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January 29, 2012
Remember just how importanta friend is? In examining God’s word, the very essence of His will can be heard in the statements of Jesus regarding the greatest commandments: “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). A life, pleasing to God, comes down to simply being a friend to God and being a friend for God in our relationships with others.
Notice the spelling of the word—F-R-I-E-N-D. When looking at the first two letters of the word, we find something to help us remember two of the most important aspects of being a friend. Use the “F” to remember that a friend is F-aithful. Use the “R” to remember that a friend is R-ighteous.
Faithful—like Daniel, who was never found negligent not corrupt in any dealings with any man. Even his enemies found him faithful. Righteous—like Abraham who was declared to be the friend of God as he was found to be doing the right things because he believed in God.
The next two letters within the word, friend, are no less helpful in instilling in us a remembrance and true understanding of the meaning of being a friend of God as well as a friend for God. Use the “I” to remember that a friend is I-nformed. Use the “E” to remember that a friend is E-ndearing.
We have studied about righteousness, that is, being found doing the “right things.” How can we ever know what the “right things” are? This is precisely why a real friend must be informed.
Being informed is “having or showing knowledge of a particular subject or situation” (Oxford New American Dictionary). Friends certainly know of one another’s circumstances. Have you ever noticed in police dramas that the police always want to interview the victim’s (or suspect’s) friends? Friends are often privy to information not available to others.
With whose information are we to be as familiar as friend? God and His information better be at the top of our list. How could we claim to be a friend of God and not be familiar with His words? How could we claim to be a friend to others yet not inform them of the words of God, also?
An example of an amazing friend is found in a man named Ezra. He lived in a very tumultuous time. So many things were changing around him. He lived during the reign of Artaxerxes of the Persian Empire. A remnant of the Jewish people who had been in exile after being taken by the Neo-Babylonian Empire, were getting to go home. Ezra was one of these people (Ezra 7:1). He was a scribe that possessed considerable skill and understanding in the Law of Moses which God had given (Ezra 7:6). God blessed him and His hand was upon him because he was informed.
How is it that Ezra came to be informed? He was informed because he decided that he should be informed of God’s word. He dedicated himself to it: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10). Truly, this man was friend of God and to others for God! He was informed in regard to God’s word, he put it into practice, then he made sure he informed others! Would that each of us were friends like Ezra.
Evidently, Ezra had taken Scripture such as the first Psalm to heart: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3).
The apostle Paul knew that Timothy was grounded in Scripture. Notice, though, how he reminds him and also reminds him to remind others, of the importance of being informed: “… Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness …” (2Timothy 2:11-16). Truly, a friend is one who is informed.
Endearing simply means “to cause to be loved” (ONAD). Isn’t a friend someone we think of as loved? We know God loves us (John 3:16), then the question becomes, “What do we do to cause others to love us?”
How was Paul described by fellow Christians? He, along with Barnabas, was described as beloved: “… it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 15:25-26). What had they done that caused love? They had risked their lives for the name of the Lord.
As we have already noted, Paul had a lot of friends he often referred to as faithful. What other word does he frequently use to describe them? Beloved. His friends treated him (and others) in such a way as to cause them to be loved. Just look at his friends in Rome. In the close of his letter to them, he uses the word “beloved” four times to describe them (Romans 16). They had endeared themselves to Paul.
Most wonderfully though, these Christians in Rome had endeared themselves to God. Paul reminds them of this very thing as he opens his letter to them: “ … to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). These saints lived what Jesus had spoken—”Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Once again we see that those who please God are true friends—friends of God and friends to others for God. A true friend is F-aithful, R-ighteous, I-nformed, and E-ndearing. We will do well to remember these characteristics. Go even further. Don’t just remember these characteristics—grow them.
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.