walk in the word
The righteous should choose his friends carefully.” (Proverbs 12:26)
On the broadcast for the last several weeks, we’ve been engaged in the study, “I Really Want to Change . . . So Help Me God!” When I present these truths in a church or a Bible conference setting, the response is overwhelming. Perhaps in your past experience, you too have experienced the transforming power of God as never have before. Yet you would admit that you found victory only for a time and then fell back into a pattern of defeat. Maybe you got fired up at a youth retreat or a special conference or during a difficult time, and for once you were really walking in the joy of the Lord, but then it all fell apart. You are not alone! Most Christians today are not living at the peak of their spiritual experience. They know how to fire it up, but they don’t know how to keep it going.
I want to talk to you today about how to keep it going. The Christian life is not a solo thing. It requires teamwork. Today’s topic is how to download the incredible resource God has given us in our brothers and sisters in Christ. We desperately need each other so that when we want to quit we can’t because our friends “won’t allow it!”
Let’s begin with this thought: Lasting change requires biblical friendship.
The key word in this statement is biblical, because not all friendships are biblical. In fact, some are very unbiblical. They not only do not help us, they impede our progress on the pathway toward transformation. Instead we need biblical friendships. After almost twenty years as a pastor, I can tell you that people who change—people who develop a life pattern of change, becoming more and more mature as followers of Christ—are surrounded by biblical friendships. Without those kind of friendships, they cannot flourish spiritually. Neither can you.
Change does not happen in a silo. On the broadcast we’ve been talking about change as though you could get it done standing inside a big cement cylinder. I may have given you the picture that transformation was just you and God. Maybe you have been seeing yourself with Bible open, eyes turned upward, and the Spirit of God filling you—just you and God, and change happens. That is not a complete picture! We cannot flourish spiritually in the long-term without each other.
It’s time to knock the silo down and begin to pay attention to the people that God has placed around you as resources for change. That is why God has called together this thing called the local church.
Friendships in the Scriptures
“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray,” Solomon wrote (Proverbs 12:26). As you read God’s Word, you cannot help but notice that great men and great women of faith always had supportive friends around them. Always!
Think of Abraham, who had Sarah, his loving wife and good friend. Yes, she made some mistakes, but Hebrews 11 tells us that she was a woman of faith. She stuck with Abraham through thick and thin. Without the loving, supportive cooperation of Sarah, Abe would have had a much harder time following God’s call.
Think of Moses, whose life cannot be understood apart from the role of supportive relationships. Moses had Aaron, his brother, to speak for him, and his father-in-law, Jethro, to provide leadership consultation on the proper way to delegate authority. He had Miriam, his sister, to stand with him when the people rebelled.
Moses’ friendships extended beyond his family. He also had Joshua and Caleb. When everyone else doubted, these partners in faith supported Moses’ claim that the children of Israel could conquer the land. (See Numbers 13:1–3; 23–14:9.) Moses experienced firsthand the prosperity of biblical friendship.
The list could go on and on. Ruth and Naomi gave sacrificially of themselves to one another. Esther, alone and tempted so far from her natural surroundings, flourished in faith because she had this solid, caring friend, Mordecai. David and Jonathan became soul brothers. Elijah and Elisha, two prophets under attack, lifted each other up.
In the New Testament, Paul had Barnabas, who supported him when everyone else feared the former persecutor of Christians (Acts 9:27–28; 11:25–26). He also had Silas, who joined him in song, even though they were in prison (Acts 16:22–25); and Timothy, who would give comfort when Paul was again imprisoned near the end of his ministry (2 Timothy 4:13, 21). Peter had John; John had Peter. And, of course, Jesus had twelve close companions and when He sent them out to do ministry, He sent them “two by two.” When He sent out seventy ministers (Luke 10), again He sent them two by two. Why? Because of the power of biblical friendship.
Some of the greatest disasters in all of God’s Word came because people had the wrong (unbiblical) friends, or no friends at all. Eve’s biggest problem was Adam. Adam’s biggest problem was Eve. They didn’t help each other. One of them should have said to the other one, “What are you thinking?!? Put that down! Don’t bite that!”
King Saul had Samuel sent by God to help him be all God wanted him to be. Saul’s problem was that he didn’t listen. He had a biblical friend but refused to listen to him and, as a result, his life ended in tragedy. David’s downfall was directly related to the lack of biblical counsel he received from his military leader and friend, Joab. The general refused to challenge David after the king gave orders to cause Uriah’s death in battle (2 Samuel 11:14–15). Instead of warning the king against being an accessory to murder, Joab stayed silent.
No friends can be as damaging upon our thoughts and actions as unbiblical friends. Think of Jacob and the incredible potential of his life. In almost every instance Jacob was alone when he did some very foolish things. He deceived his brother; he lied to his father, and he ran from his problems. And how about Samson? You want to talk potential: Handsome and strong, he had a full understanding of the power of God. The Spirit of God was resting upon him (Judges 13:24–25; 14:6, 19). But his life was foolish and ultimately tragic, and in every passage we learn about him, he is alone.
We are just like the men and women in God’s Word. We have abilities and a desire for God and great potential, but without biblical, truth-telling friends, our lives will flop just like theirs. Choose friends who are committed to change. You cannot go where God wants you to go unless you hook up with somebody who also wants to be what God wants him or her to be. It’s a two-way thing. Change flourishes when it’s a partnership. So choose friends who are committed to change.
brought to you by change partners