Friendships are a gift from God. Good friends can help us grow in many different areas. Developing lasting friendships takes time and sacrifice.
Develop a friendship with a missionary, a pastor, or an evangelist: One good way to develop a lasting friendship is to open your home to God’s servants. Some of our greatest friends are missionaries. At different times in our home, my husband and I have enjoyed Korean and Filipino meals, and we have learned many different customs by hosting missionary friends. At other times, we have gained valuable advice from pastors and evangelists we’ve had in our home.
Develop a friendship with a child: Sometimes we forget how valuable our influence can be in a child’s life. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:33…evil communications (companionships) corrupt good manners. Today many children are growing up in families without any moral direction. When you develop a friendship with a child, you might be the very person God will use to sow seeds of faith and encouragement into the heart of a future pastor, pastor’s wife, or missionary wife.
Friendships are very important to our lives: My daughter and son-in-law moved to Texas a few years ago. After living in New England all their lives, it took some time for them to make friends in a new area. Recently, they found a church where they made some wonderful new friends. These new friends relieved their loneliness and gave them a new sense of belonging and purpose. One great thing about friends is that they can spur us onto good works. In fact, it was a good friend who inspired me to write my first book.
Someone once did a survey asking several different people of various ages to write a brief description of a good friend. Here are a few of those descriptions:
“Someone you can bare your soul to and not be afraid it will get around.”
“Someone who has ‘tactful truth’ and is not afraid to tell you.”
“One who knows you well, but still loves you.”
“A person, who understands you, appreciates your view and is loyal to you.
“Someone who enjoys being around you, accepts you for who you are, and is faithful to you when the chips are down.”
…But the definition I like the best is: A friend is a trusted confident to whom I am mutually drawn as a companion and an ally, whose love for me is not dependent on my performance, and whose influence draws me closer to God.
Consider the friendships you have developed through the years:
Casual friends: We all have casual friends. These are people that we have met at different times in our lives, but we didn’t develop lasting friendships with them.
Close Friends: Someone once said, “You only make a few close friends in your lifetime. Our close friends are the friends we have developed through ministry or work, and we desire to stay close to them because of a special bond we’ve experienced. It is these friends that we feel safe enough to share our deepest feelings. Although we don’t see them often, we always look forward to spending time with them.
Counseling Friends: Maybe there was a time in your life that you went through a deep trial or suffering, and you had a friend who counseled you and guided you through your crisis. This friend will always be special to you.
What Does It Take to Develop Lasting Friendships?
First, it takes time and patience: Developing lasting friendships can take months or years. Some people want to make temporary friends with people who have money, position, or power. Friendships built on those criterions will eventually dissolve through time.
Proverbs 19:4 Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbor.
Second, it takes love and sacrifice: Sacrificial love means giving up important things for things that are less important. A person who sacrifices his time and resources to develop a friendship is a person who truly loves. Sacrifices may be as small as sending an email, texting a message, or mailing card.
I read an illustration about a man who lost a good paying job. He was able to get a new job, but it paid much less than his previous one. At the end of the month, this man found it difficult to pay his bills. He reconnected with an old friend who had once been a missionary. This man’s friend, now a pastor of a growing church, realized his friend’s predicament and gave him money to pay his rent. This pastor’s generosity so moved this man, that he remembered thinking at the time, “I have just seen Jesus.”
Matthew 25:40 …Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Third, it takes listening and acceptance: Being a good listener is the largest part of acceptance. Proverbs 18:13 tells us that we must not answer a matter before we truly listen to what others have to say. If a friend is struggling in a certain area, he should feel safe enough with a friend to voice his thoughts without negative criticism or a judgmental opinion.
A good friend can be cheaper than therapy: A judgmental attitude slams the door shut to a friend sharing a problem. It is important not to give a friend advice before hearing all the facts of his situation. I just heard a saying this week, “Unasked for advice is seldom taken.” We all have a tendency to give our “opinions” without fully listening to a person’s problem or circumstance. There are times when our friends just need someone to listen to them without judging them or giving them advice.
One of the first verses I first learned in my counseling training was: Proverbs 18:13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
John 8 gives us a wonderful example of this in the story of the woman taken in adultery. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.” Jesus does not expect us to accept or approve of sin; but like Him, we must show His love to our friends without condemning them.
Fourth, it takes encouragement and spiritual edification: Friends either drive us away from the Lord or draw us into a deeper walk with Him.
God’s goal for our lives after we first get saved is our spiritual growth and sanctification. As God begins to mold and transform us, He may begin to take away our old friends because He doesn’t want us to have friends who will be a negative influence in our lives. Many times, it is our old friends who will try to hinder us in our spiritual walk with the Lord.
We need to make friends with other Christians who are godly and Spirit-filled. These are the friends who will help us grow in the Lord.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.