As a 42-year-old and having been a Christian for over 30 years, I have acquired and been blessed with many friends in my life, people who have encouraged me, supported me, stood by me and generally been there for me through good times and challenging times.
As a single person and never been married this is especially important as there will inevitably have been occasions in the past when I would have experienced some feelings of loneliness as a younger male believer. When looking for a friend we obviously identify similar qualities, such as loyalty, honesty, availability and someone who we will not betray a confidence.
In the Old Testament, we see the example of a great friendship between my namesake Jonathan and David and the example of also Jesus spending much time with his own disciples sharing in prayer, meals, intercession together and general fellowship.
As I see it many of us may have a decent circle of friends people we meet up with socially for coffee, for meals, for walks and chats on the phone but we also have a smaller circle of three or four friends who I would categorise as ” Close friends” who we meet with for times or prayer, talk to more regularly, share secrets with and depend on for advice, mentoring or fellowship.
Having been in Northampton for nearly 14 years I have acquired friends from church, from the Welcome Team and Men’s Group for example who I socialise with, exchange texts with and enjoy company and encouragement from. I also still have friends from my school days, from university days and from back home in Northern Ireland who I hope will remain friends for life and also people who have been a rock to me through times of trials and tribulations. For this, I am most grateful to God for bringing such people into my life.
When I moved to work and live in Northampton in August 2006, I met in a Prayer Quad with three other young men and enjoyed prayer fortnightly and support and fellowship. I also currently meet up with a dear friend from church regularly for prayer, fellowship and conversation, someone I can depend on as an older Christian who I know will never betray my confidence, can be depended on for encouragement, support and brotherly love. This is a real blessing to me and is someone I genuinely appreciate, look up to and admire as a companion, a brother and a mentor.
At university, I befriended a young man called Stewart from the Christian Union over 20 years ago who was a real blessing to me through very challenging times and will remain a friend for life. I know he is a blessing and will never judge me.
I also had a close friend from Northern Ireland who is visually impaired and until recently when he sadly passed away I would speak to him pretty much every day for the last 21 years and has been a true example and inspiration to me over approximately half my lifetime. This man was also a Christian and a wonderful person.
At the same time, we need to choose our friends wisely and with care and I have seen examples of believers who have been hurt by their friends, and that is where forgiveness plays an important part, I have seen instances of a Christian’s sharing fellowship with others in apparent friendship and later that same person spreading gossip about” their friend” and bad-mouthing that same person to another believer, this has the potential to wreck relationships, trust and can even destroy marriages. This should not happen in the context of a Christian ” friendship.”.
We also meet people who we try to be friends with but they never even respond to any of our texts or phone calls and clearly don’t appreciate our efforts to try and be-friend. Not every one is prepared or willing to respond to your attempts of friendship, so don;t be discouraged too much. Some people live very busy lives and don’t always appreciate our desire to encourage.
In the Old Testament in Proverbs, we read ” A friend is always loyal and a brother is born to help in a time of need”. We also read in Ephesians “Be kind to each other tenderhearted and forgiving one another just as Christ forgave you”.
Remember it is a most beautiful gift to have friends however we must truly appreciate that we have a greater friend in Jesus who will never leave us, is also there for us and will always be available and can never disappoint us.
Not only is He reliable, but He is also compassionate, forgiving, ever-present and dependable and has all the characteristics of a true friend and a Heavenly Father. So as I finish, learn to appreciate your friends, learn from them and support them and make sure as brothers and sisters in Christ we encourage each other daily and demonstrate love and we walk together in our faith through good times and bad. Bless you, today.