What is a friend? An unknown source defined a friend as “someone who knows all about you but loves you anyway.” Obviously “friend” is a buzz word enthusiasts thrive on in social media. The dictionary defines friend as a person whom one knows well and is fond of;” The Greek word for “friend” is “philos,”and is related to our English word “love.” It includes the idea of commitment, whether it takes part in business or marriage. Central to the idea of friendship is loyalty. Loyalty was the reason Paul’s friends visited him in prison (Acts 24:23). James 4:4 stresses that God demands loyal friends because friendship with the world means enmity with God. Proverbs 17:17 GW declares: “A friend always loves.” Jesus taught that His commandment was for us to love each other as He loved us because there is no greater commandment than to give our lives for our friends. We are His friends if we do what He has commanded. We are not slaves but God’s friends (John 15:12-15): What does being a friend entail?
- Our Earthly Friends. My best friend, Jared, and I grew up together, were neighbors, and attended first grade together. Unfortunately, our friendship was interrupted when his family moved away. However, whenever he visited relatives nearby, we always found time to get together. If we decided to go swimming, for example, Jared would sometimes produce enough money to pay the entrance fees for both of us. Years later, while in college, I enjoyed watching him play baseball against my college team. On another occasion, Jared visited me just to introduce me to his beautiful new bride, Sylvia. Even when my family moved to Arizona, He and Sylvia visited us, and we vacationed together. Jared was a far better friend to me than I ever was to him. He took a greater initiative to stay connected more often than I did. He and Sylvia prayed for and supported my ministry as a pastor and evangelist. Some years later, following an extended illness, I had the honor of conducting his funeral. Jared once admitted, “All we really have in this life, Ron, is God, our family, and our friends.” He was right!
- Our Eternal Friend. Whenever Jesus spoke of a love that would cause us to lay down our lives for our friends, He was talking about Himself. He proved His love for us by sacrificing His life while we were still sinners, not friends (Romans 5:6-8). Jesus’ enemies often badmouthed Him as a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34). But the Scriptures describe Jesus Christ in such a way that truly He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Jared, and Sylvia, both knew Christ as Savior, Lord, and Friend. The joy of knowing and loving Christ as our Eternal Friend has been the subject of many hymns of the Church. Hymns such as, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and “Friendship with Jesus” are good examples. When asked by evangelist D. L. Moody to write more hymns for the church, Will Thompson composed this beloved hymn:
Jesus is All the World to Me, I want no better friend;
I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when life’s fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend. Beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal Life, Eternal Joy, He’s my Friend.
3. Ourselves, His Friends. Abraham believed God, trusted His promises, and obediently walked by faith. He is known as “the friend of God” (James 2:23). Jesus loved His friend Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha. When He learned that Lazarus had died, He calmly responded, “Our friend, Lazarus, sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (John 11:11).
It is a blessing just to be a servant of God, but to enjoy the higher privilege of being His confidant and friend throughout all eternity is beyond comprehension. A popular song years ago began with these words: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” I have learned that there are more people who want to be loved than there are those who are willing to love. We can only learn to love others when we have first come to love God and His Son! Love is not just a law or an emotion, but a Person, and when we know His love in our hearts, we are better able to radiate His love to others.
Jim and Philip grew up together, attended the same college, and later joined the Marines together. They were sent to Germany where they fought side by side in World War II. One day, during a heavy barrage of enemy gunfire, they were ordered to retreat. As Jim withdrew, he noticed that Phillip was missing. He begged his Sargent for permission to go after Philip, but his superior refused. Risking his own life, Jim disobeyed orders and ran through a volley of bullets calling out for Phillip. Finally, his platoon saw him returning carrying a limp body in his arms. His Sargent reprimanded him, shouting, “what a waste, Jim, Philip is already dead.” Jim replied, “No it wasn’t a waste, sir. When I found Phillip, he was alive and the last thing he said to me was, ‘I knew you’d come, Jim!” Beloved, our Friend who saved us, walked together with us, and often carried us through all the perils of this life, comes to bring us, His friends, to our Heavenly Home, we can say with Phillip: “I knew You’d come, Friend Jesus!” Are you ready?