Summary: Paul had two good friends who sustained him and strengthened his relationship with the Philippians. They were friends with each other because they were first friends with Jesus. Friendship with Jesus is a beautiful thing.
“Living A Joy-full Life: Cherish Friendship”
Phil. 2:19-30; John 15:9-17
Developing and having good friendships is an important element in living a joy-full life. In the latter verses of Philippians 2 we get a glimpse of the joy such friendships brought to Paul. His friendship with Timothy and Epaphroditus sustained him and strengthened his relationship with the Philippian church. But it’s important to understand that they were friends because of Jesus; more particularly, they were friends with each other because they were first friends with Jesus. In fact, as one of Michael W. Smith’s classic songs put it, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them.”
I want to share with you this morning that Jesus is by far the best Friend I’ve ever had or could ever want. I want you to meet my Friend because I want you to know that JESUS WANTS TO BE YOUR BEST FRIEND. I know this because of what Jesus said.
Consider first, the INVESTMENT of Jesus. He has paid a tremendous price for our friendship. (Jn. 15:13) “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Fancy words; almost romantic. We’ve heard of the war stories of heroes who did just that in a moment of crisis. But Jesus planned on dying all along - it wasn’t a spur of the moment heroism. He intended to live and die for me. He totally spent himself for me. I didn’t earn this love, didn’t deserve it and still don’t; I’m not all that lovable. I’m an OK guy, but never could I be worthy of this. In fact, the older I grow and the longer I serve the more I realize how little I deserve such a love as Jesus’ love. Yet nothing I have done, or could do, will turn him away.
I’m reminded of a hospital in San Antonio which had a renowned burn unit. During the Viet Nam war there were two badly burned soldiers next to each other in the unit. The wife of one man came in, took one look at her husband, took off her wedding rings, put them on his chest and walked out, never to return. Two hours later the other man’s wife came in, looked at her husband and leaned over him and said, “Darling, I am here. Let’s start getting well.” (i) Jesus has come to me in the darkest, ugliest times of my life, and always, without fail, has stood by me and brought me back into the light.
That’s why I want you to meet my Friend - what’s true for me is true for you as well. I want you to be able to say today, with conviction, JESUS LAID OUT HIS LIFE FOR ME. Because He did. He wants to be your best friend.
I also know Jesus’ desire for friendship because of his offer of INTIMACY. He has given me a privileged status. Verse 15: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Think of the difference between servants and friends. Servants carry out orders even though they are unaware of how they fit into a plan or into the whole scheme of things. They just execute the orders because they are under obligation and authority. They don’t even have to agree with it - they just have to do it. They, in fact, may not even know their master. But a friend is different. There’s much more intimacy. Friends are confidants of each other’s thoughts and plans. They are in harmony with each other and seek each other’s good.
General Grant’s chief of staff, lawyer John A. Rawlins, was also Grant’s faithful friend. So it was to Rawlins that Grant made his pledge that he would abstain from intoxicating liquors. When Grant broke that pledge Rawlins went to him and pleaded with him for the sake of the nation, to refrain from strong drink. Grant responded positively to his pleas. Today, in front of our nation’s capitol, there stands a massive statue of Grant on his horse flanked on either side by stirring battle scenes. But at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue is Rawlins Park, where there stands a very ordinary statue of Rawlins. Though smaller in stature it was the faithfulness of Rawlins that kept Grant on his horse. (ii)
In similar ways Jesus has shared his heart and life with me, for my good! He has my good at heart. Through his Holy Spirit He walks with me, talks with me, encourages me, disciplines me, and strengthens me every moment of every day. He wants me to have oneness of mind and spirit with him. He wants to keep me on my horse – in line with His purpose. As I have shared before, my senior year of high school was a major disappointment for me. But looking back I wouldn’t trade it – because I came to see that my Friend Jesus carried me through. It was the period in my life where I began to understand the joy of His friendship. He sent me people to support me, surrounded me with love, and within a year had pointed my life in a totally different direction. He shared his dreams for my life with me. And his dreams became mine - and I’ve been living them ever since. And I wouldn’t, for anything, trade them for my original dreams.