Summary: We can grow as friends of God by applying life lessons from three of God’s friends: David, Mary, and Peter. Appropriate for Pentecost, Confirmation, or honoring a pastor, deacon, teacher, or other faithful servant of God.
The title for today’s sermon comes from a confirmation text book used in my church.(1)
In fact, the scripture lessons I selected for today are actually the texts traditionally read in Christian churches around the world on Pentecost Sunday – the day on which confirmation is traditionally celebrated.
The themes of the scriptures and the title of the message both seemed especially appropriate on this Sunday when we have chosen to celebrate 20 years of faithful ministry of one of God’s Friends in our own community.
I love the title and the text book. It’s a wonderful, reassuring title, and the book tells of God’s friends in the Bible, then ends by tell the reader how he or she can also be counted among God’s friends.
Remember Jesus said in John 15, “I have called you friends.”
Although Jesus was speaking directly to his disciples some 2,000 years ago, I believe the passage applies to his modern day disciples as well. Jesus dares to call us his friends.
Remember during the Clinton years, some Hollywood personalities were pejoratively labeled FOBs, F-O-Bs, “friends of Bill” by some conservatives. They got special privileges like spending nights in the White House as guests of honor of the President.
Perhaps we could be labeled FOGs – “Friends of God.” But before you get too heady, remember that Matthew tells us Jesus was the friends of tax collectors and prostitutes, the lowest of the low in his day!
We sing a song about that – “Jesus, What a Friend of Sinners!”(2)
“Jesus! what a friend of sinners! Jesus! lover of my soul!
Friends may fail me, foes assail me, he, my Savior, makes me whole.
“Jesus! what a strength in weakness! Let me hide myself in him;
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, he, my strength, my vict’ry wins.
“Hallelujah, what a Savior! Hallelujah, what a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving, he is with me to the end.”
Those are powerful words! They remind us of the promise from 2 Timothy 2:13 that even when we wander and are unfaithful, he is always faithful.
Jesus! What a friend for sinners! And Jesus said there is no greater friend than this, that a person would lay down one’s very life for one’s friends.(3) Then he stretched out his arms and died on a cross for you and for me.
“Jesus! What a friend for sinners!” “What a friend we have in Jesus!”
God’s Friends! What exactly does that mean?
Oh, we understand what it means that God is our friend. He created us. When we sinned, he sent Jesus to redeem us with his own blood. One day he will send him again to take us to live with him in eternity. He is a friend who takes us as we are, changes us in who we were meant to be, brings out the very best in us, and wants nothing less than the very best for us. In short, he’s the kind of friend we all long for!
But what kind of friends are we?
What kind of friend does God have in me?
I love top read my Bible – but I must confess, in the midst of many busy weeks, the most reading I do is not in devotion to draw near to God, but to prepare a sermon for Sunday morning.
Prayer for me is also a personal struggle. As I set out toward Gethsemane with my Lord and Peter and James and John, I have a firm will that vows to kneel beside my Lord, upholding him in doing battle against the powers of darkness through prayer. But as the other disciples begin to nod off, leaving Jesus alone, my eyes also grow heavy, and my mind wanders to the unfinished business of today’s ‘honey-do” list or the every growing stack of work on my desk waiting for my attention. I wander again to desperately try to construct three coherent points for a sermon. I begin humming the melodies of ten familiar hymns trying to pick one everyone will know and most will like. And soon I discover that I too have left the Lord alone in his prayer vigil.
What kind of friend am I?
I’m afraid I am not a best friend to Jesus. But I want to be. I really want to work at it. And I suspect some of you would consider joining me on that journey as well. Perhaps the best place to begin is by looking at some of God’s friends from scripture.
Everyone can be a friend of God by applying three life lessons from God’s friends in the Bible.
First, let’s look at David, whom the Bible calls, “A man after God’s own heart.”(4)
David was only a shepherd, the youngest, smallest, least impressive of Jesse’s children, yet he was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to succeed Saul as King over Israel. And God was with him.