Americans have a third fewer close friends and confidants than just two decades ago — a sign that people may be living lonelier, more isolated lives than in the past. In 1985, the average American had three people in whom to confide matters that were important to them, says a study in today's American Sociological Review. In 2004, that number dropped to two, and one in four had no close confidants at all.
The result is an epidemic of loneliness and the depression that accompanies it. Marin Seligman writes: Depression is now ten times as prevalent as it was in 1960, and it strikes at a much younger age. The mean age of a person's first episode of depression forty years ago was 29.5, while today it is 14.5. People are lonely. The result is an opportunity for the church.
In 1991 Vice President Dan Quayle asked some guys who were members of a gang in Los Angeles why they were in the gang. What he learned was that it was not because of the excitement of committing crimes or fighting or the thrill of using guns. They were part of gangs simply because they were looking for friends.
As we delight in our friendship with Jesus, let us commit to being for one another the kind of friend that Jesus is to us.
Thesis: There are 4 situations that tell how true a friend is (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
When we are faced with a task that we cannot do alone (Vs. 9)
This verse is talking about tasks that are better done by two or more people.
A true friend is unselfish. He works, labors, for us so that we have good results because he/she is interested in our welfare.
“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.” Mark 2:1-4, NIV.
When we fall down (vs. 10)
This is a practical observation especially for older people and those with physical handicaps. Not good to live alone.
Someone has said that we can tell a true friend when we are in trouble- he does not leave us. One person said this: A true friend is the kind of person that if we called them at 2 am to tell them that we needed them, they would not ask, “So what’s the problem?” before deciding whether to come. A true friend asks, “Where are you?” as he/she is getting dressed.
““Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” ““The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:34-36, 40, NIV.
A MAN FELL INTO A PIT AND COULDN’T GET HIMSELF OUT:
A Subjective Person came along and said I feel for you there down in the pit.
An Objective Person came along and said it’s logical that someone would fall down into that pit.
A Pharisee said only bad people fall into the pit.
A Newspaper Reporter wanted the exclusive story on the pit.
A Realist said “Yep, that’s a pit”
A Scientist calculated the necessary pressure to get him out of the pit
A Geologist told him to appreciate the rock structure in the pit
A Tax Man asked him if he was paying taxes on the pit.
The City Inspector asked him if he had a permit to dig a pit.
An Evasive Person came along and avoided the subject of a pit altogether.
A Self-Pitying Person came along and said you haven’t seen anything until you have seen my pit.
An Optimist said things could be worse. A Pessimist said things will get worse
JESUS SEEING THE MAN…..KNELT DOWN AND LIFTED HIM OUT OF THE PIT!
When we are cold (vs. 11)
The picture is being alone in a cold room. The ancient solution to this is to get many people together and generate a lot of body heat. We still do that today.
Apply this to spiritual coldness. Everyone of us have experienced those unusual times when we feel cold spiritually. Doubts set in. We cry, “Why me?” We think life is unfair. The Bible promises sound hollow. Gone is the fire that we first had when we became Christians. Gone is the excitement of going to church. The light in our eyes has gone out.
It is during these times that we need to be encouraged. We need the warmth of Christian fellowship. We need to be filled with new energy and faith and hope. One day a preacher stopped by a man’s house to pay a visit. The man was a member of the preacher’s church, but the man hadn’t been there for a long time. As they sat in front of the fireplace and talked about various things, the preacher leaned over and took the poker and pulled a red-hot glowing ember our from the fire and on to the front of the hearth. Without saying a word, he just stared at it and so did the man. Right before their eyes, the glowing ember began to quickly change. It soon lost its red color and began to turn black as it began to cool off. Then, just before it was too late, the preacher pushed the ember back into the fire and quickly it regained it’s red color. Softly the man said to the preacher, “I’ll be there Sunday.”
When our troubles are overwhelming (Vs. 12)
“Overpowered” means the same as overwhelming. This is a picture of a soldier that is surrounded by his enemies. The military strategy of the ancient world was for soldiers to fight in pairs, back to back. “Two can withstand him” refers to this tactic.
Stu Weber writes of his experience at US Army Ranger training school. They were running in full field uniform. Loaded packs, Helmets, Boots, and Rifles. The works. 70 pounds. As usual, the word was “You go out together, you stick together, and you come home together.” Miles they ran, then more miles. Over hills, through brush and pine. Somewhere along the way, through a fog of pain, thirst and fatigue, Weber realized something was wrong. Two rows ahead, one of the guys was out of sync. A big, redhead named Sanderson. His legs were pumping, but he was out of step with the rest. Then his head began to roll from side to side. The guy was close to losing it. Without missing a step, the Ranger on Sanderson’s right reached over and took the man’s rifle. Now one of the Rangers was packing two weapons, his own and Sanderson’s. The big redhead did better for a while. The platoon kept moving. But then his head began to sway again. This time the Ranger on the left reached over, removed Sanderson’s helmet, tucked it under his own arm, and continued to run. All systems go. Boots thudded along the trail. Sanderson was hurting. He was buckling, going down. But, two soldiers behind him lifted the pack off his back, each taking a shoulder strap in his free hand. Sanderson gathered his strength, squared his shoulders. And the platoon continued on, all the way to the finish line. They left together. They finished together. The truth is, life gets heavy sometimes. We feel our knees begin to buckle and we fear falling short of the finish line. We need friends to help us along, bear the load, and sharpen us when we become dull.
Someone today is like Sanderson. You are going down unless you get help. Everybody needs help occasionally. Jesus wants to help you He wants to be the friend that we all need. In fact, when you can’t go another step, He will even carry you. But know Jesus can use you and me to help others as well. I heard the story of a little boy who was frightened one night during a big thunderstorm. Terrified, he called out from his room, "Daddy, I'm scared!" His father, not wanting to get out of bed, called back, "Don't worry, Son. God loves you and will take care of you." There was a moment of silence. The little boy said, "I know God loves me, but right now, I need somebody with skin on.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken- vs. 12
Many times this is used in connection with weddings and marriages and for good reason
What is being said is that the only friendship that will be all that it can be and that will help us make life work is a friendship between two people with God in the center. With Christ any relationship has an extra support. Two things to increase this:
1. Do you have a number of friendships in the church? Research has revealed that those surveyed who feel they have a healthy sense of community in their church have on average 7 (what they call) vital relationships in their congregation. God never designed us to get together on Sunday and that’s the extent of our relationship.
2. Do you have a meaningful task or ministry in the church? God has given each of us Spiritual Gifts to be used as part of the body of Christ. Do I have a ministry? I won’t find full connect ability until I am serving alongside my brothers and sisters.