“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” -Prov. 18:24
Friend. Kind of like the word “love,” the word friend takes on so many different meanings these days. We say “hello friend” to people we rarely see or know. We might have a thousand friends on Facebook that became our friends by the click of a mouse. And then we have friends that are brothers. True friends. Our kids watch and observe our friendships with others, so be sure to discuss friendship with them. We need to remind them that true friends are a special gift.
For me, a special group of friends this year has been the men’s Bible study group at our church. We have several studies going these days and I’m a part of the group that meets on Tuesday nights. We all come from different backgrounds but we are unified because we’re Christians. One member of our group runs the Andy’s Frozen Custard in Branson, so we met there this week. It was great to be with brothers in the faith. And, of course, the Snowmonster Concrete tasted so good! These men are quickly becoming true brothers, not shallow friends.
Shallow friendships are based on shallow foundations. True friends share common values. My closest friends share a common faith with me. Much like the current Bible study, friends that I have served with in the trenches of ministry are the closest. At some time in the past, we “fought the good fight” together and our common faith in Jesus will always be the glue that keeps us close. These relationships are based on something deep and lasting.
Shallow friendships never really connect. True friends know our hearts. We choose to divulge our heart secrets to those we trust the most. And we rarely share our hearts with anyone. We know these are true friends because whether we’re with them or not, we know they’re standing beside us. They have seen our worst and stood by us through tough times. Like the Three Musketeers, they are with us “through thick and thin.”
Shallow friendships require maintenance. True friends have a lifetime guarantee. I have a couple of very close friends that I’ve known for over 30 years, but because of time and distance, we only talk every now and then. Yet, they are instant friends. When we visit, it’s as though we’ve been talking everyday. Yes, all relationships need to be respected through time together, but true friendships aren’t conditional.
Shallow friendships stay guarded and cool. True friends get heated sometimes. Proverbs 27:17 reads, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” If we are going to keep each other sharp, there has to be friction. And friction produces heat. Real friends hang in there during conflict realizing that true accountability can be rough sometimes. But we need people in our lives that are willing to tell us what we don't want to hear.
Shallow friendships are comparing and competitive. True friends love it when the other person wins. We will even help them succeed, because humility, not pride, is at the heart of the relationship. True love is not jealous, so we’re willing to help these friends finish the race well. We look for ways to encourage and cheer them on to the finish line. We pray for them all the time because we realize what a difference prayer makes.
Yes, true friends are a special gift. We’re to be kind to everyone, but we’re to cultivate and nourish these rare friends called brothers. Whether it’s Bible study friends, spouses or co-workers, stick closer than a brother.
And enjoy the special gift of friendship.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
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