Levi Lusko - You Need Friends
Where does loneliness come from? Specifically the loneliness we're dealing with these last 30 years. From 1990. Is that what we said? 1990 till now. Why is this recession, this depression, we could even say, happening as it is? And of course, explanations are myriad. Some will point to COVID. Some will point to the iPhone. But I would say to you this study tells us this did not begin in 2007 with the iPhone. It did not begin in 2020 with the pandemic. Those things surely have exacerbated it. But what can we point to that happened in 1990? Well, I'm just going to read to you from the very same study we've been referencing and the studies that compile these statistics.
The same author of the friendship recession study said, and I quote, "On average there is one thing that stands out. Americans who attend church regularly have more friends than those who attend rarely or not at all". So he said every group, every stage of life, didn't we say that? Every financial bracket, white, non-white, all that. He said, however, I'm saying this to you for now because it's super hella convenient, just being completely honest, the one thing he said that stands out is there are some people in this country who have friends. And those are people who go to church.
Well, this week and next week, we're going to focus on the subject of friendship. Friendship. Thanks to Taylor Swift, the friendship, big fan. Big fan in the front row. Thanks to Taylor Swift, we can say this with certainty. The friendship bracelet industry is thriving. It is doing very well. Because ironically enough, in response to a song titled "You're On Your Own, Kid" a line that mentions friendship bracelets somehow has sparked this thing where if you're a real Swiftie showing up for the Eras Tour or the Eras Tour Movie or just being a swiftie in general, you are showing up with a stack of bracelets on your wrist to these moments in time and you're making them yourself.
So if the smart one among us could go back in time a year or two and invest in Hobby Lobby or Michael's, we would have said, man, the bead industry. I got a real bullish thought on the bead industry, the string industry, which is so fun. And this week just kind of thinking about this all, I got on, because I was thinking, how many bracelets do you really need? Because I pulled out all the bracelets I've been given in the last little bit. I got a bracelet my friend Shawn gave me. I got a bracelet my friend Tim gave me. I got a bracelet from my friend Stephen. And then the rest of them are all for my children. So I pulled them all out and just friendship bracelet felt right. Might delete later. Got them all on for you here today.
Louie gave me a bracelet as well. Can't forget Louie. But these bracelets, friendship bracelets. I was thinking to myself, if I was going to go to the eras tour, which I'm not. I did go to the movie. It was Olivia's 18th birthday. Olivia's 18, by the way. My oldest 18 years old. Happy birthday, Liv. For her birthday, I bought us all tickets to go see the Eras movie. And I have not slept that good in years. I fell asleep twice. This thing was so long. I fell asleep fully twice. Woke up, re-energized, fell asleep again, and woke up again. Which is not me throwing shade on Taylor Swift at all. Look what she made me do. This is real. But I was thinking if I was going to go to a show, how many is enough? That's the question.
So I found out there are actually Reddit forums dedicated to nothing but how many bracelets you should make to be adequately prepared to do your job as a Swiftie and make enough friends in line. And here's some of my personal favorite moments. This person says, I'm currently at 57, lol. I'm planning on making a lot more. Basically going to make them as I watch TV every night and not really have a limit. Lol again. Love your bracelets, by the way. And this other person says, well, there's going to be 60,000 people at each show. Hello. So I don't think you need to worry about making too many. And the other person just says, words to live by. One more is never enough. But that's not my very favorite thread.
I noticed this one as well. This person says, well, I made one for each album. And then the ones I liked the most did three of them and then I did one more for my top three, then added one extra to balance things out. So it's pretty much the stack of her wrist is like this. And then she says, so I got 37 to give out. I'm taking 18 to opening night, then the rest for my second show. So I'd recommend, in answer to your question, 15 to 20 should about cover it. Hello. Friendship bracelets are doing very, very, very, very, very well, in other words. We cannot, however, say the same thing about friendship in general. Title of my message today is You Need Friends. You Need Friends. Here's how it's going to work. I have four points to this sermon. You're going to get two of them next week. And I'm going to give you my outline.
So here's what next week's sermon is going to look like. We're going to talk about the possibility of friendship, that friendship is in fact a possibility. And we're going to talk about the pain of friendship. That's still to come. So invite you back next week. We're going to talk about what hurts about having friends. Why would people turn away from friends? What is there that hurts about having friends in your life? So that's next week. This week, we're going to start out by talking about the peril of friendships and then we're going to talk about the power of friendships. So first of all, first point, jot it down, friendship is in peril. Friendship bracelets might be doing well, but the institution of friendship itself, so far as our culture is concerned, is not doing so good.
How do you know that? Well, we could ask a lot of people and compile the results and we would know. But someone did that and his name is Dan Cox. And Dan Cox runs the Survey Center on American Life. And he and his team have done just what I've said. They have asked people by the tens of thousands, how is it going for you when it comes to friendship? Do you have a lot of friends? How close are your friends? And they have kept track of that over time. And it was Dan who came up with this phrase that has become very famous and has swept the internet because it's sticky. And that is that we are experiencing what's called a friendship recession. And we all get that because we feel a recession and we know left unchecked, recessions can turn into depressions. And we have felt that in the financial market and inflation and all the rest.
So he said that you can actually track this beginning, this friendship recession that we're in currently at this moment, as beginning in 1990. All right, so go back to 1990 in your mind or multiple years before you were conceived. And that's when the friendship recession that we're looking at and living in the midst of, this bearish market when it comes to friends, as having begun. He says, and I quote, "Over the past three decades, the number of close friends Americans have has plummeted. It seems to be true," as you read his words, for just about every age group, gender, income level. It doesn't discriminate, in other words. People who live in big cities, people who live in rural America, people who are white, people who are not white, people who have a spouse or a partner, people who do not have a spouse or a partner. He says, and I quote, "Everyone in our country seems to be spending more time alone".
He did note there was one exception to this, and we will talk about that in just a moment. But what has that left us with? It's left us with loneliness. 46% of Americans say they are lonely or feel alone. 43%, just about half, of Americans, again, say that the relationships they do have are not meaningful. So I'm lonely. I don't have friends or I do have friends but they don't feel like real friends. They feel like fake friends. And it's hit men harder than women. So it seems to be a little bit of a sexist thing, this friendship recession. Because the percentage of men in America with at least six close friends. So this would be helpful for us just as an exercise. In your head sort of doing a little bit of a mental inventory, do you have six friends that you would define as being close? That number for men has fallen by half since 1990. In 1990 it was 55% of men who said I have six close friends. And now it's 27% who say that.
It also found that the percentage of men in America with no friends at all. How many friends do you have? I don't have six. I don't have five. I don't got two. I don't have any close friends at all. In 1990, that was 3% of men. And now, flash forward three decades, it's 15%. That is a 5x increase on men in America who say, I don't have any friends that are close at all. Now, ironically, when you're experiencing loneliness like this, it causes you to do the exact opposite of the thing that would cure it. So what happens when you're lonely? You think, well, the lonely people are, of course, going to be the ones who are rushing into situations that would bring about the answer to the problem they're dealing with. But the exact opposite of that is true.
And I quote, now reading from the study again, the more close friends you have, the more likely you are to talk with strangers in the neighborhood, to volunteer, to go to church, to frequent your local coffee shop or bar, to attend a local event and a meeting. That is to say the people who make a community strong and vibrant are the people with lots of friends. Thus America's friendship recession is weakening civic life. So the people who are lonely and who need that tend to not go into the situations that would bring about the cure. It's who are doing those sorts of things. People who do have friends are getting into situations that helps them to even have more friends and to help and to make a difference and to make this a brighter place to live.
So it's a vicious cycle. So once you get into a lonely mode, you have even a less chance of putting yourself into the kind of path of greater friendship. So you then become even almost more alienated. It becomes almost a self predicting prophecy in a negative way, a downward spiral. Because you think about it and you're like, gosh, the answer should be so easy and obvious. We should just go, hey, everyone who's lonely, just raise your hand. And everyone raises their hand. And you're like, all right, now look around. Go hang out. What do you want from me? You see what I'm saying? But that's not how it works. It's not so simple. Why? Here's why. Because one of the symptoms of being lonely is you think you're the only lonely one. Now, that's not a true statement. It's a lie, correct? It's a lie. You're like, no, of course, you just told us 46% of people feel lonely.
So I shouldn't think in my head I'm the only lonely one. Everyone else has an easier time. Everyone else has more friends. In my head I should be thinking, hey, there's other lonely people. Let me go look for them and both of our loneliness situation can end. But no, a symptom of loneliness is feeling like you're the only one. So what does that mean? You actually begin to feel lonely in your loneliness. And you don't have to be a doctor to know that this is probably not good for you. It's not good for you. It's not good for your body. It's not good for your emotions. It's not good for your mind. And you would be correct. Research shows that social isolation and loneliness weakens the immune system, making you thus more susceptible to sickness. Also causing you to be more opened up to the possibility of Alzheimer's, high blood pressure, inflammation, sleep disruption, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and dementia.
Now, you don't have to open up a medical periodical from the surgeon general warning about loneliness epidemics. All you have to do is open up scripture to Proverbs 18, which tells us a man who isolates himself seeks his own desire and rages against all wise judgment. It's also interesting to note that the Bible says that a key distinction of end times or a sign of the times, so to speak, is the disappearance of loyalty to friends. It's actually one of the marks of the social and moral breakdown that the prophet Micah 800 years before Jesus came said would be coming true in end times situations. So we're seeing it even happen as the Bible says it will continue to unravel. But this is not all bad news. There is some good news in this. Levi, you don't understand how low you just took it. You can't bring it out of this ditch. I mean, this is low.
That's why I started with Taylor. I wanted a little levity up front, get you laughing. And then it's like, wow, now I've been punched in both of my kidneys and my liver. But no, no, there is some good news. Why? What's the good news? The good news is if you see a keyhole, chances are there's a what? There's a key out there. So what we're feeling in this loneliness points us to something. This is one of those arguments that to me makes so much mental sense when I think about some of the unique things every one of us feel like. We feel like there should just be more to life than money. There should just be more, no matter how much sex we've had or how many times we've gotten high or how much porn we've looked at, there's something in the human spirit that just sort of says, there's got to be more. That's a keyhole. There's got to be a key. You see what I'm saying?
And in the sense of lying in bed at night, like we all do, wondering like what's going to happen to me when I die? What are we longing for? Immortality. The sense of guilt we all feel. What is it that keeps us longing for forgiveness? Those are things that should point us to the reality of those things. Because as it's been well pointed out, you never want, if you go scuba diving are going to meet a fish who has a lot to say to you about water. We don't notice the things we have until they're missing. But you pull a fish out of water, it starts gasping real quick. It might not be able to say H2O, but everything that fish is doing is telling you it misses something that it doesn't even know how to articulate the fact that it needs.
You see what I'm saying? So if it's true that there is no God, if it's true that everything's just random chance, if it's true that we're just smart monkeys or mud that got hit by lightning and now this Petri dish experiment has us all here running around like, whoa, I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I just got real smart. No, no, we're all longing for, hear me, what makes no sense if the lies of secular humanism were true. We're longing for things that we shouldn't crave. But we were plucked away from the presence of God, plucked away from immortality, plucked away from walking in harmony with our creator. And what are we doing? We're gasping like fish longing for what we don't even know how to articulate. And so it is when it comes to loneliness. The presence of loneliness points to the gift of friendship that God invented and launched for us as a cure for the ache we can't shake, for connection with other people.
And I can prove it to you. Adam was lonely before he sinned. In fact, the Bible puts it this way. Let me paraphrase. God said let us make man in our image. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, God within the Trinity even in relationship in Himself made us in His image. And after speaking so much good over this world, the gold is good, the rivers are good, the otters are good. Aren't they cute? The Grand Canyon, all the things He spoke goodness. What did He say? It is not good that man should be alone. Adam was still connected to God. He had all of that going right. But he was created in God's image to have connection not just with God but also God's people. Also friendship did not exist yet.
And so as Tim Keller points out, this loneliness predated sin and points us to the fact that there is a cure. It's a keyhole telling us that there is, in fact, a key. And so what we can take away from this is that loneliness is the only ache on Earth you can experience that didn't come from sin. Every other ache you'll feel can be pointed back to sin in some way, but not loneliness. It was there before Adam was imperfect. While he was perfect in creation, he felt lonely. And so God invented friendship. God gave relationship to us as humans. And if we disconnect ourselves from those things, there's going to be a price that we'll pay, just like being disconnected from God leaves us spiritually dead.
All right. So that's the first point of this sermon. There's four points. Relationships, friendships in our day are in peril. Secondly, let's talk about the fact that friendships are powerful. Powerful good and evil, by the way. So I'm going to throw out this point, focus on the positive side, and assume you've chosen to have friendships with the right people. But what you could do in your mind is go to the opposite side of every point I'm telling you as well, because relationships are powerful regardless of whether you have the right or the wrong people in your life. So we're assuming you've chosen people to align yourself with in friendship that are of the same mindset as you.
As the Bible says, how can two walk together unless they are of one accord? How could two ox plow together with one yoke over them unless they both were going this way? What would happen if one ox wanted to go that way and the other ox wanted to go that way, but they have this big wooden yoke over their two shoulders? They're not going to do much productive plowing because they're going to be like, nope, over here, Fred. No, no, Bill, I'm going that way. So we got to align ourselves carefully and choose very carefully who we walk in friendship with. You're like, that sounds un-Christian. We should be friends with everybody. Well, if you want to get specific about Jesus's friendships, there was boundaries. There was levels to it all. No, he was the friend of sinners. Every single one.
Oh yeah, why did he spend so much time with 12? And of those 12, why did three get singled out that got more time with him? Why did he seem to have this best friend thing going with John that John was so excited about? Why did he have that unique friendship with Lazarus that caused him to always want to go to that house out of any other house he could have gone to? Why were there 70 they got some access and 500, you see what I'm saying? Because we all have to out of all, we're friend of all sinners. Yeah, we're friends with everybody. But you got to have your people. You got to have your Peter, James, and John. Relationships, friendships are powerful, positively or negatively. And the scripture teaches that emphatically. But let's talk about the power of them to bless your life. Because as one pastor put it, the world is full of sorrow because it's full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place.
The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship. Look at this. I love this part. Halves our troubles and doubles our joys. There is a power in friendship. This world is broken no matter what. So whether you have friends or not, there's going to be hardship. But he is saying when you have a friend, it's going to be a bright sunbeam in a dark world and any trouble you face is going to get cut in half or it will feel like it did. And any beauty you face will feel like it gets turned up to double because the joy is that much richer. C.S. Lewis would agree, who in a letter to one of his best friends Arthur Greeves, said this. "Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me, it is the chief happiness of life".
So in a way to get our head around the happiness of the power of friendship, what I want to do is just give you six things that having the right friends in your life is going to open you up to. And the first is navigation. Like when you have your GPS unit say turn right, turn left, go here, go there. Which again, should be a filter you process your choice of friends through. Are you both agreed on the same place you want to go? If not, it's not going to be a great time going with them if you don't both want to get to the same exact place? But how great is it to have a friend who you can run some things through, get to pray for you? Have them stand with you as you make a difficult decision.
Proverbs 27 verse 9 says ointment and perfume delight the heart and the sweetness of a man's friend gives delight by hearty counsel. On the other side of that, where there is no counsel, the people fall. But in the multitude of counselors, there is safety. I love that. You ever walk into an environment and just smells amazing? I remember staying at a Doubletree Hotel one time. I walked in, I was like, what is this? Smells like cookies in here. Apparently they pump the smell of freshly baked cookies in the lobby. And at check in, doesn't matter if you check in at 11:00 AM or 4:00 PM or 10:00 PM after they take your credit card and process the reservation, they say would you like a hot, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie?
There's no diet on Earth that can withstand that. You've already been smelling it. I'm like, I have a meeting. I'm a grown man. Yes, I would like that cookie. Thank you very much. I would like that a lot, because there's a pleasant smell that just drew me in. They're very smart at the Doubletree Hotel. This verse is saying as bad as it is to not have that or to have the wrong people advising, what a delightful smell it is. How good it feels to have people to talk to when you're trying to make a hard decision. Listen, isn't life just murky sometimes where you're not entirely sure? And I think it's the most confusing when you have two good options. I'm pretty black and white sometimes.
Other times I don't know. I had a thing like that two weeks ago. I got offered this opportunity to do something that amounted to one of the greatest things I've ever been asked to do. As a speaker who's been speaking on the road for a long time, just honestly, if I said it out loud to you, you'd be like, you said yes to that, right? But I didn't have a peace in my spirit about it. There was a great opportunity. Surely God would have used it. But I just felt like maybe it wasn't something I was supposed to do. But turning something down, a once in a lifetime, did feel wrong too. So you know what? I did I called a friend. First I texted him. Do you have a moment? I know we text a lot. We trade voicemails.
I really would love just to bounce something off of you. And you know what was amazing? He was wise enough to not be my red phone to heaven and tell me thus sayeth the Lord Levi, Levi, Levi, like start echoing dramatically for whatever reason. He just kind of struggled through it with me, let me say this out loud to him. And afterwards, I felt a peace as I made the decision and turned down this opportunity that I didn't feel like was for me in that moment. And I felt, that's not the big win, though. The big win wasn't when I had clarity to make the decision. The big win was just how wonderful the smell and the feel was to have someone and not be alone in making that choice. I want that for you. Scripture wants that for you.
You need it for navigation. Secondly, for celebration. To celebrate the good times. To celebrate the great blessings of God in your life. Doesn't Romans say that we are to rejoice? This is chapter 12, verse 15. With those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. I think we think a lot and talk a lot about the weeping with those who weep. But what about the first part of that? Do you have people in your life who you can just call? I have this group of guys. And we have just the agreement that none of us are going to think the other person is bragging when we get on and be like, dude, this happened and it was awesome. And we're all able to just go, what? Heck yeah. Double high five. Just to rejoice with them. And you should have that in your life as well.
The author Drew Hunter in his book Made For Friendship said, and I quote, "a joy unshared is a joy unfulfilled". Profound. Joy that gets shared is a joy doubled. So people in your life that you can say, hey, just closed an amazingly big deal. Just feel really good about that. Or dude, down a dress size, looking awesome. And your friends can go, girl. Nobody looks as good as you do in that thing. You know what I'm saying? People in your life who can help you get even more joy out of what happened that was awesome, because you're not tasting it alone. Studies have proven eating chocolate by yourself does not elicit as much pleasure in your brain as eating chocolate with someone else. You need to bless those who bless the Lord and eat some of their chocolate in Jesus' name. You know what I mean? You need that for the goodness of life. Celebration.
Proverbs 17:17 says a friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. This is a cool verse. It gets used a lot without people really kind of understanding what it kind of means. It's kind of a knock on blood family a little bit. Because brother is blood family. We all got blood family. We all got drama because we got blood family. We all need counseling because we got blood family. And what are they born for? Adversity. Point is, in the best of cases, family comes together in crisis. And you got to do that because it's your family. You got to come together for family. But on the other side of that, you got friends who you just like to hang out with. They're there for all times. They're good every day.
So your family you're born into, you're going to come together in the hard times and you got to do that. The rest of the time there's friends for that. It's the family you get to choose. You get to hang out with them whether there's a crisis or not a crisis. You get to celebrate the good stuff. You get to celebrate the bad stuff. You're not just there to play mom's funeral and have to deal with the difficult thing with this and have to talk about this and this group text but then also this other group text because you need to have that problem person not involved in the second group text. How many of you all know this is real? It's dramatic. It's difficult. And we got weird people in our families. And if you're like, not me. I submit to you, your family thinks they do. But friends, they just get love at all times. There doesn't have to be some big old crisis going on to bring you together. It's just because it's Tuesday and you like each other.
Ralph Waldo Emerson who in history is one of the lone voices to speak a lot, secularly speaking, about friendship and how great it is. Which is actually interesting. Some have pointed out the lack of culture bringing friendship to the forefront, because our culture loves sex. Go walk through the grocery store. See all the magazine covers. Who's having sex with who? You're not going to see on the cover so and so became friends with someone. You know what I'm saying? Culture doesn't know what to do with friendship. And yet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, and I love this line, it is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
Do you got people you can just be stupid with? I have things that I have in my mind I refuse to text certain people. I'm like no, no, this isn't in person because I need to laugh until I cry with you. And so I'm going to share this for a person where we can just be dumb together. And if you don't have that, you are just missing out on some of the joys of life that come from laughing about something that's so dumb. If anybody else walked in, they would be like, you are a moron. Yes, but that's what's wonderful about it. It's beautiful. I saved the serious stuff for family. Friends we just get to be dumb. Number three, formation. Why are friendships powerful? Because they're changing who you are.
My orthodontist a while back, I had to get braces because I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. And my dentist said, if you don't go get this alignment issue with your teeth sorted out, this was years back, you're going to wear off all the enamel in your teeth all in your sleep. I wouldn't even have to get the fun of eating hard things to do it. I would just go in my sleep. Where is my enamel? It's gone. So they said you need to get braces. And I'll never forget the orthodontist. He said to me, hey, all we need to fix your teeth is simple. We just need time under tension. Time under tension. Your teeth need tension for enough time. And that gentle pushing, no one push is enough to fix your smile. But if for enough time you're under the push of these braces, it'll change your teeth. You know what your friends are? They're time under tension.
Doing life with someone, walking with someone, your Peter, James, and John, your crew that you roll with, your friends that you really allow into your life to speak into you. I'm not talking about friend of sinners. You all sit down with Nicodemus. I'll sit down with this whoever whatever. I want to be an influence to everybody in the world. I'm talking about your people who you are literally letting speak into your life. That gentle time under tension is going to form you. You will look up one day and be different and it will be because of who you are doing life with. Your friendships or the lack thereof, I guess we could say, is like a glacier moving through a valley, carving out the geographic features that one day people will look up and go, how did this happen?
Well, some huge friendship glacier moved through here. That's how this was formed. And you don't even realize it's happening because it's no one big thing in the moment. It's this sort of gradual thing that takes place. Proverbs 13 says, he who walks with wise will be wise. But the companion of fools will be destroyed. And as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Whether you get sharp in a critical way, sharp in a gossipy way, sharp in a perverted way, sharp in a cruel way or a crude way or a dishonest way or a lazy way or a way full of integrity, you're going to get sharp for one purpose. And the people you allow into your life are going to determine which direction your blade is honed towards. And if you get the right people, they're going to form you through repentance and humility and faithfulness, and hear me, prayer.
Are your friends praying for you? Do you have people you can ask to pray? Do you have people you can say I sinned and blew it and I need prayer. Because James says that as we confess our trespasses to one another, notice this isn't to God. We pray to God about our sins so we can get forgiven. What do we confess to each other about? Praying for one another that you may be, say it out loud, healed. Forgiveness comes from God. Healing comes from one another. Only God can judge me. Correct, but only God can heal you through His people as you confess your sins to each other and then we get held accountable to march forward, hopefully into a brighter, different tomorrow. Which is what leads us to our next point, and that's intervention.
Intervention is the next thing that makes friendship so powerful. People in your life who can cut through the static and say, hey man, hey sis, got a problem here. And this has to be invited. So important. Preach a sermon like this. We stop right here. Everyone just starts running around. I'm going to pull out the speck out of your eye but two by four out of their eye. You know what I'm saying? Nothing like some religious folk trying to be the Holy Spirit. I've noticed some things about you. Step into my office. I'd like to speak to you. No, no, no. This is invited accountability. Invited meaning you gave the permission. Who have you ever told to if you see something, would you please say something?
If you see, because here's my true north. Here's where I want to go. Pleasing God, following Him, honoring Him, loving my spouse, loving and raising my kids. If you see things that are pulling me in a different direction than that is, would you love me enough to say something to me that I'm not going to like in the moment? And then here's the real question. Can you handle it if they do? Because it's all in well to say that. And then someone says, hey, I have noticed some things. And with the spirit of humility, here's what they are. Because guess what that does? That stings. That causes our pride to get raised up. That causes, but you don't know and there's extenuating.
OK, but sorry, I guess you didn't actually want help. You were just saying that when you asked me to hold you accountable. And I fear for kind of that snowflake, my mom told me how amazing I was where we've just sort of have taken anything difficult by way of a rebuke or a hard conversation. And we're, well, why are you out of that friendship? Why are you out of that church? Why did you quit that job? They told me that, they were mean to me there. Define our terms here. Well, I was late and they called me on it. That's not mean. You're dumb. You needed them to tell you something, to call you on the carpet. And you can find a new church and you can go get a new job and you can get a new marriage. You're going to bring your old problem to your new situation. And that person was giving you the chance to grow.
And we have sort of gotten so averse to any tension, so averse to any confrontation, any difficulty, that we take it as something went wrong because a hard conversation and someone dared to confront me and tell me what was holding me back. But Proverbs says open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. It's not loving to say stay quiet. Meanwhile, I'm watching you drive into the ditch. No, no, to actually rebuke you openly is better than to keep it careful. But I love you so much. Notice your terrible husband. But it's going to be what it is. Hey, you hunt all the time, but when was the last time you spent any meaningful time with your child? No, no, no, I'm just going to keep that back. I'm not the Holy Spirit. I'm not going to tell you anything about that. No, no, no. Faithful, look at verse 6, are the wounds of a friend stabs you in the front, not the back.
A friend doesn't go around gossiping around everybody else about what's going on. They walk up to you and with humility and kindness because you gave them the permission to say this is holding you back and I see it and I want to pray with you through it, want to encourage you. But this is what I've noticed. But the kisses, he says, of an enemy are deceitful. I see as a perfect example of this Paul when he was willing to tell Peter, dude, this is out of line in your life. And here's two apostles who both have been entrusted with serious revelation. But he saw something that was holding Peter back. So he said, I withstood him to his face. I didn't go tell Bartholomew and James and Thomas about it. I just went to Peter and talked to him. It was intervention.
This is having rumble strip in your life, layers of detection. That can be people who are going to walk with you through it but at least sound the alarm and say what's going on? Here's what I see. And to do so with kindness. The fifth thing that makes friendships so powerful is collaboration. All right, so we've decided what we want our true north to be and we're moving towards it. And now we get to do it with other people. And guess what? It just gets more powerful, hello, because you're not doing it alone. You're not doing it by yourself. Teamwork makes the dream work. As an example, let me bring Paul back up. He's the one who got up in Peter's face a little bit and encouraged him.
Well, let me tell you about Paul. Because we go, Paul, dude, isn't that the guy who wrote 13 books in the New Testament? Sick, bro. Paul, isn't that the guy who planted churches all over the place? Oh, so good, how did he do that? He aligned properly with the right friends. Let me show it to you. Romans 16. Hey, Rome, while you're reading my letter, could you make sure and look at this? Verse 3, greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life to whom not only I give thanks but I also want you to thank all the churches of the Gentiles I got to partner with. Oh, would you also greet the church that's in their house and my beloved Epaenetus, who is the first fruits of Achaia to Christ, in case you were wondering about Epaenetus.
We know all about Saint Paul. What about Epi? That's his nickname. He had a friend and this is what led to Achaea getting reached. And he had these other friends, Priscilla and Aquila, and a church met in their house that Paul got. He had friends and that collaboratively opened him up to much more. So it wasn't just like, I follow God and that's enough. I'm on my own journey in my walk with God. No, he had the sense to realize if I collaborate with other people who all are going in the same direction, hey, we can get a whole lot more done together than we can by ourselves. In Jesus' name. Anybody feeling that? It's not just Priscilla, Aquilla, and Epaenetus.
Acts 19 he was friends with some officials of Asia. These are people who worked in secular jobs in the government but Paul got to know them and they helped out as they could. It's also Tychicus. Tychicus, a fellow brother and faithful minister. That guy was so rad. Fellow servant in the Lord, Tychicus. Baby names for 500, Alex. How about Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas? We'll talk about him more next week. He fits into both categories. I've got a great joke lined up about a latte I'm going to tell you. 2 Timothy 1. To Timothy, Paul says, my friend, beloved son. You get the point. Paul had really good friends. How did they do so much? How did the whole Roman Empire basically have a church established in a very short period of time?
There was a lot of people all working together on a common purpose. In the immortal words of J.R.R. Tolkien, I'm going to Mordor. Of course you are, Mr. Frodo, and I'm going with you. Of course you are, and I'm going with you. Because there was an impossible task. Get the ring into a volcano. And guess what? It wouldn't have happened apart from koinonia. The New Testament word for fellowship. This idea of one another, one another, you together, you together. Big impossible task. Get the gospel preached to the whole world before the end comes. Ring in a volcano somebody? This is what I'm giving my life to. Of course you are. And I'm going with you.
Without friendship, without koinonia, without the fellowship of the commission, not only would the ring have never made it into the volcano, but friends, the letters and words would never have made it onto the page of one of the best selling book series of all time, Lord of the Rings. Nor would the movies ever have graced the silver screen because of Peter Jackson's genius had it not been for friendship. For when J.R.R Tolkien, as the story goes, began telling people about some of this idea for hobbits and elves and fairies and trees that walk and volcanoes and fire and all of this all around the organizing principle of friendship, people were like that's the weirdest literal thing I've ever heard. Don't tell anybody that ever again. You're making up a whole language, you weirdo?
But one person, hear me, one person who heard it said, I'm intrigued. I'm provoked in my imagination. Don't stop writing. Keep going. And that man was C.S Lewis, who told Tolkien, I think this is a cool idea. Keep giving yourself to it. And two years after C.S Lewis died, Tolkien wrote these words about him. The unpayable debt that I owe to C.S Lewis was not just influence as it is ordinarily understood but just sheer encouragement. He was for a very long time my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my stuff, as I called it at the time, could be more than a private hobby. Because of his interest and unceasing eagerness for more, I should never have brought The Lord of the Rings to a conclusion.
Here's to the unsung heroes of the collaborative partnership for a God ordained quest. Here's for the godly person who you can turn to and go, I don't know. And they can say to you, if God's in it, ain't the gates of hell going to be able to stand against it. Of course you're going, so I'm going. Collaboration. And now let's finish this half of the message with this final point, invigoration. To invigorate something is to lend strength to it, to give energy to it. I think about me early on in my walk with Jesus when I was struggling aggressively with suicidal ideation. It wasn't that I wanted to take my life. It's that I couldn't stop picturing myself taking my life and living afraid, because I thought that was what was going to happen to me. This terrific fear.
And one night it came to a head in a dark moment where I was just fully panicking. And I picked up the phone and I called a friend and I told them what was happening. And they spent time on the phone that night with me praying for me, speaking life over me. And I stand here in this moment with the light of Christ shining in my eye so grateful for that friend and the fact that I could say, I'm suffering in this way. Will you care for me? I also think about many years later, 20 years after the fact in the year 2020 going through a very challenging time. And once again, bizarrely, for the first time really since that moment, struggling with panic again and calling up multiple friends in difficult, hard moments and being able to say, here's what's really going on.
Here's what's hard. Here's what's scary. Here's what feels like 1,000 pound weight on my chest that I feel all alone in the midst of. And two of them I'm wearing bracelets today that they gave me. And I'm so grateful that they invigorated me, because we don't just rejoice with those who rejoice. What else do we do? We weep with those who weep. It was Job's friends who after he went through crushing loss just came and sat with him. And for several days, they said nothing. And in fact, that was their best moments in the book of Job. The rest of it is them not saying nothing and it did not improve from there. So maybe, just maybe, it's not about what we say to someone. It's the fact that we care enough to sit down with them in their suffering, to invigorate them, to give them hope, to carry their burdens with them.
And so fulfill the law of Christ. And is it draining to do that? Uh-huh. And guess what? That's how the other person's burden gets lighter. Through you walking away a little bit depleted, carrying some of that weight for that moment. I thought this week about Luke 5 and John 5. Luke 5 is a great story. We read it in our this week. We sang it about tearing the roof off, Brandon Lake's new song, just a moment ago. Four friends carried their friend to Jesus. And when they got to a roof, what did they do? They tear the roof off to get their friend to Jesus. The question I was wondering is, do you have people who care enough about you to carry you to Jesus when you're weak? Because in John 5, we also read it this week, there was a man who lying by a pool, similarly infirm, unable to move, and Jesus came by, offering a miracle.
But so discouraged, so depleted, so lonely, when Jesus offered hope to him, he hardly noticed his opportunity. Jesus said, do you want to be made well? He didn't even lift up his eyes to look at the one who was speaking these words. It wasn't just the one who made a promise of helping him. It was the one who had made him. The guy couldn't even see what was in front of him. So discouraged by loneliness, he said I have no one to help me. You got someone right here offering to help you. But he didn't have friends to help him see Jesus. That's what you need.
Friends who will invigorate and fan into flame your love for Jesus when it's at a low ebb so that you can turn and do the same thing when they are at their weakest, lowest, and hardest. Martin Luther said solitude produces melancholy. When we are alone, the worst and saddest things come to mind. Isolation compounds a sorrow. Left to ourselves, we'll start to interpret things in a worse light than they actually are. So we need friends to invigorate our faith and tear the roof off if they got to to get us to the feet of Jesus.
Now, at this point, we're like, OK, but I need help. And what about this and what about this and how do I get more friends? And what do I do once I got them, because sometimes it hurts? Come back to church next week. We're going to talk all about that. But let's end by returning to something that we began with. And that is the year 1990. I just kept thinking about that. What was it about the '90s that caused this recession to begin? Because when you read about, if you Google it, why is there a friendship recession? You're going to find most people pointing to COVID and the iPhone. But that doesn't make sense. The iPhone came around in 2007 and COVID didn't come around till 2020. But the verifiable recession began in '1990. So I don't think it was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, so what was it? What was it about the '90s? You go, the internet?
Well, that had to have been part of it. America got online for real in the '90s. So apparently having all of these connections didn't really bring meaningful connection. But that's not all. Because if you look into what changed in America in the year 1990, you find that a survey was done at that time that asked, do you go to church? And only 5% of Americans said no, I do not go to church. 5% of Americans in 1990 said, I don't have an affiliation with a local church. Well, the same study was asked again in more recent times. And it's up to 1 in 4, 25% now 30 years later from 5% in the year 1990. But it's worse than that. Because if you ask young men, young men in America under the age of 30, it's actually closer to 40% or even 50%. So could it be so simple? We stopped going to church and got lonely at the exact same time.
Dare I say it could possibly, how hella convenient for me, by the way, in this moment. Can you appreciate how amazingly delicious this is? I joke. I'm beginning and ending with levity. This is behind the scenes tour. And if you're really mad I said hella, probably not the church for you. All right. Dan Cox. Dan Cox coined the phrase friendship recession. And I told you a moment ago if you're rich, if you're poor, if you're Black, if you're white, pretty much big city, Montana, it's happening everywhere. But there's one significant, this is his words, exception. Let me read it to you. We find, him saying, that on average, Americans who attend church regularly have more friends than those who attend rarely or not at all.
Now, I'm not going to do any applying of this for you, because I spent some time telling you you're going to get Alzheimer's and dementia and diabetes if you're lonely and that people who go to church, which we stopped doing in the '90s once we didn't need to because You've Got Mail was out, I'm just leaving it for you to hear to say that God has a solution for our loneliness. And look, it's all around us. This is it. Here we are. This is us. And to paint one final picture for you, the second best selling novel of all time ahead of Lord of the Rings, by the way, is a book called Pilgrim's Progress written by John Bunyan from a jail cell. 250 million copies of this book sold. Some place it just behind the Bible.
And if you haven't read it, find a modern version of it and get to reading. But let me tell you basically the vibe. Christian is a man who's come to know Jesus. He's been awakened to who God is and His glory and salvation. In parable form, needs to find and fight his way through this world, including temptations and lusts and difficulty and opposition, until he can get to Celestial City. I'm not going to spoil it for you, but that's heaven. And a lot of different things happen that set him back, but he gets some travel companions. And one of the travel companions he gets is a man named Hope, or some translations call him Hopeful, who's going to walk with him down the road of this life.
One bad day, a giant comes and snatches both of these two up, Christian and Hopeful, and places them in his dungeon where he and his wife are excited and gleeful about the chance and the prospect to keep them locked up and to torture them with depression and despair. They get locked up on a Wednesday. And all day Wednesday and all day Thursday, they're just so overcome with sadness and feeling like they betrayed God and they're not moving forward like they're supposed to and they're just full of grief and stricken with despair in this giant's pit. But Saturday night, they turn to each other instead of just fearing alone and they begin to say, maybe we should pray. And they prayed together and they encourage each other. And they begin to do what friends would do. They're not suffering alone anymore in the same room, but they're talking to each other and sharing the burdens.
And then before they know it, it's Sunday morning in the story. And Christian all of a sudden goes, oh my gosh, I completely forgot at the beginning of this journey, someone gave me a key on a necklace and it's been here under my shirt this whole time. And look, there's a keyhole in this door. And Hopeful says, you should take the key off and try it, bro. Christian says, it's exactly what I'll do. And to know what happens next, you've got to read the Pilgrim's Progress. I'm just kidding. They get out. OK, you see what I'm saying? But they're laughing, how sick would that be? It's like, then they got run over and die. It's dark, dark. No, no, no, they're walking down the road.
And they laugh to each other about all these days they had sat in this despair unnecessarily when the whole time the key had been with them. And Bunyan gives the key a name. He calls it the Key of Promise. Because 1 Peter says we have been given all these great and exceedingly precious promises referring to God's word. And what is the body of Christ? What is the koinonia? What is the family of faith if not us coming together regularly just to remind us of what we have already had and we've never lost? The promises of a good God. Come on.
That's what we're here to do today. We're here just to say you don't need to stay in despair one more moment. Take the key off. Turn the lock and walk out into your bright tomorrow. And so Lord, we thank you for this time together, examining what happens when we don't enjoy and use the gift you gave to us. It was right there the whole time. If you would say Levi, I needed this. I needed this. I'm lonely. I'm dealing with it. I needed this today. Would you just raise your hand up all across the church? Raise your hand up. You're just saying, I sense the Holy Spirit nudging me here. There's something for me here and I just want to respond to God right here. Just right there, let me pray for you.
God, would you bless these? Would you give them strength? Would you help them to take that journey to trust again? I just believe, God, you have something more than the loneliness. You have friendship you've given to us. Thank you, God. Thank you, Lord.
You can put your hands down. And I want to now invite anybody who's not trusted Jesus as Savior to do so. We talk about friendship with each other, but the biggest and the most ultimate need we have is to be headed on the road to Celestial City by entering into a friendship with God. His word says that He is a forever friend to those who come to Him. You go Levi, but I'm a sinner. Well, good news, He's a friend of sinners. He'll be your friend. He'll come into your life. He'll save you from your sins and give you the hope of heaven. But He won't do so uninvited. He stands at the door and He knocks. And while we pray in this moment, church online, every location, if you would say, I want to surrender my life to Christ, I would love to pray with you and pray for you.
Scripture says if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. There's got to be more. I have to do something to earn it. I would never feel good if I didn't earn my way. Bad news. You never can. But because of the cross, you'll never have to. Because of the empty tomb, you don't have to fear anything in Jesus' name. So if you're ready to trust Christ and pass from death to life, pray with me. Church family, pray with us. I want these praying to hear your voices, encouraging them and welcoming them into the fellowship of the ring. Say this:
Dear God. I'm sorry for my sins. There's no excuse. But thank you for sending Jesus to die for me. I believe in Him, His death, His life. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for new life. I give you mine.