"Do to others as you would have them do to you."
Luke 6:31 (NIV)
While the enemy's aim might be to frustrate us through life's complexities God's will is to bring simplicity. It may sound basic but friends are crucial to a strong Christian life at every stage. Having good friends around you who are also doing life God’s way brings an ease to any situation you're facing. Praying with others ‘God have your way’, is like praying ‘God remove the complication from this situation’.
The best way to build great friendships is to BE A GOOD friend and you will find that you attract the kind of friendships that are good for you. There’s the humanistic way of relating which sees relationships as a means to an end i.e. what can I get from you? But God leads us to a better way of treating others how you would like to be treated. Sometimes this means we change our thinking or change habits that aren’t producing healthy connections. To give an analogy if you often locked your keys in the house you would consider investing in a key safe in the backyard instead of constantly breaking into an upstairs window.
The New Testament talks a lot about friendship including the connection of Paul and Barnabas who served God together during the early days of the Christian church. A look at the friendship of Paul and Barnabas in Acts highlights three values in Godly friendships.
1. Friends Love.
When we meet Jesus we are filled with a different kind of love for people, 1 Corinthians 13 love. As Jesus said “They will know you are my disciples, by the way you love one another”. In Acts 9:26-28 Paul, a previously murderous persecutors of Christians has returned to the church after Jesus transformed him into a powerful gospel preacher. Barnabas had the grace to stand with Paul, to encourage him and not stand against him when others were suspicious. There can be people in our lives who need our encouragement and unconditional love to become who they are designed to be. This includes those within the church but also those who are yet to know Jesus. When we demonstrate Christlike love to those outside church they will ask what is it that motivates us and "why are you different?" It is in those moments we can begin to share our revelation of God's love that compels us.
2. Friends Influence – On Purpose.
Not everyone you meet will understand your purpose in God or agree with it. Your closest friends will, just like Barnabas and Paul in Acts 12:24-5 & 13:1-3. Don’t be led astray or ground down by those who do not encourage your purpose in God. Choose your friends wisely (Proverbs 27:17) and remember that pursuing wise friendships takes organisation and effort -it doesn’t magically happen. If you are in a new season or place, look around for good people and arrange to spend time with them. For the friends that are already in our world, stand with them and fan into flame their purpose. Good friends sharpen each other (Proverbs 12:26).
3. Friends Stick - Perspective in Adversity.
There will be hard times for all of us and you need people in your life who can help you up and help you get moving again (Proverbs 17:24). We see Barnabas literally do this for Paul in Acts 14:19-20 – after Paul is stoned, he helps him up and takes him to another town. Your life is not a social media highlight reel, it is in the quiet moments with a select few people. Walking through difficulties together is what binds us together (Proverbs 17:17). Friends stick with you through adversity in life and even challenge in the relationship. Just like Paul and Barnabas, who continued to work together even after they had a disagreement, robust friendships can also handle conflict and confrontation. Like Proverbs 27:5-6 says, ‘Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses’.
Something to talk about:
1. What are some of the old habits from how you did friendships in the past that ‘didn’t work’ and have been transformed by God’s way of doing things?
2. Who are the people who sharpen you regularly? What can you do to strengthen the friendships in your connect group?
3. Are there people in your world you can reach out to in Godly friendship? Take some time to pray for them and consider practical ways that your connect group can help.