Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Gift of Friendship

This past year I have undergone a very difficult personal trial that left me spent physically, emotionally, and mentally, but all the richer spiritually. In truth, it had been one of the darkest and deepest spiritual times I have had in many, many, years. But if it were not for the saints and their sisterly and brotherly friendship, love and prayers, I do not know how I could have survived. God surrounded me with a hedge of fellowship that I can never repay except to pay them homage in this post. Because of their obedience to the Lord, they became my strength in my time of weakness; they lifted my hands in prayer when I could no longer hold them up for myself. Many of them were obedient to wake up and pray in the wee hours of the morning because God placed my name in their hearts. They didn’t know the extent of my situation but God did. I don’t know, or will ever know, on this side of heaven, what spiritual warfare I was in the midst of, but God knew and saw it all and called for reinforcements. God is all powerful and can do all things, but how blessed we are when we are called to come along side Him in battle to strengthen our brethren. God showed His immeasurable love to me through them. That is how God works, and we are the rich recipients of this love (Psalm 35). 

A friend loves at all times, And a bother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17 NKJV

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17 NKJV

In the book of Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, Ruth, became her closest and dearest friend. After losing not only her husband but also her two sons, Naomi found herself returning to her home land, Judah, empty handed. So much was her grief, that as friends greeted her by name as she entered town, she told them to call her Mara for she went out full and came back with nothing (Ruth 1:20-21). Naomi had admonished her two daughter-in-laws to go back to their people, but it says that Ruth clung to her for dear life (Ruth 1:14). Read Ruth’s words of devotion:

Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me. (Ruth 1:16-17)

Ruth had purposed in her heart to never leave Naomi’s side until death parted them. Ruth not only sacrificed herself for Naomi’s well being, but she restored Naomi’s name once again by giving her a grandchild. Ruth loved Naomi as her own self (Matthew 22:39).

Another deep bond of friendship was between Jonathan and David. The story of their friendship is found 1 Samuel 18, 19, 20. After David defeated the Philistine Goliath and stood before King Saul, it says that on that day Jonathan’s soul was knit (joined, weaved, intertwined) to David’s, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul (18:1). Even Saul knew of Jonathan’s devotion to David over his own royal family (20:30). And true to Saul’s concerns, it was Jonathan that warned David of the eminent danger to his life (20:41-42). What a beautiful picture of friendship and love, devotion and sacrifice. These men would remain loyal to one another even after Jonathan’s death (2 Samuel 9).

Are our hearts knit together in the body that we love the other person as our own soul? A heart that says, the Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts us?

In Ephesians 4:15-16, Paul writes speaking of the church, “[For we are] joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does it’s share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Read also Colossians 2:19). In Colossians 2:2 it reads, “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,” 

Every joint supplies what the body needs and by doing it's share, it causes the body to grow. A huge part of what the joint supplies is encouragement.  Encouragement is food for the body of Christ, for without it the body would not have the strength to go on. At what point in your life, were not the words of a friend breathe to your soul in order to keep pushing forward? If you look at the word encourage, there is another word imbedded into it...courage. The prefix en- means to cause to be in. In other words, you cause one to be in a state of courage when you encourage them.

It was a vital part of Paul's ministry to encourage believers in every epistle. Jesus encouraged Peter when He saw him after his resurrection. There is nothing worse in human life than to feel like a failure, and Jesus knew it then and knows it today. That is why He would never want us to feel alone, dejected, or defeated.

[For]Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to lift him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

We are not meant to traverse this world alone as we encounter the trials and tribulations of our human existence. We need to be encouraged by our brothers and sisters. The world and this life are at times too difficult to trek on our own. Every part of the body is called to do its share as it says in Ephesians to keep everyone going strong when the going gets tough. Jesus knew that we would have moments when we would fall, feel weary, have nothing left to give, but he supplied us with the body of believers that can come along side us when those times want to overtake us. Hebrews 12:12-13 speaks of strengthening the hands of those that hang down, whose knees are feeble, and to help make the crooked path straight for their feet by speaking the word of God to them, so that the lame may no longer be dislocated from the body but healed. So, the next time you find someone in the deep oceans of life, or you yourself are in the deep, call out to those that are closer than a brother and find encouragement in your time of need as I did when I was in the oceans deep.  

And let us never forget, that the greatest friend of all is Jesus Himself, and He is a friend of us all at all times. He knows you and me more intimately than Ruth knew Naomi, or Jonathan knew David. It says that He knows our thoughts before we even speak them. It speaks of His devotion and love to us in Psalm 139. Long before we were formed He knew us and separated us. There is no height, width, or depth that can separate us from His sight. No darkness so dark that His light cannot shine through, no deep so deep that His hand cannot reach down to pull us up. He gave all, His life, that we may be where He is for eternity. He is the ultimate friend.

For] This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

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