.If we surveyed all of your friends, would they describe you as a good friend? We will look at what is required of us in our friendships and how we can improve those friendships.
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that your friendships are a most important part of life. Can you imagine not having a friend to talk to, someone you’re comfortable with, someone who cares about you, someone to do things with and pray with? Ecclesiastes 4:12 says Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, and I know that God has given us friends for encouragement and help. We would find it difficult to keep from being overpowered without friends to help us.
Therefore, we should also recognize our responsibility to be a good friend to those in our lives whom God has given to us. It’s a two way street, and we need to make sure we are the good friend we should be.
Proverbs has many instructions for being a good friend. Probably the most famous one is Proverbs 17:17: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A good friend is loyal and is there for you when things are tough. Have you been that kind of friend?
“At all times” doesn’t leave much out, does it? It includes those times when a friend may not be giving you what you need in the relationship. Maybe a friend hasn’t been willing to listen to you or help you, or has been too absorbed in his or her own problems to think about yours. But if you’re the friend you should be, you will love “at all times”—even when it is not reciprocated.
I know that’s not easy to do, but the love of God in us can give us the ability to love a friend at all times, even when the support we offer, the listening ear we supply, is not given back to us in return. “At all times” includes the middle of the night, or in the midst of a busy schedule. When was the last time you were willingly inconvenienced for the sake of a friend? And can you remember a time when a friend did that for you? It helps so much to know you have that kind of friend.
This verse says a friend is born for adversity. In other words, we are put in other people’s lives in order to help them endure adversity. So, check up on yourself and ask God to show you how you can be a better friend.
In Romans 12:15-16, we have some important instructions on being a good friend: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.
When was the last time you cried with a friend? You know, when someone’s hurting, you don’t have to have answers to be able to help them. Just be there and cry with them. Often we make the mistake of trying to talk to our friends who are in pain, trying to come up with answers and words that will help them. They don’t need words; they know Romans 8:28. What they need is a friend who says, “I’m so sorry,” and who just simply cries and hurts with them.
And when was the last time you rejoiced with a friend who had some good news? I think that may be harder for us to do than weeping with our friends. For example, a single person whose friend just became engaged, may find that old monster, jealousy, starts creeping in and may find it difficult to really rejoice with the friend who is getting married. Or if you’ve been hoping for a raise, you may find it difficult to rejoice with a friend who just got one.
We must recognize that as a very sinful, selfish reaction, and ask God to deliver us from that kind of jealousy, and make us the kind of person who throws a party for a friend who has a reason to rejoice. When we can learn to do that, we are then able to partake of their joy and excitement, and we increase the joy that they are having. What a wonderful friend that is.
A good friend throws parties for others; gives showers for new babies and weddings; takes a friend out to celebrate a promotion; writes notes of congratulations when a friend has some success. Are you that kind of friend?
In that 16th verse of Romans 12, Paul says very simply, Live in harmony with one another. In Hebrews 12 we read: Make every effort to live in peace… A good friend is one who promotes harmony and peace. A peacemaker is blessed, Jesus said. Are you the kind of friend who settles arguments, forgets wrongs done, and overlooks the little things that often cause tension and harm to friendships? That’s what we should be for our friends.
Has a friend ever wounded you for your own good? In Proverbs 27:6 we read: Wounds from a friend can be trusted… That sounds strange, doesn’t it? A good friend wouldn’t wound us, would they?
Yes indeed, there are times when the best thing a friend can do for us is to wound us. A friend was telling me of a woman in her Bible study who was complaining that God didn’t seem very close to her anymore. She didn’t know what was wrong, but somehow she just couldn’t pray like she used to. She kept talking in these vague generalities, and my friend, Nancy, kept probing with questions.
“Why does God seem far away? What has happened to cause you to stop praying?” As a good friend, Nancy probed with love and gentleness, until finally this woman confessed that there was an area in her life where she was being disobedient to God. The next day she called Nancy and said, “Thank you for not letting me get by with my weak excuses and forcing me to face myself. I didn’t like it at the time, but I needed to get that out in the open.”
Nancy was a wonderful friend to her. She wounded her, gently and with great love and concern, but in so doing she forced her to get things right with the Lord and restore fellowship with him. You see, Nancy knew, as I do, that usually when we’re talking vaguely about not being close to God, there is some specific underlying reason for it, which we don’t want to confront. I’ve done it so often in my own life, but until it is confronted, we just keep drifting along, fooling ourselves and losing ground spiritually.
Now, you have to earn your right to be a friend who wounds. You have to truly care for that person, be with them through the rough times, and do so with great gentleness and love. We can do great damage to a friendship if we do this kind of thing in the wrong way at the wrong time. But I have friends who certainly have earned their right to be a friend who wounds, who hold me accountable, who don’t let me get by with shallowness or excuses. Friends who would pull me up short at any time they saw me wandering astray. How I thank God for those friends. Those are wounds that can be trusted.
So, when God gives you the kind of friend who holds you accountable and gives trustworthy wounds, don’t be angry or upset, but thank God for that friend. That is a gift from God to you, and while that wound may temporarily hurt, in the end it is for your good.
Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:10: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! There have been many times when I’ve fallen down and needed a friend to help me back up, how about you?
If I’m a good friend, I’m going to be doing everything I can to help someone who has stumbled and failed. Failures are so painful, and when we’ve really made a fool out of ourselves, in big or small ways, we just want to quit and hide. But a good friend will come along and say, “Here, let me help you. You can get up again. Sure, you’ve fallen but it’s not the end of the road. I’ve fallen myself plenty of times. Let me help you keep going.”
Good friends don’t lay condemnation or criticism or guilt on others; rather they pour healing ointments on the hurting places. I’m not saying that we ignore sin or give approval to what we know is wrong in another’s life. But when that person has fallen and they’re having trouble getting up, the last thing they need is to be told how terrible their fall was. They know that. They need a friend to help them up. Pity the person, Solomon wrote, who has no one to help them up!
I spent ten years walking away from the Lord—ten long years doing my own thing and living a selfish, sinful life. But when I came back to the Lord, there were many who were there to help me up. Particularly I think of my close friends, Fran and Dick, who had been my friends through those awful years and had watched me stumble and fall. But never once did they remind me of the failures; they were just there to help me get up and put the past behind me, and to move on with the Lord.
How I pity the person who has no one to help them up. Who is it in your life right now that needs that kind of helping hand? Who has failed badly? Have you gone to them and said, “I’m here for you; this is not fatal; we all fall, but God can restore us. That’s one of his specialties.” If you know someone like that, will you be a good friend today and help them up?
Maybe you’ve just fallen down and no one is coming along to help you up. Can I be that friend to you, to encourage you to know that you just can’t mess things up so badly that God can’t restore you. Take it from one who knows; God is able to make all grace abound toward you so that even in the midst of your stumble and your failure, he can make something good out of it. Here, take my hand right now, and let me help you up, and remind you that God is in the salvage business and he wants to restore you to completeness in Jesus.
One of the most wonderful gifts we can have in our lives is the gift of a true and trusted friend, one who loves at all times, who laughs when we laugh and cries when we cry, who speaks the truth to us in love and who helps us when we fall. Have you got a friend like that? If you have just one, you are blessed.
A really important question to ask yourself is: Are you that kind of a friend to those people whom God has put into your life? A good friend is one who keeps a confidence. When someone trusts you with some information that is confidential, are you very, very careful never to betray that confidence? That is a trust we should take very seriously.
Proverbs 11:13 says, A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. And in Proverbs 20:19 it reminds us again that, A gossip betrays a confidence so avoid a man who talks too much. Can your friends rely on you to keep their confidence? Gossip, of course, is one sure way to damage friendships and lose a person’s confidence. Do you avoid gossip like the plague?
Now, let’s reverse that question, and ask what we do when someone betrays our confidence. David had that experience; he wrote in Psalm 41:9: Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. He doesn’t say exactly who he was referring to, but it’s likely it was Ahithophel, who was David’s trusted counselor. Ahithophel conspired with Absalom to overthrow David and make Absalom king. This was a man who had for years been David’s closest counselor, and now he becomes his hidden enemy.
Nothing can hurt much more than having a friend betray you. What can you do? Well, remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to you. Don’t try to equal the score; let God do that. Ahithophel ended up hanging himself when his plan to overthrow David failed. Those who betray you will eventually pay the price, but it’s not yours to decide. Let God do it.
Then follow Jesus’ instructions to pray for your enemies and do good to those who despitefully use you. Find something good to do for that friend who has betrayed you. Obviously, the friendship will change because confidence and trust have been destroyed. But be willing to forgive, even if you’re not asked to, and don’t allow your friend’s betrayal to cause you to become bitter and angry. LET GO AND LET GOD! 🙂