We’re in the fight of our lives. Are you fighting with the people in your life or are you fighting for them? We’re starting a new series of posts on relationships today. We’re going to start today with friendship.
One of the biggest secrets to success in your life is the friends you choose, the people you are committed to.
When we talk about friendships and making a commitment to people, the first thing we think about is all the people we really don’t want to make a commitment to. Here’s a list of high maintenance people you may be familiar with.
- The Martyr — Forever the victim and wracked with self-pity
- The Critic — Constantly complains and gives unwanted advice
- The Wet blanket — Pessimistic and automatically negative
- The Steamroller — Blindly insensitive to others
- The Gossip — Spreads rumors and leaks secrets
- The Controller — Unable to let go and let be
- The Backstabber — Irrepressibly two-faced
- The Cold Shoulder — Disengages and avoids contact
- The Green-Eyed Monster — Seethes with envy
- The Volcano — Builds steam and is ready to erupt
- The Sponge — Constantly in need but gives nothing back
- The Competitor — Keeps score of everything
Any faces coming to mind? Did you see your own face on any of those? If you don’t think you fall into any of those categories, you don’t need this post, you need therapy.
The culture we live in, is highly disfunctional. There are many hurting people. Hurting people, hurt people. We have the tendancy to push back when people hurt us. If that’s our perspective, our friendships just become the fruit of convenience rather than commitment.
Why You Need Friends
- For spiritual growth.
You cannot become all God meant for you, by yourself. You cannot grow to spiritual maturity by yourself. Even the Apostle Paul loved friendship, because:
“When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” Romans 1:12 NLT
- For emotional support.
You need people who support you. Without a good support system, our emotions are blown every which way. Any storm destroys us.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NIV
If you’re not helping out with any other friends you’re not fulfilling the law of Christ which is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
- For better health.
If you don’t have healthy friendships you’re going to die sooner than you imagine. People without friends don’t live as well than people with deep friendships. One of the reasons is friends give you a place to unload your negative emotions.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16 NIV
Nothing is harder on the body and mind than concealed sin. Unconfessed, concealed, secret sin creates anxiety, fear, depression, gut issues and mind issues.
If all you want in life is to be forgiven for your faults and sins, just confess them to God. But if you want to be healed of them, if you want to get over them, the starting point is to share them with somebody else.
God says we are to live in the light. That means we bring things out of the dark into the light.
- For social enjoyment.
Life is meant to be enjoyed, not merely endured. Friendships are the bedrock of a satisfying life. You can make all the money in the world, have all the achievements in the world, have all the pleasure in the world, but if your relationships stink, life stinks.
“God says, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.'” Genesis 2:18 NIV
- For reaching goals.
You will never fulfill your goals by yourself. If you can, then you have weak goals. It takes a team to fulfill a dream.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT
How do I develop these awesome friendships? Follow the Golden Rule. Two thousand years ago, Jesus gave us a statement that has become known as the Golden Rule.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 NIV
Give people what you’d like to receive. Let’s apply this to friendship. If you really want to have great, deep, meaningful, lifelong friendships it’s really simple:
Be the friend that you would like to have.
Six Golden Rules of Friendship
Whether it’s at work, with your husband or wife or in a small group use these 6 things to build great friendships. They will change your life if you will follow them.
1. Invest the time.
Deep friendships are not cheap. You must choose to invest the greatest commodity in your life your time, energy and effort.
“A man that has friends must show himself friendly.” Proverbs 18:24
Stop waiting for people to be your friend, and you make the effort. Show them how to be a great friend. Don’t just show up when you need something. Show up over and over again.
“Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.” Philippians 2:4
The context of this verse is in a powerful section of scripture that’s describing how we are to live in light of the cross of Jesus. You can’t be a friend to someone without your presence. Physical presence is essential to having a long term, deep friendship. Friends show up.
2. Earn their trust.
If you want to build friends you’ve got to earn their trust. Trust is what makes it a friendship. This is the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. You talk to acquaintances but you trust your friends.
“Many people declare themselves loyal, but who can find someone who is really trustworthy?” Proverbs 20:6 GW
How Do You Earn Trust?
People don’t give you their trust automatically. You have to earn it. Honor is given, we’re supposed to give honor to everyone. Forgiveness is given, you are to forgive everyone.
Trust is earned. That’s why friendships aren’t automatic. The Bible says you can earn trust a couple of ways.
- By being loyal.
“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17 NLT
Loyalty is the difference between a friend and a flake. Loyalty is a commitment that says, “I’m going to put you before myself at this point.” Loyalty is the opposite of self-centeredness. Loyalty helps you right now instead of helping his or herself.
“If you love someone, you’ll be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best, and always stand your ground in defending them.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 LB
Love is just loyalty in action. Now if you have been betrayed, abandoned or abused, you probably have some trust issues. Rightfully so. If you need to get some Christian counseling, get it. God doesn’t expect you to trust the person who manipulated you or controlled you, but you can’t build new deep friendships without trust. You can’t build deep trust if you’re always afraid.
- By keeping confidences.
Everybody needs one person in their life who is safe. The mark of a true friend is they know how to keep a secret. If you really want people to trust you, you cannot be a gossip.
“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13
3. Listen with empathy.
You can’t love people without listening to people. In a conversation you have to keep making the choice to listen to what they’re saying instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next. One of the main things when interacting in a group is learning to listen to the emotion that somebody’s using rather than just the words. Hearing and responding to their emotions.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 NIV
If you are quick to listen and slow to speak, you will be slow to anger. What does it mean to listen with empathy? Empathy simply means to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NIV
4. Accept their flaws.
We all have flaws, faults, defects, failings, weaknesses and sins. Nobody’s perfect.
“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.” Romans 15:7 NLT
That doesn’t mean God approves of everything we do, but He accepts us. You want to know what glorifies God? Accepting people like Christ accepts you.
If you’re married or have friends, your spouse or your friends have some characteristics that bug you to death. Those characteristics are probably not going to change. So you’ve got to decide if you will accept that or be miserable the rest of your life. To overlook someone’s flaws is what the Bible means by acceptance.
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 NLT
5. Celebrate wins and share losses.
Celebrate the wins of your friends and share the losses of your friends. The Bible commands that we do this:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 NIV
Learn how to celebrate not just the good things that happen to you but you need to learn how to celebrate the good things that happen to other people without becoming envious, jealous, critical, resentful or competitive.
A friend celebrates your wins as much as they celebrate their own. If you only know how to celebrate the good things that happen to you, you’re going to be unhappy most of your life.
6. Bring out their best.
Your best friend is the person who brings out the best in you. The way to get that kind of friend is to bring the best out of someone else.
“Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV
Do you have friends that will bring out your best? Would your friends keep you from cheating on a test? Would your friends keep you from drugs or get you on drugs? Would your friends cheer your faith on or ridicule it?
Every marriage goes through bumps. You need to make sure that your best friends are as committed to their marriage as you are to yours. Because then when your marriage goes through a tough time, the friends around you are pulling for your marriage, not against it.
“An honest answer is a sign of true friendship.” Proverbs 24:26 GNT
The older your friendships are, the better they get. A man’s best mirror is an old friend. A true friend makes you face yourself. Sometimes a mark of a friend requires frankness, the kind that loves you too much to let you do the wrong thing.
They can speak into your life with grace and truth. Grace without truth is meaningless and ruth without grace is just mean.
Do you have anybody in your life who you’ve given permission to get in your face with truth and grace? Where do you find friends like that?
Treat people the way you want to treated.
Be the friend you’d like to have. The best place to get friends like that is at church. Because you’re going to find similar goals and values. If you want to have sincere, deep friendships, join a Dream Team. Serving elbow to elbow with people creates friendships. Attend Celebrate Recovery or get in a Small Group.
Lifeway organization did a study that surveyed Christian church members. They discovered that in an average church, only about 50% of the people say they have developed significant relationships with people in their church family. But people who are in a Small Groups or a Celebrate Recovery Group, it’s 90%.
In an average church, only 42% say they know their spiritual gift and are using it to serve God and others. But for those in a Small group it’s nearly 75%. In a average church, only 45% say they think about Bible truths throughout the day. But in a Small Group or Celebrate Recovery Group, it’s about 75%. You need to be in a small group you need deep meaningful friendships.
Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts about the message on sleep or the frequency series as a whole?
Hear the Word
This week, we started a new series about fighting for our relationships rather than with our relationships. We learned that we need friends for spiritual growth, emotional support, better health, social enjoyment and reaching goals.
We learned from Matthew 7:12 that we are to be the friend we want to have. So, if you want great friends…
- Invest the time
- Earn their trust
- Listen with empathy
- Accept their flaws
- Celebrate wins and share losses
- Bring out their best
Read: 1 Corinthians 13
- God gives us the ultimate example of trust because he loves us and stays with us in any circumstance or situation. How does his example give you courage to trust others? How can you use the biblical principle of loving your neighbor as yourself to grow into a more trustworthy person?
- Share a time when a loyal friend made a positive impact in your life. How does your appreciation for their loyalty motivate you to become more loyal to your friends?
- Why do you think it is easy to turn to gossip instead of holding a confidence? As a group, create a list of strategies to avoid gossip.
- An important part of friendship is speaking the truth in love and not standing silently by watching a friend make a mistake. Share an example when you either watched a friend make a huge mistake while you were silent, or when you counseled a friend who took your advice and avoided a painful situation.
- Read Romans 12:15. Talk about how to rejoice with a friend who is rejoicing and mourn with a friend who is mourning.
Pray: Father, you are the one who first called us to friendship. Jesus modeled being a friend to his disciples. He calls us to love one another as we want others to love us. Help us develop friendships within our small group, and with others. Give us discernment as we develop trust with others. Let us be an example to the world of a loving and trustworthy friend. May you be glorified as we show the world your love. In Jesus name. Amen
Tell Someone Else
Who can you be a friend to this week? How could this message help or encourage someone else?