The Value of a Friend
Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 (ESV) says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will life up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Paul writes in Ephesians 6:21-22; “Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage you.”
The apostle Paul often discusses the depth of his friendships in his New Testament letters. The verse above demonstrates how his “dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord,” knows everything about him. So much so that Paul is willing to entrust Tychicus with the task of faithfully sharing that important information with the church of Ephesus.
Yet before his conversion Paul was a man filled with bitterness and hate, then quickly transformed when confronted with the gospel. He moves from a place of upward momentum within the ranks of religious leaders, to an outcast whose conversion means he is now on the receiving end of punishments he previously participated in dishing out to Christians.
As Paul’s faith in his Savior grew, so did his list of friends. Paul lost material wealth and prestige but quickly grew relationally rich. Reading through Acts, Paul discusses his friends; Titus, Silas, Barnabas, Priscilla, Aquilla, Lydia, Onesiphorus, John Mark, and others. In Colossians 4 Paul’s list includes the doctor Luke, Demas, Epaphras, Mark (the cousin of Barnabas), Onesimus, and Paul’s fellow prisoner Aristarchus. In Romans 16 Paul mentions over 30 people, and his affection and love for them is written all over the page.
Proverbs 17:17; “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Writer and Pastor Tim Keller says “God made us in such a way that we couldn’t even enjoy paradise without friends … Adam had a perfect quiet time every day for 24 hours a day. Yet he needed friends.” It was not good for man to be alone. Without others we grow selfish and isolated, our Creator made us for deep relationships and friendships.
Growing up my family spent time moving around every few years. This meant leaving friends behind. Letters would fly back and forth for a while, but eventually my friends and I would lose touch and letters slowed down to a small trickle. Social media makes keeping “in the know” easier when it comes to day-to-day events and activities, but there is just something about developing friendship over years of togetherness in joy and suffering that will tie a relationship together.
My closest friends are those with whom I have walked through a buffet of life experiences. We’ve celebrated weddings, laughed at baby showers, cried at graduations and have made plenty of girl trips. We push each other on to love and good deeds. We listen when one of us cries over her children or asks for prayer for her marriage, and we suffer alongside those of us who have lost spouses, parents, friends and babies.
Friends are not afraid to say the hard things, carefully and with love. They understand words build up or tear down, and friendships are foundationally built on learning how to listen well and be slow to speak. Acceptance is an important part of friendship; we are not all built the same and we learn in different ways. Our perspectives change as we grow and mature. God moves in our hearts and expects from us a demonstration of his loving kindness, patience, goodness and self-control. God’s sovereignty gives us freedom, not only in our hearts, but also in our relationships.
Paul lived with the gospel inside him and the Holy Spirt as his guide. He quickly learned the miracle of friendship, even in his most dire circumstances in prison Paul took comfort from his friends. He spoke of his love for Timothy and his appreciation for the church of Philippi as they suffered for him and sent him material gifts in his time of need. There is clearly a depth of friendship as a result of his time spent with his fellow Christians, not only in serving others, but also suffering together. One hurt, the other hurt. That is a true friend.
Friends feel for us. They do not allow us to suffer alone or celebrate our victories by ourselves. Our Noisy Narrative podcast today is a special extended version featuring the friendship of two wonderful ladies who have been there for each other through ups and downs. One was instrumental in the other’s coming to belief in Jesus as her Savior. We hope you are blessed by their story!