We live in a society where many people find real friendship hard to come by. Many people have lots of superficial acquaintances at work, or at their sports or social clubs – and they may have hundreds of ‘friends’ on Facebook – but few really close friends.
Millions of people are missing out on true and lasting friendship.
In our fast paced society, where people seem constantly busy, constantly on the move, it appears to be harder and harder to develop strong friendships. Statistics suggest it is increasingly difficult to find friends and grow good friendships.
This is a very sad state of affairs, because the Bible says God has made us to be sociable creatures. Because God is a God of relationship, a relationship between Father, Son and Spirit. And our relational God wants us to enjoy relationships too. Not just relationships with family, but also with friends. We are made to enjoy relationships with people beyond our family limits whom we can share life’s joys and challenges together.
So this morning we shall be looking at what Proverbs has to say about friendship. We’ll be listening to God’s wise advice on what to look for in a friend – and how we can be a good friend to others.
What then should we look for in a friend? Proverbs tells to choose our friends carefully – to seek the company of the wise, not the foolish. The good not the bad. The godly not the ungodly. For example, Proverbs 13:20 says: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” And Proverbs 24:1 says “Do not envy the wicked, and do not desire their company.”
So what are the specific qualities we should look for in a friend?
• Firstly, we should look for faithful friends. For someone who will stay with us in the bad times as well as good. Proverbs 17:17 says a true “friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” And Proverbs 18 warns us that someone “who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin.” We need friends who’ll be there to support us when we are sad, lonely, in trouble or need. We need more than just ‘fair weather friends’.
• Secondly, Proverbs says we should also seek out candid friends. We should should seek out wise friends who will advise us – and when necessary, correct and rebuke us – not just those who will flatter us. As Proverbs 27:6 says, “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” In short, we need candid friends who care for us enough to tell us uncomfortable truths, not just complements.
So we should be on the look out for friends who will care for us and forgive us. Faithful friends who will stick by us through thick and thin, and candid friends who will always tell us the truth.
Of course, to make good friends we need to BE a good friend ourselves! If we want people to invest in a relationship with us, we need to be willing to invest in them. My former vicar in Oxford, Vaughan Roberts, has written a little book called “Friendship”. Taking his cue from Proverbs, Vaughan gives us the following advice for being a good friend to others:
• Firstly, we need to be completely open and honest with our friends about our own weaknesses, struggles and temptations. If we open up to our friends, they will be more open with us. Tell them the truth, be trustworthy and candid, as we would want them to be with us. As we heard in verse 9 of our reading this morning “the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice”.
• Secondly, we ought to be genuinely interested in our friends’ lives. We must really listen to what they have to say, show true concern for how they’re feeling, and what they are doing.
• Next, Vaughan says be committed – share time and money with your friends, show them you are committed to your friendship. As verse 10 said in our reading this morning: “Do not forsake a friend, or a friend of your family”.
• Finally, we need to be forgiving of our friends – we are all fallen creatures, we all make mistakes. Don’t break off a friendship the first time you are sinned against or let down by them. Forgive your friends freely, just as we would want them to show forgiveness, grace and patience towards us.
I hope we’ve seen this morning that a good friend is someone who is faithful, someone who is candid, someone who cares for us. Proverbs says that’s the type of friend we should look for – and the type of friend we should be to others.
But who should be our best friend for life? Proverbs 18 contains these intriguing words: “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
The New Testament reveals who that perfect friend is – the one who sticks closer than a brother. It won’t surprise you to know that the answer is the Lord Jesus himself. If we are Christians we have a friend who fulfills all the qualities of the ideal companion:
• Jesus is totally faithful. He promises to be with us always (Matt:28:20). He is within us by his Holy Spirit wherever we go, whatever we are going through. He is always there, ready to listen as we pray.
• Christ is also completely candid. His words to us are the way, the truth and the life. His totally trustworthy speech to us in Scripture challenges us, convicts us and comforts us – as circumstances dictate (2 Tim 3:16).
• And finally, Christ’s care for us is beyond question. Jesus said himself that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:13-15). And that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. While we were still sinners, Christ laid down his life for us at the Cross for our forgiveness (Rom 5:8).
Wonderfully, Christ is every Christian’s closest companion – Jesus considers us his friends! He is totally faithful, completely candid, and his love for us has no limits. He is the ideal friend for life – and for eternity.
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