Our Spiritual Metamorphosis: Step 4 – Making Friends
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
We now have arrived at step number four of our thoughts about Spiritual Transformation or Our Spiritual Metamorphosis. It has been a learning process for all of us. I personally have discovered new territory as I have studied to bring this sermon series. These new findings have helped to shape my growth in discipleship, and I hope it has been of equal discovery for you.
Each week I have shared a little poem or song to open up our thinking processes. Through such we have arrived at a jumping off point to carry us into our time of sharing biblical principles that will help us in our C-L-I-M-B of Spiritual Metamorphosis as we allow God to intervene in our lives and to permit His Holy Spirit to speak to our heart and soul.
The song I have chosen to share with you today should be fairly well known, especially to those who have spent a part of their life either in scouting or church related organizations as a child. Some may recall this little jingle from their school days. So, here it is:
Make new friends,
But keep the old.
One is silver, the other gold.
A circle is round,
It has no end.
That’s how long, I will be your friend.
A fire burns bright,
It warms the heart.
We’ve been friends, from the very start.
You have one hand,
I have the other.
Put them together, we have each other.
Silver is precious,
Gold is too.
I am precious, and so are you.
You help me,
And I’ll help you
And together we will see it through.
Across the land.
Across the sea.
Friends forever we will always be.
The year: 1994. The date: September 22nd. The debut of a new American sitcom: Friends. The plot: Six twenty-somethings, on their own and struggling to survive in the real world, find companionship, comfort and support they get from one another to be the ideal solution to the pressures of life.
Created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman the show became a staple of the NBC Thursday night line-up. It was a huge success during its ten year run, during which all the members of the cast achieved household celebrity status. Actors Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer let us know exactly what the theme song of the series said was definitely true: “I’ll be there for you.”
The final episode of the show was watched by an estimated US audience of 51.1 million. It still attracts good ratings for its episodes in syndication and is broadcast in one hundred countries. During its ten year run, the show won 6 Emmys, a Golden Globe, 2 SAG Awards and 56 other various awards with 152 nominations.
Friends has definitely made some notable contributions to various areas of our popular culture, particularly in fashion. The sitcom was noted for its great impact on our everyday fashion and hairstyles, especially that of Aniston’s hairstyle nicknamed after her character: “The Rachel.”
LeBlanc’s character, Joey, coined the all familiar catchphrase “How you doin’?” has become a very popular part of our Western English slang and often is used as a pick-up line or when greeting a close friend.
(Knowledge Base: Wikipedia)
Why did this sitcom become so popular in its time and now still lights up the screens of millions of television sets even yet today? Why had its DVD set sold millions of copies worldwide? Why did we get to know each character personally to the point of knowing not only their successes but also their hardships and failures as well?
I tend to believe it all stems from our inborn instinct to want to have personal relationships with other people and to be able to know them as close friends. We love spending quality time with our friends. We all truly believe and practice the concept of this popular television series: “You can never have enough friends.”
Even as Christians we all still need friends; friends within the faith community. These close companions are important to us just as the thoughts of Solomon in the Ecclesiastes injects into the beautiful poetry he has penned for us. In these four verses of Scripture found in the book’s forth chapter effortlessly instructs of the virtues embodied by those we call our close Christian friends:
1. A genuine friend will be there to bring assistance in our times of hardship and heartache.
2. A true friend would provide both emotional and physical warmth as we face life’s situations thrown at us from this cold, cruel and hateful world of which we reside.
3. A real friend will fight to the end, never giving up providing protection of our reputation in the times of falsehood.
When you or I face a calamity in our day-to-day living we can take some solace in the awareness that our closest of friends will come to our aid: “Two are better than one,…For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.” That mean that even in the midst of the onset of such tragedies our friends will arrive to give us the much needed love and compassion to ease our pain and help to alleviate our burdens. WE know that we can always depend on our Christian family to “be there” at those most critical times of illness, loss and distress.
What if a person doesn’t have such in their life? What if we, as a friend in the faith, ignore our duty as a fellow citizen of the kingdom? Can a person make it on his or her own?
This passage answers that very plainly for us: “But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him.” I see here that it is not the responsibility of the one that is experiencing hardship to get him or her self out of the dire situation they are in. It is the task of his or her closest friends to be right there beside them even in the thick of things. How can we expect a friend how is burdened down and covered heavily with the weight of loss or calamity to uncover his or her self from beneath the pile of rubble and then crawl out of the ditch alone? We can’t! It is ludicrous to think such is possible when one is down and out.
Solomon goes on the say: “Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?”
Did you know that if the interior body temperature of an individual drops two degrees, intense shivering results and that further lowering of temperature produces sluggishness and coma, and finally, at somewhere between 89 and 86°, death ensues? (Source: Wikipedia) That is why those who attempt cross country skiing, high-mountain climbing and winter camping need to be aware of the dangers of bodily heat loss.
There are many winter survival stories, both true and fictitious. I personally have read and seen documentaries of such feats of fate, as well as television movies depicting such dire circumstances. In some of these survival adventures we are told or shown how two people would shelter themselves in one down filled sleeping bag for hours, using each other’s body heat to stay warm during frigid conditions. Some, particularly those stories where one member of the stranded party was deeply ill or severely injured how their companion on the journey would use his body heat to keep the other’s core temperature elevated and even at times the giving of their own life to do so. Now that is true friendship.
I know now what Jesus meant when he said: “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” [John 15:13]. He was sitting with his close circle of friends, the twelve, eating a final meal with them before his crucifixion. During this discourse of the evening he was speaking to them as to how love and joy are perfected. His command that evening was plain and simple: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” [John 15:12].
How did Jesus exercise such love toward his disciples? Did he show an example of such love? Was he going to show them personally the truth behind the words?
Jesus gave of himself so that we can survive another day; so that we can live eternally with God our Father. Jesus gave us his body as a sacrifice once and for all for your and my sin. What a friend is he!
Are you and I willing to do the same for a friend?
We are called to be a true friend: One that is willing to lay down one’s life for his brother or sister in the faith. In other word, we are willing to give of self in order that someone else, a friend, can survive the frigid realities of our cruel and hateful world.
Getting back to our text for this morning we find that we are also instructed by wise Solomon: “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.”
One’s reputation is golden. It represents one’s true character to those around him or her within the community they live. Keeping one’s standing pure and undefiled is not an individual process. A person cannot always protect his of her own repute all alone; a friend often has to come to aid in the fight to do so.
Solomon here is sharing the importance of your and my responsibility toward those we call “a friend.” Just as our own personal good character is important, just as vital is the reputation of our friends. Therefore, we do all that is within our ability to stand beside a friends when they are personally attacked and are found in danger of loosing their stature in the community of faith. We join in the fight to protect their name and do all we can to prevent the character assassin-nation that often transpires during time of trial and temptation.
But I believe that Solomon in all his wisdom give us the key to unlock this thing we call friendship. We find it right here in the last part of our text from the Ecclesiastes: “And a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.”
A song, written by contemporary Christian Grammy Award winner and song writer Michael W. Smith and his wife Deborah and then first recorded by his close friend Amy Grant, speaks well to this ideology the “threefold chord” spoken of by Solomon. We find in the lyrics of this tune the key to true friendship and its solid foundation upon which it should be built. The song has a very simple title – “Friends”:
“…friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them.
And a friend will not say “never.”
‘Cause the welcome will not end.
Tough it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.”
What both this sing and Solomon’s words of wisdom convey is that God becomes the third-party in this love triangle. Just as He has shared his love with us, we in turn share our compassion with those we call our friends. Just as he has done all that he can and still does so to insure us that he will be there in the midst when things turn sour for a friend and that he will enable us to be there, too. God gives us the wisdom and the understanding how to provide the emotional and physical warmth when a friend is shivering in the icy cold grip of this world’s cruelty and hatred. God gives us the ability to sand up for what is right when it comes to a friend; helping us to find secure inner motives that will enable us to protect all of our good character and reputation within a community that loves to tear apart and destroy God’s handiwork that has been done in the lives of His people.
Believe me, God is such a friend. We will do all these things and much, much more to protect our friendship with him. Are we willing to do the same for our friends?
Do we have in our possession this “threefold chord?” Is the Lord the Lord of your and my life? Are we each a friend that sticks through thick and thin times? Can we never say “never” to a close friend within the community of faith?
Let me close by saying that your friend is depending that you have all these good qualities as a comrade. After all, all we need is God and friends!
Amen and amen!