Charles Stanley - Strong Friendships
How many loving, caring, devoted friends do you have? How many would come to your mind if you began to think about how many friends do I really have? Some people can’t even look at their marriage partner, and say, well, here’s one. Some people have a problem with the closest friend that should be in their life, but, so when you think about friendship, casual friends are plentiful. But, true friends are very few.
When I think about casual friends, I think about that sort of happens quickly. But true, genuine, friends, it takes longer. And intimate friends take even longer than that. And probably, it’s one of the areas of our life that we take for granted, our friendships. I can tell ya, I don’t take them for granted in my life, because I have some wonderful, wonderful friends who fit all the categories that I’m gonna talk about. And yet, there are a lot of people who live among lots of folks who are absolutely lonely. They can’t point to anybody and say, now, there’s a true, genuine friend I can always trust in him. I can always depend on her no matter what happens. True, genuine, loyal, friends are not easy to come by.
So, if you have one, or more you should be grateful. But likewise, you should be asking yourself the question, can I be that kind of friend, or am I that kind of friend to these whom I really treasure? And so, probably most of us only have a few intimate friends. It’s one thing to have a friend out there, but an intimate friend is something totally different. And there’s not a single one of us who does not need friends, no matter who you are, what your position in life, how wealthy you may be, friendship is absolutely a priceless possession when that friendship is built on the things that it oughta be built on.
So, I want to talk about this from the perspective of the value of true friendships. The value of true friendships. And, I want you to turn to First Samuel, chapter eighteen, we’ll use this as our background. The armies of the Philistines were arrayed on one side of the valley, and the Israelites on the other. And, the challenge was from Goliath, if I kill the Israelite, you all serve the Philistines. You kill me, we all serve you. And you know the wonderful story of David, and Goliath, and the battle. And so, what happened, do you know what happened, really? He killed Goliath, cut off his head, but took his armor, and put it in his own tent. Took off his head, and carried it to the King, to Saul. And, when Saul heard, and saw what’s happening it’s interesting what he asked. He said, not who is he, but whose son is he? And, it’s in this conversation I want us to look at, because here is true friendship.
Look at this. First Samuel, chapter eighteen, verse one, "Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved David as himself. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s household. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan," look at this, "stripped himself of the robe that was on him given to him by his father. Gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt. So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants".
Now, you know what happened as a result of that. They were absolutely praising Saul for being an awesome King, and then the women made a mistake. "It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singin’ and dancing with joy and with musical instruments. And the women sang as they played, and said, 'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.'" Bad, bad phrase in that song. Because, that was the beginning of jealousy on the part of King Saul. But, if you’ll look back in verse four, and notice what happened. That when Jonathon saw what David did, and he saw the courage, and the accuracy with which he be able to take one stone, and hit one spot in that giant’s head, and kill him something happened in his heart.
And so, Jonathon, the Scripture says, when he and his father had finished talking, he said, ask him whose son he was. And then the scripture says, "Jonathon stripped himself of the robe that was on him, gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt". That is, there was an immediate, instantaneous, loving relationship that developed between David and Jonathon. The scripture says that Jonathan’s, Saul’s son, and David’s hearts were knit together. Let me ask you a question. Is your heart knit to anybody? And you could use another word there for that and that is their hearts were chained together. Is there anyone in life that you could say, My heart is just chained to her. My heart is chained to him.
That is there’s a closeness and an intimacy that casual friendships don’t work. Casual friendships, they come easy. You see them once in a while, whatever it might be. But an intimate relationship is something far more important. And intimacy is the will of God for all of us in our relationship to Jesus. And it’s the will of God that you and I would develop intimate relationships. So, when I think about that, I think about there are three levels of friendship. And the first one is distant friends. We all have distant friends. And a distant friend is somebody we see once in a while and say hello and we talk and then we just move on. And then there are close friends. We see them more often. We carry on a conversation; and a close friend, you have something in common with them, something they like, you like, so you all will get along fine.
Then there are intimate friends. And here’s what happens with an intimate friend. Intimate friends, when you chat and you leave, when you meet again, you sort of pick up where you left off. In other words, there was just this relationship that even though you didn’t see or talk, it was still there. That relationship continues. And their presence, is an encouragement and delight. you can share your hurts, your disappointments. You can share your embarrassments. You can share your life with an intimate friend. And most people do not have trustworthy, genuine, intimate friends that they can just lay it all out and say, Here’s what happened to me. And I need you to help me; or whatever it might be.
So, ask yourself the question. Are most of your friends distant friends? Because there are many people who keep it like this. They’re not going to let you inside. They’re afraid to let you inside. They’re afraid of what you may see. You’d like to get inside because you see something in them as a value, but they’re afraid you won’t. But they are close friends also. And those are friends who are at least open to some degree. But an intimate friend is a valuable possession. And when I think about that, I think about how a genuine, intimate friend impacts our life.
So, I want to think about some characteristics of a genuine, intimate friend. And I want you to ask yourself the question, Is this true of you? Now listen. All of us need friendships. All of us need friendships. No matter who you are, how educated, how wealthy you may be, you can take all of that. If you do not have a godly, intimate, genuine, true, loyal, faithful friend, you’re missing something in life. So, let’s just think about what these genuine friends would be like. Number one, they delight us. That is, we like being with them. In other words, whatever our interests may be, that we’re delighted with them.
And so, they’re the kind of person that you, when you see them, you’re happier. When you leave, often times you make plans to see them again. And so, they’re a delight to us. And everybody needs those kind of friends. Then of course, those kind of friends that we’re talking about, they develop us. And that is, true genuine friends do something for us. They help us in areas of our life, by their encouragement, maybe by something they give us. But just being our friend. And they help us to be, watch this, they help us to become better than we are. Because a true genuine friend is asking the question, What can I do to help you? And when you say, Well, here’s what I’m dealing with. Their goal immediately is how can I become involved in your life so that I can help you become the person you want to be, the person God wants you to be? That kind of friend we’re talking about is the kind of friend that will drive us.
You say, Well, we shouldn’t drive other people. Well, listen to this. If you and I are the kind of friend that we should be, when we see potential in someone else, what do we do? We want to contribute to that. I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about to that person, their character. That is, we want to motivate them if we can. We want to challenge them. We see what they can become; what they want to become; what they’d like to become. We see that God has potential in them. And so, a true genuine friend is always looking for ways to encourage, to help, to lift them up, to enable them in every way possible. Those are the kind of friends that make an awesome difference in a person’s life.
So, does your life fit any of that? Is there anybody who can look at you and say, There is a loyal, devoted, caring friend, trustworthy, available, whatever I need. Do you look around and think, Lord, who are my friends? Many people are lonely, watch this, many people are lonely in a big family because they don’t have a genuine friendship with somebody in that family. There are people who are married, been married a long time, haven’t been happy from the very beginning. Why? Because there was no friendship, there was a relationship but not friendship. Friendship demands something of me. And so, I want to take a few moments to think about it in this light. Friendships don’t happen usually automatically as fast as David and Jonathan here. Friendships you have to build, and it takes time to build them.
So, what does it take to build the kind of friendships that are lasting, that are very encouraging and that are fulfilling? If we just set up a bunch of blocks up here on the first one, what does it take to build a wonderful relationship with somebody, men or women? Time. You’re not willing to give them time, not going to have a fellowship; not going to have a relationship. And this is why people oftentimes get divorced. They don’t give each other enough time. And why husbands and wives, or why parents, for example, never develop a friendship with their children. You need a friendship with your children. You’ve got to give them time. And I made it a promise to myself long time ago when my kids were very, very small that one thing I would do, if they came to me asking about anything, I’m available. When they walk in my study, I put down whatever I’m doing. And sometimes they’d stay, or ten, eleven o’clock at night and sometimes it might be on Saturday night and preaching the next Sunday. But you know what? They’ll never forget that I was always available for them.
So, time is number one. So, ask yourself the question, Your friends, the person you have a friendship with, how much time do you share with them? And then there’s triumphs, victories, that is you share those things that you’re able to accomplish in life. And you are also just as excited about what happens good in somebody else’s life and you see what they’ve accomplished in life and they’ve overcome difficulty and hardship and pain or suffering or in their business or whatever. And true friendships, listen, true friendships, you’re excited about what they’re able to accomplish and achieve and you let them know it. You tell them, Well, I’m proud of you.
Let me ask you a question. Now watch this carefully. Is it, are you listening? Say amen. Is it easy for you to compliment somebody really excitedly? Or do you say, Well, you know, everybody knows they did it real well. That’s not friendship. That’s callousness. But friendship, friendship motivates us to want to praise someone for doing a good job, whatever it might be. Then of course, there are trials. We’re going to have trials in every relationship. And some people, that’s all they have is trials. And the reason is because they don’t know how to relate to somebody else. And you see, people who don’t know how to relate to people will never be happy.
And there’ll always be trials or why don’t you do this and why don’t you ever do that and mm-mm-mm-mm? They never get along, why? Because they have never been willing to forget themselves and all the junky stuff in their life and say, Wow! You did a good job! I hope I can do that well one of these days myself. Some people cannot compliment anybody, nobody, no matter who it is, they can’t. One of the reasons they can’t is because they feel so inadequate themselves. Watch this. Secondly, if they feel like if they compliment you, it’s like they’re giving something away they don’t want to give away. You compliment people because you care, because you love them, because they’re friends. And many people have a very difficult time complimenting anybody else for anything. Oh well, you know, I know. No, that’s not friendship. Then of course, if you’re going to have a real genuine friend, you’re not only going to have trials, but you’re going to have a thankful heart.
And, I have some friends I’m just grateful to God just because they’re my friend. I don’t want anything. I’m grateful because they’re my friends. And if you counted your friends, we said there are all kind of friends. There are casual friends who come and go and so forth. But true genuine friends, somebody you can really depend upon; somebody that you know really loves you and cares for you. Friendships are built on whatever’s going on, and friendships are built on people’s ability to say, Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Now what do they have to do to get a thank you? You shouldn’t have to do much of anything.
In fact, if somebody says, I love that tie, or I like that tie. Thank you very much. Or if somebody says, I need some help. And I need some real help. I should be just as willing to say, Thank you for asking me. Thank you for giving me the privilege of helping you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Not, oh well, I guess I could help you. You know, and if nobody else can, maybe I can. That’s not thankfulness. And then of course, there’s tolerance. Everybody has to tolerate some things in some people. There are some folks who are who they are, what they are, they’re not going to change no matter what. And tolerance means I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to forgive. I’m willing to to do whatever I can to help them.
And some things, and sometimes it’s very difficult to tolerate some people’s language; some people’s attitude; some people’s actions. And yet, if I’m going to be a friend, I have to tolerate some things that I don’t like, tolerate is not a bad word. And then of course, transparency. Transparency says, I’m open. Transparency says, What you see is what you are and that’s what you get. There are people who live like this. Don’t get too close. Transparency doesn’t mean that you just tell everything you know. But transparency says, when you’re hurting, you’re willing to show it. When you’re in need, you’re willing to show it. When you’re happy, you show it. Transparency says, What you see, that’s who you are. That you don’t cover up, hide up, doesn’t mean that you don’t have some private things in your life. But it means that you’re a transparent person.
The truth is before God we’re all transparent. We don’t have any secrets from God. It doesn’t mean that you tell everything you know about yourself, but it means that you’re open. You’re open. What do you want to talk about? Whatever it might be. Then I would just give you one last one, so very important, truthfulness. You see, if a person’s not truthful, you can’t have a friendship. You can’t. You never know where they are. You never know where you are. You never know what’s going on. Because if a person is not truthful, it’s like it’s all closed up. In other words, it should be able to be said of all of us, when he or she says something, you can count on it. In other words, if he says he’ll be there, you can count on it.
Now there are always things that happen that make it impossible, but you can count on it. Truthfulness, that should be true of all of us. You can count on my word, whatever I say. If I make a mistake, I’ll admit it, acknowledge it, whatever it might be. Now. So, that’s the way you build friendships. All those blocks would cover us up up here. But these are the qualities that build genuine, loving, faithful, lasting, long life friendships.
So, I would ask you again, Do you have any loyal, devoted, loving friends? How many of these characteristics are true in your life? Well, you know how would be best for to start being the kind of friend you ought to be? I’ll tell you how. And that is ask yourself the question, What about my relationship to Jesus? Now, He knows everything. What about my relationship to Him? If you want to be a great friend, you want to have friends, you start with a relationship with Jesus Christ, the friend of all friends. He knows you perfectly. He’s willing to forgive you for your sins. Watch this. He’s willing to forgive you today, tomorrow, until the day you see Him. He’s willing to walk with you, help you, strengthen you, enable you, take your heartaches, your burdens, your sorrows, your sin, all of it. That’s who He is.
And I’m asking you, if you’ve never trusted Him as your personal Savior and surrendered your life to Him, watch this, you will never be able to be the kind of friend to anybody that you could be. And we should all be friends to the Lord Jesus Christ and friends of the Lord Jesus Christ, and have Him as our friend. If He’s not your friend, watch this, if He’s not your friend through your faith and trust and surrender of your life to Him, you will never be able to enjoy all that friendship God has provided for you.
So, I would ask you to ask Him to forgive you for your sins, trust your life into His hands and tell Him you want to be His friend and He’ll be your friend. And then maybe you are in a bad relationship with some of the people that you thought were your friends. Well, just take your notes and look at those blocks and ask yourself the question, What do I need to change? Not what do they need to change, what do I need to change? And watch God work in your life. Amen?
Father, how grateful we are that You are willing to be considered our friend. And thank You that You’re the kind of friend we know we can trust anytime, anywhere in any circumstance. We pray the Holy Spirit will enable all of us to think through our friendships and make whatever changes are necessary, which will make all of us more valuable in the Kingdom of God, and more valuable to other people, And we pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.