I Pity the Fool: Friends

Good morning.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey.   And today we are wrapping up our series on the book of Proverbs.  And I hope you have found it interesting.  I know I have.

How are we going to wrap up our discussion?  Today we are going to talk about love.  Well, a particular form of love that is often overlooked, or undervalued, or not prioritized.  But to do so would be a foolish mistake.

The kind of love I am referring to this morning is NOT romantic love.  Not mushy mushy love!  I love you baby.   Though no one would fault you if you assumed that was the kind of love I was talking about.  Romantic love is one of the kinds of love that the bible speaks of – and in our culture romantic love usually gets top billing.  It’s usually the top of the food chain.  It is prioritized above all others.  But today we aren’t talking about romantic love.

Neither would anyone fault you if you are guessing that the kind of love I am referring to is the love of a family.  In fact – in many places in the world – the love of a family gets top billing.  There are many places in the world where marriages are arranged – and they are arranged to strengthen both families that are involved – romance isn’t even part of the equation.

No – the type of love we’re looking at today is neither romantic love or family love- in fact no matter which of these two cultures you love in – the type of love we are talking about today is always relegated to the bottom wrung.  No matter what culture – the love we’re talking about today is often overlooked.

But the book of Proverbs doesn’t relegate it to the bottom, but elevates it to its rightful place of importance in our life.

And that love – is the love of a friend.  Friendship is a type of love.

And today we are going to remind ourselves that Wise people find and maintain Great friendships.  Wise people love their friends.

Friendship is a kind of love that wise people cherish.  They work to find friends and work to maintain their friendships.  Because friendship is a very unique kind of love that is often overlooked in cultures, and that includes ours.

For instance – this week I looked up a site that listed the 100 greatest movies ever made.  And of the 100 I could only find two – maybe three  – that I would call moves about friends.  Any guesses?  Wizard of Oz.  ET.

In the bible – we read about tons of friendships.  Shadrack Meshack and Abednego – friends who stick together in tough times.  Paul and Barnabas – friends.  Paul and Timothy – friends.  Jesus and his disciples – what does Jesus tell them in John 15?  I call you my friends…

David had a best friend named Jonathon whom he loved very much.  Now – in our culture – because we see everything through a romantic lens – there are people out there who want to say – see, David and Jonathon had a homosexual relationship – because see – they kissed one another and cried when they knew they would never see each other again.  But anyone who would say that is simply demonstrating that they don’t understand the power of friendship.

Same thing with Jesus and Mary Magdalene.  Friends.  Yet – people want to say – they must have been lovers right? Well, only in a culture that over emphasizes romantic love and under values friend love would we make such statements.

So let’s jump in and discover from the book of proverbs how wise people view friendship.  And we’ll look at the uniqueness of friendship, the power of a friend – and finally – how to find and maintain friendships. 

First let’s talk about the uniqueness of friendship type of love.

Proverbs 17:17 NIV

A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Proverbs 18:24 NIV

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

What are these verse saying?  They are saying the same thing – your brother or sister will probably be there for you in times of adversity.  That’s their job!  Your family is supposed to be there.  They might be there even if they don’t really like you that much.

At least they are supposed to be there for you.  Many have experienced the pain of a family who isn’t there for you, or the pain of betrayal.  By the way – Jesus does understand this – his brothers did not follow Jesus – they tried to end his ministry – it wasn’t until after Jesus died and rose from the dead – that they came around to believing that Jesus was Lord.

What did Jesus say?  He pointed to his friends – these people are my brothers…

And this is what makes friend love so unique and especially powerful.  A family is supposed to be there for you – but a friend chooses to be there for you.

Your friend is there for you voluntarily.  To sit with you in your times of trial.  They chose to say, “You’ve got a friend in me.”  And THAT is even closer than a brother.  Even more impressive than family love.

Many people believe the oldest book in the bible – the one that appears to be written first – is the book of Job.  Which is about a man who is suffering – and his friends who sit with him in his time of need.  The book of Job is a friend story.

And when they hear about their friend Job – they drop everything and go and sit with him in and share in his sufferings.  Now they don’t do everything right – but what they did right was pretty awesomely right – they showed up when Job needed them the most.

Which is why, by the way, it’s difficult to have more than just a few close friends.  Most people will say they two or three close friends.

Which is why most people have only 2 or 3 close friends.  Because with every friend we have it brings with it – not just the potential for fun and adventure and laughter, but the possibility of pain and suffering.  Because when a friend suffers, you suffer too.

So the love of a friend is a unique kind of love.  Because it’s a love that is chosen.  Wise people value friendships.  Because not only is it a unique kind of love, but – secondly – it’s a powerful kind of love.

Author Timothy Keller says that in our individualistic society we often like to think that we can become anything or anyone we want to become. But, says Keller – the reality is that in the early days of your life you are what your family makes you –  but the rest of your life it’s your friends who shape you.

The Bible seems to say the same thing… you friends are shaping you – either for good or for bad….

Some friends might be good to you, but they are not good for you.  When I looked over the list of movies – there was one friend movie that was unique – it was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Is that a friend movie?  Probably – but it’s probably a good example of the power of an unhealthy friendship.  Not all of your friends are good for you.

1 Cor 15:33  Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Proverbs 18:24  One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,

Wisdom is the ability to see things for how they really are, and then make decisions in accordance with reality.  And people who have friends that are not good for them often cannot see it – and so often time it takes the power of family love to intervene and say – I don’t think these people are as good for you as you feel they are…

If you have people in your life who are lovingly challenging a friendship in your life – it’s important we stop and listen.  They are taking a risk when they say – I don’t think this relationship you have is making you better.

Because only a good friend would take that risk to lovingly challenge you.

That’s the definition of wisdom, remember?  Wisdom is the ability to see how things for how they really are, and then make decisions in accordance to that reality.

A good friend will help you see things for how they really are.  Which means that a good friend is willing to say hard things to you.

Proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.

Proverbs 27:6

Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.

A true friend will call you out when you need calling out.  They aren’t afraid to say to you, Can I talk to you about something?

A true friend shows tremendous grace, but a true friend also must bring truth into the equation.  If your friends are afraid to challenge you about something, then who will ever challenge you?

If you don’t want people speaking truth then you aren’t looking for friends you are looking for lackeys.  You’re looking for Sycophants.  For Yes people.

A true friend, however, is committed to your well-being. If you don’t have a friend who is willing to challenge you then you deserve better friends.

Friendship is powerful because your friends are shaping you.  One way or another.  Find friends who love you enough to say to you, “I would like to talk with you about a difficult thing.  But I’m only bringing it up because I love you.”

Lastly – how do we go about making a friend?  How do we find and maintain great friendships?

And the key really is understanding that it takes both of those to be able to create a great friendship. You both find a friend and you also maintain it friendships…

Friends are first discovered.

Remember when you were kids you could throw five kids the same age in a room and they can get along – they’re kids, right?

But as we get older it just doesn’t work that way.  Ask any 14 year old – they’d be mortified if you said – I’m heading over to Betty’s house and she has a daughter the same age as you, so I thought you could come over and play together….  Your 14 year old will not be happy.  Because by then 14 year olds know – you gotta have some common interests other than age…

In this sense then, a friendship isn’t so much created, as much as it is discovered. You will discover a friend when you discover a person who is on the same page as you in a common purpose.

Author C.S. Lewis, in his book, “The Four Loves” writes,

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”

Just last night I was with a group of people and one of the people at the table mentioned a quote from a book that I love – a book that God has used to change my life – and I lit up – you too?  I almost said those words!  You too?  I want to talk with you about that!

Friendships are discovered.  They are found.  “What – you too?”

Now – where do you find these kinds of friends?  Here is where I will make the case for the church.  For coming to church.  Now I know there are those who for health concerns are not coming to church.  And some of you are working on Sunday and you are unable to attend in person and you’re watching this on Monday night.  I understand.  Please don’t misunderstand what I am about to say….

However it’s very possible that there are some who have just decided they like pajama church.  They like the ability to fast forward through a boring sermon.

I know because one of my hunting buddies – I asked him – where are you going to church nowadays, and he said I go to Christ Church in the Valley in Phoenix Arizona.  And all I could say was, no you don’t.

There is a reason why the bible uses the phrase – one another – shows up more than 100 times in the Bible.  Love one another.  Forgive one another.  Care for one another.  Carry one another’s burdens.  It’s because the bible recognizes the power of friendship love.  Of co-laboring together in Christ.

So the question then is asked-  what good is the church?  What purpose does a church play in culture?  And I will say that the church is a place where spiritual friendships are found and forged.

It’s a place you can find people who will ask you – how goes your soul.  I think you deserve someone in your life who will ask that question?  How is your soul?  How goes it?

How can that happen?  Here’s some ideas…  1.  Come to church  1.  Join a small group.  2.  Attend our Onramp to Spiritual growth group that is beginning in two weeks from tonight.  Join up on your communication card – child care available upon request.  3. Join a serve team.  Get to know people by serving together.  4.  Be hospitable.  Invite people over to hang out with you.  Having someone over for a meal or dessert?  You might find a kindred spirit and a friendship waiting to bloom.

The bottom line is that you have to make room for friends.

After you find your friends – just as important is maintaining the friendship.

Friends are found , but they are forged.

Friends are one of those things in life that often get squeezed out.  We take for granted our friends will be there and we book ourselves up with other things.  You HAVE to make time for your spouse and for your family – but friends sometimes feel like a luxury.

C.S Lewis says that Friendship might not be necessary for survival, but, like music or art, it sure makes life beautiful.  The Wise understand the beauty of friendship and carve out time to just be with friends.

What needs to happen in your life in order for you to invest in your friendships?  Do you need to budget time or money?  Do you need to be more proactive in getting together with a friend?  More hospitable?  More intentional?

Thank God for the friends in your life.  Receive them as part of God’s love to you.  And ask yourself how YOU are doing as you think about your role as a friend in someone else’s life.

Lastly, with this I will close – let’s finish our thoughts here about finding and forging great friendship with one last question?

Have you found and forged a friendship with Jesus?  Jesus described himself as our friend.

You know – C.S> Lewis wrote a book called the four loves – family love, romantic love, friend love and charity – helping people in need.

It’s so interesting that when it comes to how God want to relate to us – the bible is filled with illustrations that cover all four of these loves.  How does God prefer to be addressed – our Father.  What is the church, according to the writers of the new testament?  The bride of Christ?  What did Jesus say to us the night before he was crucified?  I call you my friends.  And how did he prove his love?

John 15:13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  By generously helping those who could not help ourselves.

Over and over again the Bible wants us to understand – God loves you.  How many ways can he say it?  God loves you.

I would ask that you consider for a moment that the only person who does all the things a friend should do, is Jesus.

He truly is the one who will never let us down.  He will never tear us down.  He is there for us in our time of need.  He really is a friend.

Is today the day you begin a new friendship with the God of the universe.  Not only does he love you, he likes you too!  And through faith in Jesus, you can begin to walk with God.