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Summary: Spiritual Friendship is one of the expecations God has of his disciples. This sermon looks at several Scripture passages to identify the keys to building a successful Spiritual Friendship.

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(Preface note to the reader: Our church elders identified 7 Marks of Discipleship. Six are suggested by Michael Foss in his book, "Power Surge." To his six, we added the seventh -- Evangelism. These marks are: Spiritual Friendships, Serve Others in and beyond the congregation, Pray Daily, Generosity with time, talents and money, Read the Bible, Worship weekly and Evangelism.)

INTRODUCTION

In the movie “Castaway,” Tom Hanks plays an employee of Federal Express. Early in the movie, he boards a jet plane and says good-bye to his girlfriend. He gives her the keys to his car and says, “I’ll be right back.”

Well, everyone who bought a ticket to that movie knew that wasn’t going to be. Because we all knew from the advertisements that this movie was about a man trying to survive on a deserted island after a terrible plane crash.

When the character played by Tom Hanks gave the car keys to his girlfriend, you wanted to scream out at him to keep the keys. Because hooked to the key chain was a Swiss Army knife.

Alone on a deserted island, you could use a knife like that.

After the crash, the lonely man walks the beach gathering debris from the crashed Federal Express plane. He opens the boxes looking for something to help him survive. Perhaps a Swiss Army knife or two.

But no.

Instead he finds things that, at least on the surface, seem useless.

Ice Skates. Yep, they would come in handy on a small tropical island.

Videotapes.

A volleyball.

Yet, in time each becomes useful. Including the volleyball. Tom Hanks draws a face on it one night and begins talking to it, in order to pass the time. He even addresses this volleyball by name – Wilson.

At first this seems to be just a way to entertain himself. But after five years of being alone on that island, this light-hearted source of entertainment becomes an obsession.

Right before making the decision to try to get off the island in a homemade boat, the character played by Tom Hanks becomes angry and frustrated and to express that anger he takes the volleyball named Wilson and throws it away, into the sea.

The marooned man watches the ball as it falls into the sea and suddenly realizes, “That was stupid.” And he goes after the ball. He risks his life rescuing his friend (the volleyball), swimming against the tide and among the rocky beach until at last he has in his hands his friend (the volleyball).

He looks at it and says, “Wilson. Wilson. I’m so sorry. I’ll never do that again. Forgive me!” He says this to his friend (the volleyball).

Yep, at this point the viewer of the movie knows, this man has been alone on that island way too long.

There is a silliness in that moment, but the way Tom Hanks plays his part, it’s more tragic than silly.

We all desperately need friendships.

And it doesn’t matter whether we are the only person on an island far from anyone else, or if we are in a crowd.

Paul McCartney once wrote in a song about loneliness in a crowd of others, “All the lonely people, Where do they all come from? All the lonely people, Where do they belong?”

Our elders have identified seven marks of discipleship. These are seven characteristics that every Christian, every Presbyterian, ever member of Good Shepherd Church should exhibit.

One of these seven marks is Spiritual Friendship.

Over the next few weeks we will spend two Sundays considering each one of these seven marks.

And one of these marks is Spiritual Friendship.

Friendship is important to us all.

We sing songs about friendship.

We write poems about friendship.

We love stories about friendship, especially when it involves loyalty under pressure.

Among the most popular shows on television today is “Friends.” Its theme song resonates with our love and need of friendships: "I’ll Be There For You."

And yet – we are painfully aware of our loneliness.

It is not God’s will for us to be alone and lonely. In fact, in the opening verses of Genesis, God makes that very observation – “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)

We need people who can show friendship to us, and we need people to whom we can be a friend.

But not just friendship, you need a spiritual friendship that can only be found in a church.

I want us to look at several passages of Scripture that can teach us about a different key to building successful Spiritual Friendships.

The first key is CONSISTENCY, and we find it reflected in Proverbs 17:17, which says, “A friend loves at all times.”

One of the reasons why many of us may feel lonely is that in what friendships we have, there is a lack of consistency.

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