Friends. How Many of Us Have Them?By Trillia Newbell | October 22nd, 2012 | Category: Uncategorized | 5 comments
By Kristie Anyabwile
In the mid-80’s a hip hop group called Whodini, had a hit song called Friends, where they asked this very question.
Friends. How many of us have them?
Friends. Ones we can depend on
Friends. How many of us have them?
Friends. Before we go any further, let’s be friends!
According to statistics, the average Facebook user has 245 friends. But, are all those we call “friends” today, really our friends? What makes them so? Honestly, I’d say that many of the people on my “friend” list are not those I’d have a particular closeness to, and some are “friends of a friend”. Facebook has helped us out recently. Now we can designate someone as a “close” friend or “acquaintance”, which determines how frequently you receive their news and updates. Even those we call friends, we never really have to hear from because we can hide them. We can even unfriend someone and they’d never know unless they checked their friend list. And with the average friend list of 250, who’s gonna really take the time to do that?
Whodini makes this observation about how we choose our friends:
We like to be with some, because they’re funny
Others come around when they need some money
Some you grew up with, around the way
And you’re still real close too this very day
Homeboys through the Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall
And then there’s some we wish we never knew at all
And this list goes on, again and again
But these are the people that we call friends
But, is this how our friendships should develop? Should we be so casual in our approach to friendships, or is there more that the Lord has for us in our friendships?
Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Colossians 4, and it struck me that Paul had a lot of friends (and enemies). He knew his friends intimately and could give specific commendations about how the Lord was using them in gospel ministry. He sent specific greetings to and from those who had partnered with him, even to those whom he had “run-ins” with in the past.
After commending the Colossian church for their great faith in Christ, love for one another, and for their gospel zeal (Col 1:3-6), he warned them to stand firm against deception and false teaching (2:6-8). He set Christ before them as all sufficient and supreme (Col 1:15-19) and wanted them to have “all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (Col 2:2). I couldn’t help but wonder if the reason they would be susceptible to be being taken captive by deception is that they had “friends” whom they trusted who were leading them astray. Regardless, Paul encouraged them to set their minds and hearts on the things of Christ (Col 3:1-11), and to live in ways that please the Lord. As he closes the letter, he sends greetings from his various friends and to those in the churches in and around Colossae who would be passing around his letter.
Friends. Ones We Can Depend On
I think a better approach to defining, establishing and maintaining friendships comes from the example of the apostle Paul, not our favorite social networking service. Here are the kinds of friends that Paul had, and the kind of friends that I value and try to cultivate.
Thick and Thin Friend – Aristarchus (v. 10). This is the friend who is there through the good and bad. They will walk with you through the darkest nights and the sunniest of days, both with joy and loyalty. Aristarchus was by Paul’s side during riots, shipwrecks and prison (Acts 19:29, 27:2; Col 4:10).
Friend With Issues – Mark (v. 10). This is the friend whom we’ve had some issues with, but we’ve committed to laying aside our differences to help and encourage one another in the faith. Mark had deserted the mission to return to his home in Jerusalem (Acts 13:13, 15:36-38). We don’t know the particulars of the dispute, just that Mark left when Paul and others had expected him to stay and finish the work. However, Paul later commended Mark’s helpfulness to him in the ministry and asks the church to welcome him if he visits them (Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11).
Friends Who are Kin and a Comfort – Justus (v. 11). Justus, along with Mark and Aristarchus, were among the few Jewish Christians who were with Paul to comfort and encourage him. Paul experienced opposition from his own countrymen (2 Cor 11:26) so to have these brothers by his side must have been a great comfort to him. There is something special about a friend who has some familial connection, or who at least comes from a similar background or culture and can identify with and comfort us in our struggles.
Prayer Warrior – Epaphras (v. 12-13). We all need a friend like this, who struggles on our behalf in their prayers! This was Epaphras. He founded the church at Colossae, and most likely filled Paul in on the threats to the Church. He had spent plenty of time loving and caring for them, and would know their prayer needs more than most. It would take volumes to list all the ways I’ve been personally encouraged, strengthened, bolstered in faith, stirred to obedience, filled with joy, grown in my walk with Christ, because of the prayers of dear friends. If I ask them to pray, they pray then and there. If I don’t ask them to pray, they pray anyway! Not only for me, but these are women and men who are known for their consistent intimacy with the Lord in prayer. O, to be and to have that kind of friend!
Loved and Loyal Friend – Luke (v. 14). This was his friend, Dr. Luke. He had accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys and was with him during his imprisonments (Philem 24; 2 Tim 4:11; Col 4:14). Like Aristarchus and others, Luke was a faithful friend who was dearly loved by Paul. We all need those friends whom we love with a godly love, who would come barefoot and pajama-clad with a Scripture and a prayer and a Snickers in our time of need. They would remain loyal and love us to the end.
Friends Who Fail Us and Fall for the World – Demas (v. 14). Demas is with Paul in prison, suffering for the sake of the gospel, and stands alongside Luke as one of Paul’s close companions (Philem 24). We learn later that Demas tried to have one foot in the kingdom and one foot in the world. Paul informs Timothy, “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10). I’m sure as they travelled and as Paul kept Demas in his close circle he could see the world pulling on Demas’ heart. Did Paul cast him aside? No, he kept him close, continued to encourage him, until his heart proved where his loyalties lied. When the going got tough, Demas got going. It’s not clear if he defected from the faith, or if he was just tired of suffering and preferred the temporal comforts of this world rather than suffer for the world to come. We all have friends who don’t seem to be walking in a manner worthy of the Lord (Col 1:10), and we need to follow Paul’s example by keeping them close, encouraging them, praying fervently that they “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…, strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col 1:9-11).
As I read through Paul’s list of friends in Colossians 4:10-17, I became more aware of the joy and challenge it is to prayerfully consider what kind of friend I am, to praise God for these examples in my own life, and purposely seek out true friends who are faithful and dear to me in so many ways.
A Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother
Friends serve wonderful purposes in our lives, and we can be the kind of friend who is loyal, faithful, comforting, prayerful, even with our flaws and issues. For the Christian, no earthly friendship compares to the friendship that we share with Christ through faith in Him. During Old Testament times, only Moses and Abraham were called friends of God (Ex 33:11; Is 41:8), but now Christ calls us His friends. But why? Because He loved us in a way that no other friend could possibly compare. He gave His life for us.
I have close friends. I even have one or two whom I believe would give up their own life to preserve mine if the circumstance presented itself. But that would be trading one physical life for another. What Christ did was monumental. He existed before time and gave up the glories of heaven, to be born in human flesh. He came into the world for the grand purpose of saving His people from their sins. He had to suffer and be ridiculed and die, and He triumphed over death and the grave in His resurrection, so that I could have not just physical life, but life that lasts for all eternity.
This was a mystery hidden to those of old, but now revealed to all those who have repented of their sins and placed their faith in Christ’s atoning work. Jesus Christ our Savior and Friend, has brought us into His inner circle. Everything the Father made known to Him, He has made known to us (John 15:13-15). He has shared with us the most intimate details of His life—how He came, how He would live and die, how He would save us by His death.
In whatever ways our earthly friendships may not measure up, we can be sure that there’s not another friend like Him. We can trust Him with the most intimate details of our lives. He promises to be our comforter, that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is the friend most worth having, and He is the kind of friend we should most desire to be like.
Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.
Jesus! what a Strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my Strength, my victory wins.
Jesus! what a Help in sorrow!
While the billows over me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my Comfort, helps my soul.
Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night overtakes me,
He, my Pilot, hears my cry.
Jesus! I do now receive Him,
[or Jesus! I do now adore Him,]
More than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.
-J. Wilbur Chapman, 1910
Kristie (@kanyabwile) is a North Carolina native and graduate of NC State University with degrees in history and African American Studies. She is a wife, mother, and homemaker who lives with her family in the Cayman Islands, where her husband Thabiti is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman. She’s been married over 20 years and has three children. Kristie blogs sporadically at http://iamconvinced.wordpress.com/.