I just finished reading a book by Missouri native, Stan Crader, called The Bridge.
Crader gives a glimpse of rural America through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, Tommy Thompson, during the summer of 1967. It details Tommy’s quest for a Honda motorcycle and the summer jobs he worked to earn it. Tommy recalls his adventures with his school buddies, Caleb, Flop and his best friend Booger and how he helped him through family tragedy. And he reminisces about his romantic infatuation for his first love, Wendy.
As summer ends and the next school year begins, Tommy reflects, “It wasn’t until several years later that I realized the value of friends that I made that summer.”
God made human beings for friendship. Fellowship. And relationships. We are created for community with other folks.
The wise man observed, “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel. Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend.” (Prov. 27:9-10). Keil and Delitzsch observe how the ancients perfumed with dry aromas and the sprinkling of liquid aromas “as a mark of honor toward guests and a means of promoting joyful social fellowship.” In the same way, friends provide delight. Give pleasure. Offer counsel. Furnish joy.
The Preacher speaks of the kind of friends we need in Eccl. 4:9-12.
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 help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Notice what the wise man says about the value of a real friend.
(1) A Real Friend Helps You when You’re Down.
How can you tell the between friends and acquaintances? That’s easy. Just get into trouble and see who is still around! You can call them at 2 a.m. and they don’t question you to decide if they are coming, they just say, “Where are you?” Yes, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17)
(2) A Real Friend Provides Emotional or Physical Warmth in a Cold World.
Sometimes we take a passage so literally that we miss the point. This is not just about keeping someone warm physically. I think it applies emotionally. There are situations that leaves our emotional gas gauge on empty. This is a time we need friends to provide warmth, comfort, and consolation.
(3) A Real Friend Will Fight to Protect You
That passage was written based on the military strategy of the ancient world. Almost all combat was hand to hand. Soldiers went into battle with a partner, someone who could be counted on and trusted. They stood back to back and fought any enemy that came from the side. True friends never stab you in the back, but they guard your back. A real friend will protect your reputation. A loyal friend will stand up for you.
(4) A Real Friend is Committed to Helping You Grow.
Another trait of a friend is found in Prov. 27:17. “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” True friends want to see their friends improve, grow and get better. A person who is jealous or resentful of your growth is not a true friend. Author John Maxwell uses the expression “bringing something to the table” as it applies to relationships. What value are your friends adding to your life? Are they helping you? Or hurting you? Do they encourage your growth? Or delight in your decline?
Of course, is it fair for each of us to ask ourselves, What value am I adding to my friendships? What ideas am I sharing? What help am I providing? The old adage is true: “To have a friend you must be a friend.”
Be grateful for your friends. Real friends. True friends. Loyal friends.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman