Friends! The very word has a cherished ring.
What a difference they make in a person’s life.
Without a friend, life can be so miserable, so alone, so lost in the vast sea of humanity. It’s terrible to be a nonentity. With a friend the strangest place is a challenge, the busiest city a haven, the tragedy of life eased, the fun shared.
By friends we have in mind other kids, outside the family circle, that you like to be with. In the narrowest sense, any person that means something to you is a friend. From this point of view your parents might be considered your dearest friends. They are the most important stabilizing force in your life. They are the ones you can always count on. When you are exuberant with youthful enthusiasm you can be sure they are interested and want to hear you out. No less, when you are down in the mouth and petulant because life has dealt you a rough blow, yes, Mom and Dad want to take a little of your load then too. You can use them as the toughest sounding board, they’ll listen to your arguments, you can lash out at them, you can cry on their shoulder, they won’t crack. In a real sense they are your strongest friends.
But they are parents. And parents can’t be in the same category as friends which you enjoy being with outside the home. We’re thinking about these friends.
WHAT IS A FRIEND
The Bible does speak in quite some detail about friends. We need only recall the precious friendship that David had with Jonathan. Of this we read in I Sam. 20:41, 42, “And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times; and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, the Lord watch between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed forever. And he arose and departed; and Jonathan went into the city.”
The friendship had to withstand the fiercest trials, for Saul hated David and did his best to destroy him. Nevertheless, it endured and when David learned of the death of Saul and his son Jonathan, David said, “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant hast thou been unto me; thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!”
That was quite something for David to say.
In addition to this example of friendship, we can point out that the Scripture delineates at least four qualities of true friendship.
First, companionship. A friend is one with whom we like to be in moments of joy and sorrow. An example of this is found in Luke 15:6 where we read of the shepherd who lost one of the sheep, but went out to search for it and when he found it he, “cometh home, and calleth, together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
Secondly, protection. A friend will do anything; go any place, give anything necessary for the well being of a person. Jesus mentioned this concerning Himself, “Greater love hath no man than this that a man will lay down His life for His friends,” John 15:13. Such love between friends will bring out the best in anyone, even to die for him.
Thirdly, loyalty. A friend won’t turn his back when the going gets rough. Trials separate true friends from imposters. Sometimes kids may like you because you are a free spender, they go along for a free ride, you’re great with the hand outs. But when the going gets rough, they disappear into thin air. Not so a friend, “A friend loveth at all times,” Prov. 17:17. Similarly, “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” Prov. 18:24.
Finally, honest correction. A friend will not flatter for the sake of being accepted and certainly not deceive someone to make him think that he is something which he really isn’t. A friend will correct and offer suggestions for improvement. The closer the friendship, the more honest it becomes. “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful,” Prov. 27:5, 6. Those wounds may hurt when they are the truth, but they always bring out the best in a person.
THE INFLUENCE OF A FRIEND
It stands to reason that friends have a great deal of influence on your life. This is true for all of us, it is especially true while you are young. The pressures of being accepted by your friends is greatest then. What your friends think, means a great deal to you.
Your clothing is pretty much dictated by styles that are worn by your friends. Washed off jeans may not be particularly attractive as far as color is concerned; but if your friends think they are great, you are sure to think it too. They may be so tight you practically split the seams; but comfort isn’t the thing, baggy jeans are out!
A particular guy may seem to be a pretty nice fellow to you until some of the gals do an impersonation of him at a slumber party; after that you wouldn’t look twice at him. The same holds true for you guys. You may think a certain gal holds something special; but if your buddies think otherwise, you won’t ask her out for a date. Maybe that’s why there is little “in” dating within church and school. The pressures of others force you to look elsewhere.
If you happen to attend a school where the majority of the kids attend movies, and even have “good movies” advertised in their church, the pressure to attend movies is much greater. Your friends talk about the show they saw the other night, they constantly discuss the late movie on TV., they rehearse the comedy act they watched, etc. You want to be able to contribute something meaningful and be accepted on their terms. So you let them influence you to watch questionable television programs, attend movies on the sneak, listen to certain kinds of music on the .radio, etc. Friends have that kind of power over our lives.
The question that we face here is this, what kind of friends do we have?
Since friends are so important to us and also so influential, it is logical that we be pretty selective as to what friends we choose. After all, everyone can’t be our friend. Friends are not forced upon us either. We encourage other kids to look our way; we also go out of our way to find others that we can enjoy. Friendships are cultivated and worked at. What kind of young people are you seeking to include in your life?
This takes on double importance for us as Christians. In a sense even the unbeliever recognizes the importance of friends. He knows there are those who get freaked out with drugs, get kicks out of life in ways that are dangerous. They are into crime, violence, sex, and other things that are far out. Rather than get messed up with these things, they think of more acceptable forms of behavior. Some emphasize culture, brotherhood, love for one’s neighbor, and choose friends that help them develop along these lines.
The Christian has a more definite idea than that. We are interested in friendships that have more than good human values and are expressed within the socially acceptable forms of behavior. A Christian seeks friends that are godly and will help him express His Christian faith.
Our deepest friendship is with God. Of Abraham we read, “And Abraham was called a friend of God,” James 2:23. Jesus said, “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command’ you,” John 15:14. A friend on this level is one to whom God reveals His love and draws into the inner chamber and reveals the secrets of His own heart. Jesus did this in a measure to Judas and called him a friend, Matt. 26:50. He had shown to Judas as well as the others, all the will of His Heavenly Father., God speaks to us His Word and gives us the faith to believe it. Within the sphere of God’s Word we are drawn close to God as He draws near to us. Such a friendship is heavenly and triumphs over every human relationship. All things on earth must help to make that friendship more precious.
Hence, our earthly friends must not be unbelievers or careless Christians who would undermine our friendship with God. Rather, we must seek friends who will enhance and strengthen our faith. God says, “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God,” James 4:4. The reason is obvious. If we like to be in company with people that blaspheme God and openly sin against God, we cannot really say that we are a friend of God. There is a spiritual separation between God and His people on the one hand, and the world of the wicked on the other. How Satan would like to destroy our faith and tempt us to sin under the guise of a friend. Be alert to this.
We must be selective in making friends. They influence us in so many ways. We want to be faithful to our God, we fear the awful consequence of sin and would rather walk humbly and honestly with our God each day. To help us do this, good friends are essential. They will not tempt us to sin, rather they will also recognize the importance of godly living. If your friends see the need of prayer, recognize the truths of the Bible, are acquainted with godly living, fight daily to overcome temptation, resist the devil, strive earnestly to contend for the faith, you will also enjoy with them these spiritual virtues. Their influence will be good.
Do you put forth effort to have good friends around you? Yes, we need friends. Life is terrible without them. More important, however, we need good friends.
BE A FRIEND
Even the Bible recognizes that to have friends you must be a friend. We read of this in Prov. 18:24, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.”
There is a moral to this. Our Christian calling is not only that we select good friends, it goes farther than that. It includes this: we must ourselves be good friends to others.
We must also ask ourselves, what kind of friend am I?
Am I a true friend to others. Am I a good influence them? Do I show forth Christian virtues so that I draw to myself the right kind of kids? If we like to show off, if we think its real cool to be the life of the party, to tell off-colored jokes, to be brash about sex, to live it up with drinks, to freely attend movies, etc., then we ourselves are the wrong kind of friends. This is a double shame, especially when we are born in the sphere of the covenant and should consider it our duty to be an example of godliness. Paul said to young Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity,” I Tim. 4:12.
Seek out good friends.
And be a good friend.