Summary: Everyone needs a friend. What should we look for in a friend?
There is nothing quite as special as a good friend. A good friend is one with whom you can talk about anything. You know they will listen. They will listen to the whole story rather than make quick judgments. They will make time for you. A true friend transcends times of separation.
Several weeks ago I got in touch with my former College roommate via Facebook. We haven’t seen each other for decades. I was having a rough day and he picked up on that fact. He called me and our conversation picked up as if we had never been apart. He helped me. I consider him a good friend even though I rarely see him.
In spite of what your Facebook page may say, you don’t have that many good friends. You can be “friendly” with many people, but with most of those people you feel you need to be guarded. You don’t feel you can be open and honest (and if you do, you will likely be burned). Friendship is actually something rare.
One author writes,
“Our individualism and our wealth have allowed us to minimize our contact with others – to our detriment. This problem of friendlessness exists even in our churches. In the Friendless American Male, Larry Richards is reported as saying that “in church we sit together and sing together and greet one another cheerily as we leave at the end of a service. We do all of these things, sometimes for years, without forming any real personal Christian relationship. Our words often seem superficial. The church, therefore, becomes a place where Christians live alone together.”
This morning we want to address this problem. We will examine the issue of friendship so we can better learn to find, identify, and become friends.
What is a Friend?
Solomon describes what a true friend is like. First, a true friend is loyal.
Prov. 20:6 Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?
Prov. 17:17 A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
The point here is that your family members are supposed to stick with you. That is kind of their job. A friend is a person who chooses to be loyal. They take the time to know who you really are (warts and all) and do not walk away. A true friend is the one who remains when everyone else disappears.
A true friend is one to whom you can vent and not have the other person think less of you. They understand your heart and what you do (no matter how foolish) does not change what they know to be true. These are the people you could call in the middle of the night and they would come find you. Your friends are those who rally around you in a time of crisis.
Second, a true friend is someone who will tell you the truth . . . even if it hurts. Listen to how the Proverbs describe this:
Prov. 27:6 Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
Prov. 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
Prov 24:26 An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.
A true friend is not merely someone who flatters you. A true friend is one who is more concerned about your growth than your ego. They want to refine you rather than just flatter you. We all need someone in our lives to whom we can say, “Help me to see what I am blind to in myself. Help me to grow in my relationship with Christ”.
It is true that we can make it in life without anyone. However, we can’t grow as people in isolation. God has designed us to “sharpen each other”. Ray Ortlund writes,
“When iron sharpens iron, it creates friction. When a friend wounds you, it hurts. So, do you see? There is a difference between hurting someone and harming someone. There is a difference between someone being loved and someone feeling loved. Jesus loved everyone well, and some people felt hurt. They were not harmed by him. They were loved by him. But they felt hurt….the truth is, a friend will inevitably hurt you with words that are respectful, true, and blunt. If you will receive it, you will grow in wisdom.”
This is not an invitation to start pointing out the faults of everyone around you. Some people are obnoxious that way. They note every misspoken word and they magnify and spotlight every fault (most of the time a true friend overlooks offenses). These other people are not friends, they are a pain in the neck!
A friend is a person who has earned the right to speak to you about things they see in you that are hurting you or the people around you. Two people can say the same hard thing to you. One will provoke an angry response, the other will be received as giving a loving piece of instruction. Why? It is because one person is a friend and they have proved that they care about you. The friend speaks the truth out of love. Lovingly they will