced world? If so, what will it take to have friendships of this depth?
In a couple of months we’ll look at MENTOR FRIENDSHIPS … and at the friendship that Paul and Timothy had modeled this kind of friendship. Godspeed.