Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CONTRASTING FRIENDSHIPS”

Proverbs 18.24

 

It is now my turn to welcome you all to our annual Friends Day celebration at Calvary Road Baptist Church. I am absolutely thrilled that you are here, and trust that you will find everything you experience while you are here quite suitable.

If you have a Bible with you, please turn in the Old Testament to Proverbs chapter 18. If you do not have a Bible with you, look on the Bible of the person next to you. Once you find that chapter in God’s Word, stand with me to read Proverbs 18.24:

 

“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

 

Friends. Friends are the antidote for loneliness, and the medicine for isolation. Someone once said (and I used to know who it was), “No man is an island.” But is that not precisely the way most people in the west live their lives, as though they were islands; cut off and as autonomous as they can manage it?

Quite aside from the propriety of living like you are an island, answerable to no one, accountable to no one, what a miserable existence it is for those who have no friends, or at least no real friends.

I have been in the ministry for thirty years, and I have observed that most people (even married folks) are so very lonely. Therefore, whether you have many people around you that you call friends, or are relatively isolated by choice or circumstance, I think this topic of friends will be of interest to you on our Friends Day.

The text before us suggests four aspects of friendship that I would like you to think about with me. Although my comments about friends are not designed to be exhaustive, they are designed to be stimulating, provocative, and challenging.

 

First, THERE IS THE FRIEND WHO IS FRIENDLESS

 

Let me not so much talk about you, this morning, but about some third person. Consider that fellow who is a friendly type himself, but who has no friends.

I set before you the case of Noah, an ancient preacher of righteousness who found grace in the eyes of the LORD. He was the man who stood alone in the days before the Flood. It is true that he had his wife and his three sons and their wives accompany him into the Ark and safety from the universal judgment of God. However, I submit to you that Noah was alone, by himself, in standing up for God in a wicked day. Oh, how good a friend he might have been had anyone listened to his pleadings, had they responded to his warnings of coming judgment. But it was not to be. They would not listen. In addition, Noah was the friend who was friendless.

Next, I set before you a lad named Joseph. He was the first son of his mother, Rachel, but the eleventh son of his father, favored by his father and that favor causing him to be despised and envied by his old brothers. When he was seventeen years old, his older brothers plotted to kill him, but ended up throwing him into a pit, where he was “rescued” by Midianites only to be sold by them into slavery in Egypt for twenty pieces of silver. Imagine the fear, the isolation, the degradation, the humiliation of his slavery. Joseph found himself serving in the household of an Egyptian nobleman, only to be cast into a prison when the Egyptian’s wicked wife became enraged when he refused her advances. Things did eventually turn out well for Joseph. He ended up second only to Pharaoh in Egypt, married well and had two sons, and was eventually reunited with his loved ones. What a friend that lad would have made to friends during those desperate years. However, during that time he had no friends. He was all alone.

Third, there was the prophet Elijah. He is one of the most recognizable figures in the Hebrew Scriptures, a man who represented God in a day of wickedness and apostasy. However, he was also a kind and gentle man of God who found himself friendless. How do we know? At one point, we read, “Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.”[1] Those are the words of a lonely man, a friendless man. Yes, those were dark days in Israel’s history. And it got only worse. Shortly before his ministry ended he said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”[2] To be sure, God did say to him, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.”[3] However, Elijah did not know them. Therefore, he was not comforted by their friendship.

Let me wrap up this aspect of our deliberations with the story of the only white boy in an Indian boarding school. Hated by the Indian boys and girls, he was always separate, alone, isolated, and without friends. When they went to catechism each week he stayed in class alone, being the only non-Catholic. When classmates for various activities chose teams, he was never chosen.

It wasn’t until years later than I figured out why they hated me so much. My skin was light and theirs was dark. I lived at home and they lived in dormitories. I saw my parents every day, while they saw their parents at Thanksgiving, at Christmas, at Easter, and during the summer. From the girls’ dormitory across the street they looked into our living room, where they could see our Christmas tree, our furniture, our dining room table, and our television set. “Why does he have those things, while we have so little?” They saw the unfairness of it, while I was completely unaware. I was alone, without friends. I would have been a friend had I been given a chance. However, because of circumstances neither they nor I could deal with, I was lonely.

There are many, many people in this world who are friendly, but who have no friends. They would be good friends, if given half a chance. However, they are given no such chance. The result? One bright young businessman described himself to me as “So lonely.”

 

Next, THERE IS THE FRIEND WHO IS FRIENDLY

 

This is a guy or girl who has friends, but who finds that those same friends who are so oftentimes enjoyable company come up short when you really need them.

Consider Job’s comforters. The phrase “Job’s comforters” has found its way into the vernacular as friends who do nothing but criticize you when you are down. I would like you to take another look at Job’s friends.

Job lost his sons and daughters and was then afflicted with boils from head to toe. Job 2.11-13 tells how three men who knew him responded:

 

11     Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.

12     And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.

13     So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

 

By any standard, these three men were great friends. They did reach out. They did try to help him in any way they could. They did invest their time to mourn with him and to comfort him. Most of the people we refer to as friends fall far short of the standard set by Job’s friends. It was after they had been with him for a week that Job began to bitterly (but understandably) complain to them about what had befallen him. It was in response to their friend’s complaints that they began to offer their opinions about him, each suggesting that his suffering was somehow his own fault and that hidden sins were at the root of it all.

What can we learn from Job’s comforters? There are two lessons I think we can learn:

First, we learn of the lengths to which real friends will go for their friend. Those men wept for Job. Their intention was to comfort him. In addition, they stayed with him, day and night, for a week. What they did was profoundly commendable. What they did was true friendship. But what about their unjust criticism of Job? They were obviously judgmental and wrong about Job. Therefore, God rebuked them and told them how to reconcile with their good friend.[4]

What can we learn from Job and his friends? We begin to learn what friends can do for you, as well as what friends cannot do for you. Could they really comfort Job? No. Could they really alleviate any of his suffering? No. Did they try? Yes, but in the end they failed, as do all friends in the end.

 

Third, THERE IS THE FRIEND WHO IS GENUINE

 

This type of friend is very rare. You may live out your entire lifetime without ever having this kind of friend.

David had this kind of friend in Jonathan, the son of Israel’s first king, Saul, and the immediate heir to the throne. A very brief rundown of these two is all we have time for:

Jonathan was born to the king, while David was born to poor Jesse, the youngest of eight and a shepherd in Bethlehem. David no doubt came to Jonathan’s attention when he fought and killed the Philistine champion, Goliath. Both were true warriors, with astounding feats of heroism to their credit on the field of battle. That was likely the basis of their friendship beginning. Over time, David’s exploits made him the darling of the people, exceeding even King Saul in popularity. Overcome with jealousy, King Saul married off his daughter Michal to David, knowing she would be a snare to him.[5] In time, King Saul disobeyed God on two occasions. First, he usurped the office of the high priest by offering a sacrifice rather than patiently awaiting the arrival of Samuel to perform the task.[6] Next, he spared the life of a man God had sentenced to death, a man named Agag. God then moved to rend the kingdom from Saul.[7] To replace the rebellious Saul as king, God dispatched the prophet Samuel to anoint David as Israel’s next king.[8]

To understand the friendship of David and Jonathan in the midst of all the conflict that existed between King Saul and his son in law David, let me refer to two passages that sum everything up.

Notice what we find in First Samuel 18.1-4:

 

1      And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

2      And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house.

3      Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.

4      And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

 

Now read Second Samuel 1.26, where David eulogizes Jonathan, who had fallen in battle against the Philistines: “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”

What a friendship those two had, forged in battle and cemented by love. But why would David describe it as “wonderful, passing the love of women”? There are two insights that I think will add to your understanding:

First, keep in mind that these two young men were warriors. They had been in battle together, giving them a common experience unique to those who have depended on each other in the face of a deadly foe. There is this type of camaraderie among men who have faced death together and who have depended upon each other to stay alive.

Second, understand what that prince named Jonathan meant by giving to David his robe, his garments, his sword, his bow, and his girdle. Particularly in giving David his robe, Prince Jonathan was acknowledging David to be the man he knew should be the rightful successor to Saul’s throne.[9]

Jonathan was a genuine friend to David, exceeding the standard set by Job’s friends, as illustrated by his willingness to sacrifice his own position as heir to the king for his friend David. Job’s friends gave their time, while Jonathan surrendered his inheritance to David.

Perhaps you have known such friendship. Most people go through their entire lives without having any real friends, only those people whose company they enjoy. Friends like Job’s comforters are few and far between. The kind of genuine friendship that was displayed by Jonathan is truly rare.

 

Finally, THERE IS THE FRIEND WHO IS UNIQUE

 

“. . . there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Though there is no hermeneutical principle or contextual requirement, we Christians tend to make application of this verse to the Lord Jesus Christ, because of its very natural fit.

There are friends who stick closer than a brother, they are friends who, like Jonathan was to David, are extremely rare. Most Christians have never known such a friend. Most anyone has never known such a friend as Jonathan was to David, which explains why some are suspicious of their friendship.

The Lord Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is superior to every other friend a man or woman can have, in every conceivable way.

Consider this one way: In Romans 5.7, the apostle Paul writes, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” He is observing that few are willing to die for a righteous man, yet there are some who are willing to die for a good man. Job’s friends were far better than most friends were, yet they demonstrated no willingness to die for Job. Jonathan, on the other hand, was one of those rare individuals who certainly could be counted on to give his life for David, had the occasion presented itself. What kind of friend is the Lord Jesus Christ? He is the kind of friend who will die for you even if you are no good. Romans 5.8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is unique as a friend in that He was willing to die for us, people who are no good.

One more way in which the friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ is unique. The problem with people who are not friendly is that they don’t do anything for you. They just leave you hanging. You have a problem and ask for help, if the guy is not friendly, he will not help you. However, what about friendly friends, really friendly friends, like Job’s friends? They came to his side and sat with him for a week while they wept and sat there astonished. But when it came right down to where the rubber meets the road, what could Job’s friends do for him? Could they restore his health or bring his dead children back to life? Though they were certainly far better than most friends, like just about every friend you have ever had, they could do nothing. Then there is that genuine friend who is the lover of your soul, like Jonathan. With such a friend who is willing to lay down his life for you, you have a friend who is greatly cherished. However, what can such a friend really do for you? Could Jonathan protect David from Absalom’s revolt? No. Why not? Jonathan was dead, that is why. So you see, even the best of friends are very limited in what they can actually do for you. However, Jesus Christ is the one friend any man can have Who can actually do something. You see, Jesus Christ actually forgives sins, something that is important when you face the fact that you will someday give an accounting to God. Additionally, He gives meaning to life in a way no one who does not know Him can ever experience, for He promised, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”[10]

Friends. I have tried to look at the issue from a positive angle this morning, completely bypassing the nasty and mean-spirited people of this world who don’t care if you live or die, as well as those malevolent types who enjoy making the lives of others miserable. However, even from a positive angle, it is a pretty bleak picture.

There are so many who would like to be a friend to someone, but who do not seem to have the right opportunities within their reach. Such were my experiences as a boy, as a teen, and then as a young man. I was so very lonely. Then there are friendly friends. They are enjoyable to have around, and they have some utility. However, what can they really do for you when you really need help? Not much.

Even if you have that once in a lifetime type of friend would lay down his life for you, he can only do that once. Therefore, for the most part, we want friends, and we need friends, but they cannot really do a great deal for us when we are in a real jam.

Typically, friends just make life a bit more comfortable. We like them, we love them, most people want them, and will do various things to make and keep friends. However, the human heart needs more than a friend can provide.

In John 15.13, Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Therefore, He has demonstrated that He is our friend. However, more than any other friend, He can actually accomplish things on behalf of His friends. As I said, He forgives sins.

Most people do not think a great deal about friends and the whole issue of friendship, because they don’t really like facing the realities about friendship, that they have few friends, that the best of friends can’t really do all that much for them, and that they are not all that great as friends themselves.

So, what is the point? Is all futility? Is there no hope? Not at all. Things are completely different in the lives of those of us who have Jesus Christ as our friend. Not only does He actually stick closer than any brother does, but He is completely without the limitations that govern every other type of friendship. In addition, once a man or woman has Jesus Christ for a friend, that person begins a journey that makes him or her into the kind of friend that most people only dream of having. Am I a good friend now? You never knew me back in the day. Just let me say this: My Friend is greatly affecting my capacity to be a friend.



[1] 1 Kings 18.22

[2] 1 Kings 19.10

[3] 1 Kings 19.18

[4] Job 42.7-9

[5] 1 Samuel 18.21

[6] 1 Samuel 13.8-14

[7] 1 Samuel 15.10-31

[8] 1 Samuel 16.13

[9] See footnote for 1 Samuel 18.4 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 405.

[10] John 10.10

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org