Last evening I met with one of my mentorship groups. These are a great group of ladies who I sincerely appreciate. It was a very late evening but extremely valuable. Friendships are absolutely priceless and can add so much into our lives if we are willing to invest time into the relationships.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (New International Version) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
The writer of Ecclesiastes wants us to understand that friendship is a good investment. When the author says in verse nine, "Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their labor" the words "good reward" can also be translated "good return" for it means - dividends paid on a wise investment. The very best investment you will ever make in life will not be a financial one, but rather the investment made in relationships. We will get the best return on that investment over any other investment that we will ever make. As we go through life there are two kinds of things we can give our lives to. Some people try to accumulate possessions. They are constantly trying to get more or better stuff. It is attributed to the late Malcolm Forbes to have said, "He who dies with most toys wins." However, since he has died, he knows that not to be true. If we spend all our lives trying to accumulate more and more possessions, we will never truly be happy and fulfilled. On the other hand we can decide to focus on building relationships, trying to make friends and BE A FRIEND.
Let's look at a few characteristics of a true friendship:
1. ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) Each of us has experienced times in our lives when life throws obstacles in our paths. It is during these times that we need true friends. True friends will encourage and support each other in the midst of storms. True friends offer emotional strength. True friends will encourage and help us do what we have to do by supporting us in the midst of it all.
A young boy was sent to the corner store by his mother to buy a loaf of bread. He was gone much longer than it should have taken him. When he finally returned, his mother asked, "Where have you been? I have been worried sick about you."
"Well," he answered, "there was a little boy by the side of the road with a broken bicycle who was crying so I stopped to help him."
"I didn't know you knew anything about fixing bikes," his mother said. "I don't," he replied. "I just stayed there and cried with him."
Encouragement means coming alongside to impart courage to another. This is what a true friend does for us when we find ourselves facing things that we have to go through. They come alongside us to lend support. A true friend encourages you. A true friend exhorts you. A true friend will help you do what you ought to do. A true friend seeks to bring your strength.
2. PICK YOUR FRIENDS UP WHEN THEY FALL. Verse 10 - "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no none to help him up!" "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:17)
We're the only outfit I know that shoots its wounded. We can become the most severe, condemning, judgmental, guilt-giving people on the face of the planet Earth, and we claim it's in the name of Jesus Christ. And all the while, we don't even know we're doing it. That's the pathetic part of it all." (Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1)
Let your friends know loud and clear that you are there for them! The next time it may be you in that situation. A true friend does not act like a judge when another friend makes very poor choices. Although we should never support their bad choices, we also need to express God's love to them and encourage them as they pull their life back together. Many people will criticize them and most likely condemn your decision to support this individual. Don't be intimidated by those who refuse to forgive.
3. A TRUE FRIEND EMPOWERS YOU. A true friend will help you do what you need to do. They will seek to bring success to you.
We all have things in our lives that need to be addressed in order that we might be the success that God has in mind for us to be. Often, it will involve life change or character development. A true friend will help us. A true friend expresses honesty and constructive criticism to help refine us.
Jesus spent leisure and ministry time with the disciples so they could have a transparent relationship. Jesus impressed even Simon the Pharisee when He was willing to go to his house and dine with him. Christ's willingness to meet people on their home court proved to be a most effective teaching lab.
Jesus refused to give up on His friends. He asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Each time Peter meekly said, "Lord, you know that I have a brotherly affection for you (he could not bring himself to say that he loved Jesus in the sense that Jesus loved him)." John 21:15-17 Jesus' relationship with His disciples was based on an intimate knowledge of each person's strengths and weaknesses.
To have true friends in our lives we need to be a true friend. Dear Lord, I pray today that you will help me to be transparent, loving and forgiving. Help me Lord to be the true friend I need to be to those around me. Help me God to search my heart daily and get rid of any criticism or bitterness I might have for anyone in my life. Help me God to be the true friend I want from others. Help me to be patient as these friendships are cultivated in my life.