Today we are blessed to hear from my friend, Dave Brown. He has written some of his personal thoughts about friendship to share with us as we continue to discover God’s plan for friendship.
I’ve had friends for as long as I can remember. I’ve sought to be a friend for a long time too. My best and most enduring friendships have been marked by grace, and truth, and time. There is grace to accept each other with our weaknesses, truth to speak into broken or sinful places, and extended time with which to journey together. These enduring friendships have their strength in the inexhaustible character of God who is among other things, holy, loving, and compassionate. I don’t know about you, but I need friends who model the character of Jesus through an imperfect but vital relationship with Him. Here, in early Spring 2015, as we move closer to arguably the holiest day of the Christian calendar, Resurrection (Easter) Sunday, we are reminded that ‘He died, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.’ He arose bodily on the third day (see I Cor 15:1-3; I Pet 3:18; Apostles Creed). As the wonderful old hymns say, “What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sin and grief to bear; what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.” And, “O for a thousand tongues to sing, my Great Redeemers praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace.” While the Christian life is undoubtedly based in a personal relationship with God through Christ Jesus, through the grace gift of faith by the power of the Holy Spirit, that faith that saves is never alone. (See Eph 2:8-10). There are things the Lord has for us to do, as we walk with Him. And that surely includes loving and encouraging one another (Jn 13:34-35 ‘the Great Commandment’, Matt 28:19-20 ‘The Great Commission’, I Jn 4:7-10, Eph 4:28-32), being friends to one another, bearing one another’s burdens and rejoicing together (Gal 6:1-2). We’re to help one another (and others) as pilgrims on the way to heaven (see John Bunyan’s masterful work Pilgrim’s Progress, including audio narration by Max McLean- Classics of the Christian Faith).
Music has been a huge part of my life. I should say, God has used music to lift my spirit, and to deepen the ‘affections’ of my heart and mind regarding some of the great truths in scripture. For me they are often in what some may considered childlike ways. Here are a couple of examples. Thirty years ago in the Spring of 1985, I was driving back to Chicago from Cincinnati where my good new friend and Trinity seminary classmate Bill lived. As we hopped in his car to make the trek back to Deerfield, Illinois we opened our soft drinks and popped in a cassette of Michael W. Smith. (Yes, you read that correctly, cassette !) The song was entitled Friends and went on to say, amongst other things that “Friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them, and a friend will not say never for the welcome never ends…. For a lifetime’s not too long… to live as friends.” Somehow that simple lovely chorus resounded deeply in my soul as I thanked God for my good buddy Bill, for the beauty of the day, for life in the Saviour, and for the goodness and richness of friendship. Bill and I remain dearest of friends to this day, and have traveled together as we say in the words of Amazing Grace “through many dangers, toils, and snares” by the grace of God. While our faith has at times faltered and we haven’t walked in perfect obedience, the inclinations of our hearts have remained toward the Lord Jesus, and to encourage each other toward His ‘highest and best’ for us (See Oswald Chambers Devotional – My Utmost for His Highest). We’ve spoken grace and truth to each other, and done so over a good long time. Yes, I think Michael W. was right, “a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.”
The second example, again from music, came from a pureHOPE Men of Valor conference in Cincinnati about 5 years ago at Tryed Stone New Beginning Church. Brother Jerry Culbreath was (and I still believe is) pastor there. Before our plenary speaker (Nate Larkin – who learned to vulnerably be and have good friends in his deep dealing with sexual integrity issues), we had some worship time led by the church worship team, called Minstrels. They wonderfully lead us through several songs but the one that has stuck with me over all these years was called “I am a friend of God.” Though simple, I found it to be profound as we clapped and swayed (some of us white brothers off time!) and rejoiced and encouraged each other, in the glorious spirit-lifting reality that we were indeed (even with our struggles) sons of the living God, yes friends of God! Jesus said in John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” And elsewhere, in John 13:34 Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Are you, with kindness and compassion, with grace and truth, with perseverance.. “doing life together” (see book/youtube on Bonhoeffer-by Eric Metaxas) with a few friends? You can!
I hope and pray that as you press on to know the Lord (Hos 6:3), you’ll do so in the sure and increasing knowledge that the Lord loves you, that you have friends to journey with, and that your walk with Him is to be one of joy, courage, humility, fellowship, worship, struggle, and final victory. I’m reminded here as I close, of Tolkien’s wonderful trilogy Lord of the Rings. Don’t forget, the Lord is very fond of you, and loves you deeply. Enjoy the journey, and help your friends along the way. Your friend, Dave.