In my opinion, real, true friendship is one of the most beautiful, most valuable, and most powerful forces on earth. If you want to have a strong interior wall as a leader, a strong character which will help you in the various challenges you face, then you need thick friendships.
There are some moments in the Bible so beautiful that you long to experience them. One of those for me is Jesus in the upper room with his disciples on his last night. John 15 tells us that Jesus took a long look at these men who had been with him for the last 3 years in ministry. What a journey! Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his…friends! (Then looking around the table he says:) “You are my friends.” Wow! It’s as if Jesus is saying, ‘I can see that you are not going to survive on your own. The enemy is too fierce & you are too weak, so I will come to your rescue, I will lay down my life for friendship.’ This is beautiful and powerful.
So as we consider the topic of friendship, our focus will be on Jesus’ friendship with his disciples and how it shapes our friendships with one another.
This is a great video to serve as an illustration for friendship:
Red the Lion is lucky that he has a friend (Tartoo) who comes to rescue him! I love the quote, “Even for 20 hyenas a pair of male lions is too much to take on!” Just one friend can help overcome great odds.
The Book of Proverbs talks a lot about the importance of friendship. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
You won’t be a great leader without great friends. My main question for you is: Do you have some thick friendships? Someone like Tartoo who sticks close, who is willing to sacrifice and rescue you?
Financial Expert Dave Ramsay says this about your salary: “Your income will be within 10% of the average income of your 10 closest friends.”
Some of you are saying, ‘I need some new friends!’ I want to tweak his statement: “Your spiritual wealth will be within 10% for your 10 closest friends.” You become like the friends you surround yourself with.
“Your spiritual wealth will be within 10% for your 10 closest friends.”
Today we will examine the importance of Friendships under 3 headings: Constancy (Faithfulness), Correction, and Care.
Let’s look at two short passages from the book of Proverbs
- Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity”
- Proverbs 20:6 – “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?”
Look at what 17:17 is saying. A brother is stuck with you. You don’t get to choose your family. In times of “adversity,” family usually comes to help. But a friend…a friend chooses you and are there “at all times.” Good times, mundane times, and times of adversity. When someone sticks with you because they want to and not because they have to, you know you have a very valuable friend.
One of the greatest friendships recorded in the Bible is the friendship between David & Jonathan. One sentence describes their friendship: “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved David as his own soul.”
King Saul was the first King of Israel and Jonathon was his first born son. Jonathan is groomed to be the next King and has quite an impressive resume: with just his armor-bearer, he defeated 20 Philistine soldiers.
Then in chapter 17, David comes along with his own victory over the Philistines. David eclipses Jonathan. David defeats Goliath. Following the victory, David was hailed as the savior of Israel. David’s leadership produced incredible loyalty from other soldiers. God appoints David to be the next King of Israel, not Jonathan.
In chapter 18, Jonathan and David meet. What would you expect? Rivalry, bitterness, or envy? Instead, we see a remarkable friendship.
Read 1 Samuel 18:3-4: “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”
David gets the position Jonathon was groomed for, yet Jonathon is happy to help his friend. Jonathon gives up his kingdom to promote the kingdom of his friend. Wow! This is incredible sacrifice and faithful friendship. Over the next 3 chapters we see how Jonathon constantly makes himself available to rescue and promote David. This is constancy.
“A faithful friend who can find?” David found a faithful friend in Jonathan.
What’s your reaction when your friend gets something you have been wanting for? Bitterness, jealousy, envy, or can you celebrate with them and say: “I will do anything to help.” That’s true friendship! That’s one soul being knitted together with another.
Read Proverbs 27:5-6: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” You must have friends with the courage to give good Counsel if you want to lead a wise life.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” – Proverbs 27:5-6
Verses 5 and 6 are parallel statements: Open rebuke = Wounds of a Friend. Hidden Love = Kisses of an Enemy. Most people don’t enjoy wounding someone, so they hide. They say something like, “Oh, I love the person too much to cause conflict or to confront.” Yet, it’s not loving to not address a significant flaw in your friend. According to verse 6, you are no better than a friendly enemy.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Life Together, “Reproof is unavoidable. God’s Word demands it when a brother falls into open sin. Where defection from God’s Word in doctrine or life imperils…a word of rebuke must be ventured. Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”
“Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.” – Bonhoeffer
If you are fortunate enough to have a friend with the courage to confront you about your flaws, then you need to thank them for loving you so much. Thick friendship requires both receiving and delivering this kind of painful feedback.
Many years ago, one of my best friends got engaged and asked me to be the best man in his wedding. Of course I said yes! However, as I got to see the relationship with his fiancé, I thought it was unhealthy, and potentially toxic. I will never forget sitting at a restaurant telling him I didn’t think this was the person he should marry. He was my friend, so I risked telling him what I thought. He knew I was his friend and that my wounds could be trusted. He didn’t marry her.
Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” A scoffer is someone who starts defending himself before you are done with your assessment. Here is an assessment question: Are you open to a wounding assessment of your behavior? Or do you start defending yourself before assessment is done? Scoffer are fools to the writer of Proverbs.
Do you have a friend who, when they wound, you can trust? If so, you have someone rare and valuable. You should be thankful!
Because real friendships are rare & valuable, you must take care of them. Proverbs 11:12 says, “Whoever belittles his friend lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” To belittle is to make someone feel small. In your friendships, is there ever a hint of superiority? Does what you say or how you say it ever make the other person feel small? If so, you are not caring for the friendship, you are crushing it.
If you detect this feeling of superiority rising up, then a man of understanding knows to “remain silent.” I hope you know that everything your friend says doesn’t require your brilliant insight. This can be difficult to learn, especially if you want a friendship with your wife! Sometimes it’s more caring to remain silent, and just to listen. Listening is one of the highest forms of caring for a friendship.
In Soul Keeping by John Ortberg, the author tells a story about Dallas Willard, a brilliant professor and Christian writer.
“Toward the end of one of Willard’s Philosophy classes a student raised an objection that was both insulting toward Dallas and clearly wrong. Instead of correcting him, Dallas gently said this would be a good place to end the class for the day. Afterward, a friend approached Dallas and said, “Why did you let him get away with that?” Dallas replied, “I was practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.”
Caring for a friendship requires wisdom in knowing when to speak and when to remain silent. If you feel the need to constantly correct, you won’t have many deep friendships.
Proverbs 17:9 says, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”
“I was practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.” – Dallas Willard
Take to heart this quote by Ray Ortlund:
“We disappoint our friends. The wise person covers those disappointments with forgiveness, the way God does. Why doesn’t God keep embarrassing us with our failures? Because he wants our friendship. He covers our sins through Christ. It’s what we do too, because we want our sinning friend more than we want payback.”
Real friendships shouldn’t be fragile, but they do require care.
The best movie about friendships is The Lord of the Rings. You could say that the whole movie is about the joys, tensions, brokenness, and power of friendships. The friendship at the center of the book is the one between Frodo and Samwise Gamgee.
Frodo has been given the heavy burden of carrying a very powerful and corrupting ring to the place of its destruction. It must be thrown into the volcano know as Mount Doom. It’s a very long and treacherous journey and the burden of carrying the ring is heavy, so Frodo needed many faithful friends to help him make it to the end. None was more faithful than Samwise Gamgee, who promised to stay with Frodo, no matter what.
In this clip, Frodo mistakenly concludes it would be better for him to complete the journey alone. Watch what happens.
“I made a promise…don’t leave him…I don’t mean to.” This is so powerful. I hope you have a friend like that. I hope you are a friend like that.
- Name a friendship that has been critical to your development as a leader. What made that friendship so important?
- Proverbs 18: “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Why is constancy/faithfulness so important in friendships? How is that best displayed?
- Proverbs 27: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” What’s your typical response to correction from a friend? How do you know when to give correction to a friend or to be silent?
- Many men struggle to have thick friendships. Why? What do you need to improve on in developing your friendship?