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Life of David Lesson 10: The Gift of Friendship

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Friendship – David and Jonathan by Kathryn Hanley

Here’s something to think about — all other relationships are necessary, but friendship is optional – it is up to you.

You are dependent upon martial love (or at least relations) so you can be born into the world. You have a family that you have no say in —they are just yours (especially at Holidays!) – you have a relationship with your state, you follow the rules and live under laws   — but friends are a choice.

as Jay McInerny (not a Christian author) wrote- “The capacity for friendship is God’s Way of apologizing for our families!”

Friends are very important – who we surround ourselves with is important. High schoolers are less likely to engage in problem behaviors when they have friends who do well in school, participate in school activities, avoid drinking and have good mental health — the opposite is true for those who engaged in and had friends who engage in destructive behaviors.   We pray that our children will surround themselves with good friends – especially in college where they are making life long friends.

Good friends are the key to walking through this life in an authentic way. The Hebrew word for friend means “one walking with you”

We need friends, we need companionship: even Adam surrounded by every good thing was lonely. We are designed to need each other and enjoy each other’s company.

God calls us to life, to holiness and to intimacy with himself – but we never come to God in a vacuum. We enter into intimacy with God by relating body, mind and soul to other humans. God’s love is active in every experience of shared authentic human love that’s why God’s picture for us of the church is the body of Christ – different interconnected parts that are vital to one another and make a whole.

Friendship is necessary and it is good for us –

This is borne out in studies:

When it comes to our health and happiness, friendship enriches our lives and bolsters our well-being.   A new study shows that as we get older this effect gets even stronger—surpassing the impact of our spouse, siblings and children.

Researcher William Chopik conducted two studies exploring both friend and family relationships. First, in a study of over 270,000 people in 100 countries, he found that both family and friends positively impact our health and happiness in general, but as we get older, it is especially our friendships.

 

This study dovetails with others that show that at any age–we find time spent with our friends to be more enjoyable than time spent with our spouses or family members. Chopik’s research advises that often family relationships are tainted by seriousness, negativity and a sense of obligation. This contrasts with the lightness, positivity and sense of choice that generally comes with friendship.  After all, we pick our friends and they pick us and that mutuality brings with it an implicit affection that makes us feel secure and valued.

The Harvard Study on Aging examined 700 men over 75 years beginning in 1938. One half were Harvard Sophomores, (the group included John F Kennedy and Ben Bradley), the other half were some of the poorest young men in Boston. All of them were 19 years old at the start of the study and there are 60 still living.   It turns out that measuring from age 50 what was the best indicator of a man’s health later in life was not his Cholesterol levels, but the number of good friends he had. It was all about relationship. – (and it was better not to be a smoker)

When Millennials were asked about what happiness would look like more than 1/2 wanted riches and fame — but the happiest people from the study – now in their 80s were those who had close friends.

Friendship in adulthood provides companionship, affection, emotional support and contributes to well being and improved physical health.

Big picture: All relationships that provide support are good for us, but as we get older we should take extra care to invest in friendships, because along with happiness, they can also bring us a long life!

Godly friendships are the best investment in our health – because they are eternal. You’ve never really thought about coming to Bible Study as important for your physical well-being in addition to the spiritual – but it is. Better than a workout!

The bible’s example of the friendship of David and Jonathan is important – why were they friends??

Jonathan had every reason not to be David’s friend —-there was the difference in class and station – a prince and a shepherd boy, they were different ages and there was the jealousy that could have arisen in that David was basically taking Jonathan’s place in the line to be King.

After David kills Goliath Jonathan is attracted to David’s heroism but understands the source of his power — As he watches David tell Saul about what happened the I Samuel 18:3 “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.”

The people sang “Saul has his thousands and David his ten thousands – they attributed the “victory” to David. They began worshipping the hero —but Jonathan recognized that the victory was the Lord’s and that David was the one appointed by God – so how does he respond? not defensively like Saul — he takes off his robe and gives it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. Saul sees that he has lost the favor of the Lord and he sees his son – who he may have thought could carry on his reign — turning over all the trappings of his office to David. Jonathan and David’s bond of friendship is forged through their love for God first. That the will of the Lord is their purpose — that is what binds their souls together.

Jonathan shows great humility in submitting to the Lord’s will –

“May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. But show me unfailing kindness like that of the Lord as long as I live, so that I many not be killed and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family — not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account. And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

Jonathan becomes more brave and courageous because of his friendship with David. He stands up for David to his Father and confronts him. He has made an oath that desires harm on David’s enemies and that would include his own father.

Aside: There are people that say “my brother – my sister right or wrong I need to be on their side because they are my family – I think we are under obligation to tell them when they are wrong, when what they are doing is not right. We should be gentle truth tellers as Christians. It is up to us to follow the model that Jesus gave us – to go to them alone and let them know how we feel and then if they don not listen go with someone else. We do this prayerfully, but we do it truthfully.

 

Despite the many hardships Jonathan and David faced, they remained faithful to one another as friends and protected one another from harm.

Jonathan even risked his life interceding for David before King Saul, who sought to kill David. After Jonathan’s death, David wrote a lament for his friend: “Jonathan lies slain on your heights. / I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; / you were very dear to me” (2 Samuel 1:25–26). Their friendship was stronger than David’s relationship with any of his own brothers. David kept his promise and took in Jonathan’s disabled son and made him a part of his household. The friendship covenant with Jonathan brackets the violence that David suffers at the hands of Saul. David is comforted by Jonathan’s love for him and Jonathan shows us a picture of Jesus in laying his life down for his friend.

Eugene Peterson describes it this way in his book about David, Leap Over a Wall:

Friendship is a much underestimated aspect of sprituality. It’s every bit as significant as prayer and fasting. Like the sacramental use of water and bread and wine, friendship takes what’s common in human experience and turns it into something holy. Friendship with David complicated Jonathan’s life enormously. He risked losing his father’s favor and willingly sacrificed his own royal future. But neither the risk nor the loss deterred him; he became and stayed David’s friend. Jonathan’s friendship was essential to David’s life. It’s highly unlikely that David could have persisted in serving Saul without the friendship of Jonathan. Jonathan, in striking contrast to his father, discerned God in David, comprehended the danger and difficulty of his anointing and made a covenant of friendship with him. Jonathan’s friendship entered David’s soul in a way that Saul’s hatred never did.

 

What does true friendship look like:

 

There are four parts to true friendship — Constancy, Transparency, Counsel and Sympathy

 

1.) Constancy: “A friend loves at all times”, we need to be available to our friends. Especially when things are hard. The genuine or authentic friend is someone who sticks closer than a brother. In other words, she can be counted on. This friend is steadfast; she will be there for you even more so than a family member. Sisterhood is one of the strongest relationships we know. A friend who sticks closer than a brother is a trustworthy friend.

 

When our heart belongs to Jesus our friendships become supernatural. We can love and cherish our friendships with non-Christians – but friendships with a Christian who is putting Jesus first are based upon something so much bigger than ourselves. When you have a sister who is also a sister in Christ that is a true blessing.

 

I was a core leader at CBS for 6 years and I met some amazingly faithful women. I did have issues with all the rules – I buck against rules, but one of my most life changing friendships came out of that time. As a core leader I was supposed to call everyone in my group once a week – emails were not enough and text messages were not even invented yet. I remember my core leader would call during the halftime of the Redskins game every week we would wait for the ring – I hated calling anyone, but I would try. When I would call one of my women – Alison, it would always go to voicemail. She faithfully came to class every week, and always did her homework but was very shy and didn’t speak up very often.   Her husband had died just a few months before class started up on 9/11 – I asked her if she would like to have lunch sometime since I could tell she like chatting on the phone even less than I did. No, I don’t like to eat lunch she replied. Well, what do you like to do?

She said that she liked to walk – especially with her dogs – so we started walking together. It was good for me and my dog. Now 16 years later we know each other’s heart and souls — our desires , our desires for our kids our deepest fears. She has become an amazing friend and there is no “earthly” way we would have been drawn to one another. She calls me City Mouse and she is Country Mouse – she doesn’t like to get dressed up, she’s very shy as I said – and no one would describe me this way. But I know that she would drop everything and come to me if I needed her – I pray that you have a friend like that – an eternal friend to walk with you. A friend to come along side. Do you know what relationships like this one cost? Time, there is no shortcut. They cannot be shortchanged. It takes time to get to know someone and be there for them. Ask God to help you carve out time for your friends.

 

2.) Transparency:

When we have a true friendship we are honest with each other. We take off our masks and drop the facade that we wear in the world.   Washington is a place where who you know is so important. Who can you invite? Who will show up? Who will give to my cause I’m so passionate about? We describe someone as having a large rolodex (OLD SCHOOL) now we have the number of Facebook friends – or number of TWITTER followers or the number of likes on your latest travel photo.   We have all these new ways to keep SCORE and we have people we know because they can do things for us or we can do things for them. A transactional relationship   — this might do for companionship, but it is not the friendship the bible is talking about. In honesty Facebook does have its superficial side, but if you are not taking advantage of our private prayer group you are missing out. Friend Janet and she’ll invite you in to the group and once you have access you can post your prayer request and anytime night or day faithful women – (many are night owls) will be praying for you and your concerns. Check it out.

 

CS Lewis in the 4 LOVES says that the beginning of friendship is finding someone and saying “oh you too?” You feel that way too?” you find each other. I had that happen with Krista Schauer when we first met at a Christmas Coffee more than 20 years ago – we began talking and talked for the entire party. We opened up our hearts to each other – we were sisters who had just never met until that night and she is a dear friend.

 

I remember meeting Melissa Overmyer (because Dale was working on a project at our house) and beginning to pray with her. I had not had a prayer partner in many years – she was new to Washington, newly married and younger than me and didn’t have many friends (she says it was me and Dale’s uncle) – very hard to believe. She shared with me her prayers about starting a bible study (after a Christmas coffee) and here we are 27 years later. Here is our sister, Janice Smeallie who has been here from the beginning – since she was 10. So building friendships takes honesty and faith. We support each other in fulfilling what the Lord has for us.

 

These are friendship that last into eternity. We are building not only lifelong friendships, but eternal friendships.

 

3.) Counsel

As your I will put myself in your shoes and offer a different perspective. Proverbs 27:9 says “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. Real friendship is like “sweet food” it can bring joy, but as a good friend we need to be honest in the hard things too. Telling your friend the truth can hurt. Make sure if you are avoiding telling someone something that you think they need to hear that you are not just protecting yourself from the hurt in saying what needs to be said. Tell each other the truth and learn from each other. God gives us friends to share from our experience and wisdom. Make certain your advice is given in love and pray that they will receive it in love.

 

4.) Sympathy

We have to be sensitive to what the other person is feeling. We have been told in Romans to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” we are sensitive to each other’s needs.

 

In How to be a Friend In Deed, Bruce Feiler tells us that “offering to do anything” shifts the onus to the person suffering — instead of offering to do “anything – or let me know if you need anything”, do something! Sheryl Sandberg in her book, Option B says that a friend told her the story of being in the hospital for many months with her young daughter who had leukemia – it was a lonely and scary time. an acquaintance texted and said she had brought a toy for the little girl and a salad for the mom and she would just leave them at the desk unless she wanted a hug. It meant so much to the woman that this person took the time to stop in and bring something she didn’t ask for – that she really wouldn’t have thought to ask for — we can pray for help in knowing what to say and what to do — we can know when there is nothing to say:

 

Henri Nouwen writes

“When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures – have chosen rather to share our pain, and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, nor curing, nor healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness – that is a friend who cares.”

 

I was at a holiday grief support group at the Wendt Center last night one woman who had just lost her husband said she was tired of people saying “it’s going to be okay” Maybe eventually it will – but this Christmas is going to suck!” Yes it will, but we also pray that we keep going.

 

The Spirit binds us together and fits us for the mutual benefit of each other — I may not know the sorrow and pain that comes with losing a child or a husband, but I will walk with you. I will let you tell me about your pain and dry your tears. I will share in the grief with you and when you have a joy to share I will share it with you.

 

This past Thanksgiving I was with my friend Julie – each of us thinking about how important the holiday was to each of our mother’s and how many we had spent together as children. My mother died right before Thanksgiving last year and Julie’s mom died in the summer. Our mom’s were best friends. It was important to be with a friend, who is a sister and make our Mom’s pie recipes.

 

Those of you who missed when Peter was here the other week missed a blessing from God. That when our sweet Heather was observing the 5 year anniversary of her son Ben’s death – here was Peter visiting from Uganda who just happened to have gone to school with Ben in Santa Fe and knew him. What a blessing to make the connection – that is only from the Spirit of our gracious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the ultimate friend! It was like a kiss on the cheek for Heather.

 

What an awesome God we serve – He knew we were not supposed to do this alone. He gave us the gift of friendship. Our affinity is not a shared sports team or interest, or cause — it is Jesus at the Center so we are joined by the Spirit of God and he brings us together when we would not necessarily be drawn to one another — look around this room – we are from different churches, different political persuasions, married and single, not much racial difference but we are here together. Someone in SF asked me if I knew one positive thing about Washington and I told them about us — about the Bible Study- that we love each other deeply because we are centered on Christ Jesus – the very radical perfecter of our faith.

 

Our heavenly relationships can begin here and now.

 

How can we be Godly friends?

 

Love well – John 13:34 says “love one another as I have loved you”

 

Put your friends first. Philippians 2:3-4 says “ DO nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” this requires putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing from their perspective.

 

Pray for our friends James 5:16 says “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

 

Invest in your friends give them what is the most precious thing in the world your time and your ear.

 

Our ultimate example of friendship is our Lord Jesus Christ who at the last supper said

 

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

and He has promised,

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus is truly the Friend who sticks closer than a brother, and blessed are those who have Him as their Friend (see John 15:14).

 

God send us other people, friends as sacraments of his presence to bring us abundant life. when our friendships are centered on God we are never lonely – we are truly alive

 

It is good you are here, and staying for small groups – when you can — is GOOD for you. Being in community is good for you. God designed us to be part of a body to be together and builds those supernatural connections be ready for them. Come to the Christmas coffee and bring a friend.

 

Prayer

 

Thank you Lord for bringing us together that we can learn more about your love through our friends – that we may show you to others and become more like you every day. This is our prayer for today and always.