Charles Stanley - Thinking Through Your Friendships
The Lord has a plan for every single one of our lives. And part of that plan is He has friendships for each of us, because He does not want us to live the life like an island all by ourselves. And many people have trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior as a result of a friend who introduced them to Jesus.
Many people will tell you that going through the most difficult time of their life, it was their friend who helped them through it. There are other people who will tell you, I had a friend, but I don't know what happened to that friendship. Friends are treasures. They are gifts from God. And if you have a true, genuine friend, you should be very grateful. When I try to think about what a true friend is like, I think about something I read many years ago. I don't know who wrote it, but I copied it down and it came to my mind the other day. I thought, Well, this is the kind of friend I'd like to be. This is the kind of friend I'd like to have. And so I want to share that with you. And I'm going to put it up line by line on the screen.
So, let's look at it. A treasure, one who loves you as you are no matter what's going on. One who sees not only who you are, but who you can become. One who is there to catch you when you fall. And one with whom you can share your everyday experiences. One who accepts your worst, but helps you to become your best. Someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you today just the way you are. Someone who comes in when the world, the whole world, has gone out. I think all of us would agree we need those kind of friends. And so I'd ask you this question. Are you that kind of friend to someone? Do you have a friend who is that to you? When you read that and you realize what is involved, you realize why a friend is a treasure, a gift from God, and we all need friendships. And the Bible says a lot about friendships; and especially, for example, in the book of Proverbs.
And as I was thinking about the kind of friendships we have and think about, for example, there are friendships all of us have had that we've enjoyed; friendships that we've trusted; friendships that we believed in; and friendships that we hoped would last all of our life. And yet, somewhere along the way something happens to them. We get disappointed. They walk away. We don't know why. Sometimes they tell us and most of the time they probably don't. So there are all kind of friendships. And what you and I need is a friendship. We need to have a friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ, first of all, who will equip us and enable us to be the kind of friends we need to be; and people will be attracted to us because of our friendship with them and will want to be the same kind of friend to us.
Who in your life could you count today as being a true, genuine, loving, faithful, loyal, devoted, trustworthy friend? Many people cannot name one single person, because they've been hurt; they've been disappointed. They look at things that's happened in their past and they have been hurt so terribly they could not ever trust again, at least that's what they will tell you. The truth is they could if they'd be willing to. So, when I think about troubled friendships, I think about in this light, and that is, sometimes we form wrong friendships. And the book of Proverbs is very clear about who we choose to be our friends. And somebody says, Well if you're a Christian, can't you choose anybody to be your friend? Well what does the Word of God say?
So, I'm going to give you these scriptures and I'm going to read them to you so you won't have to look them up, it would take too long. But, first of all, the scripture's very clear about the kind of friendships we should not have and the first one is this. The Bible says in Proverbs twenty, verse nineteen, "do not associate with a gossip". Listen. Not only don't make friends with the gossips, don't even have anything to do with them. You say, Oh, I don't believe Jesus feels that-a-way. Well, the Bible says, Don't have any relationship with a gossip. Now, why would God say such a thing? Because, first of all, you can't trust a gossip. You can't trust them to say anything, that you can tell them anything to keep a confidence because the one thing a gossip loves above everything else is to be the one who has the final word on you; and who can tell what they want to tell about you.
A gossip is a dangerous kind of friendship, so God says, Don't have, don't have anything to do with a gossip. The second one is don't, listen, He says, Don't associate with a person who's hot-tempered. They just blow off all of a sudden. In Proverbs twenty-two, verse twenty-four and twenty-five, "Do not associate with a man or a woman given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself". And what he's saying is this. When you associate with people who have very definite negative attitudes and effects in life, he says, if you hang around them and you associate with them, more than likely they're going to influence you. And the Bible says that in a number of different ways, that the influence of the ungodly is powerful.
And somebody will often say, Well, you know, I'm going to marry this person because I'm going to change him. You just think you are. Or, If I live a Christian life before them, they will certainly change, not always. And so he says, he says be careful about people who are gossips. Be careful about people who are hot-tempered; and he says in chapter twenty-four of Proverbs, he says, listen, "do not associate with those given to change, For their calamity will suddenly arise," which is, what he means is those who are disloyal and discontent. If a person's discontent, they're always changing. You don't know whether you can trust them or not. Today you think you can, tomorrow you know you can't. And so a person who is discontent, unsettled in their ways, he said, Watch those people because they'll influence you.
In Proverbs twenty-eight, verse seven, he warns us about people who are self-indulgent. You know, too much of this, too much of that, too much of the other. The only thing they want is what satisfies them or what seemingly satisfies them at the moment. Proverbs twenty-eight, seven, "He who keeps the law is a discerning person". That is, they're under control, "But he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father". That is, a person, it's all about them. It's all that they can do that satisfies them. I don't have anything to do with those kind of people. Then the immoral, and chapter twenty-nine, verse three, he says, "he who keeps company with harlots wastes wealth". And it's interesting in the fifth chapter of Proverbs, of all the things the Lord says about all different kind of people.
In the fifth chapter of the Proverbs, he goes on for about eleven verses about giving attention to wisdom and being discreet and watching out for an adulteress or an adulterer. And he describes what they do and what happens as a result. And so, he says, Keep yourself away from them. Let's think about how you make friendships. Well you say, Well, you know, you just meet somebody and decide they'd be a good friend. That's not the way you have friendships. Watch this carefully. You have to build friendships. Relationships can come and go. Friendships you have to build. You say, Well, how do you build friendships? I'm going to give you a list. Every single word in this list is very important. If you want to have real, genuine friendships that really make a difference in your life, first of all, you have to spend time with them.
In other words, you can't have friendships that you don't have time with that person. Spend time with them. Secondly, talk to them. That's the second most important. You have to talk to them. How do you develop friendships? You learn who the other person is. How do you learn who the other person is? When they tell you about their life, they tell you, first of all, what they want you to know. The more your friendships you develop, they tell you things about their life that they probably thought they wouldn't tell anybody. They become very, very honest. And so talking to each other's what builds friendships. And I talked to some of my friends, and I have some wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, godly friends. I talk to some of them every single day.
Friendships, you have to give time to. You want to give time to. Why? They make you laugh. They bring you happiness. They encourage you. That is, if you're going to be a friend, you've got to be willing to talk and to listen to the other person. And likewise, as you've got to be willing to cry and willing to laugh. All of us go through situations and circumstances that are heartbreaking. And if you're the kind of person, now watch this, you have to watch this one. If you're the kind of person who lives like this, you will never have any friends, because you're trying to cover up something in your life that you need to share. In other words, when your heart's broken, you need to tell it. You need to share it with someone who's a real friend. You get disappointed, either by your friends or at work, or your children or something. And we laugh together and we cry together. That's what real genuine friendship's all about.
And then, of course, there are trials. All of us are going to have trials in life. We're going to go through things that are very difficult. If you're a real friend, you'll be there when the trials come. If you're a true friend, you're going to share what you're going through in life. And if you try to be the kind of friend has no troubles, no heartaches, no burdens, no this. You've got everything and everything is just fine, that's not friendship. That is a dishonest cover-up, that's what that is. We all have trials we go through in life, some more intense than others. But what do we do? To keep them to ourselves? No, we tell God about them first and then if you have a friend, we share that. Not to burden somebody else.
And you see, listen. If I'm your friend and you're my friend and you come unload on me, I don't consider that a burden. I'm grateful to God that you felt free to tell me what was going on in your life. And what happens is this. The more genuine that friendship is, the more intimate you're going to be willing to share things that, in your life, that maybe you wouldn't share with anybody. And it may be that's the only person you would tell. But that's part of friendships. And then of course, thankfulness. Think about this. When's the last time you said to your friend, Thanks? When's the last time you sent a text since it's a text age, when's the last time you sent them a text and just said, I was just thinking about you this morning. I want to thank you for being my friend.
Now you say, Well, that's not very long. You know how I send texts? And I don't like to send them. I will send them, and if I just say, I just want you to know that I love you. You know what I do? To emphasize that, I put about five, six, seven or ten exclamation points behind it because what I'm saying is I really and truly love you, I do! So, I don't know how to say that in a text message any other way. But you know what? Sometimes that's all people need. I'm praying for you this morning, exclamation point, in other words, it means, what it says to me, I really mean it. So that's my way of saying, I really mean it in case you question that. So, being thankful. And then being thoughtful. And there are all different kind of ways to be thoughtful to somebody. And, whether you tell them that you're grateful for something they did; or as we say, Text them. Or you write them a note. But I think a little note, doesn't take long to say, Thank you very much; that was thoughtful of you. Thanks.
How could you be so thoughtful? In other words, it doesn't take much. And what happens is this. When you are thoughtful and you express it, something happens. First of all, something happens that really is released in you emotionally. And secondly, listen, it's released in you and lifts the other person. It's like a smile. For example, let's say that you're sort of down in the dumps and somebody, comes to see you about whatever it might be and next thing you know, they've been smiling and here you're smiling and they've lifted you up. That's what friends should do. They should lift each other, whatever it takes, and oftentimes it takes very, very little, just being thoughtful. Or it may be that you're thoughtful by giving them something that you know they want.
And we live in a selfish age. It doesn't take much to express thoughtfulness, just a little something here and there. And we're expressing appreciation, our love, and our kindness toward the other person. Then of course, there's tolerance. In other words, to be friends, you have to tolerate things. Nobody's perfect. We all have our failures about things. Or maybe we'd say something that disappoints the other person, or maybe say something that hurt somebody's feelings. Sometimes you can hurt somebody else's feelings when you didn't mean that at all. And when the person realizes you didn't really mean that, they tolerate that and move on and don't hold it against you. You can't, listen. You can't live with your antennas out. Who's going to say something wrong about me today?
In other words, you can't live that way. You've got to, listen, you've got to live thanking God that He loves you; He tolerates us every single day; forgives us for our mistakes. And then, of course, watch this now, touching. Touching is very important in friendships. Now, for example, I have some men friends whom I love dearly. I don't shake hands with them. It's not because I'm afraid of getting contaminated. It's because a handshake's not enough. And you know whose hand you should shake and whom you should hug. For example, your family, and maybe somebody else, your friends. But even your friends, you have to be careful about how you touch somebody else. And so, real friends are sacred in their touch, I would put it that-a-way. Then you've got to be transparent, you've got to be open.
And think about living this way. Think about living in a fashion, I don't want anybody to see on the inside of what I'm really like. And you see, what you may be feeling may be totally erroneous, that's not who you are. That's who you think you are. And so you think, if he or she sees this they won't like me anymore. You know what? They've already seen it. And you're trying to cover it up. You just have to be transparent and open who you are. And not try to be something that you are not because we are not perfect. And then of course, you've got to be truthful. You can't have a friendship if you're not truthful. If somebody tells you something and you say, I'm not going to tell anybody; and you do, that's not being truthful. Or, if somebody asks you a question, maybe they asked a question about yourself. Maybe you don't want to answer it.
You could say, Well you know, I have to think about that, if this is the time. Or whatever it might be. But just be truthful. Being honest always works. And the people who are not truthful, you don't have those kind of friendships. Because when you add all those things up, they add up to love. If you love somebody, all these things are going to be found in your life. And so, there are oftentimes, as we said in the very beginning, friendships that start out, people you trust, people you love, people that you hope will be your friend for a long time and something happens to that friendship. How do we rescue these troubled friendships? And I'll just make this very short. How do we rescue them? First of all, you've got to decide that a friendship is worth rescuing. You've got to decide you really want that person to be your friend. You have to decide, I'm willing to do whatever's necessary to make things right. If I've done something to offend them in some way; neglected them in some way, I'm willing to make that, take the steps necessary.
And so, the first thing I have to do is admit that, Hey, I was wrong here. Please forgive me. That was not what a loyal devoted friend would do, and I'm asking you to forgive me. And I promise you to the best of my ability, it'll never happen again. And then live it out, what you promise, that you'll be loyal; devoted to that person; honest and truthful. Then of course, one thing you don't do is begin to defend yourself. If you're going to make a friendship right, don't defend anything you did, just say, I was dead wrong. I'm very sorry and I'm asking for forgiveness. Specifically, I'm wrong; I was wrong; and I'm asking for forgiveness. And then what you might do is ask them, Listen, would you tell me what can I do to heal this relationship? Tell me what I need to do to make this relationship right. Tell me what I need to do to rebuild our fellowship and our friendship because I love you as my friend. I made a mistake. I'm sorry. And if you'll tell me what I can do to make this better, I will do it. And what you're doing is you're opening the door for them to say whatever they need to say.
And they may say to you, Well, you can do something real simple. If I tell you something in confidence, don't ever tell anybody else if you want this friendship to work. It may be something that simple or it may be something more difficult than that. But, we have to give them an opportunity to say what needs to be said if I want to mend that relationship. Now, if I don't want to mend it, I'll say, Well you know, everybody makes mistakes and if you think my mistake was so much, then forget the friendship. No, that's not friendship. But you care about the friendship. Friendships are precious. And if you'll think about it, your whole life, and you know how long I've lived, I could count on true, genuine friends that I've had. Thank God it would take both hands and feet, or all toes. I've had some wonderful friends. And I've outlived a lot of them. But I can say this. The best friends that I've ever had in my life, I have today.
And so, I would say that to all you folks out there who are at my age and above that, or below that, or whatever it might be, Don't think because you are whatever age you are, that, you know, nobody wants to be your friend. Sure, listen. Most all of my friends are half my age. You say, And they're running around with you? Yep! And you know what? They love it, because they're wise enough to listen and learn something. And I love them. You know, the age has nothing to do with it. It has to do with what you have to offer. What kind of friend do you want to be? And I would have been happy at the age of forty to have somebody who was my dear friend at the age of eighty. I thought, Listen, I want to learn everything I can; listen to what I can listen to and be sure I don't miss anything in life that'll help me become the person God wants me to be. We can mend friendships if we're honest and open; willing to ask for forgiveness; apologize and whatever it might be.
So, what you have to ask is this. How valuable are my friends? And the value you place on your friends will be evidenced by the way you treat your friends. Nothing you say, it's the way you treat them. And the wonderful thing about friendship is this. Jesus is the best friend you and I'll ever have. And my friend, no matter who your friends are and what you have in life and where you've been, where you're going, your popularity and prestige and prominence and all the rest, none of that weighs as much as a good friend. And you start with Jesus who's always there. And if you'll notice that paragraph we gave at the beginning of the message, He fits every bit of that. He's a true friend. And listen, when we say He's there when all the world walks out. I think that's the ultimate test of a friend today. When everybody else walks away from you, who's standing there with you to say, You can count on me no matter what. That's the kind of friend I want to be and that's the kind of friend I'd like to have.
Father, we thank You and praise You today for Your loving friendship toward us. You put up with a lot. You provide us everything. And You're so generous to us, And we ask today that You'd place within our heart the desire to be the kind of friend so many people need. You've brought us from multitudes of places, different backgrounds; but You've surrounded all of us with different people, many of whom need a friend. Teach us how to be a godly friend. That being our friend will draw them closer to You is our prayer in Jesus' name, amen.