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February 5, 2012
Continue to thinkabout the characteristics of “friend.” Continue to think about the importance that God places on being a friend. Remember what His word says: “A friend loves at all times …” (Proverbs 17:17). 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 always being a friend TO God and being a friend FOR God in our relationships with others.
Using the letters F-R-I-E-N-D to assist in remembering biblical characteristics of “friend,” we think of “F-aithful” as was Daniel; he was not neglectful nor corrupt (Daniel 6:4). We also remember “R-ighteous” as was Abraham; since he believed God, he DID the right things (James 2:21‑24). We remember “I-nformed” as was Ezra; he was informed from God’s word and then informed others (Ezra 7:10). We remember “E-ndearing,” that is, “causing to be loved.” This is how Barnabas and Paul acted; they caused others to love them by being willing to even risk their lives to inform others of the name of Christ (Acts 15:25-26).
Grow in these first four characteristics. Let’s also learn characteristics in which to grow from the last two letters of our word, F-R-I-E-N-D.
Everyone likes to feel needed. That’s a good thing since friends are always needed. You will run into a few people now and then who will claim, “I don’t need anybody!” They may be trying to fool themselves, but the reality is that according to God, we NEED someone to love as we do ourselves. We certainly NEED God.
“I don’t need your help!” is an exclamation sometimes heard. There may be times when there are tasks we must do on our own, but everyone needs help. David is a great example. He had a tough time with King Saul. Even after Saul’s death, there was confusion, division, and disarray in the country. We know David was a friend of God—after all he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). We know that the Lord was with David: “David became greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts was with him.” (1Chronicles 11:9). What other help could he need? How could he even think of having other friends? David DID have need of friends from among his fellows. 1Chronicles 11-12 gives a long list of those who helped David “while he was still restricted because of Saul the son of Kish” (1Chronicles 12:1). In the same chapter we find, “For day by day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army like the army of God.” (1Chronicles 12:22). David indeed had friends—those who were ready to lay down their lives for David and the cause of God.
Paul was certainly a friend OF God. Did he ever need others who were his friends FOR God? That is the case without question. Notice the example of his friend Epaphroditus:
But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me. (Philippians 2:25-30).
What a friend! He was faithful. He was righteous. He was informed. He was endearing. He was needed. He was there for Paul. He was there for other Christians. He was there for God—even coming near death for the work of Christ.
This is the way, in the wisdom of God, the church has been designed:
And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1Corinthians 12:21-26).
The characteristic of dependability may seem to obviously needed in a friend. Perhaps it is, but then why are so many NOT dependable? True friends OF God and FOR God are extremely dependable.
Have you heard of Shelemiah, Zadok, Pedaiah, or Hanan? They are probably not the most familiar names from Scripture, but nonetheless, they important to God and their fellow man because they could be counted on. In the days when Nehemiah was bringing order back to those Jews returning from exile, he noticed that the Levites had not been cared for as required. He needed friends who were dependable to take care of this. “In charge of the storehouses I appointed Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and in addition to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered reliable, and it was their task to distribute to their kinsmen.” (Nehemiah 13:13). These men, noted for their dependability, were friends to God, to Nehemiah, to their kinsman and their people.
Peter admonishes us to remember that we can overcome the adversary because we can depend on God and we can depend on our faithful brothers and sisters with us in the world: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world … Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!” (1Peter 5:8-12). If we are not standing in the Lord, how dependable can we be?
Jesus is certainly our friend. We can depend on Him. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Jesus gave His life for us: “We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross.” (Acts 10:39). This is an interesting fact to remember: The word “hanging” referring to the method of Jesus’ death in this verse is actually the same word (kremannumi) as Jesus used for “depend” when He said, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:40). Imagine that! The whole Law and the Prophets depend on love and we can depend on Jesus because He died for us since He loved us!
No one needs to think that these characteristics of “friend” form a list from which to pick and choose. God is not satisfied with anyone who says, “I will be faithful, but not righteous” or “I know I am needed, but I am not dependable.” All must grow and continually develop every one of these characteristics.
Just notice what happens to the word “friend” if we simply remove the letter “r.” FRIEND becomes FIEND. What is “fiend”? From the Oxford New American Dictionary: “a wicked or cruel person; a person causing mischief or annoyance; ORIGIN: Old English, fēond [an enemy, the devil, a demon].
See what happens when the characteristic of “righteous” is removed? We change from a friend to an enemy. Where am I and where are you in our growth of truly being a friend OF God and FOR God?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.