Summary: Here are some practical biblical principles for not only being a good friend, but also for making good friends.
Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play major league baseball. While breaking baseball’s "color barrier," he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. His own fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered.
Then shortstop "Pee Wee" Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.
Now you may say to yourself, "I wish I had a friend like that", or "I’m glad I have a friend like that." But I want to challenge you today to be able to say, "I want to BE a friend like that!"
How is it done? How do you become a good friend? How do you make and continue good friendships?
The Bible is not silent here. You see the Bible doesn’t just talk about Jesus and heaven. It talks about every kind of practical subject you can imagine. And friendship is very practical. We all need to make and maintain good friendships.
Here’s one passage from the Bible that lights our path.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)
(9) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: (10) If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (11) Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? (12) Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.
Here are several practical principles for being a good friend I see in these verses:
1. HELP YOUR FRIENDS SUCCEED IN LIFE.
Verse 9 - "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work."
When I read these wise words of Solomon I can see right away why we don’t always make and maintain good friendships. Are you sure you’re ready for this?
We’re far too selfish sometimes.
Most of us are absorbed with our own personal success. But in order to be a good friend (and have good friends = same difference) you must be absorbed with the success of others.
Its good to know this is a basic premise of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was always telling stories (in the Bible they’re called parables) to illustrate this point. He taught us that the kingdom of heaven offers service FOR others as the highest privilege - while earthly kingdoms seek service FROM others as evidence of highest honor. The heavenly kingdom works through the freedom of LOVE - the kingdoms of earth use FORCE to accomplish their goals.
If you’re really interested, here are several things I believe you can do to help your friends succeed.
a. Pray for their success.
We pray for God to bless us. That’s natural. We need to learn to pray for God to bless our friends. Why not try asking God to do for your friends everything you’re asking Him to do for you?
When you ask God to bless your family relationships...ask Him to bless your friend’s family relationships.
When you ask God to help you pay your bills...ask Him to help your friend pay her bills.
You get the picture. Stop and ask yourself how enriched our lives become when our friends are praying for us.
b. Encourage them.
Dr. Larry Crabb recalls an incident in the church he attended as a young man. It was customary in this church that young men were encouraged to participate in the communion services by praying out loud. Feeling the pressure of expectation, the young Crabb (who had a problem with stuttering) stood to pray. In a terribly confused prayer, he recalls "thanking the Father for hanging on the cross and praising Christ for triumphantly bringing the Spirit from the grave."
When he finished, he vowed he would never again speak or pray out loud in front of a group.
At the end of the service, not wanting to meet any of the church elders who might feel constrained to correct his theology, Crabb made for the door. Before he could get out, an older man named Jim Dunbar caught him.
Having prepared himself for the anticipated correction, Crabb instead found himself listening to these words: "Larry, there’s one thing I want you to know. Whatever you do for the Lord, I’m behind you one thousand percent."
Crabb reflects in his book: "Even as I write these words, my eyes fill with tears. I have yet to tell that story to an audience without at least mildly choking. Those words were life words. They had power. They reached deep into my being." (From "Encouragement, The Key to Caring," by Larry Crabb)