How’s it coming? In a previous post, I elaborated on a certain kind of friendship—encouraging your friends towards their calling. In light of the Great Commission and Christ’s radical call, this kind of friendship makes sense. A strategic and intentional approach towards the growth and betterment of my friends makes sense, in theory.
But since this kind of work has eternal dividends, we can expect it to be challenging. Real relationships are simply not that simple. I often get discouraged when I look at my intentions versus the actual results. Thoughts like the following fill my mind:
I don’t know what to say.
I probably am not speaking up enough. Am I apathetic towards their growth?
Was I too intense? Am I too serious?
I feel lazy. I kind of don’t care enough.
I never feel like talking about more important things with this person.
What do I do? Is there something I should be doing?
It’s been months, but we haven’t gotten anywhere..
They know what to do next, but they just can’t get started.
It’s a process. Should I remind them of this again? But they already know. Preaching to the choir…
People take time. So…much…time.
A Friend Who is There
Yes, real friendship can be a hard road. Thankfully, it is not as directionless as it may seem at times. In fact, scripture tells us stories of what the spirit of friendship should look like. Consider this one in Luke 5. On one of the days Christ was teaching in the synagogues, there were a group of men bringing their paralyzed friend on a bed. The place was packed and they could not find a way to bring him in. So because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. These friends were willing to do whatever it took to bring their friend to Christ, quite literally. And when Christ saw the faith of these men, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” He then addressed the Pharisees’ questioning thoughts, and then said, “I say to you, pick up your bed and go home.” The paralyzed man immediately rose up, picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.
In that story, we find the spirit of true friendship. I can imagine this group of men carrying their paralyzed friend. Hearts pounding with adrenaline and brains desperately searching for good ideas, they were trying to bring their friend to the one person that they knew was the answer. They acted in the spirit of true friendship. Our attitude should be that of “whatever it takes.” As scripture permits, we should work to stay encouraged and move forward prayerfully in wisdom, doing whatever it takes to be loving friends.
Laying Down Your Life
Great love is laying down your life for your friends (1 John 3:16). This means laying down your time, resources, and mental energies to help them in their moving along. Christ demonstrated servant leadership by sacrificing his whole life, ultimately on the cross but also in each day. I am reminded of this kind of love in the character named Hassan in the novel, The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Without spoiling the story for you, I will just say that Hassan, part of a servant’s family, demonstrates a spirit of true friendship and sacrificial love towards his childhood friend, Amir (who is also the son of his master). This is powerfully captured in the phrase that he uses frequently when helping Amir: “For you, a thousand times over.” At choice moments, Hassan would say this astounding statement to his friend, who at times did not show appreciation or gratitude. Hassan had a simple heart with a single focus when it came to his friend, Amir: “For you, a thousand times over.” I will do whatever it takes.
And sometimes, “whatever it takes,” means a lot of seemingly inefficient rabbit trails. But what we may call the inefficiencies of life, God calls it part of his perfect plan. “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9). There is great wisdom in planning and the Lord delights in a heart that is seeking to please him. When King David was making plans to build God’s temple, the Lord said “Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless, you shall not build the house” (1 Kings 8:18f). The Lord chose David’s son, Solomon, to be the one to build his house. It was good that it was in his heart, but the Lord had a different way.
Each situation will look different. Pray and seek counsel for wisdom in what to do in each instance with your friends. Sometimes, there are reasons to walk away from a friendship. But never give up seeking the Lord’s wisdom and guidance in how to show friendship towards others. This is a life-long pursuit.
So, you may have imagined a drawing board with a friend or two, trying to strategize how not to waste your lives, and then holding each other accountable to it. You may have found this to be significantly challenging, and to that I say this: please, please, go to great lengths to bring people towards a revelation of God. This is ultimately his doing, but in his perfect wisdom he has chosen people as the agents to help spread this revelation. This is what is best for them; it is most loving. This is what God gave you time for. It is worth the investment. Do whatever it takes.
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