Faithlife Sermons

Proverbs on Friendship (2)

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Well, as we saw last week, thanks to our mobile phone software we now have literally thousands of emojis to choose from to express our emotions.
This week as we think about friendships, we have FB CEO Mark Zuckerberg to thank for resolving our friendship crisis!
Now anyone in the world can join FB and gain hundreds of friends in no time at all.
But, as we all know, including on the topic of friendship as in so many other things, it is easier to be smart than to be good!
Even the world is fairly smart about friendship.
A quick google search returns us with the right ideas.
The World’s Definition: A true friendship is based on having your back, truthfulness, loyalty and trust.
But, something else I read said, “Some people make enemies instead of friends… because it is less trouble!”
That’s because it’s easier to be smart than good.
Friendship sounds wonderful… but for many the reality is that friendship is so hard in practice that some people would simply prefer to call them enemies and go into battle with them!
It seems to me that in practice, the world tends to think that a friend is someone who will make me feel good, and help me when I’m in trouble…
And I guess for me to have a friend like that means that I will need to be a friend like thatsomeone who makes my friend feel good and I’ll need to stick with them when they’re in trouble.
Hence the problem with human friendships.
Friendships are costly - sometimes we will be asked to give when we want to take.
And friendships will inevitably be unequal.
Inevitably one or the other will feel they are giving more than they are getting.
So, that means, it’s gonna get complicated!
Christian friendship starts from a different place!
Christian friendship begins with God who gave his one and only Son for us.
Philippians 2:1 (NIV84)
1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete…
Philippians 2:3–4 NIV84
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Deeper Christian friendship becomes possible when we see it as a response to Jesus friendship with us… and we keep in mind that it will be more about our own growth and maturity than feeling good.
Once we know we have the security of Jesus’ love and concern for us, we can concern ourselves with having the back of other people and making life better and more positive and rewarding for them… and them too for us!
But it should be much harder to keep an account to see who’s paid the most! Jesus paid the most… we’re responding to his love for us.
Now we understand that we enter into a friendship not firstly so I can pay a bit so that I feel better and have someone to have my back...
But rather as a response to Jesus who paid with his life so that I could have life… and now that in Jesus I find my security, significance and acceptance…
so now I can enter into Christian friendship with my eyes wide open…

Proverbs on Christian Friendships

Eyes wide open!

Pr 12:26 “26 A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
Pr 13:20 “20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Friendships of course occur on varying levels.
Sometimes it is appropriate to simply be friendly.
A nice smile… a happy chat… some politeness… perhaps even when others are a bit short or even rude is good.
Many Christians seem to think that’s all they need to offer new people who come to church.
But people who come to church to see whether there is any substance to our Christianity won’t be satisfied with mere friendliness.
Friendliness is something everyone expects at the checkout and the barbers.
They better find friendliness in church… but most people will be wanting more than that!
People want more than mere friendliness, they want a friend!
Being a friend at the next level.
That means proactive and costly friendliness.
It means listening… and hearing.
It means a wise, truthful and gracious response.
It means sharing something of your self… but cautiously, wisely.
But at this level there will be a lot of sifting going on.
Sifting what is heard and sifting what is said.
Perhaps this is more than merely being friendly… more like ministry than deep Christian friendship.
For those enjoying this ministry, this is a friendship where they don’t have to weigh their thoughts, nor measure their words, but to pour them all out just as they are, chaff and grain together knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
At this level we make them feel good… and as trust deepens it may become appropriate to share something of God’s character with them… and how their character falls short.
This friendship is a bit one-sided because this is untested!
We want people to grow... so we give of ourselves… but we know the potential for quarrels to develop and the possibility of gossip, so we hold back a bit.
The other person can say whatever they like… but we respond not for ourselves but for their good.
We ask ourselves all the time… how should I respond to help them?
We know that Pr 13:20He who walks with the wise grows wise” so we want them to walk with us and have them become wise and as they mature we might give more of ourselves to them.
And as this friendship develops, we will move to the next level.

Next level…

Pr 27:5-6 “5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Pr 27:17 “17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
This is now heading towards a significant Christian friendship.
Most people will not have many friends at this level.
At this level Christian friendship needs to have a sufficient level of trust, loyalty and maturity for both sides to be able to do what Jesus did when he was with people who transgressed God’s law.
Jn 5:14 “Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.””
He didn’t gossip, wink, giggle, or ignore it.
He told some people that they were to leave their sin.
A friend “in deed” (two words) is one who says quietly but firmly, “As a Christian you can’t do that. It is harmful to you and others. It is destructive to the plan God has for your life. Let’s walk together before God and we can overcome it.”
In true friendship sometimes we will say something like that… and sometimes we will hear something like that.
And that’s when we will grow and mature, and God’s people will show a watching world the reality of the God who dwells in them!

Maintaining (& Ruining) Christian Friendship

However there is never any freedom without rules.
Whether we’re playing a game of cards or football, driving our cars or entering into deep friendship… the freedom to enjoy their activity only comes to those who abide by the rules.
Those that go outside of the rules destroy the experience.
Thankfully… and helpfully, proverbs gives us some basic rules with which to abide in deep friendships.
Pr 11:2 “2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
Pr 11:13 “13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”
Anyone who endeavours to enter into a deep friendship intent on convincing the potential friend that they themselves are a good person… and I know you’re a good person, so we’ll affirm each other as being good persons… is in for disgrace!
When pride comes, then comes disgrace.
No one can keep up a facade of respectability for long… despite their best efforts!
Jesus picked them in an instant!
“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”
It doesn’t take much longer for most people of integrity.
People who want you to know how wonderful they are, are a pain in the bum!
But with humility comes wisdom.
Wisdom dictates that God knows what he is talking about when he says “all have sinned and fallen short”.
You have… and so have I.
Anyone who is not prepared to share about an experience with a spouse or family member, motorist, salesman or person for which they have deep embarrassment and shame is not ready for deep friendship.
The gospel should prepare us for this.
The gospel of Jesus says, “God saves sinners.”
People who believe they are good people can go to church… but they’ll never go to heaven… it is a prerequisite of the gospel that we confess before Jesus that we are sinners.
We have embarrassed him and shamed him and disobeyed him… and until we confess that to Jesus we are good church people.
True friendship is about sincere Christian people seeking to honour Jesus by growing in maturity… not bragging about convincing each other how good we are!
And the other side of that is that both had better agree that
“a gossip betrays a confidence” and,
as Pr 16:28 says, “A gossip separates close friends”.
It’s been my experience that while many people have and know family secrets that they don’t gossip about… few indeed are the Christians who talk openly with anyone about their own secrets.
Pr 28:13 “13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
Many years ago I attended a several day seminar about peace-making and as part of the course we had to go off in pairs and one person told the other person about a sin they had committed… and the other person would listen and then respond with a promise of forgiveness and restoration from 1 Jn 1:9 “9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” and a short prayer for them.
And then we were to swap roles and go through the whole thing again.
I found it such a blessing!
Not long after I returned back to Inverell we had a church camp and I bravely decided that I would show the group what a wonderful thing it is for someone to hear a story about something we’d done of which we were ashamed and embarrassed… to which the other person would respond with a word of forgiveness from the Bible and a prayer for restoration.
So I picked a godly man and worded him up on what I was going to do and how he was supposed to respond.
The whole camp came together for this exercise and we sat around and talked about forgiveness and then I offered to give a demonstration.
In front of everyone I told a story about something I had done, fairly publicly in church, as I recall… but it was sort of a family secret. Many people knew about it, but it wasn’t talked about.
But I told this man about it in front of everyone, which was a stretch… but then he started to question me about it! Now I was really stretched… this wasn’t in the script!
Is he going to publicly forgive me… or just ask questions?
Make me squirm?
What a relief it was when he said, “Thank you Garry for sharing that with us; God’s word says Mt 6:14 “14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” we forgive you and we promise not to hold it against you… and we assure you of God’s forgiveness as well.”
I can’t say that those sorts of conversations are only possible with God’s people… but belonging to God; finding our security, significance and acceptance with God… and having to confess our sins IN ORDER TO be right with God, certainly changes things!
For the better! Infinitely for the better.

A True Eternal Friend

Pr 18:24 “24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Jn 15:13 “13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
At what level are your relationships?
Friendliness… cautious, measured… but open and caring…
Do you have one or two where you can say anything… and hear anything in reply?
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