The response last week to Part 1 of our series on friendship confirms our great need to get relationships right. When all is well, deep friendships shower us with great blessings. But, when left to run amuck, a single misstep with just one friend can create havoc in all of our relationships.
If you missed last week’s post you may want to travel back by clicking here: (What Friends Want Part 1).
We began by seeing how important AFFIRMATION can be in a friendship. Today, let’s look at five more ways the incarcerated apostle Paul modeled friendship toward a discouraged, and maybe even depressed, young pastor named Timothy.
What Friends Want
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he diligently searched for me and found me.” (2 Timothy 1:16-17)
Not only did Paul want Timothy to see that there were still good guys like Onesiphorus left in the world, but he also gave Timothy a clear picture of just how much he wanted and needed loyal friends. Are you the kind of friend who can be counted on when your friend’s life turns sideways?
I’m sure in Paul’s weak moments he wondered if the work he’d done really mattered. Maybe he sometimes doubted his effectiveness and whether or not he was actually doing what he believed the Lord called him to do. By becoming transparent, Paul was saying to young Timothy, “I get you. I know just how you feel.” Do you find yourself wondering just how much you really matter in God’s big scheme of things? Have you ever allowed yourself to admit that to a friend?
After negative emotions stole the best I had to offer, my friends’ display of loyalty helped me recover. With the slow revealing of every messy detail, they just continued to love me more. Like Onesiphorus, they were not embarrassed by my chains of grief and depression. On the contrary, they came closer and stood beside me. They didn’t always agree with my thinking, but they stood with me. I believe that’s exactly what Onesiphorus had done for Paul – he diligently searched for him and found him. Depressed and discouraged friends need you to seek them out, listen to their hearts, and offer a hug if that’s their thing. Words are always optional. But if you must speak, speak gently.
3. GENTLE WORDS
“Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to fight about words. This is useless and leads to the ruin of those who listen. Avoid irreverent and empty speech. Reject foolish and ignorant disputes, because you know that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.” (2 Timothy 2:14,16a,23-25a)
At one time in my life I sharpened my tongue on clever comebacks, sarcastic remarks, and cutdowns. I became pretty good at silencing most any opponent. By God’s grace, I’ve changed a great deal since then. Sarcasm is a sport I’m no longer into – until I’m hurt. Then, my old vice wants to rise up in a heartbeat. Before I realize it, or take half a second to run it through my Spirit filter, I can throw bitter words out as a slap in someone’s face.
Perhaps, there’s no richer soil for harsh words to grow than in ministry. Spiritual trailblazers often burn out when their passion is questioned or ridiculed repetitively. Paul and Timothy no doubt bore the brunt of many tongue lashings. If any two people had ever earned the right to fight back with words it was these two. However, Paul spent a good amount of ink reminding Timothy to be gentle with his words. I’m pretty sure these words still apply to us as well. Nothing good ever comes from harsh words spoken to a friend.
“But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.”(2 Timothy 3:1)
Wisdom doesn’t always come with age. I’m older than most of my friends, but the help I’ve gained from their wisdom has been priceless. Experience is the best teacher, and lessons learned the hard way can often make a person wise beyond their years.
Paul’s experiences had turned him into a wiseguy of the very best kind. He understood his path would not be easy, and that hard times would indeed come. He wanted Timothy to prepare his heart for the upheaval he would surely encounter as a church leader. Wise friends help us see what lies ahead by learning from what they’ve left behind.
5. A GOOD EXAMPLE
“But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra.”(2 Timothy 3:10)
Look at that list again! I’m asking myself, “Would I want my friends to follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance?” If they did, would I still like them?
Somehow, Paul had come to a place of humble confidence that allowed him to make that statement. But perhaps, what he was really saying to Timothy was, “Hey, Buddy, it’s the suffering that caused these outcomes!” Because the Lord had rescued Paul so many times, he slowly developed the characteristics of Christ.
Only through my sufferings did I finally appreciate what Jesus did for me. Through my grief I experienced the faithful and endless love God has for me. Only my resurrected spirit allowed me to find an inexpressible joy after experiencing great hurt, frustration, and sorrow.
6. CONSTANT REMINDERS
“Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. (2 Timothy 1:6-7) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
Paul knew Timothy needed to be reminded of his spiritual inheritance and the power he possessed. With Timothy’s knowledge of the Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul knew he was capable of great things. So are you, my friend!
My friends took time every day for many months to remind me who I was in Jesus. They constantly reminded me of His love for me and their love for me. God used them to rekindle my faith that had dwindled to a flicker. Do you have friends who used to burn brightly, but a tidal wave of circumstances has reduced their flame to a flicker? Maybe it’s your flame that’s been doused. Do you need some reminding? If so, let me be your friend for a moment.
When you surrender your will for God’s and step out of His way, He sends an army to rescue you because of His great love for you. That army may come in the form of friends, or it may simply be an army of reminders of His love. Pay attention. See how He cares for you. Spend time with Him. Sing to Him. Close your eyes, and listen to Him singing over you. He may show up in your dreams. He may give you a supernatural peace. But, no matter what, He WILL love you. He WILL send what you need. Cry out to Him. Out loud! He WILL listen.
If God brings back old friends, sweetens friendships you already have, or brings you new friends, take care of what He sends. You might be the one to rescue them right back!
Next week, we’ll look at the last four things that help strengthen our friendships. Until then … Happy Tuesday!