What a blessing it is to welcome all of you to ?Friend Day? at Britton Christian Church. Friends are unique gifts from Almighty God.? Each of you who have taken time out of your busy schedule to come and share with us in worship today are important to us, we cherish the friendship that God has given us with each of you. We thank God for you, we pray for you, and value your trust, love, forgiveness, and companionship immensely.? We are so grateful to Almighty God for you because you have chosen to love us, to share your life with us, and to bless us in such important ways.
Friendships are unique and different from the relationships we share with our family members. There are no relationships more important to me than the relationships I share with my family, but I did not choose them.? Oh, I chose Connie and she chose me, but that is the only member of my family that I have had the option of choosing.? I did not choose my mom or dad.? I did not have a line-up from which to choose to my sisters.? I didn?t have a chance to write down what I would desire for the children I would raise.? None of those choices were an option for me and neither were they for most of you unless you were adopted or unless you have adopted a child.? The beautiful folks that I have had the privilege of calling ?family? have come into my life by the grace of Almighty God.
My friends are an altogether different story. I wasn?t born with friends.? My friends have chosen to love me, care for me, and to stand with me through thick and thin. In turn, I have tried to be the same for them.?
The word, ?friend,? is a pretty all-encompassing word that covers a wide range of relationships. We call people whom we know friends.? We don?t have to know them well, we simply have to make their acquaintance and suddenly their name is written in the category ?Friends.? ??We call people we work with our friends even though work doesn?t necessarily lead to a deep, meaningful relationship.? We will call our neighbors our friends even though we may rarely speak to them unless we are outside working in the yard.? These are really acquaintances, not friends, if you understand friendship from a biblical perspective.?
It reminds me of a story about two hunting buddies, friends if you will, who had traveled to the mountains of Colorado to hunt mountain lions one winter.? The two men had known each other for a long time and they had built their friendship around hunting.? They would hunt quail, ducks, doves, squirrels, raccoons–anything that would move really.? Then, one day, they planned the biggest hunting trip ever ? they were going to head to the mountains and bag the prized mountain lion.?
The men had planned a three-day trip.? They were on the second day of their trip when all of a sudden they heard something coming from behind them.? One of the men turned to see what was making the noise.? When he turned around he saw a mountain lion that looked like the King of the Beast.? The man turned back to his friend and said, ?Don?t look now, but there is a huge mountain lion right behind us.?? His buddy slowly turned to see the imposing figure and then asked his friend, ?What do we do??? The friend said, ?Well, I don?t know what you are thinking, but I?m thinking that we need to run out of here just as fast as we can.?? His buddy said, ?Run!? What do you mean run?? He will eat us alive if we try to run from him. Surely you don?t think that you can outrun that mountain lion do you??? The man said, ?I don?t have to outrun the mountain lion.? All I have to do is outrun you.?
I don?t think it is necessary to point out that this is not what God had in mind when He created friendship.? Sadly enough, this type of friendship, friendship based upon self-preservation is not uncommon today.? I have been in the ministry for more than 20 years now and I can honestly say that real friendships, those marked by commitment, depth, meaning, and grace, are rare, and becoming more rare.? Today, I want us to spend our time looking at ?What to look for in a friend.?? Let?s take a look at 3 John as we begin our study.
(1)The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. (2) Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (3) It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. (4)I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (5)Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. (6)They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. (7)It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. (8)We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. (9) I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. (10) So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. (11)Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. (12) Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone–and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. (13) I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. (14) I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. (3 John NIV)
????????? The letter that the Apostle John writes to his friend, Gaius, is an interesting letter for us this morning because it is a contrast in friendship.? On the one hand is John?s friend Gaius, a man he describes as ?faithful, loving God, and welcoming to those whom he doesn?t even know.?? On the other hand is a man named Diotrephes. This man is described by John as ?loving to be first,? ?excluding those that he doesn?t want to be around,? and ?a doer of evil.?
In taking a close look at John?s description of these two men we can see some of the characteristics that we should be looking for, as well as characteristics that we should seek to avoid in our friendships with others.? Of even greater importance to us, we should avoid these ungodly characteristics as we seek to be Christ-like friends to those God has led into our lives.? The Christ-like characteristics should be pursued at all costs so that they might mold our lives as we seek to be the kind of friends that God desires for us to be.?
First, I want us to take a look at the characteristics of godly friendships. There are five characteristics that I have found listed in John?s letter to Gaius.? Take a look at the characteristics of godly friends:
1)??? Pray for one another.
2)??? Rejoice in one another?s faithfulness to the truth.
3)??? Rejoice in one another?s service to others.
4)??? Exhibit love for one another.
5)??? Speak face-to-face.
I would dare say that there are few of us that can immediately bring to mind someone who fills the bill on all of these characteristics of friendship.? I would also dare to say that there is not one of us who wouldn?t desire to have a friend who demonstrates these Christ-like qualities.? Let?s take a few minutes to look closer at each of these five characteristics.
First, friends pray for one another.? John says, (2) Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (3 John 2 NIV) John doesn?t just call Gaius his friend, he invests in Gaius? life by praying for his well-being.? Prayer is an investment.? It takes time to get on our knees and lift someone up to Almighty God in asking Him to bless them, to give them strength for their struggles, and to draw them close to His heart.? A true friend is someone who will invest the time necessary to pray for their friends.?
Secondly, friends rejoice in one another?s faithfulness to the truth.? John says in verses 3-4,
(3)It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. (4) I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 3-4 NIV)
When was the last time one of your friends told you how encouraged they were by your faithfulness to Jesus our Savior? When was the last time you made it a point to share with someone the Lord has led into your life that you were encouraged by their faith? That is a distinguishing mark of a Christ-like friendship.
Thirdly, friends rejoice in one another?s service to others. We should seek out friends who will encourage us to serve Almighty God by serving His people.? Time is a precious commodity.? You and I all have the same amount of time to invest in each day.? The question is, ?What are we going to do with our time??? For some they would choose to use their time to pamper themselves.? For others they would choose to use their time to build their empire.? There is a small group of people who would choose to invest their time consoling and comforting God?s people and investing in building the Kingdom of God.? If being a blessing is important to you then you need friends who will encourage you to continue the good work you are doing. You need friends who will encourage you as you sacrifice your time and energy to serve the Lord by serving His people. There is no shortage of folks who will question your commitments to serve the Lord and encourage you to slow down, back off, and do something for yourself. They don?t understand that God has given us life so that we can be a blessing to others. ?Realize that you are serving others because of your love for Jesus and nothing else.
There was a young man who decided he was going to do an article on Mother Theresa of Calcutta.? He arranged to go to Calcutta and spend two weeks following Mother Theresa around and asking her questions.? At the end of the two weeks he had a final session with Mother Theresa to wrap things up.? At the meeting he said, ?Mother Theresa, I am amazed at what you do.? I?ve seen you spend countless hours simply holding the hand of people who were dying and praying quietly for them.? I?ve seen you walk the streets and gather up people who had been discarded by those who did not want them.? I?ve seen what you do and I don?t know how you do it.?? Mother Theresa said, ?Oh, I do what I do because I love Jesus and He has told me to do what I do.??
Fourth, friends exhibit love for one another. ??We are to have love for one another. ??That sounds wonderful, but many of us have been so burned by those who supposedly loved us that we don?t want anything to do with so-called love anymore.? What is love?? What does it look like?? What does it sound like?? How does it feel?? Those are excellent questions for us in our day because love has become very distorted.? Love for many is a flushed-feeling that overcomes them when they see a good-looking guy or girl.? Love for some of us is only a word to be used to get what we want.
The meaning of love is so unclear that I don?t put much stock in it when young folks who are engaged to be married tell me that they love each other. I have had the same conversation dozens of times.? It goes like this:? ?Why do you want to get married??? They say with puppy dog eyes while holding hands and almost sitting in each other?s lap, ?Well, we loooove each other.?? I say, ?Well, that?s great, but what is going to get you to your fiftieth anniversary??? That?s when the conversation comes to a screeching halt in most instances.??
John tells us in verse 6 that the people whom Gaius had demonstrated love towards had told the church about his love.? John writes, (6)They have told the church about your love.? The word that John uses is a very specific word that can help us to understand what Christ-like love looks like, acts like, and does.? The Greek word, ?avga,ph`? (agape) is used especially as an attitude of appreciation resulting from a conscious evaluation and choice, it is used of divine and human love, and unconditional devotion.? The best illustration of what this type of love does is found in God?s Word when Paul writes to the church in Rome and says, ?But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.? (Romans 5:8)
Love chooses to love.? Love is not predicated on what another person does, love chooses to love.? Love is not determined by how it feels at the time, love chooses to love.? Love is not distracted by a better offer, love chooses to love.? Love is not soured by a bad day, love chooses to love.? Love is not lessened by sin, love chooses to love! ?While we were sinners, God chose to love us, to give His Son for us.?? That, my friend, is love.
You and I need friends who can choose to love us no matter what.? Friends who will seek our best even when we are at our worst.? Friends who will choose to love us even when we are unlovable.? Friends who will not walk away when things get rough.
Fifth, friends talk together face-to-face. Friends talk together honestly, openly, and they are not afraid to deal with the tough issues with one another.? This characteristic of friendship is on the endangered species list today.? It is not that we won?t speak honestly with our friends, but it is the way we do this that is so damaging.? Generally today when we have those tough, honest conversations, they mark the end of a friendship rather than a new beginning.
God has designed friendship so that we can be accountable to another person who has our best interest at heart, someone who desires to see us grow in our walk with the Lord.? Every single one of us has issues that we need to work on, sin that is keeping us from experiencing the fullness of the Father, and relationships that keep us up at night.? We need someone who will keep us accountable and encourage us to deal with these difficult issues in a Christ-like way. The problem is there are so few relationships characterized by this type of love.?
The Bible speaks about talking ?face-to-face? and how important the hard questions from a friend are for our spiritual health. In Proverbs 27:6 we read, ?Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.? (Proverbs 27:6 NIV)? If you have ever had a relationship where your friend forced you to really take a long probing look at your life then you know that those words are wounds.? They open up sore, tender, embarrassing parts of our lives that none of us want to deal with, but we need to deal with them.?
King David knew how important it was to have friends who would care enough to confront him and tell him when he was wrong.? He wrote in Psalm 141,
(3)Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. (4)Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies. (5)Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. Yet my prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers; (Psalm 141:3-5 NIV)
????????? I can honestly say that the best friends I have ever had are some of the most painful relationships that I have ever had as well.? That may seem strange to you, but I am so grateful to God for those friends of mine who were willing to come to me in love and say, ?You were wrong.? Let?s think about what you are doing.?
????????? We need to have friends who are willing to speak to us ?face-to-face.?? Speaking in this manner with a friend is risky business, but it is a risk that will pay great dividends.
????????? There is another side of friendship which destroys what God has intended to bless and we can learn much about what characterizes these types of relationships by taking a closer look at the life of Diotrephes. There are four characteristics that I want us to look at in the time we have remaining.?
1)??? Seeks self above all else.
2)??? Malicious gossip.
3)??? Closed to others.
4)??? Imitates what is evil.
First, unhealthy friendships seeks self above all else.? There are countless friendships being formed today because of how they can benefit one of the parties.? I was talking with a man one time who attends a large church here in town.? While we were visiting the man said, ?Well, it is a great place to go to church because there are so many businesspeople who attend there.?? I?m sorry but we are not here this morning to network, we are here to worship our Lord and Savior.? If we are forming friendships because of how we can benefit from knowing that person then we are building relationships that will never last.?
John wrote about Diotrephes, a man who was in the church, and said, (9) ?I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.?? (3 John 9 NIV) What a sad description of a friend ? ?He loves to be first.?? God has designed friendship so that we can serve one another, encourage one another, and bless one another.? He never intended for us to use one another!
Secondly, unhealthy friendships are characterized by malicious gossip.? John wrote again about Diotrephes and said, (10) ?So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us.? (3 John 10 NIV) Malicious gossip is rampant in the world, but it has no place in the Body of Christ. I need to qualify that by saying that theoretically gossip has no place in the Body of Christ. The sad reality is that gossip is as rampant in the Church as it is in the world. This must stop. ?How can it stop?? It can stop if you will have the courage to speak up when somebody is talking about someone else. You don?t have to be rude or self-righteous about it. All you have to do is ask that person if they have gone to the person they are talking about and discussed the matter with them. Let them know that you will not participate in gossip.?
????????? Ungodly relationships that are not based upon sacrificial service to Jesus will be greatly tested when tough times arise.? I have seen over and over again how folks who were once great friends found their relationship going south and started talking about one another.?? This is nothing new, God?s Word tells us about situations that happened in Biblical times that were just as devilish and hate-filled. David said in Psalm 41:9, ?Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.? (Psalm 41:9 NIV)
????????? It is confusing and perplexing how things like this take place isn?t it.? There is nobody here this morning that would imagine their friend turning on them in such a vicious way as to begin to spread malicious gossip.? David was perplexed as well when he wrote in Psalm 55:12-15,
(12)If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. (13) But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, (14) with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. (Psalm 55:12-14 NIV)
????????? Sweet fellowship turning sour is as old as relationships themselves, but that is not why Almighty God has given us friends.? We need to seek out friends who will stick with us through the tough times so that God can work in our relationships to bring about healing and reconciliation.
??????????????? Third, unhealthy friendships are closed to others. Diotrephes was supposedly a follower of Jesus, but his actions didn?t back up his talk.? When others would stop by to teach and to share a testimony of what the Lord was doing in their lives, Diotrephes wouldn?t stand for it. John said, ?He refuses to welcome the brothers.?
????????? I remember when I was a kid.? I had a friend that really meant a lot to me.? We played ball together, we spent time at each other?s houses, and we were a lot alike.? The only problem is that he also had another friend who did not like him being friends with anyone else.? Sounds pretty juvenile, pretty childish doesn?t it?? I see the same thing go on with adults.? If I am keeping my friends from other people whom the Lord may be sending into their lives for a reason then I am a curse rather than a blessing to my friend.
????????? Fourth, unhealthy friendships imitate the world?s system of relationships.
For the everyday Joe and Jane relationships are disposable.? You and I can pull up alongside of someone for as long as they can benefit us, but when they begin to ask anything of us then we can just get rid of them.? I understand that this is normal, standard operating procedures in the world today, but it is killing us.? We can?t grow as people, we will never reach our potential, and we will never develop a deep relationship with the Lord without godly friends who will pursue God?s heart with us.? John wrote,
(11) Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. (3 John 11 NIV)
????????? We are all longing for a friend, a brother or sister who is willing to get in the trenches of life and make a go of it with us, beside us.? None of us is lacking for acquaintances ? what we are lacking are friends.? Proverbs 17:17 says, ?A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.?? We are in need of full-time friends. This morning I want to tell you that Jesus is a friend to the friendless. Not only will He show you how you can be a friend, but He will be your best friend.? Won?t you invite Him in and allow Him to begin His glorious work in your life?? Ask Him in today.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
October 29, 2006