What Are Friends For?

What Are Friends For?

What Are Friends For?

Read – Proverbs 27:1-27

Key Verse – As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17 NKJV).

Key Thought – The Bible has a lot to say about friendship.

Introduction

Today is National Friendship Day. It seemed good, therefore to speak on the subject of friends, and friendship. After all, we ARE Friendship Bible Church. Our tagline IS “You have FRIENDS here.”

But what does it mean? What is a friend? What is friendship?

Webster defines a friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” And “friendship” is defined as a “close trusting relationship between two people.”

The thesaurus lists all kinds of synonyms for “friend” – “alter ego, amigo, buddy, chum, compadre, comrade, confidante, crony, familiar,intimate, mate [chiefly British], musketeer, pal”.

And in our day, we can’t leave out “bestie” or “BFF”.

One Bible scholar wrote that “Scripture stresses that friendship is often but not always a positive thing: where good friends can be invaluable in the life of faith, bad friends can be obstacles to the faith of believers, or even lead them astray totally.”^[Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).]

GOOD friends are “Those whose commitment from the heart is shown in practical, often sacrificial, care, love and service. They are a source of encouragement, sympathy, comfort and support in time of need. Such relationships are to be cultivated, especially among believers.”^[Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).]

BAD friends are “Those who are close or who exercise influence, who prove to be unreliable or deceptive or who lead astray. Scripture provides numerous instructive examples of the negative effects of bad friends upon believers.”^[Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).]

So let’s see what the Bible has to say about friends and friendship on this National Friendship Day. We will start in Proverbs 27, for therein Solomon made several important observations about friends and friendship.

If you’re taking notes, we’ll have three main thoughts to the message today:

  1. What the Bible says about Friendship.
    2. Some thoughts on who our friends ought to be.
    3. A thought for the friendless.

What the Bible says about Friendship

Friends hurt good

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Proverbs 27:6 NKJV).

In our day and age we need seldom put up with negative input from anybody. We have our “friends” on Facebook and our “followers” on Twitter. I don’t know what it’s called on Instagram or any of the other social media platforms, but the concept is no doubt similar – you gather a group around you that you want to interact with and who wants to interact with you. And the minute you no longer agree with something they have to say, or they no longer agree with you, you simply “unfriend” or “unfollow” them.

– Those “friends” who post something political about which you disagree, you simply unfriend.
– Those “friends” who read your posts about some decision in life that they fear will harm you, and say so, you simply “unfollow”.
– I mean, a friend is supposed to always have your back, right?
– A friend would never pull you up short and tell you you’re acting a fool, right?
– A friend would never correct you, and always accept you just as you are and no matter what you do, right?

Well, the Bible indicates that:

– The person who will only tell you what you want to hear, and not what you need to hear, is not a friend.
– The person who always affirms your opinions and feelings… “yes-man” if you will… is not your friend.
– The person who allows you to make foolish or questionable decisions and choices, without ever speaking up… the person who never corrects you but only compliments you, is NOT your friend.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Proverbs 27:6 NKJV).

“A true friend doesn’t sympathize with your weakness – he helps summon your strength.” (Survey Bulletin)

Henry Ford said, “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”

“A valuable friend is one who’ll tell you what you should be told, even if it offends you.” (Frank A. Clark)

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Proverbs 27:6 NKJV).

Friends give good advice

Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel (Proverbs 27:9 NKJV).

Where vs. 6 tells us a friend is one who will CORRECT us when we need correction, vs. 9tells us a friend is one who will ADVISE us when we need direction.

Good friends… Biblical friends… tend to give good advice… good counsel. Bad friends give just the opposite.

ILLUS – Rehoboam was the son of King Solomon. Solomon, of course, wrote the very words we’re reading this morning from Proverbs, for Solomon was a wise man. For some reason, his son Rehoboam didn’t seem to get that gene, for when he assumed the throne from his father Solomon, he started off in a less than wise way. You remember the story, no doubt:

When he first became king, the people sent representatives to him asking him to lighten the load that Solomon had kept them under. Taxes were high, and expectations of service were high, and they wanted a break from it. Rehoboam started off wisely seeking counsel from the very counsellors that had served his father well. Good start. But then we read this – But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’–thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! ‘And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’ ” (1 Kings 12:8-11 NKJV)

Of course you know the end of that story. He took the bad advice and lost the kingdom.

ILLUS – Haman is another example. Haman was the terrible enemy of the Jews described in the book of Esther. He so hated Mordecai the Jew that he set in motion a plot not only to destroy him, but every Jew everywhere. At one point, while he was spiraling down into this plot, his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows be made, fifty cubits high, and in the morning suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it; then go merrily with the king to the banquet.” And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made (Esther 5:14 NKJV).

Bad advice… terrible counsel… for as the story continued to unfold, Haman ended up hanging on that very gallows.

Both of these men, Rehoboam and Haman, illustrate something I see so often in my dealing with people. From time to time people will come to me with a problem. Many times… maybe MOST times… when they come to the pastor for advice, they’ve already made up their mind, and are really just seeking affirmation for their choice. The minute the pastor tells them the truth, they walk away and “unfriend” him. They seek out others who have made the same choice as they. I’ve said it before, because it’s almost universally true. A person that has made up his / her mind to divorce their spouse begins immediately surrounding themselves with others who have divorced their spouse. They are not seeking wise counsel… they are seeking affirmation for a decision they’ve already made.

But the Bible says, Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel (Proverbs 27:9 NKJV). We need friends who will give us good counsel, and not just merely tell us what we want to hear. We need friends who are wiser than us… friends who are willing to speak the truth to us.

C.S. Lewis said, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”

Friends are there in calamity

Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away (Proverbs 27:10).

ILLUS – Job had it all. He had wealth and health… he had a wife… he had sons and daughters… he had sheep and camels and oxen… he had prestige and honor. He had it all. Until Satan put him through the fire and took it all. He lost his wealth and his health… his wife turned on him… he sons and daughters were tragically killed… and those who had thought highly of him and honored him, turned away.

But Job had friends, and those friends were still there for him, even in his calamity. Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place–Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. (Job 2:11 NKJV)

I think sometimes we give short shrift to Job’s friends. As you read the book of Job you find they weren’t exactly geniuses… and they gave some poor advice. They said a lot of dumb things to Job. But when everybody else fled, they gathered near. When Job lost everything else, they remained with him. Even when they had no words to offer in support, they sat with him in silence. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. (Job 2:13 NKJV)

Friends are there in calamity… in trial… A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17 NKJV). Paul told the Corinthians that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… (1 Corinthians 13:7-8 NKJV).

Biblical friends don’t walk away when friendship gets hard. Spurgeon said, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.”

Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away (Proverbs 27:10).

Friends make us and keep us sharp

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).

God brings friends into our lives who will improve us… make us better… bring out the best in us. Good friends challenge us… Good friends hone us… Good friends make and keep us sharp…

The same thought is seen in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews wrote, And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, (Hebrews 10:24 NKJV)

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).

This verse is pretty much a summary of the three we’ve already mentioned.

– A good friend hurts us when we need hurt. You can’t sharpen an axe without grinding off a little steel.
– A good friend pours good counsel into your life. Adding a little oil to the process makes the steel even sharper.
– And a good friend doesn’t quit on you. When sharpening an axe, you don’t quit until it’s as sharp as it needs to be.

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).

Some thoughts on who our friends should be:

Those who do the above

This is kind of a no-brainer, I guess. If you want Biblical friends, then you should seek out friends that meet the Biblical description of friendship… and you should BE that kind of friend to others.

– Cherish friends that won’t let you get away with sin and stupid choices.
– Cherish friends that give you good advice, and don’t merely tell you what your sinful self wants to hear.
– Cherish friends that there even in the hard times.
– Cherish friends that make you BETTER.

And stay away from those who are just the opposite. So many times in the Bible we are warned to turn away from… STAY away from… bad friends:

The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray (Proverbs 12:26 NKJV).

Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul (Proverbs 22:24-25 NKJV).

Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV).

My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent (Proverbs 1:10 NKJV).

So we ought to seek friends that fit the Biblical model of a friend, and reject any who don’t.

But let me get even more practical, and let me list a few people who you ought to have as friends.

Your spouse should be your friend.

As earthly relationships go – none is more important (if you are married, that is).

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24 KJV).

Your relationship with your husband, or your wife, is the only relationship in the Bible described like that… CLEAVING together… ONE FLESH.

I would encourage husbands – consider your wife your best friend… treat her like your best friend… work harder on that friendship than any other. And if you have other so-called friends who would drive a wedge between you and her… they are not your friends. Drop kick them out of your life.

And I would encourage the same for wives. Women have more friends than men, generally, but ladies – your husband should be your best friend. If you have a “bestie” in someone else… if you use the term BFF of anybody other than him, you’re making a mistake. You need to work harder on your friendship with him than with anybody else. And the same advice works for you as I just gave to him – if you have other so-called friends who would drive a wedge between you and him, “unfriend” them.

Your marriage should be the source of your most important earthly friendship.

Here’s another source from which you ought to be seeking friends:

Your brothers and sisters in Christ should be your friends.

Our tag line here at FBC is “You have friends here.” And you do. Whether you know it or not, there is a room full of friends sitting around you right now.

Did you know that our brothers and sisters in Christ are called “friends” in the Bible? The Apostle John concluded his third epistle with the words, but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name (3 John 1:14 NKJV).

You do have friends here, and they are the best kind of friends – Christian friends… believing friends.

As your pastor, I have a goal for 2019 of visiting with every regular attender here who is willing to meet with me. During those visits, I’m asking some questions… seeking to learn where we might improve as a church… where we might better serve the Lord by serving you. And the last question I ask during those sessions is always the same – “Do you have friends at Friendship Bible Church?”

Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, and said, Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another (Romans 12:10 KJV).

Oh my friends, if you are seeking friends, please look around you. They are here. They surround you. You do have friends here. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are a wonderful group from which to find friends.

But there’s a friend even more important than spouses, or brothers and sisters.

The Savior wants to be your friend.

One day Jesus said to His disciples, No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends… (John 15:15 NKJV).

If you’re a Christian, you have no better friend than Jesus. If you’ve been born again… saved… washed in the blood… redeemed… forgiven… then you have a Friend like no other friend!

Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all;
> He is my strength from day to day, Without him I would fall:
> When I am sad, to him I go, No other one can cheer me so;
> When I am sad, he makes me glad,
> He’s my friend.^[Will L. Thompson, “Jesus is All the World to Me”] (NOTE – Thompson was from East Liverpool, Ohio)

The Song of Solomon in the Old Testament is a love poem written by Solomon. There are two ways it is often interpreted and considered – first and probably most accurately, as a real and genuine description of the love between a man and a woman. But secondly, it is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church… His relationship to you and me. In Song 5:9, the companions of the woman ask her, What is your beloved more than another beloved? What makes Him so special? She proceeds to answer that question… describing the wonderful and special qualities of her beloved… over the next few verses, which conclude with vs. 16 – This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Our Savior… our beloved… is indeed our friend.

I’ve found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
> He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul!

 

I’ve found a friend, O such a friend!
> He bled, he died to save me;
> And not alone the gift of life,
> But His own self He gave me;

 

Why should I charge my soul with care? The wealth of ev’ry mine Belongs to Christ, God’s Son and Heir, And He’s a Friend of mine.
>
> The silver moon, the golden sun, The countless stars that shine, Are His alone, yes, ev’ry one, And He’s a Friend of mine.
>
> He daily spreads a glorious feast, And at His table dine The whole creation, man and beast, And He’s a Friend of mine.
>
> And when He comes in bright array, And leads the conquering line, It will be glory then to say, And He’s a Friend of mine.
>
> *Chorus: Yes, He’s a Friend of mine, And He with me doth all things share; Since all is Christ’s, and Christ is mine, Why should I have a care? For Jesus is a Friend of mine.*^[John Henry Sammis, “Jesus is a Friend of Mine”]

Can you say that, this morning? Do you have a friend in Jesus?

Conclusion

Let me close with one final thought – a thought for the friendless… for those among us who may feel they have no friends. First of all, let me say that you may “feel” that way, but your feelings mislead you. You DO have a friend in Jesus, if you’ll only trust Him and turn to Him. You DO have friends surrounding you this morning in this church. And you DO have a friend in me. Please believe these things.

But above and beyond those truths, the Bible offers some very practical advice to you when you struggle to find friends:

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24 NKJV) Some English translations translate that verse differently, but I like the way the King James translates it. If you want friends, you need to be a friend.

I went out to find a friend,
> But could not find one there,
> I went out to be a friend,
> And friends were everywhere!^[Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 464.]

Curtis Hutson said, “We are on the wrong track when we think of friendship as something to get rather than something to give.”

Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

There are so many opportunities here where you can both be a friend to others, and in so doing find friends. Sunday School classes (small groups) are starting in a few weeks. Mens’ and Womens’ Bible Studies, CHICKS, Men’s Prayer Breakfasts, Youth Group for the teens, activities and fellowships by the score.

Dip your toe in the water in any of those pools, and you will find friends.

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