How many close friends do you have? Most of us have dozens if not hundreds of acquaintances but how many close friends do you have? a trusted friend? Someone you can open up with and know you won’t be ridiculed, embarrassed, or put down but they will listen. Someone who would call or talk to you if they had a major issue. People who will cry with you and rejoice with you. How many close friends do you have in that category? These are the people that will influence your life.
One of the most often asked questions that I am asked after who does your hair is this: Pastor, how can I find a friend? I’m lonely. I don’t have any friends. I know a lot of people –but no one that I can really open up and share the deep things of my heart.
Think of one of the greatest moments of your life. As you remember them, a smile comes to your face, a sense of joy fills your heart. My guess is that the vast majority if not all of those experiences are moments you shared with another individual and not just by yourself. WHY? We have been created to live in fellowship with one another. We long for intimacy because we are made in the image of God who is a perfect illustration of intimacy as God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. We all need community.
Gen. 2:18 God says it is not good for man to live alone. Text we normally associate with marriage but 40% of the adults over 18 are not married and this doesn’t mean you are left out. In a broader sense, this passage applies to all of us.
The longing to love and be loved is universally. From the first moments that we lifted our arms to be cradled by our mothers to the last moments when a loved one wiped our brow as the shadow of death creeps over us, we long to know that we matter to someone else.
This is true physically Ecc. 4:9-12
Ever try to move from one place to another by yourself. You will discover 50% of your friends have bad backs.
Video games have changed this illustration but most games require someone else to play with you.
Help one another.
This is true emotionally Prov. 17;17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
When times are tough and you don’t have a friend, it multiples your agony. This church is great about surrounding families members when there is a death.
Yes, there are some physical things we can do but those pale in comparison to the emotional support we offer.
You will not go through life without some times of disappointment and pain. You need a friend.
This is true spiritually James 5:16 “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed.” Spiritually God ordained the church that we could live in community with one another sharing a common vision as part of the family of God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “the more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in sin, the more disastrous is his isolation.” It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
There is a powerful healing magnetism in the understanding that someone else is there for you – to comfort you – to encourage you – and to lift you up when you fall.
So that’s the theology but what about the practical part of this: how do you find a good friend? If you need a friend and you will diligently follow these steps – within three years you will have a friend – not overnight. If you don’t, you need to look at yourself because you are the problem.
Step One: Introduction We meet people – now here is a real revelation for you – without people you won’t have any friends. If you aren’t willing to meet new people you have a 0% chance of developing a friendship with them.
During this introduction stage, we are friendly and pleasant but not ready to open up the deeper things in our life.
For many of you meeting new people is very awkward and difficult. You are thinking: what do they think of me? Do I look nice? Did I say the right thing? Is my breath OK? Rather than risk embarrassment, you isolate yourself. I have embarrassed myself more times than I can count – (give examples) get over it if you want friends.
Relationships just don’t happen – we have to take the initiative in reaching out to people. Even in the most friendly of environments, you have to reach out to connect.
Friendships aren’t forced, they are developed.
Many individuals have been hurt, betrayed, and lied to in previous relationships and they are gun shy. It’s been painful. So they have decided to not expose themselves to that situation again. David tells us in Psalm 55:12: “if it were an enemy that insulted me, I could understand, but it’s you, my companion and my friend.” Hurts from a friend sting the most.
In this introduction stage, we often have the inkling to judge people before we know them. Then when they tell us their story and each of us has a story – we begin to understand them.
When we discover the past pain in someone’s life, then we begin to understand why they lash out with caustic comments.
When we hear how they have been deceived by someone then we begin to understand why they have trouble trusting.
It’s easy to demonize people as long as we keep them at arms length from us. Many people do that with individuals of a different color, race, background or religion than ourselves. When we get to know them, we discover they have similar needs, struggles, issues and it begins to break down the barriers.
The development of friendships takes a long time. It took Jesus 3 years to develop 12 close friends. People with a casual flippancy about moving quickly into deep relationships are either flaming extroverts who have never met a stranger or people who have never been wounded.
Friendships happen incrementally. More often than not, friendships develop one small step at a time. It’s why we encourage our young people not to jump into marriage too quickly because that is the most important friendship you have and it takes time to develop compatibility. The usually totally ignore you – but you can still warn them.
Developing friendship is an exploration process. As you reach out to people you are attempting to discover common ground and interests. The more passionate you are about your interest, the greater depth of your friendship. It is one of the reasons most of my close friends are from the church because we are passionate about our love for Christ. Even if we don’t have other things in common, that is our common denominator.
Do they like similar things that I do? Do we feel comfortable around them? Do they have the same value system that I do? The more common interests the greater your opportunity to find a friend. If you see around and watch tv all day and never take an interest in anything – you have a very narrow range of conversation topics, it will be difficult to develop new friends.
As you get to know them, there will be a flaw uncovered – I have a couple myself – so do you. We are all in the as is bin. That’s the damaged merchandise pile. We all have flaws, inconsistencies, and annoyances. As believers we are in the process of being formed into the image of Christ but none of us are there yet.
Now we ask even though they are imperfect - Is this a safe person? Not all people are safe. Some have ulterior motives, some can’t be trusted, some will try to fool you.
How do we know if this is a safe person? There are some things you need to look for in those who would be a close friend or a spouse. As I share this with you, think about yourself, are you a safe person as a friend?
Characteristics of safe people
1. admit their weaknesses are willing to take responsibility for those weaknesses.
2. forgiving people lack of forgiveness produces bitterness which poisons friendships
3. keep secrets
4. positive influence
5. tell you the truth Prov. 27:6 says: “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Receive the truth without becoming defensive but evaluate it to see if it really is true.
Step Three Investment
If the investigation stage produces a safe person with whom you have common interests then we move to the next stage which is investment.
Friends are people you want to invest in. If you want a friend you have to be willing to give up some things: If not Then you probably won’t have many friends.
You have to give up some time.
You have to give up resources
You have to give up preferences.
Friendships build on shared experiences. We focus on their positive points and emphasize them in our relationship. We begin to pray for them, spend time with them, trust them, laugh with them and encourage them and pretty soon we have built a friendship. You don’t always get your first choice on those experiences. Men – sometimes you have to go shopping – women – sometimes you have to watch a ball game.
In our welcome class, we spend the entire first week just introducing ourselves – one of the hardest things to do in a new group – bible study, church, school or a club is that everyone has shared experiences that you don’t have. When you start with the group, they are referencing things you don’t know. Until you can develop shared memories you won’t develop friends.
Carole’s class reunion at Asbury
In developing wholesome spiritual experiences the bible talks about the various “one another” passages. It tells us that members of God’s family should pray . . . encourage . . .love . . . forgive . . . bear one another’s burdens
There is a joining together of lives which benefits both parties. It is the very opposite of an abusive situation where one persons needs are met at the expense of another.
Conclusion: Can you imagine how wonderful this life would be if in our interrelatedness with one another, we always treated each other with respect, dignity, warmth, forgiveness, truth, love, and understanding.?
Children would be safe
Marriages would flourish
Palestinian and Israeli children would play together
The tabloids would go broke
Teachers could actually teach a lesson without having to discipline half the class
People would be free to ask questions
Marketplace would be truthful
The churches would be full.
Can you imagine? Can we start with you?
Are you a worthy friend?