Lean On Me

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Proverbs 18:24

In 1972 Bill Withers released a song that remains famous today. “Lean On Me” is ranked number 205 on Rolling Stone’s500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Since the original release, numerous re-makes of the song have been done. Withers said the inspiration for the song was his childhood home in a tight-knit coal-mining town in West Virginia. He wrote it after he moved to Los Angeles and found himself missing the strong community of his hometown. The chorus of his song is:

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong. 

And I’ll be your friend.  I’ll help you carry on.

For, it won’t be long ‘til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”

We truly do all need someone to lean on. And Proverbs 18:24 warns against having a life filled with “many companions” instead of true friends, “who will stick closer than a brother.” What is the difference between the two? Companion in this verse refers to a fellow citizen, while friendrefers to deep love. In fact, the same word is used in Genesis 22:2 to describe Abraham’s love for Isaac; and in Genesis 29:18 of Jacob’s love for Rachel.

It takes effort to develop this kind of friendship…one that is deeply rooted in love for one another. Life is busy; and if we do not prioritize such friendships they will not automatically happen. We must intentionally seek out these relationships and invest our lives in them. It is important to understand that every friendship will not fit into this category of “sticking closer than a brother.” However, it is wise to have at least one or two friendships that go deeper than the rest.

Do you have a friend that you know will stick closer than a brother when life gets hard?  Are you that kind of friend to anyone else? God created us with the need for deep, meaningful relationships…first and foremost with Him, and then with one another.

Dear Jesus, Thank You for the gift of friendship. Please help me to be wise in my relationships. I want to be the kind of friend who sticks closer than a brother; and I want to have friends like that. Help me to follow Your direction as You lead me each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Best Friend

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do what I command.”  John 15:13-14

Friendship is a word that is thrown around casually in our culture. You can “friend” someone on Facebook that you do not even know. But there is a difference in being “friendly” with someone and being a friend. Most people have certain standards for friendship like loyalty, trustworthiness, honesty, and kindness. We expect certain things from friends that we wouldn’t from other people; and we give to our friends in a way that we would not give to others as well. Therefore, friendship carries both privileges and responsibilities.

In John 15, Jesus is preparing His disciples for His coming crucifixion. He will be leaving them to continue His ministry on the earth; and He wants them to understand the relationship they will have with Christ, and with one another. For three years they have followed Him. They have spent all their time with Him, watching and learning from His life. He has modeled for them how to have an intimate relationship with God, and how to love others.

Up to this point they have called Him Rabbi, or Teacher. But now Jesus initiates a shift in the student/teacher relationship they have shared. He tells them that the greatest of love is to lay down your life for your friends. From this one statement we know that Jesus is the greatest friend we will ever have. He carried our cross of sin and shame up to Calvary and offered His life to bring us to God.

Just as friendship with Christ has privileges, it also carries responsibilities. Jesus told the twelve that they were His friends if they obeyed His commands. Is Jesus placing conditions on salvation? Must we work to be saved? No. Jesus is saying that the fruit of friendship with Him will be obedience. We will obey, not to becomeHis friends, but because we areHis friends.  This is an important distinction. A desire to obey, and a lifestyle that reflects that desire, is the evidence of friendship with Jesus.

Jesus commands His disciples in verse 13 to love each other in the same way that He has loved each of them. He has given them all they need to know about love and friendship.  They have seen Him minister, serve, fellowship, teach, forgive, and even weep with His friends. And soon, they will see Him give up His life for His friends. And this is how He desires for believers to love one another. As Christians, our friendships should reflect the character of Christ, and draw others to Him.

Dear Jesus, Thank You for being my best friend. Your love compels me to love others. May my friendships reveal Your character and honor Your name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I Give Up

“You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of Me.”  Luke 21:16-17

It is human nature to want to be liked by other people. No matter the stage of life, all of us, to some degree, care what others think. While this tends to be at its peak during the teenage years, even as adults we compare ourselves to and try to impress our peers. And if we aren’t careful, we can begin to live our lives to please people rather than to please God.

In Luke 21, Jesus is warning His disciples of what is to come. If they choose to live the life of Christ, they are forfeiting an easy, comfortable life. They will give up the approval of man. In fact, they will ensure the betrayal, persecution, and hatred of man. Perhaps the most shocking news to them was that this betrayal would not only come from Christian-haters, but from those closest to them.

Parents, brothers, relatives and friends would not only betray them…but would kill some of them because of Christ. That is indeed what happened. Most people believe that all of the 12 disciples, with the exception of Judas (who killed himself) and John (who died of natural causes) were martyred for their faith in Christ. And yet, Jesus promises them in Luke 21:18-19 that, “Not a hair on your head will perish,” because, “by standing firm, you will gain life.” How is that possible? Christ’s promise wasn’t that a hair on their heads wouldn’t be harmed, but that it wouldn’t perish. By standing firm in the faith, even at the risk of death, Christ’s disciples gained what men can never take away – eternal life. That is why the Apostle Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Are you willing to give up relationships for the sake of Christ? Is His approval the most important to you, or are you living to please other people? Following Jesus has a cost.  This cost is different for every person. What have you given up to follow Christ?

Dear Father, You are worth whatever I may lose on this earth for Your sake. Thank You that what I gain is eternal. Please help me to be faithful to You, even when it is hard. Make me willing to follow You even when doing so brings mockery or hatred from people in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Real Friend

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”  Proverbs 27:6

Most of us are quite familiar with Proverbs 17:17, which says, “A friend loves at all times…” But maybe we aren’t so quick to quote today’s verse, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted…” Both are in God’s Word; therefore both are 100% true. So how do love and wounding co-exist in friendship?

Spiritual accountability is essential to a healthy Christian life. Accountability cannot happen without honesty; and honesty sometimes wounds. A true friend, the kind described in Proverbs, is willing to wound feelings temporarily to accomplish eternal purposes. A real friend will not allow you to continue in sin, and will hold you accountable to living a life that glorifies and pleases the Father.

This type of biblical friendship is rare. It is a relationship that requires transparency and trust. It does not feel natural to make ourselves vulnerable. It is not easy to be honest about our deepest struggles, fears, and hidden sins. It takes tremendous faith to put ourselves out there like this, doesn’t it? It is much easier to keep the most fragile parts of ourselves hidden behind a wall of silence.

And while this may feel safe, a lack of accountability actually leaves us the most vulnerable and open to attack. A Christian’s truest enemy is not man, but Satan and the dark forces of the world (Ephesians 6:12). I am convinced that one of his greatest tactics against Christians is secrecy and isolation. When our fear of what other people will think of us becomes more important than personal holiness, we are in a dangerous place.

Do you have at least one person whose wounds you can trust? Is there someone in your life who loves you enough to point out your sin when you don’t recognize it? If not, I encourage you to begin praying for such a person. May you both have and be this kind of godly friend.

Dear Father, I know it is Your will that I live a holy life; and that is impossible to do on my own. I need Your power and grace, and the fellowship and accountability of my brothers and sisters in faith. Please bring others into my life that desire deep and biblical friendship.  Help me to be this kind of friend to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

True Friends Are Hard To Find

“And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.  Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”  1 Samuel 18:3-4

Friendship. It’s one of life’s most wonderful gifts. True friends, however, are hard to come by, aren’t they? Most of us have many acquaintances; but how many of these people would we truly call friends? And what is the difference…what makes someone a friend?

Jonathan and David had a unique friendship. In this passage we have a picture of the covenant they made with one another. The exchanging of robes and weapons was significant in those days. It symbolized an exchange of identity, because people were often known by the color of their robes. The giving of weapons represented their fierce loyalty to one another. In essence they were saying, “Your enemies are my enemies. I will fight with and for you.” The covenant of friendship also extended to their families, including future generations.

What was the basis of such a friendship? Verse three says that Jonathan made the covenant because of his love for David. We can assume the feeling was mutual. It is hard for us to understand the deep meaning of this exchange, because promises are so easily made and broken in our culture. This was not so in biblical times. A covenant was a lifelong commitment never entered into lightly. The breaking of a covenant could result in death. These men were friends in the truest sense of the word.

We can learn much about true friendship from this relationship, can’t we? How many people do you, “love as you love yourself?” Sacrificial love is the basis of lasting friendship. It is the glue that holds the relationship together, and deep unity and loyalty spring from this love. The tendency today is to attempt to base friendship on common interests and backgrounds. But Jonathan and David were from two different worlds.  Jonathan was the son of the King of Israel, and David was a shepherd. Common interests will of course play a role in friendship; but they are a shaky foundation.

Are you investing your life in true friendships? It does take sacrifice to develop such a relationship. But if you have even one true friend, consider yourself wealthy and blessed…because true friends are hard to find.

Dear Father, Thank You for my friends. Please help me to prioritize these relationships so that they continue to deepen and grow. Help me to be a friend that points others to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.