A Friend in Need is a Friend of God
Today I want to talk with you about the true value of friendship. Many of us have invited friends to join us in worship and fellowship today. And I want to start off by commending all of our guests for taking the risk to come and visit us. We realize that it can be very intimidating to come into an unfamiliar place and meet so many unfamiliar people. We also hope and pray that your risk will be rewarded, and that your friendship with us will deepen over time.
Now, what do we think about when we think about friendships:
Friends are people who go around spreading good things about you behind your back.
Oscar Wilde made the observation that a true friend always stabs you in the front. …one who gives honest feedback, even when it hurts.
A FRIEND is one who knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but uplifts your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.
True friends visit us in good times only when invited, but in bad times they come without invitation.
ARABIC PROVERB A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and blow the rest away with a breath of kindness.
We’re also familiar with some of our cultural definitions of friendship. For example: “Friends don’t let friends drive Ford (sorry all you Ford drivers out there, we failed you miserably as friends)”; or on a more serious note, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk..” The point is that our friends care for us and help us make life-giving choices.
But, occasionally we reject our best friends and we also feel rejection from those around us. A few years back Pepper Rodgers was in the middle of a terrible season as football coach at UCLA. It got so bad that it upset even his home life. He recalls, "My dog was my only friend. I told my wife that a man needs at least two friends and she bought me another dog."
I would like to suggest that human beings are made for relationship. And we do indeed need at least two friends. The most important of these two friends is God, who has created us, and who, in Jesus, is with us in our time of need. Our God is the Number One Friend of humanity. We read in John 3:16-17 that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
It is indeed a staggering realization that God desires to make friends with us, after some of the things that we have done to reject God’s grace, isn’t it?
A friend is also a person with whom we share a very special relationship. …one in whom we see the face of God. The Bible gives us many examples of such friendships:
Take for instance the story of David, a common shepherd boy from Bethlehem, and his friend Jonathan, who was the Son of King Saul. David and Jonathan should have been enemies because David had been chosen to become the next King of Israel, a position that would have naturally fallen to Jonathan, the king’s son.
However, David and Jonathan shared a deep friendship and they made a covenant with each other (1 Sam. 18:1-4). Jonathan protected his friend from an assasination attempt from his own father (1 Sam. 20:1-42). Later, when David became king he showed kindness to Jonathan’s disabled son (2 Sam. 9:1-13).
Another story of true friendship is that of Ruth and Naomi. Naomi’s family had moved to a different country (Moab) during a time of hardship in Israel. Soon thereafter her husband died, and her two sons married Moabite women. After about 10 years of living in Moab Naomi’s two sons also died and she decided to move back to Israel. And Ruth went with her. She gave up her familiar surroundings and she said to her mother-in-law: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”
This story reminds me of the friendship between a teacher and her student. The story of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan has been well publicized through the play The Miracle Worker. Anne Sullivan was born half blind and lost her mother at an early age and ended up in the poor house. Then surgery restored her sight at the Perkins Institute for the Blind and she devoted herself to the care of the blind. Helen Keller lost both her hearing and her sight as a 19-month-old child. Anne Sullivan became her teacher and taught her to spell by touching and spelling on her hands. Under her teaching Helen Keller became well known as a writer. Their friendship remained inseparable for forty-nine years. Time came when misfortune befell Anne Sullivan - she became blind. And now, Helen Keller taught her how to overcome the lack of sight. She schooled her former teacher as devotedly as she herself had been schooled. This was a marvelous drama of inseperable friendship in the midst of darkness.
And then there is the story of Andrew and Simon Peter. John 1:35-40 tells us that Andrew had a chance encountered with Jesus, and as a result of this encounter he became a follower of Jesus. Andrew cared so much for his brother Simon Peter that he told him about his new friend. He then took the opportunity to introduce his brother to Jesus. Friends care so much for one another that they want them to discover the meaning and the reason for their hope and joy in life. This is illustrated in the following story:
This one particular day a man by the name of Jennings had a feeling that the number he had just dialed was wrong, but he let it ring just in case it was right. He waited a couple of rings until someone picked it up. "You got the wrong number!" a husky male voice snapped. Then the line went dead. Jennings was mystified so he redialed the same number. "I said you got the wrong number!" Once again the phone clicked in his ear. He wondered how this man could possibly know it was a wrong number. So he dialed a third time. "Hey, c’mon," the man said, coldly. "Is this you again?" "Yeah, it’s me," answered Jennings. "I was wondering how you know I had the wrong number before I even said anything." The old man just said bluntly "You figure it out!" and hung up the phone. Jennings called him right back because he couldn't believe this. Again the man hung up after Jennings learned that he never got any phone calls so every number had to be wrong. Well, Jennings called the fifth time, but this time he called to say hello. This led to many more conversations and a very meaningful friendship. The old man who's name was Adolf Meth was 88 years old and was the only one left in his family. He and Jennings developed what became a very close friendship.
Someone who is very interested in developing and building a friendship with us is God. From the beginning God has tried to reconnect with us every time that we hung up on him. Jesus showed us the true meaning of friendship when he gave his life for his friends. He invites us now to become his friends and followers and to enter into a new relationship with him.
If you are a visitor here today you have responded to the invitation of a friend who cares very much about you, and who wants you to have the joy and purpose in life that comes through becoming a friend and follower of Jesus.
If you have any questions, I will be happy to talk with you after the service about what it means for you to become a friend and follower of Jesus. Or, your friend may also introduce you to Pastor Henry or Pastor David (can you stand up and flash a smile so that people know who you are) they will roam around in the foyer after the service; or you can talk with your friend who invited you today to be his/her guest. He /she will be happy to tell you what a relationship with Jesus Christ can mean in your life.
May God bless us all as we discover more deeply how enriching a friendship with Jesus Christ and each other can be.
Let us pray: Thank you, loving God, for giving us friends whose special ways bring so much warmth and beauty into our hearts. …whose gentleness and kindness brighten up so many days and make so many happy moments start. Thank you, Lord, for giving us friends who are always there, to cheer us anytime we’re feeling low. … friends who are glad to listen, who really understand and care, who see the best in us and help us grow. Thank you for friends who know our hopes and fears and all we’re dreaming of, who are on our side in everything we do. Thank you, Lord, for being a friend so full of love . . . a friend who gives us joy our whole life through.