Levi Lusko - The Secret To Making Friends
You can't rush relational intimacy. That doesn't happen in a day. Again, that's, sometimes the eagerness, we're so starved for actual people in our lives, sometimes anybody shows us any attention, and we just come on so strong and lay it on so thick because we're trying to Amazon Prime the relationship decades past where it actually is at in a moment. But when it's just this tiny little thing, you just add a little bit of twigs to it, and a little bit of kindling to it. You can't get to the big logs right away. It'll put the fire out. That little flame it's not enough to take on that big log, so you need friendship kindling, and that takes time.
Friendship, friendship's what we're talking about in this series that we're in. Friendship is something that you can experience, but how do you define it? We all know it when we feel it, but how do you define it? Aristotle tried. Aristotle said, when he was asked what is a friend? A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. Interesting. Of course, theologically, highly incorrect, but interesting. But when you do, he's on to something, though, because when you do really encounter friendship in its fullest, purest form, it does feel like that. It feels like there's a soul connection. In fact, that idea is thoroughly scriptural. There's a great little passage, when you want to read about the different relationships in life. Deuteronomy 13 verse 6 is one of the few verses in the Bible that in one fell swoop lets us know about all sorts of the different human relationships that are possible.
You know, of course, that there are four different Greek words for love, and we only get the one English word. But all four have different words in the Greek. There's a love for a family, a family love, storge. There's a love for your spouse who you marry romantically intimately. That's eros. Then there's the love, of course, that God loves us with, agape love, sacrificial love, the highest, purest love. This is 1 Corinthians 13 love. And then finally, the least understood because it's the least necessary love is phileo. You couldn't be here if there wasn't some storge. You have family. You, of course, have a need to, if our species is not to end, eros is going to continue to be a thing.
So you couldn't be here without eros then, as well. But phileo becomes, then, the least of the least necessary of the loves. We don't at surface see the value of friendship, of phileo. And so we have this love. And, of course, agape love is what makes all the other loves possible. It makes them operate at their highest, purest, sweetest best. But all of those kind of loves are wrapped up in this verse. Notice it. "If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you," telling you to go and worship other gods.
And then spoiler alert. Moses says, don't do that. Don't do that. Your attention please. What is Moses saying here? And where is there agape. Agape is the love that would keep you from following any of these other loves into putting something else in God's place. So Moses is saying, even if your storge love, your eros love, even if your phileo love tries to pull you away from agape love being the most important, don't do it. That would be idolatry. So let these other loves be at their best by letting agape love be the most important.
Now, that's awesome, and that's great teaching. But what I wanted you to notice is the phrase "your friend who is as your own soul". That's got some Aristotle vibes to it. Some translations, and if you have like the NIV, the New Living, it just says the closest friend. But the one we read is more true to the Hebrew. Because literally, it's, or if your friend who is as your own soul tells you to do it. And I love that little description because it gives us some sense of insight, and you know it when you experience it, into the power of friendship. This is exhibited in David and Jonathan's relationship in 1 Samuel 18. When they met, there was this sense in which "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul". This is phileo. This is like what is happening here? Are our souls connected?
There's some brotherhood bond here, but you're not my family. So why, oh, it's phileo. This is also what we see in Ruth and Naomi's relationship. Ruth, chapter 1 verse 16, when Ruth says to Naomi, who is not her blood family, and there's no connection between them anymore now that Naomi's son, Ruth's husband, is dead. But she says to her, don't you dare urge me to leave you, to turn back from you. Look at it. Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. They're going to have to find a place to bury me in Israel because I ain't going back to Moab. You're now my people. There's a sense in which there's this ride or die that comes from a friend who is as your own soul. Oh, that was great for David and Jonathan, Levi. That's wonderful for Ruth and Naomi. But what about us today living in 2023.
Well, that's what I want to talk to you about. I want to talk to you about friendship in the 21st century because there are some unique challenges that friendship has that is working against it In our day because we are more portable than we've ever been. Throughout most of human history, you ended up dying not far from where you were born. You didn't walk around back in the day being like where are you from? Where are you from? I'm from right over there. That's where I was born. You know me. We've lived next to each other all of our lives. But we're so portable today. And it is more affordable than it's ever been to go live wherever you want to go. I mean, it was so difficult back in the day if you wanted to go to Europe and live abroad. You had to get on a ship, and it would take months. And even if you could afford that, I mean, it was so prohibitive.
I mean, during the potato famine, people fleeing Ireland because there was no food. They had to get on these coffin ships that they had to scrape every penny together to even be able to afford. They called them coffin ships because of how many people died on these boats. Just the hope of life in a new world, and it took months this dangerous ocean crossing. Now, it's, I'm not saying it's easy. But if you want to, you can go live somewhere else. You can get a Southwest Airlines ticket. You can take your life into your own hands and go Allegiant if you want to. I mean, see what I'm saying. But there's also Amtrak. And there's also Euro rail. You can get on, I mean, you can live somewhere else. We are more portable. And people are taking advantage of that, travel and the idea of I'm going to start over new someplace.
That would have been foreign for most of human history. That works against friendships. It turns out when you live in a camper van and you work remotely, you don't put down great roots, shockingly. When your scenery is constantly changing, we've kind of almost returned to a nomadic kind of way of life, as many people just kind of just breeze in, breeze out. I live here this season. I live there that season. I just, I follow the snow, or I follow the waves, or I just need a Wi-Fi connection in a coffee shop where I can do my work. But then I can live wherever I want to live. That works against friendships. There's lots of connectedness in our day, but perhaps, there are fewer connections than ever before because there's the illusion of friendship, which is sort of like the mirage you see in the desert. Oh, there's water. There's palm trees. Not true. Not true.
But we're connected to everybody. And Facebook even introduced this phraseology of friends. Because now I'm connected to you on some level, so surely we must be friends. And this idea this notion of phileo love has sort of been hijacked. Added to that, there's the problem of celebrity in our day because we feel like we're friends with these people. But guess what? Taylor Swift doesn't know who you are. She doesn't. I know you know what she did last week. I know you know what kind of cookies she likes. I know you know the names of her cats. She knows nothing about you. You're not her friend. And Travis Kelce is not coming to the hospital with a casserole if you get hurt. So it's very weird how much we know about these people who don't know us back, who don't know us back.
So celebrities kind of introduced this idea, like we're following as though we are friends. And we kind of do feel like we're friends with them. But there's not real friend, it's the illusion of friendship because of how connected we are and how we follow the exploits of other people. Isn't it weird that you might know more about Selena Gomez than you do the very people in your life? You might know more about the random football player you follow, or the greatest hunter whose exploits you follow. But the actual people in your life, you know very little about them. You could tell us less about their last week or month or year than someone who actually is connected to you with flesh and blood. We have entertainment options that can keep us sort of in this medicated coma inside of our homes. And Hulu ran out of stuff to watch.
And now, it's telling, I'm just telling, we'll switch over to Max. Oh, there's nothing on Max? Well, guess what? I got Netflix. I got I got backup options, OK? I am never going to actually pay attention to how I really feel when I could just watch things all day. What about when you get hungry? How will you leave this medicated cocoon of media? I'm not going outside. It's too cold. And it really is. It's shockingly, horrifically cold out. I just would like to say I am appalled by how cold it is outside. I'm scarred. I'm angry. I'm sad. And then I get hungry. So I just get, well, I'm going to DoorDash. I'm not going to a restaurant. You going to talk to the DoorDasher. No, I won't. I will only proceed from my lair when I see on my ring camera they are gone. I might wave at them as they drive off, but that is as much social contact as I'm getting today, people. How crazy life is that kind of a life is possible.
We're back in the matrix, bro, just eating out of our belly button. Num num goes here. It's like just swimming around with our VR goggles on, giving us the idea of this is real. This is real life. And so for all of these reasons, there are some challenges to love you like I love my own soul. Where you go I go. Where you get buried, by a plot for me next to it kind of friendship that feels like, what the heck happened? Did one soul get put mistakenly into two bodies? Because friendship, we said last week in the first half of this sermon, is in peril. And that's to our detriment because of how powerful friendship is. We spent some of the sermon last week talking about just the power of it. We could say that the Bible warns you, "Woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up".
That's an important thought to think about, Ecclesiastes 4:10. Who's there to catch you when you fall? It turns out friendships are more than just the spice of life. It's nice. It's not just this luxury thing. It's actually a necessity. It's something God wants you to experience the fullness of, even spiritually, especially spiritually speaking. And we kind of, again, why is friendship in peril? Even within Christianity, have this mistaken notion that it's just all about me and my own personal walk with God. I don't know about all the church because there's drama, and I've been hurt. And there's messed up people, and they smell bad. But, no, no. No no. Your relationship with God is intended to be experienced communally. Did not Jesus say, "For where twp or three are gathered together in my name", this is Matthew 18:20, "I am there in the midst of them".
So there are aspects to your relationship with God you will never be able to experience all by yourself. God sets the solitary into families. He wants there to be the power of fellowship. Koinonia is the word in the Greek. And that's why he experience, that's why he created you with deficiencies, so that the interlocking pieces of other people might bring them together. And Adam wasn't lonely, we said last week, quoting Tim Keller, because he was imperfect. Adam was lonely because he was perfect, perfect, but created to crave something that God had a cure for. God had a cure for the solitude, the relationship piece with other humans. And so for that reason, we can say safely friendship is possible. God wouldn't create you to crave anything that a solution does not exist for it. You're thirsty. There's water. You're hungry. There's food. You're tired. There's beds.
You see, you get sexy. There's sex. So everything we have a desire for, there's a righteous fulfillment of that desire. So we are lonely people. And we're seeing in our day the effect of loneliness, which is at epidemic levels because of all the reasons that we mentioned living in this 21st century. So what do we need to do? We need to fight to get to what he created us to crave, and that is friendship, phileo love. Friendship is possible. Possible, though, is not the same as easy. Possible is not the same as easy. This is so important because we're living in a life where everything is easy, really. So many things have gotten easier and easier and easier. Friendship is possible, but it's hard. And because it's hard, many of us walk away from it thinking it must then be impossible, or even worse, that it must be bad. What I'm trying to say is it's possible, but it's going to take work. It's possible, but it's not going to happen easy.
I'm reminded of Admiral James Stocksdale, who was taken captive as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War that took place throughout, in the '60s and '70s. And for 7 and 1/2 years he found himself as a captive. And he noticed some things leading his men through this time of captivity. The ones who did not make it out to get back home were the ones who had this naive optimism. It's just, we're going to get home. They would just buoyantly like come into like the, it's OK, guys. We're going to get home. I have a feeling we're going to get home. He said, those ones never made it through this. The ones who kept going, we'll probably be home by Christmas. Hey, everyone think together, Christmas. We're going to be home by Easter. We're going to be home by Easter. Those ones did not do well. He said, those who did well had a realistic appreciation for the difficulty of the task that lay in front of them, but had a never say die belief that no matter what it takes, we're getting out of this.
That, it's been said, is the ingredient, the concoction, the tension, the two truths held in tension. This may not be easy. But no matter what, we're going to get through this. I see in that the power that it takes to stay happily married over the course of a lifetime. Now, Levi, are you comparing marriage to being a POW. Hey, it depends on the day, OK? It entirely, sometimes the food's better, but it can be difficult. But what I'm saying is those who go through marriage just with this rosy, we fell in love, and we don't care who knows it. We finish each other's sandwiches, so it's going to be, nothing's more powerful than the flames of our love. Yikes. That's the we're going to get home by Easter. It's not enough to make it through the difficulties.
And a marriage has to mature. There has to get to the true levels of it that are possible when you continue to love and serve someone repenting of your sin and continuing to die daily to yourself. And you watch the sort of chemistry and the initial puppy love, which really, the honeymoon phase they say on paper lasts about two years. And the real test is, what do you do when that ends? Do you go off to find someone else to have puppy love for? Because let me just play out your life as it continues, that's going to continue to repeat itself. Or do you let it deepen and stay in those oak barrels and eventually have something to be desired as it ages into something beyond just the chemistry and the initial spark. As it is in marriage, so it is when it comes to friendship. That is to say, it being possible does not make it easy. But that actually should make it more desirable and not less.
So what I want to do with you is to ask the question, do you despise the days of small things when it comes to your friendships? Because Zechariah 4:10 says, "Who dares despise the days of small things"? And the answer to that question, every freaking one of us despises the days of small things. I'm going to get healthy. All right. I'm going to get on that elliptical. I despise this. I loathe this. Look down at the thing, and I'm working my little heart out. I'm huffing and puffing like Thomas the little engine that could or whatever. And I'm like, gosh, 74 calories? That's half of a power bar, and I ate two power bars fueling up for the stupid exercise. I'm actually at a deficit because I worked out. Who needs this? McDonalds. You know what I'm saying? We despise the days of small things. And so it is in friendship. OK, I'm going to try. I'm going to put myself out there. It didn't go so good. Ah, screw this. I'll go back to my Netflix, cave back to my DoorDash safety.
Who's afraid, we could say, of the days of small talk? The days, you don't get to the deep talk without going through the small talk. But I'm encouraged by the example of Jesus, who it's been said performed a lot of miracles, walking on water, water into wine, feeding 5,000, amazing miracles. But one of the least appreciated miracles is that he had 12 close friends in his 30s. That's a miracle. He's a man with 12 close friends in his early 30s. But how did he get there? Because he got to a really great place. He got to the end where at dinner everyone's swearing they're his ride or die. And you know what? Every single one of the apostles who made it through to the day of Pentecost did give their lives for Jesus, except for the apostle John. So they, how did he end up with such close friends? Well, it was early awkward beginnings.
There's so much throughout the, when you're reading the stories of the Gospels. You're like, dude, these guys didn't get along. They didn't understand what was going on. But it began this, I'll die for you, John lying at his bosom, a friend who loved Jesus and Jesus loved him like his own soul. It started with just this small talk. The disciples asked Jesus, where are you staying? He's like, come and see. Like, it was just this early walking by, hey, do you want to come? Come follow me. Leave the tax collectors thing. To Jesus, hey, you want to, to Peter, do you want to be a fisher of men?
So it began, it didn't begin where it ended. Do you see that? A lot of us don't ever get in our friendships to where they could be because we're stopped because of where they are right here. But if you just keep with it, if you just stick with it, you can get to where Jesus said at the end of his life, just before he went to the cross. Look at it, John 15:15. No longer do I call you servants. I have called you friends. It took time, but it got there. It got to a great place. So the question then becomes, how do I be a good friend? How do I be a good friend? You have to first of all take the initiative. Take the initiative. Proverbs chapter 18, verse 24 says, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly". And it can get to a place where there's a friend who sticks closer than a brother. That's the end in mind.
How does it start? Well, hey, you got to be friendly. I love this because it brings it back down to you having agency. It's easy to walk away and go, no one was friendly there. No one was nice to me there. I left that church. Why? Wasn't a friendly church. Were you friendly? A church is just people, and we're as strong as our weakest link. So if you want to have friends, it's back on you, buster. You have to choose to be friendly. Someone has to take the initiative. You know Gabrielle Reece did in the early 2000 for women's beach volleyball what Shaun White did for men's snowboarding, what Tiger Woods did for golf, what Lance Armstrong, too soon, did for professional cycling. She really brought it to the bleeding edge of popularity. And everyone was kind of following, and it launched this kind of bigger life.
I read an interview recently with Gabrielle Reece. She's married to Laird Hamilton, who's a big wave professional surfer and, claim to fame, he's the one who following his celebrity life from a distance, Laird doesn't know who I am, got me into cold plunging and hot sauna. So you're welcome. Anybody who's ever been dragged into my cold plunge, you have Laird Hamilton and Gabrielle Reece to thank for this. But basically, she was asked, what's something that's helped you out in life that maybe other people would need to hear, by Tim Ferriss. And she said, I've just decided to be the one to go first. I've decided to be the one to go first. And he says, what do you mean go first? I love this.
She said, I just, I mean by that if I'm checking out at the store, I'll say hello first. If I come across somebody and make eye contact, I'll smile first. She says, I've been experimenting with that in life just a little bit at a time. Not all times, but most times, it ends up in your favor. She then says, I was at the park the other day. My kids were playing. There was these two other women who were a little bit older than me standing there, on surface looks, we had nothing in common. I walked by them, turned around, looked at them and smiled. And she said immediately, a smile of relief came over their faces. The realization is people are ready, but everyone's kind of just waiting for someone to go first because we're being trained in this world to opt out. Nobody's going first anymore. That's what scripture is saying. You want to have friends?
Be friendly. Go first. Come on. Let's take that initiative. Let's not wait for someone else to notice us. Let's not wait for someone else. What relief's going to come when you be the kind of a person who walks into a room and just says, hey, there you are. Hey, what's going on. Hey, I see you. You want to have friends, you got to be friendly.
So take the initiative. Then, be vulnerable. As friendships progress, what's going to take them to the next level is you having an anti-social media mindset. Because social media is basically all built around this idea of we show the best, hide the rest. Every photo you see on Instagram, just think of the 30 on their camera roll that are going to get deleted because they were not deemed good enough. Oh, no. That's not true. I have my vulnerable posts. We know that because you wrote "vulnerable post colon". And then now comes a carefully calculated algorithm-smashing vulnerability that's all been sanitized. So now, we can't even trust even our vulnerable post moments. Is this real talk? Is this not the truth? So the problem is this is the highlight reel mentality of social media, we then apply it to real life. And you know what happens in real life? The blooper reels of the movie.
So you have to embrace that a little bit. You're not going to have great friendships unless you just say, hey, there's going to be some blooper reel moments. Blooper reel moments, I said the wrong thing. Blooper reel moments, I put my foot in my mouth. In those moments, we get red-faced, and we get embarrassed, and it didn't go so good. So we kind of like, again, our tendency is to run away from that. But don't resist that. Embrace the fact that power comes through weakness. That's our kingdom, the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated. 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness".
So as friendships progress, and, again, this is not immediate. This is where we're wanting to get to, a place where within those friendships there can be actual vulnerability. Come on, enough with the church talk. How are you doing? So good. Great. Yeah, you're doing great? Great. Everything's great. Yeah because everything's perfect because you have a halo. No man, because God's good all the time, and all the times God's good. Enough with all that. Where's the place where we can actually tell people that we love and are connected to, here's what's really going on. And I'm not going to be afraid that my mess and my weakness is going to repulse you. In fact, there's going to be a lot of sense of I'm not the only one who feels that way. You do as well. Let's talk about it. So we need to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable, to be exposed in that way, not curating what we're willing to show people in community.
Number three, look for ways to add value. Look for ways to add value. It's possible, but you're going to have to look for, take good notes in your mind. As you're meeting people, as you're talking to people, think as they're saying things. Who do I know who could help you with the problem that you've just admitted to having? How can you be a connector? Hey, I noticed you mentioned this. I want, I got to introduce you to my friend. He does that, the amazing things that can happen when you're just looking for ways to add value. That's how friendships are formed because your gifts that you have, that you're strong in, aren't going to necessarily be for me and vice versa. So as we have a budding relationship, we need to look for ways to add value. Proverbs 18:16, "A man's gift makes room for him and brings him before great men".
And this is an opportunity you have in the friendship phase to ask the question, what can I do that would actually help you out in some way? And that's kind of intuitive because we get it. It makes sense to me. Someone that I've done something for going to look favorably on me. And that's true. Proverbs 19 says that, "Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts". Maybe the harder part then is the reverse of this. How to build a friendship by being willing to be on the receiving end of that? That's the harder one. We're all looking, oh, I've got to introduce you to so-and-so. Let me open that door for you. Is there something I could do for you?
Oh, hey. What's this handwritten thank you note and this little gift that showed up after we met? Yeah, well, you mentioned you like this, and just, I know a place that does a great job at doing that. Here's just a little thing. That's a simple, easy, we can all do this. This isn't rocket science. The harder thing, though, is when someone offers, hey, you. I noticed you mentioned you're having a real hard time with your golden retriever. I know of a great invisible fence. And hey, I'd come over, and we could dig that thing, you see what I'm saying? And they say that to you. And you're like, oh, no, no, no, no. You see what I'm saying? All of our pride kicks in. And then you'd see my house, and I won't have time to clean it up. And you're going to actually see what I didn't show you on my vulnerable post on Tuesday because that's when the algorithm said, vulnerable posts do particularly well between 4:00 and 6:00 PM, when all the soccer moms get off of, you see what I'm, like, you're just going to come in, so being on the receiving end of someone helping you out, being willing to receive help from somebody else.
And in saying all of these things, there's an icky version and a good version. In all of these things, there's a manipulative version, a smarmy version. There's a hard sell vacation rental on holiday pitch version of all of this that people can smell. But if your motives are pure, and you're seeking to do it to bless, and there's no sense of like quid pro quo and transactional, I did this, and now you kind of owe me. You know, Dwight Schrute and Andy trying to both give each other favors so that they can both, no, you owe me. Now, you owe, Of course, that's not what we're talking about. These are, but these are how friendships get built. We bless each other. We help each other. And then we watch certain things click. We get to see and wait for those moments where you kind of notice like Jonathan and Ruth.
Ah, there's some sense of soul connection here, but it's trial and error. So don't be afraid to get into the lab a little bit. Ultra important, read the room. You want to have friends? Read the room. And if you missed me when I said it a moment ago, read the room. Social smarts cannot be overstated. John Rockefeller had this thing that he did. He would take guys golfing. Richest guy in the world at one point, he would take guys golfing. And he just wanted to kind of have friendships. But he had a rule that he didn't tell anybody. It was an unspoken rule. If you brought up work, or if you asked for a job or a favor for so-and-so, or you asked for a loan, or you sort of subtly hinted a little funding for your dream thing, you would never get invited back again. You were just, you were crossed off the list of golf.
He was looking for people who could just golf with him and just be in the moment and actually read it, and those were the people that he began to confide in and trust and who knew the moment, that he wasn't there to have a meeting. He wasn't there to do any Shark Tank investment. He was there because he really liked golfing. So we have to get better at reading the room, knowing what people are actually about. This is Proverbs 27:14, "He who blesses his friend with a loud voice rising early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse unto him". And they say the Bible ain't practical. Is this person an early bird or a night owl? And are they caffeinated enough yet? You know what I'm saying? Like, just what's going on here? Ah, this person seems to back away slowly whenever I walk towards them. Maybe I'm doing something that is annoying.
So reading the room means not overdoing it, not coming on too strong. Maybe because we're so socially starved for friendships in our celebrity bubble of media and consumption, that when we actually do start to make friends, we overdo it by just wanting to cover 20 years of friendship in like two weeks, leaving someone with just whiplash. Like, whoa, whoa. Slow your roll. We just met, and I gave you, And now you're like, well, here's what we're going to do Tuesday. And then we're going to make snow angels. And then it's just like, whoa, whoa. Whoa, whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I'm Homer Simpson backing into the bushes. Do you see me? What's your social security number? It's like, whoa. Are you in my lawn right now looking in through my window? There's stalker behavior.
Proverbs 25:17, "Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house, lest he become weary of you and hate you". We don't want to have that impact on people. We want to sort of leave them wanting more. You get invited to someone's house, the art of knowing when the night's over, when the host sort of stands up and says, well, thank you for coming. That's your cue to go. It's like, it's not, like, well, I'd love more coffee if anyone's having any. It's like, it's a Tuesday. They have to work tomorrow. Just mellow, right? This is just so important. I was talking with Lennox this week. We were splitting kindling off of logs for firewood. And he was like, why do we need to do this? We have so many logs. I'm like, you can't shove these big logs into a little fire. It'll smother it. It'll suffocate it.
So it takes the little kindling, and a little bit bigger. And then eventually, the flame will be so powerful it can handle that big log. But I think some of us are trying to leap forward two decades out of our camper van friendship that we just formed into this beautiful thing that will be there to stabilize us in the hardest trials of life. But that friendship is weak. You can't handle that kind of flame. And it won't work if you repot the tree and move it to a new nursery every two years. It will not work if you just keep on with this nomadic life, where every time any difficult thing ever shows up, you're on to the next thing because there just, it was dramatic over there. No, you just were adverse to any conflict, any difficulty, and you didn't persist through the hard things to get to what you actually want there to be. So read the room.
Give what you want. What do you want? Well, that's what I tried to do. I gave everybody what I wanted. No, no, no. You don't want that. You want people to take the time to figure out your love language and become fluent in your love language. That's what you want. You should ask the question in your friendships, what do they want? And me giving that will actually open up for me, me getting what I want, which is to be noticed and appreciated that I took the time to speak someone else's love language will help open up the case for me to get mine met because it's an upside down kingdom. We don't get by demanding we get by giving. If you just start trying try to take, it will be taken from you. But you give, you lay down, you will often get what you want when you give what they need. So you have to ask the question, what is it that my friends want? What is it that their friendship would have them receiving from me? And how can I be the kind of person who gives what's needed. And this changes from day to day, and it changes from season to season, doesn't it?
Proverbs 25:20, "Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather and like vinegar on soda is the one who sings songs to a heavy heart". So just because in one season they loved that song, doesn't mean they're not hurting today where that would be grating to them. So it takes intuition. It takes empathy. It takes work. All of this is not instant turnkey gratification. Most importantly, friendships are possible, but you're going to need to trust the Holy Spirit. This is my favorite because I get to take the pressure off of you, of this misinformed notion that you're to be friends with everybody. Hear me. The Holy Spirit has in mind certain relationships that are to be those love as your own soul kind of friendships. And you need to be listening and paying attention when those nudges happen. And shocking idea, have you prayed, God would you show me what friendships I'm to invest in? Because your soul does not have the capacity to have that kind of intimacy with a large group of people.
You see this in the life of Jesus. Jesus had 70 commissioned preachers he would send out, out of a pool, a greater pool of some 500 who believed and followed him. And out of that 70, were shrunk down to those who he could actually know and send out on mission. And out of that, there were 12 that he was close friends with. This is kind of like a Fresh Life group, kind of like a small group or a team approach. There's 12, and we can have vulnerability to a degree. But out of that 12, he was so wise, only three in that group actually got the kind of real soul access to him, Peter, James, and John. I think this is a model for us that it's not unloving to know how to put people in their place.
Now, I know we use that in a very pejorative, very negative way. But the Holy Spirit has your similar paradigm, that there are going to be some hopefully, praise God, 12 people that you're really kind of close to. They're your friends. They're your people. And out of that 12, there are going to be three who are your Peter and your James and your John. And the Holy Spirit needs to free you to find those. And that means that other people are not that for you, and that's OK. And that's not bad, and that's not unloving. C.S Lewis said, and I love this, "I have no duty to be anyone's friend, and no man in the world has a duty to be mine". You have to hear from God and know what your duty is to do what he's called you to do. Paul said the same thing, Romans 13:8, "Owe no one anything except to love one another. For he who loves another has already fulfilled the law".
So I can love you, but not be friends with you. All right? Nice woman came up to Jennie the other day, goes I feel like we're best friends. Because you've heard all my sermon illustrations and you read my book, we're not friends. But I love you. You're my sister in Christ, and I love you. I do have friends. That's not a bad thing that you're not my friend. And it would be so setting you up for disappointment to think I'm going to be able to act like a friend to you just because God's called me to minister and bring God's word to you. You need friends. And you need to owe it to everybody in the body of Christ to just simply love them. And that means, here's the cool thing, you can be friendly without having that pressure of you're my soul friend. And you need your few friends, and the Holy Spirit will speak to you on that issue. But you don't have, it's a capacity issue, really. You don't have the capacity to be friends with everybody that you're connected to, which is now more than ever a lot of people. OK? All right.
So friendships, that's the first half of the sermon, are possible. But buyer beware. They're also painful. They are painful. And so it's not just camper vans and high-speed internet that makes friendships hard. It's that they hurt sometimes. They hurt. And I've narrowed down two reasons why friendship is painful. Thus, why some of us are predisposed to not even open ourselves up to all that difficulty. The two reasons are friendships are painful because they go wrong. Sometimes they go wrong. You thought you knew a guy. You thought you had the right choice. And then they ended up stabbing you in the back. They ended up betraying you. They ended up gossiping about you, and you found out later. This happens to everybody, everybody.
One of the books I've been reading this year, really slowly working through, is a biography on Ulysses S. Grant. And I picked him because I know nothing about him. I literally, I was like, I know he smokes a cigar sometimes. I knew about his horse. I knew the baseball card stuff. I was like, I really want to get to know this great leader as best as I can. And so I was reading this book, and so much that he went through that was difficult and hard and challenging. And at the end of the biography, he was, the author says, Ulysses S. Grant was asked at the end of his life in all that you went through and experienced, what was the most painful part of your life? That's a crazy question, considering he was the commanding general during the Civil War. How many people under his command died that he would have to lose? That's painful. His daughter, while he was president of the United States, got married to a Brit.
And so Ulysses didn't want it to happen, didn't like the idea. But she fell in love. And, of course, what he feared, he cried all through the ceremony in the White House. This guy wanted her to live in England with her. So the sadness and pain of his daughter moving. Don't you get any ideas, Lesko girls, who are listening in on this sermon. He was sad that it was painful to have his daughter live abroad. And the guy ended up being a bad guy, and betrayed his daughter and was a philanderer all around the world, and the marriage did not go well. So that was painful. Agreed? He had an alcohol problem, Grant did. Turns out, he had a real difficult time with drink. And Abraham Lincoln was asked about it. Why can you trust this guy to run our North through the war, the nation through the war? He's an alcoholic. And he goes, I'll tell you, if I find any other generals that do as well as he do, I will send barrels of alcohol to them, too.
Lincoln was like, the positives outweigh the negatives. But it was hard because even when there were seasons of his life when his addiction was in control, under control, then there was rumors about the alcohol. And all his political opponents would just say, oh, the drunk, the drunk. You can't trust the drunk. Is that it painful? That's painful. Oh, how about the fact that he was friends with Lincoln, who was assassinated. Can you see where I'm going? Grant experienced some pain, which is why I was surprised when the question was asked, what was the most painful thing you experienced in your eventful life? And he responded, and I quote, "To be deceived by a friend". To be deceived by a friend. His own secretary in the White House turned out to be a rat.
There's this big scandal, ironically, called the Whiskey Ring scandal. Because I don't know how much you know, but, I'll tell you all day about Grant. I love this guy. I have a man crush for days on this guy, love him like my own soul. I'm joking. He, Lincoln paid for the Civil War by putting a huge tax on whiskey. But then after the war the tax had not been removed yet, but it was super susceptible to corruption because people could, for favors, say that the tax due had been paid when it hadn't, but then siphon a lot of money off for doing that favor. And they suspected someone close to Washington, DC was involved at a very high level. And when rumors began to circulate that maybe, just maybe, it was President Grant's secretary, he said no, no. This guy is true blue. He's the real deal. And he was actually taken to trial, and Grant volunteered to give testimony on behalf, And everyone said, you can't do that. President can't go do, and he said, no, I'm doing it for this guy because he's my, I will die for this guy. He's my real deal friend. So he did. The guy got off.
And right after the fact found out the guy was completely a snake in the grass and that had been lying and double-dealing the entire way right under President Grant's nose. And that betrayal he counted the most difficult thing he endured in this life. King David agreed. David went through some difficult things, some hard days. And yet, David, in Psalm 55, said, "It is not an enemy who reproaches me. That I could bear. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me. That I could hide, then I could just hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We used to take sweet counsel together, walking to the House of God in the throng".
What is he talking about? He's talking about that pain that we all know if we've been betrayed. He had this friend named Ahithophel. And when there was high treason against David by his own son, he said it was actually the sting of Ahithophel's betrayal that hurt even worse than his natural family, storge, turning against him, that it was his brother from a different mother, Ahithophel, who picked Absalom's side in the fallout that stung more than anything. He said, I can handle enemies. I've been having enemies come at me since Goliath. Hello. But to have someone who I thought was one way end up being another way, well, that hurts, doesn't it? It's the "Et tu, Brute," that rings out throughout history, that Jesus himself experienced through the betrayal of Judas and the kiss of deceit, and that Paul, the apostle, who we said last week as he preached, he would tell everybody where he went, about his friends that helped him do what he did, the sting of that.
Look at it in 2 Timothy 4. Paul is at the end of his life, and he says, "for Demus has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica". This is hard because Paul is about to have his head cut off. And when you read Colossians, he says, hey, Demus, says hi. Demus says hi. But now he's like, I'm all alone. No one's with me. Why? Because I got forsaken by this Demass, I mispronounced that. My bad. But that's the emotion, isn't it? Demus had said, Paul, I'm with you. I am with you. I am with you. I am with you. But then when Paul got arrested, Demus started to get scared that maybe he would end up in difficulty. So he bolted for Thessalonica, and that's hard. And this is not the first time Paul went through that. Paul was preaching once, and he brought along a young man named John Mark because he was this guy who had all this faith.
I want to go with you, Paul. I want to be your friend. And so they go out and do this. And the moment it got difficult on the missionary journey because there's the Pinterest idea of what ministry is like, and then there's the reality. The moment it got difficult, what did John Mark do? He bolted. He bailed. And that's hard to sort out. Now, here's, let's just separate Christianity from cults. In a cult, if someone leaves the cult, no one in the cult still is allowed to have any communication with them. They've become the apostate. They've become the outsider. They're to be rejected. If you see them in the street, you shun them. You unfollow them. That's not how we're supposed to be in the body of Christ, right? Can we be clear? If someone's left Fresh Life, we want you to still have friendship with them. We want you to still love them. That's not the heartbeat at all.
That being said, you don't see Paul with Demus like, hey, but next time in Thessalonica let's get a latte. You know what I'm saying? Like, there's a sense in which there's this betrayal now has caused Paul to need to have a boundary, and that's not unloving. And the same thing is true with John Mark. When John Mark bolted from the mission, later on Barnabas tried to bring John Mark up again. Let's maybe give him another shot. And Paul said, over my dead body. And Paul and Barnabas, two good friends, actually ended up with animosity over it. Why am I saying all this? Because I'm trying to say it's confusing. Even under the best of circumstances, there is a messiness to it.
But what I would I'd say to you is that you have to continue to let people close, even when you've been hurt, even when it's been hard, even when you've been stung by that kind of pain, that you would not armor up, that you would not keep everybody at arm's length waiting to get wounded, hoping to get hurt, making everybody else in your life guilty for sins that somebody else committed, and to continue to have the sweetness of spirit for people in relationships in your life, even though there are hard things that are going to come. And I do love, by the way, to kind of end Demus's story, that by the end, we don't know about him. But we know about John Mark. By the end of Paul's ministry, he actually says, would you get John Mark and send him to me, for he is useful.
So apparently, Paul was able to reassess a boundary that at one season needed to be pretty secure and open it up again to give John Mark himself another chance. But all this is to say that the table stakes for friendship is pain. And that's when they go wrong because they will at times for you and for me. But there's also a second source of pain and that is the pain of friendships going right. The friendship that goes right will cause pain for you as well. Why? Well, because vulnerability hurts. It hurts to let people in. It hurts to be willing for them to see you. It hurts your ego to admit that you need help, and that you need prayer, and that you need someone that can cry with you and sit with you. You also are going to go through the pain of honesty, honesty meaning you hopefully will allow people, the right people, close enough in your life to say what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.
Listen to me. If you only allow people in your life who tell you what you want to hear, you don't have true friends. Joab, 2 Samuel 11, David's off the rails, man. He's having this adulterous affair with Bathsheba. And he's fixing, he's plotting a plan to make it much, much worse. And he talks about it with his friend, Joab. And Joab does everything that David asks him to do. He does nothing to say bro, no. That comes in the next chapter, 2 Samuel 12, when a true friend, when someone who truly cared about David told him something that hurt, something that stung, something that put a mirror up in front of his life about what he was about to do by saying, you've done wrong. You've sinned. And that stung.
So if we're going to put the right people in our life, sometimes it's going to be unpleasant. There's going to be difficult conversations. And every single time it happens is an opportunity to leave the relationship because that's hard and go start over new with someone else who's less drama. Or persist through the difficulty and get your relationship to another level. And I think, again, as a microcosm of that friendship, my relationship with Jennie, and then in the 19 years, the difficult nights and the bitter fights and the challenging moments that would for sure have been chance for us to go, well, then, we're incompatible, but to allow instead those differences to propel us to another level. And the same is true in friendship.
How do we get to that kind of "love you like I love my soul" friendship. We persist through enough difficulties to level up our friendship enough to where the pain, the sting, and the challenge at times of loving rebuke gets us to where we want to be. We have some serious equity in the friendship account. There's another reason, though, that friends hurt, and it's the fact that when you let someone close enough in to love you, anything they go through deeply affects you. Galatians says, "Carry one another's burdens, and in so doing, fulfill the law of Christ". If I love you like I'm supposed to love you, when the Holy Spirit says to both of us we're to pursue this friendship, there are going to be times when I have to watch you hurt. And what am I going to do? I'm going to let you be helped. How am I going to do that? By hurting with you. Think about Jesus when the woman touched him. Virtue went out of him. He was weaker, so she could get stronger.
That's a picture of friendship. And in your pain, I'm going to walk away. There's going to be anguish that I feel because I'm helping you carry your burden. So for all of these reasons and many others, friendships are painful. And I only tell you that so that you have full disclosure. And I want you to buy this thing without some due diligence, without knowing what you're getting into. But with that all said and every bit more, I still say to you with all of my heart, they're worth it. They're worth it. They're worth it. A Harvard study was done. It was begun in 1938, and we're in the height of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, this dark, hard chapter in our history. And some scientists, some sociologists at Harvard University said, we should study what makes people happy. And the best way to do this would be to track people for their entire lives. And then look at what was different about their lives and if there's any commonality in the happiest, healthiest group.
Sounds good. The only problem is the researchers will die or retire, and who's going to carry on their work? But they launched this project, the Harvard Study of Adult Development. And they got this group, 724 men, half of them were going to come from Harvard University. That group included John F. Kennedy, by the way. And the other half was going to come from a sampling of the poorest neighborhoods in the inner city district of Boston. And they found the tenements.
Now, think about it. In the Great Depression, you have people living in hovels without running water, and they found half of the group from that sampling. So these two, as different as you could possibly be, wealth, privilege, opportunity, Ivy League, all of the things. This group over here, man, very bleak possibility for better lives. And they began tracking them. Well, the original researchers either died or retired, and the baton has successfully changed hands to the current one, who just released a book on this called The Good Life, is the fourth director of the program. And what they do is every two years they call each of these men and have an interview with them about their health, about every single detail of their life, and they compile it all. It's literally in human history the longest study on human thriving that's ever been done. There are still 59 of these men who are alive. They're in their 90s. And what they basically have is an accurate picture and an understanding of what leads to happiness.
And what's shocking is that how it has almost nothing to do with the number one, number two, number three things that most people, millennials and Gen Z alike, say that there are goals in their life, which usually are somewhere in this order, money, great job, ability to travel, being famous. These are almost always the top things. And they found that those who lived the longest, are the healthiest, and are the happiest, there's nothing of those things in common with them on this list. They say having a mansion on the beach is not what they have in common, the happy ones. Having a six-figure income, not, even good cholesterol. Shockingly, in your 40s and 50s, good cholesterol is not a predictor of are you going to be thriving and happy and healthy and living a very long life. Access to a country club, not on the list. College education, not even on the list at all. Those who are happy and healthy and thriving have good relationships plain and simple.
That is the one proven thing this study has found, having good friendships, having relationships in your family. It's not about more money. It's not about having the prestigious job. It truly simply boils down to friendships. The friendships, they say, seems to delay mental health and physical decline and are better predictors of long and happy lives than any other single thing. So, like I said a moment ago, hard, yes. Messy, for sure. Painful, 100. Worth it. But a word of warning before you go. I don't want you to rush out from this moment now and just be on a mission for friends. Any friends? Any friends?
Friends are important. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't want to die... I need a friend. Just be the thirstiest person in the whole world. You know, friends. Because friendship is not meant to be the end. And friendship actually never works when it's about friendship. Friendship must not be about friendship. In fact, God told me to put it to you this way, and then I'll explain. Let me just say it like God told me to tell you. For better or for worse, looking back from the end of your life, it is going to be what you gave your life to more than any other thing that determines the friends that you have. What you give your life to, the agape, that's going to determine the phileos that fall into place as an effect of following whatever or whoever you choose to give your life to.
In the book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis puts it far more eloquently than I could when he said, and I quote, using words you could hardly ever imagine writing today and publishing, if anyone from Thomas Nelson is listening, "That is why those pathetic people", the snowflakes wouldn't like all that, right? "Those pathetic people who simply want friends can never make any. The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else besides friends. There would be nothing for the friendship to be about, and friendship must be about something. Those who have nothing can share nothing. Those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers".
So if you make having friends the goal, that's where you're going. What other travelers are you going to get? You're not going to get the kind of friends the friends you're looking for are themselves looking for. So let me use the words of Jesus's BFF, Peter, Jesus's bestie, Peter, who when Jesus gave him the chance, hey, man. Do you want to call it quits? Do you want to go away? Do you want to, do you want to bounce? Peter said, man, where else am I going to go? You alone speak the words of eternal life. So our application today isn't, all right, well, I'm going to go make friends. No, the application should be, challenging question, who have you bowed yourself down to? Who have you given your life to? Where are you going that's going to bring a fellow traveler?
If you give your life over to the making of money, or to being the highest or whatever, this endeavor that you want to give yourself to, being the best in class at that, you'll get fellow travelers towards that, but they won't be the kind of fellow travelers that you want at the end of your life. But if you bow yourself down to, like Peter said, you alone speak the words of eternal life. And then here's the trick. You get to look to your left and look to your right and see who else is doing that, and that should be the grid and the criteria by which you make, that's how I met Jennie. Jennie and I both gave our lives to Jesus. And we looked to the left and looked to the right. Hey, she's also doing that. Let's do that together.
That should be the same grid by which we, and here's the beautiful surprise. You're not going to end up with any friends quite like what you thought on paper you were most compatible with. The algorithm would never serve that up. What in common does Matthew, the tax collector, have with Simon, the zealot? I hate Rome. You work for Rome. We're not friends. Yeah, but we're both following Jesus. So it turns out we have a lot, we are fellow travelers. That's what you want your friendship, now, I'm not saying Jesus was a friend of sinners, love people, keep the light on for people, the hope for restoration. But who actually is going to be those two, three, those Peter, James, and John's that I let access to my soul? You better make sure you're heading in the same direction.
And so, Father, we do pray that our response to this message would be to re-up, or to up for the first time, our commitment to you and ask you to add the other things unto us. We're going to keep idolatry from our hearts, even the kind of idolatry that we would turn to to get a friend. Moses said, even if the friend who you love like a soul pulls you away from God, choose God. May every other love in our life look like hate compared to our love for you. And then, God, you will add to our lives the friendship and the family. And where those overlap, we hope it's beautiful, that we can even have the friendship within our families, with other people who have that same spirit and same mind.
If some part of this message touched you, and you would say, I needed to hear this today, and I wanted to specifically add perhaps you have a little whiplash from some relational pain that has kept you from letting people in. You've armored up your heart. What I want to say to you is the opposite of letting people in and getting hurt is going to be you don't let people in. And you're not going to find that your heart stays hurt-free. You're going to experience a different kind of hurt, the hurt of loneliness. So if you would say there's been some pain in my heart, and I want God to heal me from that and trust people again, could I just ask you to raise up a hand so I could pray for you.
God bless these. It's hard. It hurts, Lord, but I pray for your healing. I pray for your touch. I pray for your spirit. Help us to believe again. Start small, God, but keep diligently at it. And we will look back and see, I'm so grateful I kept investing. I'm so grateful I didn't pull that investment out. Thank you, Jesus. Would you touch these? Thank you for being the perfect friend to us. In Jesus' name.
You can put your hands down. I want to now invite those who have never trusted Christ for salvation to that all important decision. Every other thing we're talking about, it's something that we can sort out once we've nailed down our allegiance to Jesus as King. But if you're here today and you don't have that peace, that confidence, that promise that when you die you're going to go to heaven, I invite you to open up your heart to Jesus. And I can tell you on the authority of God's word if you come to him, he will not cast you out.
I don't care what you've done, where you've been, how much you've sinned, or how proudly you've adamantly said you would never do this. Jesus will come into your heart today if you invite him in. So with heads bowed and eyes closed, if you would say, I need to surrender my life to Jesus. Maybe you're listening in a correctional facility or some other bleak situation, listening in a hospital, God's word has come to you. The gospel can't be chained. So here now you can respond to the spirit and receive salvation. Every campus, every location, if you're ready to trust Jesus, I'm going to pray. I want you to pray this with me, out loud, after me, believing it in your heart. Church family say it with us:
Dear God. I know that I'm a sinner. I can't fix myself, but I believe you can. Please come into my heart. Make me new. I give myself to you.