We live in a world where a glance into the lives of others is achieved by the click of a button. As we look at the lifestyle, wealth and status of those we follow, we may be inclined to think they have it all together. However, if the layers were peeled back and the façade removed, we would see the same struggles and fears in their lives. Christians are not immune to this in a spiritual capacity. We may scan the room at a meeting and wonder how everyone else seems to have it together; we feel the struggle of an inconsistent walk with the Lord and wonder to whom we can turn. As we make friends, how do we ensure we build spiritual and meaningful relationships with others?
Strengthen One Another
“And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God” (1Sa 23:16 ESV).
David and Jonathan are a biblical example of true friendship; they shared a trust and love for God. As David fled to the mountains and caves in fear for his life, Jonathan found him and strengthened his hand in God. David was a man after God’s own heart – intelligent, skilful and spiritual, yet vulnerable and in need of encouragement. Jonathan was there for David and was marked by honesty, loyalty and faithfulness even when he was putting his own life on the line. When a friend experiences trials, it would be a blessing if we would emulate the encouragement that Jonathan brought to David.
Speak the Truth in Love
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Pro 27:6).
Many people appreciate a compliment but resent correction. However, admonition is a hallmark of true friendship. The proverb speaks of faithful wounds; the result ought to be growth and not destruction. The perspective of another may shed light on an area of our lives where changes can be made, and how we respond is a test of our humility. Proverbs has many such injunctions: “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” (9:8). “Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, but he who regards a rebuke will be honoured” (13:18 NKJV). Paul often had a responsibility to correct and challenge the local churches, but he did so with fervent prayer and love in his heart. Over and over, his love and care for others is emphasised, leaving us in no doubt of the purity of his motives. If we have to highlight some fault in a friend, it is imperative they know the love and strength of the friendship. The purpose of this should never be to destroy or tear down but to encourage and build up.
Silence When Necessary
“And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:13 ESV).
The suffering of Job is one we struggle to imagine; everything was gone. In situations of grief, we may lack wise words or fear saying the wrong thing. This example of Job’s friends shows us we can be present without having the right words to say. There are occasions when, seeing the sorrow of a friend, we are truly lost for words; their pain is so great and their hurt so deep that we wonder what to do. Most importantly, we should be there for them. The friends of Job made the effort to come and sit with him as he sorrowed. We also see that they were sympathetic and wept with him (2:12). Sadly, the positive example is lost as each of them would break their silence. They each took a turn to speak and concluded Job must have sinned in order to have had this sorrow come to him. What may have started as a good example quickly descended to hurtful, foolish words, and Job exclaimed, “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all” (16:2 ESV). In our friendships, suffering will come at different times and in various ways. During the dark days in the lives of our friends, we may not feel confident in how to help them, but we can learn from this example that being present and offering a listening ear can be more effective than our words to a hurting heart.
Stir One Another Up
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb 10:24-25).
Provocation is generally considered a negative word, but here we are encouraged to provoke toward something good. A sign of a good friendship is one where we are stretched and pushed to do what is right. A faithful friend will stir us to love God and our neighbour. They will not only encourage us to attend the assembly gatherings but to build into the local assembly things of eternal value (1Co 3:12-14). There is coming a day when the opportunity for these activities will be past; therefore, we must prioritise the things of eternal value now. When geography and time permit, consider focusing your “friend time” on things of value. Few things are as unifying as serving the Lord together. Spreading the gospel, visiting older saints, and praying or studying the Word of God are activities that produce real and durable camaraderie.
When we consider our friendships, let us evaluate on the basis of God’s Word and ask, “Am I a friend that encourages others?” and, “Do I have friends that encourage me?” Let us strengthen one another, speaking the truth in love and stirring one another up.
 This and all remaining Scripture quotations are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.