Summary: What characterizes meaningful friendships?
A small group of friends left town for a weekend of deer hunting, and they paired off in twos for the first day. That night, one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under the weight of an eight-point buck. “How come you’re dragging that all by yourself?” one of his friends asked. “Where’s Harry?”
“Harry had a stroke or something,” the hunter puffed. “He’s back up the trail a couple of miles.” “You left Harry laying there alone while you carried back the deer?” “Well,” xplained the hunter, “I figured no one was going to steal Harry.”
That sounds like a guy who had his priorities a little out of whack, doesn’t it? The fact is that many of us need to recognize the need to giving priority to our friendships.
Friendship was certainly a priority for our Lord. Jesus left His throne in glory in search of friends. He came to provide a way for you and me to have a personal friendship with Him! In this passage, we find Jesus speaking of His disciples as being His friends. Certainly, there is no friend like Jesus! Let’s notice how Jesus related to His friends. As we do so, we discover that there are four ingredients found in flourishing friendships. Folks who are involved in a flourishing friendship . . .
1. Care about each other’s fulfillment - v. 11
Jesus said that He found joy in His friends’ joy being complete. In other words, Jesus cared about their personal fulfillment in life.
Likewise, in giving priority to our friendships with others, we need to commit ourselves to caring about their fulfillment. This means caring about how we might help them to achieve their full potential, helping them discover all that God intended them to be. A true friend is focused on how he can encourage his friends to be the best they can be for God.
What can you do to encourage those people in your life, to whom you should be a true friend?
“Man doesn’t live by bread alone. He also needs buttering up.”- Anonymous
What are you doing that is helping to lift others up to greater degrees of fulfillment in life?
A feeble, elderly woman, all hunched over and using a cane, limped into a doctor’s office. later, she came out, walking erect and without a limp. A guy in the waiting room asked, “Gee, what did the doc do? You’re doing just great. The lady replied, “He gave me a longer cane.”
That’s what we need to try to do for others, we need to think of how we might “give them a longer cane,” and through encouragement, help them stand up taller, walk straighter, and live life more fully. Our friends ought to be better people because of our influence. What kind of influence are you having on your friends?
“One candle loses nothing of its light by lighting another candle.” - Anonymous
2. Share sacrificially out of a heart of love - v. 13
Jesus literally “laid down His life” for you and me, so that it might be possible for us to enter into an eternal friendship with Him. Likewise, in our friendships with others, we need to be willing to “lay down our lives,” in terms of giving up our desires, our time, etc. in order to demonstrate love for our friend. The fact is that love is, by its very nature, is sacrificial. If I am unwilling to sacrifice for another, I do not love them as I should. The extent to which you and I are willing to “lay down our lives” for our friends will determine the depth of our friendship.
I may not have to literally “lay down my life” for my friends, but I should be willing to; and I should be demonstrating that willingness by “laying down my life” in various ways.
“Nothing costs as much as loving, except not loving.” - Anonymous
3. Dare to open their hearts to one another - v. 15
Jesus shared His heart with His disciples, His friends. He risked their misunderstanding Him (as they often did), He risked their rejecting Him (as Judas did). Yet for the sake of friendship, Jesus willingly took the risk of opening His heart to His friends.
Likewise, if we are going to be part of a friendship that is flourishing, we need to be willing to risk vulnerability with others. And in doing so, we need to also be a friend to others by making it easier for them to be vulnerable with us. As I open my heart to others and seek to make it easier for them to open their heart to me, an environment can be created whereby a friendship can truly grow.
An old Arabic proverb says, “A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”