That’s What Friends Are For


We take care of our health, we lay up money, we make our roof tight, and our clothing sufficient, but who provides wisely that be shall not be wanting in the best property of all – FRIENDS.” Ralph Waldo Emerson has accurately diagnosed the malady of modern culture.

While many realize that friendship provides excellent opportunities for bringing others to the Savior, many Christians seem to need help in knowing how to develop friendships with unbelievers. So what does such a friendship look like? The remarkable relationship between Jonathan and David provides some helpful insight. In I Samuel 23 David is hiding in the wilderness, fearful for his life because of the threats of King Saul. Jonathan, the son of Saul, enters the scene and at great risk sides with David.

We can learn at least three things from this encounter that reveal specific principles for any friendship. First, Jonathan took the initiative, “be arose and went to David.” True friendship begins with a commitment to be a friend, not just to have friends. Because he was Saul’s son, Jonathan had everything to lose by getting involved with David. And yet that’s what real friends do. Jesus Christ was an initiator as well, he mixed it up with people from all walks of life. And we must do the same, initiating with people in the neighborhood, workplace, or school, because the truth of the gospel flows best through the conductor of friendship.

Second, Jonathan encouraged David. David was at a crisis point in his life; he was lonely, scared and discouraged. At this critical moment Jonathan provided much needed encouragement. And note that Jonathan encouraged him “in God. ” The greatest gift you can give a friend is encouragement in their search for God.

To do this you’ll need to invest your time in building friendships with those in your network. Common ground is the foundation upon which relationships are built over time. Always look for opportunities that flow from the ordinary routines of life, but also realize that times of crisis often provide special moments for dispensing the gift of friendship.

Finally, Jonathan assumed a servant posture, “you (David) will be king over Israel, and I (Jonathan) will be next to you. ” This is remarkable because Jonathan, as Saul’s son, was the heir to the throne. A true friend has no hidden agenda for your life, but wants only to serve in a spirit of love.

Initiative, encouragement, service-the building blocks of friendship. Faithfully apply these principles and expect God to use you to introduce your friends to the Savior. After all, that’s what friends are for.

Following are some practical ideas that you can use to apply the three friendship principles.

INITIATE: Remember, friendship begins with the commitment to be a friend.

� Ideas for Men: Take the initiative to organize men’s trips: hunting, fishing, skiing, backpacking, golfing. join a men’s basketball or softball league. Buy tickets for sporting events and plan on taking your unchurched friends.

� Ideas for Women: Take the initiative to organize seasonal shopping trips to an outlet mall. Plan a trip to a health spa over a long weekend. Invite other homemakers to a weekly coffee at your home. Reserve a conference room and set up a weekly brown bag lunch for other women in the office. Develop a community craft show. For moms with preschool kids, arrange a weekly play group at a different house each week.

� Ideas for Couples: Arrange to go out to dinner with another couple. Take a vacation with another couple to a place that offers things that both husbands and wives would enjoy. Have another couple over for a holiday and enjoy a nice meal together. Buy tickets with extra seats to the symphony or the theater, and plan to invite unchurched friends. Organize a gourmet club or progressive dinner.

Key. With confidence in God, we need to take the risk to initiate friendships with people and pray that God may open doors for ministry.

ENCOURAGE: Remember, friendship blossoms as you give the gift of encouragement.

Encouragement in General: Encourage your friends by sharing a simple word of appreciation, a phone call, a written note, a small gift. Acknowledge vocational accomplishments, educational achievements,
birthdays, anniversaries. The point is to take the time to communicate how much you value the relationship.

Encouragement in God: As the friendship deepens be sensitive to opportunities to encourage your friend in God. Sow spiritual seeds by sharing a book such as Mere Christianity or More Than A Carpenter, a
gospel tract such as The Search, a taped testimony, a personal invitation to a special service at your church such as a concert, drama, or a guest speaker. just be sure that it is well done and of particular interest to your friend.

Key. When people feel loved and encouraged they become more open to the message of the gospel.

SERVE: Remember, friendship is built on your commitment to serve.

� In the neighborhood: Neighbor on vacation? Watch their house, mow the lawn, secure their mail, tend to the pet. Neighbor in crisis? Watch the children, cook a meal, run errands, fix a car, offer transportation.

� In the office: Help a co-worker. Be a good listener. Ask your colleagues’ opinions, especially in their areas of expertise. Thank a customer for an order, a co-worker for help, or an acquaintance for information.

Key. Be alert for friends, neighbors, and acquaintances that you can serve, especially in times of crisis. As you serve them, doors may open for sharing Christ,