Proverbs 18:24 tells us there is a friend who is “closer than a brother.” And while we, of course, think of Jesus, it is also true that there are times when the bonds of the family of God are stronger than the bonds of the family of your childhood.
While your biological family may not be dysfunctional, they may not be strong in the Lord, or though they may be there for you when you really need them, they may not actually “like or understand” you. They also may not live near you.
Last week our own Lizzy shared a story that fits as a perfect illustration.
This weekend, Make A Wish is coming to our house to “grant” Philip a play-scape. They’ve just started the building today, and we’ve kept it all a surprise. He’s so much younger than my other kids that we no longer had even a swing set, so this will be really special for him, and help build needed strength. When they first told us we were selected, they said we needed to have our family here for the “big reveal party”. Some here know that’s not a possibility for us, and I got that instant “lump” in my throat feeling. But I found out today, my dear Pastor who I mentioned a few weeks ago that Philip is so close to, is determined to come and be a part of this, as well as our pharmacist who calls herself Philip’s “aunt Nikki”. I’m humbled by God’s provision of “family”, reminding me again it’s not about blood or genetics, but the Body. I see this as His “pursuing” me because He knows the ache of my heart, the pain I carry from the rejection from both sides of our family, and He has brought a few people into our lives who love us well, to be family to us.
Below are pictures of Pastor Don rejoicing with Philip, Philip’s big brother playing with him in the new playhouse, and Pastor Don visiting Philip during a transfusion.
How vital is the family of God in our lives, often offering more meaningful support than a biological family.
The truth of Proverbs 18:24 became so clear when I was asked to write a curriculum for women in prison. It seemed logical to me to begin with a gospel. But my friend Linda Strom, who with her husband Dallas, founded the amazingly successful prison ministry of “Discipleship Unlimited,” said “I think we should begin with the book of Ruth.
“Ruth!” I exclaimed in surprise, “But why?”
“In our ministry we see Christ setting women free. But so often when they get out of prison, they return to their dysfunctional families or partners and become enslaved all over again. They are going ‘back to Moab.’ What they need to do is to say good-bye to their families and cling to the family of God, like Ruth did, so that they can stay free.” (And so we did — and produced “The Rescue” which is being devoured by the women and truly helping them stay free.)
Tim Keller makes the important observation that “In the early stage of your life, you were shaped most by your family. But for the rest of your life you will be shaped largely by your friends. You will become like the people with whom you spend the most time.” (God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life)
It is so important that we begin to see the body of Christ as our family, and that they indeed, can be closer than a brother. Today is Mother’s Day, and many of you did not have a mother who loved well, but I’ll bet you had a “mother” who has loved well in the body of Christ, a “mother” who became like Naomi was to Ruth. Indeed, the body of Christ is our source for the richest friendships and relationships of all.
That doesn’t mean we should not have good friendships with non-Christians, for if we do not, we will not be salt and light, or winning people to Christ, but our very closest friendships should be with those who draw us closer to Him. Ruth also provides a good model in taking risks when following God’s leading. She made an enormous risk when she said good-bye to Moab and clung to Naomi — and it made all the difference, not only in her life but in generations to come. Every close friend I have had involved stepping out on faith for me, and risking rejection. I pursued them the way God pursued me. I took flowers to Lee, I invited Ann over for lunch, I had theological e-mail discussions with Twila and then asked her to go bike-riding with me. Have I ever been rejected? Yes — and sometimes I risked again and found success, and sometimes I sensed God closing the door.
Every good gift, including friendship, comes from God. I have learned to pray for friends and to ask God for eyes to see the ones to whom I should risk reaching out, either evangelistically or for deeper friendship. If you are without close and godly friends, I encourage you to pray, and then take risks in reaching out to those to whom He draws your attention. It may or may not happen, but you will have been obedient.
We are continuing our study in Proverbs, and also sharing daily God Hunts. To understand the God Hunt, see the blog post from two weeks ago entitled Slowing Down, Seeing More.
On a personal note, I am closing my warehouse as it no longer seems like good stewardship to try to compete with Amazon. So everything, including the signed Aslan prints, are half off. Much is already gone, but I wanted to alert you. Just e-mail Brenda@deebrestin.com to see if we still have what you want after looking at the store. We are closing it May 31st but you can still order anything from the big websites or through stores.
Also, I have a few more copies of the pre-release unedited The Jesus Who Surprises if you are willing to read one in exchange for putting a review on a website or two (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook). Just send me your mailing address at firstname.lastname@example.org — while supplies last.
Thank you so much!
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Share a productive risk you took in friendship.
3. Share about someone in the body of Christ who has been like a mother to you, or share a reason you are thankful for your own mother.
Monday: Closer Than A Brother
I have often interpreted the above as referring to Jesus, and while that is certainly true, and important to realize, I also think that Keller is right in applying it to seeing how a faithful Christian friend is such a gift.
4. Meditate on Proverbs 18:24. What is the main point and how might you apply it?
5. If you are familiar with the book of Ruth, how were Ruth and Naomi this to one another — and what difference did it make?
6. If you don’t have a friend like this, ask the Lord here to open your eyes and to give you the courage to take a risk. (We’d love a report if God shows you mercy!)
7. How have you spied God in the last 24 hours?
Tuesday: Show Yourself Friendly
Another translation of Proverbs 18:24 is: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (KJV) Matthew Henry says that “we must love them…by all expressions that are endearing.” I believe that almost everyone lacks confidence and that by demonstrating that we would like a close bond, they are given courage to respond if they wish.
8. What are some ways acquaintances have “shown themselves friendly to you?” And how have you made it known that you would like a closer friendship with someone?
9. How have you spied God in that last day?
Wednesday: Better a Friend Nearby
Two years ago my liver enzymes were so high I went through a battery of tests, the last one being a liver biopsy. Though I was told it would not be hard, Debbie, who is a dear friend in my church, insisted on going with me. Though I have a sister here, she has her own deep concerns, and my daughter who lived in Wisconsin was still too far away to bother her for what seemed minor. Fortunately, I accepted Debbie’s offer for the liver biopsy went very wrong and my liver reacted violently, giving me the most pain in my life and all the symptoms of a major heart attack. I was in the emergency room for three hours until finally my liver calmed down. Dear Debbie, who was a new Christian, said, “I was so scared I started praying in tongues — and I don’t even know what that is!” She also called other friends to pray.
Both Debbie and another dear friend, Vicki, who came when Debbie called, got me home — and I was thankful I had not tried to drive myself. (We eventually figured out the culprit was Advil.) How thankful I was for faithful friends nearby.
10. Meditate on Proverbs 27:10. What is the main point and how could you apply it?
11. Action Assignment: Send an e-mail or note to a dear friend nearby and tell her why you are thankful for her. Report here what you did.
12. Share your God Hunt.
Thursday-Friday: Tim Keller on Friendship
Listen to the following and share your notes and comments.
13. Share your notes and comments.
14. What was your best God Hunt of the week?