March 20, 2011
That’s What Friends Are For – Part 2
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Proverbs 17:17

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


Two is better than one, and friendship can be a great source of strength. Leaving each other better people with a closer grip on God, true friends make sanctifying demands on each other that require faithfulness. Through our words and conversations, we have the opportunity to bring life or death into the relationship. We need to ask God for faithful friends who are willing to lovingly challenge us to push us closer toward Him - as it is only through His grace that we can do anything.

More From This Series


Proverbs 17:17. A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. Diva Jeremiah in a message on friendship from the Book of Proverbs, tells the story of a single mother who was living in Oklahoma City, circumstances had brought her to the end of her rope. As it turned out, it was the worst day of her life. The bills were due and she had no way to pay them. The phone never stopped ringing. Her creditors bother her to pay her bills. The washing machine had given up the ghost. Her head was now busting with a headache, and so she lifted her one year old child into a high chair. She sat down beside him and laid her head on the high chair tray and began to sob uncontrollably. The little one year old took his pacifier out of his mouth and he stuck it in his mother’s.
You know what? There’ll come a point in each of our lives where we need a friend like that. The Book of Proverbs is teaching us that if you and I are to make this thing called life work, we’re going to have to learn to relate it and respond to each other. We’re going to have to learn to lean and look to each other because two is better than one. God has so made us and so made it that you and I will never be what we could be or should be without the help of others. Remember what we said this morning? We cannot be happy and we cannot be holy away from other people. And so this verse we’ve been looking at is so profoundly important, and we started to look at it under three general thoughts, the circle of friendship. And we saw a principle that will help us develop friends and friendship.
A man that has many friends, will himself be friendly. Then we looked at a pattern of discernment. Not everybody should be our friend as we seek to make friends, the righteous choose their friends carefully. So we moved on to look at the character of friendship. This verse reminds us that love marks true friendship. Love is the anchor that holds friendship. And please, it is the rudder that steers at amidst the crosswinds of life and the currents of time. And we started to look at the friendship between Jonathan and David and saw that love loves to serve love between friends, is a love marked by service. But love among friends not only loves to serve, and this is where we’re picking up from this morning, love among friends loves to strengthen. Let’s go back to First Samuel 23, pick up where we left off. We were at that scene in the life of David where he’s on the run.
He’s being honed and hunted by Saul. He’s out in the wilderness of Ziff. Jonathan goes out to meet him. Think about that. This is Saul’s son. He has everything to lose and nothing to gain in his friendship with David. He is inviting the wrath of his unstable father, who’s a maniac, basically, who’s tried to kill David on a multiple occasions. But Jonathan goes out to serve David because he loves David, and Jonathan goes out not only to serve him, but to strengthen him. Look at verse 16 of First Samuel 23. Then Jonathan, Saul’s son arose and went to David in the woods. By the way, that’s what friends do. Friends seek you out when you’re hiding, when you’re hurt, when you’re wounded, when you’re hunkered, dying. And Jonathan and went out to him, met him at the point of his need, and look at this beautiful verse, “And strengthened his hand in God,” isn’t that beautiful?
Oh, that we would be that to each other. Oh, that others would be that to us, that kind of friend. They serve us not out of self-interest, but out of a desire to see God’s will completely unfold in our life, as in the case of David. And they have this one desire that through their friendship we will become batter friends of God. Mark it down, this is a great statement. True friends leave you a batter friend of God. True friends leave you a batter friend of God because here’s Jonathan, he comes alongside David, David is at a low tide, physically, emotionally, spiritually. This is the sweet Sam of Israel and he doesn’t want to sing. He’s lost his song. He’s hurt. God had promised him the throne of Israel, but Saul has been within inches of taking his life. He’s discouraged, he’s confused, and Jonathan comes alongside him.
The text doesn’t tell us, but you can be sure. He prayed with him. He reminded him of God’s promises, they perhaps worship together. In fact, the literal Hebrew here is very interesting. It literally means that Jonathan strengthened his grip on God. Strengthened his grip on God. Jonathan was an oasis of encouragement in the wilderness of Ziff. David Roper says this quote, “This is the true essence of Christian friendship, beyond common interests, beyond the faction, beyond wit and laughter, is the ultimate [inaudible 00:05:50] of sewing in others the words of eternal life, leaving them with reminders of God’s wisdom, refreshing them with words of his love, and strengthening their grip on God.” That’s what true friends do. Oh, they laugh and there’ll be times to recreate together, but ultimately, that friend will want to move you closer to Jesus Christ. That friend will want to give you a deeper knowledge of God’s word from the insights they themselves have gleaned. That person will charge you to live your life within the boundaries of God’s will. This is the great measurement of true friendship. Our friends ought to make us better friends of God.
Proverbs 27, verse 17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so does the countenance of one friend to another.” Friends don’t just talk together, they pray together. Friends don’t just watch movies together, they read their bibles together. Friends just don’t want a good life for each other, they want God’s will to be done by each other. Friends don’t just go to the mall, they go to church together. After all, their relationship with Christ feeds and fuels their relationship with each other. If they are to be to each other what God wants them to be to each other, they must do it in the strength of Jesus Christ.
It is Christ that teaches us to serve others selflessly. It is Christ that will give us the enablement to strengthen another’s grip on God, because without him, we can do nothing. And therefore, it’s important that friends help each other get a grip on God’s grace. And that is a wonderful challenge. True friendships drive us to God. False friendships make us slaves of other men. Paul warned the Ephesians in Act 20, verse 30, “There are those that are going to come in among you and they’re going to draw,” listen to these words, “disciples after themselves.”
If someone is making you a slave to them and their convictions and their conscience, instead of strengthen your grip on God, be careful. Friends do not get between us and God, they get behind us and put us to new spiritual heights. Jerry White defined a friend as this and we’ll move on, “A friend is a trusted confidant to whom I may mutually draw as companion and ally, whose love for me is not dependent upon my performance, and whose influence upon me draws me nearer to Jesus Christ.” Great definition of a friend. Well, a friend loves at all times. And that is a love that’s marked by service and that’s a love that’s marked by helping a person strengthen their grip on God. Let’s move on to the last thought back into Proverbs 17:17. A friend loves at all times. There’s the constancy of friendship. We’ve looked at the circle of friendship, the character of friendship, now we’re looking at the constancy. Our friends will be faithful to the end, won’t they?
In John 13, verse one, we read that Jesus loved his disciples to the end. Friends love you to the end. They’re loyal, dependable, faithful, their love can be seen and known at all times, and in all circumstances. There’s nothing disposable about true friendship. Friendship is not based on convenience. Friendship is not based on circumstances. Friendship is based on cognitive love. We read it this morning, First Samuel 18, verse three. It says that David and Jonathan made a covenant with each other because Jonathan loved David. This was [inaudible 00:10:04] love. This is the term that’s used of God’s loyal covenant love for Israel. This was a covenant community. And if they were going to be friends within the community, they needed to live out the covenant. They needed to be faithful to each other. And Jonathan was faithful to David through hard circumstances at great danger to himself.
Jonathan loved David at all times. The Bible frowns upon post-it note relationships. What do I mean by that? Well, relationships that have a mild attachment, which is easily broken. That’s a post-it note, right? A mild adhesive, easily torn apart. Genuine friends can be relied on and they can be relied on in two areas quickly, in their words, and in their wounds. Faithful in their words. If you and I are going to have a friend, if you and I are going to be a friend, you and I need to put a guard over our mouth because life and death is in the power of the tongue. We’ll preach a message on the tongue in this series in Proverbs, but according to 18:21, life and death is in the power of the tongue. By the use of our tongue, by our conversation, and by our speech, we can breathe life into friendship or we can bring a blight and a weathering death to that friendship.
Fidelity and truthfulness of speech is important to the vitality of a friendship. More friendships have been demolished by the wrecking ball of an out of control tongue than by almost anything else. Look at Proverbs 16, verse 28. A perverse man, so strife and a whisperer separates the best of friends. A whisperer, a gossip, a slanderer, a person who says something behind a person, a friend’s back, they would never say to their face, they will explode and implode that friendship again. Proverbs 17, verse nine. “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter, separates friends.” Gossip, slander, innuendo, whispering, are all crimes against friendship. And don’t be foolish enough not to believe that the little birdies carry the story back and your friend finds out. And there’s that sense of betrayal and broken confidence and shattered trust. And it’s very hard to rebuild a friendship after that.
Whisperers separate friends, be careful. There are some things you shouldn’t say. There are some things that you should say, but you should wait for the right time to say them. Friendship is based upon trust and the other person’s good. Therefore, when we decide to break confidence, exaggerate facts, or publish faults, we are driving a dagger through the heart of friendship. A woman on one occasion said to Mr. Wesley, the Methodist minister, “My talent is to speak my mind.” Wesley replied “That’s one talent God wouldn’t care a bit if you’re buried.” And if you know your Matthew 25, talent’s parable, you’ll know what he’s driving at there. Good advice. Let’s just take the second thought and be done. Fearful in our words, faithful in our wounds. This is an interesting thought. You and I as friends shouldn’t say bad things about each other. Friends love each other, and it is the glory of a man to overlook a fault or love covers a multitude of sins.
You’re not going to spread what you know about that friend. You’re going to hold your tongue. You’re going to minister healing and health to that person who’s your friend. We should not say bad things about each other. But that’s not to seem as saying we shouldn’t say hard things to each other. Turn with me to Proverbs 27 and verse six. Proverbs 27, verse six, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” There’s where I get my thought here, faithful in our words because whispers separate the best of friends, faithful in our wounds because faithful are the wounds of a friend. Part and parcel of true biblical blossoming friendship will be the need sometimes to rebuke, to admonish, to wound a friend, to say something tough, to exercise tough love to a friend.
Maybe there’s a pattern of behavior that just needs to stop. Maybe that person’s about to sin or go outside the will of God and forfeit the blessing of God and the comfort of the spirit, as the spirit will be grieved by this action. And so out of love, you get into the face of your friend, but you do it with heart. That’s the fearful wounding of a friend. And the Bible says that’s good. That’s good because sometimes love strengthens us by hurting so that it might heal. How often has the doctor said to you, “This is going to hurt a little?” Now you don’t go running out of the office do you? “Mommy, mommy, he’s going to hurt me!” No, because you understand that there’s good intention behind what that man’s about to do. There’s love behind it, and there’s good at the end of it.
And sometimes friendships hurt a little, or sometimes they hurt a lot. But if there’s good at the end of it and there’s love behind it, take that wound. Don’t be a fool. Listen to that rebuke. We become an enemy to ourselves and the friendship when we fail to be willing to be wounded by a friend. This is a staggering verse. Just write it down. If you don’t want to, turn with me. It’s Psalm 141 in verse five. Psalm 141 in verse five, David says this, “Let the righteous strike me. It shall be a kindness and let him rebuke me.” What a verse. Let the righteous strike me. Let my friend wound me because that friend is going to serve me and strengthen my grip on God. And if necessary, he might need to rebuke me to do that. He might need to chastise me. He might need to challenge my words or my actions.
And God’s going to use that friend as sandpiper to rub off the rough edges of my character and my conduct. Folks, friendship bleeds, and it’s due not to the cut of an enemy, but to the incision of a surgeon. This verse is what’s called antithetical parallelism. Everything is set in contrast, the friend, the enemy, the kiss, the wound, the faithfulness, the deceitfulness. And the amazing thing is the Book of Proverbs are saying are you wise enough to take the rebuke of a friend? Or are you foolish enough to run away from the pain of that and kiss an enemy? Who in the end is going to deceive you? One commentator says, “We are so afraid of pain. We are so afraid of pain.” Here’s the challenge. I think sometimes we, even as Christians, mistake admirers for friends. But friends don’t simply admire you in some unqualified way.
Friends are there to place upon you sanctifying demands. They want you to become a friend of God. They want you to become more like the Lord, Jesus Christ. And they’re not about to patronize you. Gee, we have a culture that’s patronizing rather than telling the truth. We’re doing it with our children. Rather than they know that they can’t spell, we teach them creative spelling. Well, how would you spell that? Just set the Oxford dictionary aside, the Webster’s dictionary aside. You know what? We don’t want you to feel bad about yourself that you can’t spell.
So why don’t you have a go at spelling it yourself and we’ll give you a grade. You think that’s going to enable a young person to make it in life? It’s going to disable them. In fact, I read a study that American kids went to Europe and they did a battery of tests with Asians and Europeans. When they come out of the exam room and the American kids were asked how they did, and of all the groups they thought we did the best. The Asians and the Europeans come out, they were a little bit more humble about it and say, “We’re not sure.” When the test results come in, who do you think was worse? The American kids were worse in the scoring. They had an inflated sense of their ability, perhaps pampered by an education system that doesn’t challenge them, the rigorous study.
And that’s just one example. And you and I could find many examples in this culture where we’re patronizing each other rather than telling the truth. Flunk the kid. It’s good for him. It’s the wound of a friend. It’s going to cause him to be better and stronger because there’s a difference between encouraging someone to be better than letting them think they’re better than they are. That’s patronizing. That’s the kiss of an enemy that’s deceitful, not the wound of a friend that’s faithful. And folks, the purpose of friendship is not to absolutely please, friendship is not a fan club. Friendship makes sanctifying demands upon the other person.
I caught a TV special a while back, and it was dealing with the antics of Hollywood stars and how they can throw these kind of tantrums in airports and in restaurants and in hotels when they don’t get what they demand. And they were showing Ashley Simpson, the sister of Jessica Simpson, the young people probably know of her. She’s a singer, and she was throwing a tantrum in a McDonald’s in Toronto. It was late in the night, she was inebriated, to say the least. She got up on top of the counter, demanding the manager kind of saying do you not know who I am? You know Ashley Simpson has walked into the restaurant? Everything stops. I’m here for me. She acted terribly. And as they reflected on that one incident of many incidences with Hollywood stars, they came to this conclusion. The reason Ashley Simpson does that, because she’s simply surrounded by admirers who she thinks are friends, she lives within a bubble.
People are paid to like her, or people are there because they can get something from her. And instead of somebody saying, “You know what, get down to that and cut that right before I slap you across the head.” But they’re not going to do that, right? Because she can replace them with somebody that’s going to say, “Hey, Ashley, you’re great. You’re the best. Nobody like you.” No matter what you do, don’t seek admirers. Don’t turn your friends into a fan club. Have friends in your life who are faithful enough to lovingly, tenderly, proportionately wound you because it’s the cut of a surgeon. There’s healing in it. You’ll be the better for it. It’s great stuff.