What we long for, Proverbs tells us, is faithful friends who will let us in,
and who won’t let us down. (Pvbs. 20:6)
Who of us cannot identify with the yearning Anne of Green Gables expressed?
I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life…
a bosom friend — an intimate friend, you know — a really kindred spirit friend
to whom I can confide my inmost soul.
And when we do that, we smother the friendship, and the friend flees for air.
This proverb, while it makes me laugh, is all too true.
We’ve crossed the line into relational idolatry when we expect someone to be what only God can be, and press in so close and constantly that the friend feels overwhelmed.
But if this is you, you can’t just tell yourself to stop it! Like everything else we have studied, it is a heart issue. Unless we fall in love with Jesus,
unless we allow Him to be the only One we expect to never let us down,
there is no hope of overcoming our idolatry problem.
What we can do in our spiritual friendships is to
help one another find strength in God instead of one another.
Last spring, many of you traveled to Ashland, Ohio where I was speaking.
You stayed together at a Bed and Breakfast and talked, into the night.
Mary E.; Laura-Dancer and her daughter; Chris; Susan; Dawn; Nancy and her daughter.
It was so sweet to meet in the flesh those whom we have come to know in their soul.
After having supper together, Laura-Dancer led us all in hand motions to
Spirit of the Living God.
Susan (in the middle) and Chris (on the right) were willing to be on camera,
and I caught the sweet scene here:
Both visually and verbally, this catches what we can see happen on this blog.
The Spirit of God is falling on us, and as He does, we pour out to one another.
The amazing power we experience is that when
God refreshes us,
and then we refresh others,
then we ourselves are again refreshed!
Yes, just as it is possible to experience God in a place like this,
it is possible to experience friendship.
It’s happening right here, right now!
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Share one specific example of how you have been refreshed by a friend on this blog.
Monday-Thursday Bible Study
Let’s begin with some reflections on fidelity in friendship.
The term “Fairweather Friends” has come to mean those who don’t really love you for you, but for what you can give them. When the storms of life come, on this blog, we can pray and encourage, and some of you who are close geographically might be able to do more. But prayer and encouragement are wonderful ways to help.
With good friends who are geographically close, it means so much when they are present. This last Sunday I had a literal storm that was one of the worst we’ve had up here on the lake. I was in my living room trying to shut windows against the gale when I heard the trees falling. Ten trees came down at once, in the hurricane like wind. Huge cedars that have been here for generations. I looked out my window and began to pray for God to be my husband. Within an hour brothers in Christ started coming down my driveway, or texting me, wanting to help. (My friend Vicki said, when I told her how God answered my prayer to be my husband, quipped: “Polygamy!”) God gave more than I even asked!
Jonathan, a dear man from my church, has been here all day every day all week, cleaning up. Indeed, how much it means to have a “brother” when the storms come.
Yet, though we should not be “Fairweather Friends,” I also think we must give grace when friends let us down in the storm, for we all have feet of clay or are facing our own storms. Proverbs 19:11 says it is to a man’s glory “to overlook an offense.”
3. Have you been holding onto an offense because a friend let you down in a storm? Can you release it, to your glory? Read carefully and I’ll ask for your prayerful reflections: The RSV translates “Proverbs 18:24a” as “there are friends who pretend to be friends.” We all fear this — being approached for what we can give, rather than who we are — yet, as Tim Keller has observed, there is an element of this motivation in each of us — so we shouldn’t be so shocked if others do it. Ellen Davis translates this “Some friends play at friendship, but there is a friend who sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.” She makes the observation that the word translated “some” or “many” implies this is common — in contrast to the singular friend who sticks closer than a brother. I think it is rare for a friend to never let you down — and this is why many see Jesus in this verse, as “the friend who is closer than a brother.” There are different kinds of friendships, and it is helpful to see this. There are friends who are like annual flowers, in your life for a season, and then they are gone. But even though the friendship was fleeting, it has value. And then there friends (few) who are perennials, in your life season after season. On this blog we have some who come just for Lent, some who visit frequently, and some who are here all the time — but they ALL have value and beauty. I never want anyone to feel like once they begin they must always stay. Do as He leads you, and we will love both our annuals and perennials! Jesus had circles of friends: On the outer circle, He had the 12 disciples to whom He confided. All but one endeavored to be true to Him. On the middle circle, He had the 3 (Peter, James and John) with whom He was especially close. But even they let him down in His biggest storm. Friends will let us down, but Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.
4. What reflections do you have on the above?
5. What similarity do you see between Proverbs 18:24 and 20:6?
6. Read Proverbs 19:1-7 and find what it says about wealth and friends. Think of this not only in terms of material wealth, but popularity and power. Search your own heart. Are you friends with the poor, the powerless, and the unpopular?
8. Read Proverbs 19 in its entirety and share anything that quickens you — and why.
9. Read Proverbs 20 in its entirety and share anything that quickens you — and why.
10. Rebecca Pippert said “We must learn how to be the host in conversation.” I think this is the art that is described in Proverbs 20:4. What do you think this means?
Some of you are particularly good at drawing out the deep waters of a sister’s soul on this blog. You ask her what she means, you challenge her, you probe into her heart. You listen. Obviously there are too many comments for you to read them all carefully (though I have a few who do, God bless them!) but I ask you to be led of the Spirit in whom you might mentor or encourage.
Message from Dee on Friendship.Our own Rebecca accomplished a task that was far too daunting for me. She was able to get videos of some of my past teaching on the website. So today, from Falling in Love with Jesus, I’d like you to watch the 2nd video, which is on the mentoring friendship and share your comments.
11. Share your notes and comments.
12. What is your take-away and why?