Jump Start # 2036
Proverbs 27:9 “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.”
I got to spend a few days with a couple of my really good friends. We’ve known each other for a long time. We all live in different places and we all are engaged in this livelihood of preaching. That bond has been special among us. It doesn’t happen very often that the three of us are together. We always laugh. We always get serious about what can be done to make congregations better. We always tease. And, we always eat. Always!
There is found something very special when one works and worships with people that he loves and enjoys being with. Fellowship is more than being on the same page doctrinally with others, it’s the joining of the heart in a common interest and love. It’s being woven and blended together and the common thread that runs through all of this is Jesus Christ.
I’ve noticed through the years, even in large congregations, that some just don’t blend as well as others. Certainly they know others by name, but there isn’t a friendship and there isn’t much that takes place outside of the church building. Every week folks see each other, they exchange pleasantries, the guys may talk sports, but it’s pretty much the same stuff over and over and once they leave the building, there isn’t much going on. What this means is that it is possible for some to be lonely, even in a large congregation. And, what that means is that fellowship is basically something that only takes place at the church building. The ties and the bonds of our faith are not that strong when it’s limited to the church building.
Our verse today talks about the counsel of a friend. Getting advice. Wanting another opinion. Having other eyes looking over a decision you are about to make. We do this all the time. We do this when seeking a college to attend. We do this when thinking about a career move. We do this when thinking about moving out of an area. But the key component in all of this is who is that friend? That makes all the difference in the world.
That friend, if only within the family, may be biased and not give you the best counsel that you need to hear. Family always wants family to live near by. Living near by may not be a good choice spiritually. That may put you in a place where there is no congregation or, it’s small and dead. I’ve always been amazed that Timothy’s mom allowed young Timothy to travel off with Paul on his preaching journeys. Most moms would want Timothy to stay nearby, get a job, marry and have a bunch of grand kids for her. Not Timothy’s mom. There was a great opportunity to serve in the kingdom and she didn’t close that door.
That friend, if not a Christian, is going to guide you as a non-Christian sees things. That perspective thinks only about self, money and advancement. Little thought may be given to your wife and children. No thought will be given to the spiritual side of things. A great job that kills your faith and your soul is not a good choice. Placing yourself in an environment, where, like Lot, your soul is tormented day after day, is not a place to be in. The Christian sees things differently than the world does. The Christian is moved by different factors than the world does. The Christian defines success differently than the world does.
This brings us to the need of a close, strong Christian friend. One that will remind you of things you forgot about. One that will ask you the deep spiritual questions that might change your decision. One that is interested in you going to Heaven, more than anything else.
It takes time to develop that kind of friendship. It takes more than the usual superficial conversations that take place at the church building. It takes you being invested in their lives as well as you opening up your life for them. This is where many come to a complete stop. Either all they want to do is talk about themselves. Friendship is not a one way street. Or, else, they do not want to open up the blinds to their life. It’s risky and they don’t want others to think bad about them, so they pretend and paint an imagine that isn’t how they really are. They don’t want others to know that there are days that they don’t feel like going to worship. Can you imagine? They don’t want others to know that they have sin in their life, even though the passages tell us that’s the way it is. So, an artificial image is created. Always smiling. Always together. Always perfect. Never a doubt. Never a question. Never a hair out of place. But this does something to a person. First, he is never very close to anyone outside of his family. He is lonely. Men need to talk to men and women need to talk to women. We are wired differently and we have common battles and interests that we face. Second, he knows deep inside that he is not what people think he is. So, his name continually comes up to serve as a leader and he continually declines. People can’t understand. He’d be perfect, they think. He knows differently. He knows that he is not what people think he is. Keeping the image up is more important than being genuine. Those at work and those in the family have seen the real side of him. All of this makes him wonder if he is stepping over the line of being a hypocrite.
So, do you have that person, outside of your family, that you could talk with and they would help you spiritually? Do you have a dear Christian friend that is there for you? When you come up to a wall, and you’re not sure which way to go, who is your go to person? Will they tell you what’s best or only what you want to hear? Are they walking with the Lord and their words are true to God’s word?
Where do I begin with this? First, have a family over in your home. Spend some time. Many congregations have group meetings outside of the church building. Go to those. Get to know people. It takes time. It takes sharing and listening. It takes finding common interests. It takes finding someone who is spiritually strong. It takes emails, phone calls and trust. Some folks can’t keep things to themselves. Some like to gossip. You don’t need that. Some don’t listen. They want to talk and talk and then they want to talk. You don’t need that. You need someone like you, but who is true, loyal and above all things, walking with the Lord.
Once you find those few friends, then you begin to cherish that friendship. You honor that friendship. You thank the Lord for that friendship. You go out of your way for your friends, just as you would want them to do the same for you. And, once you have it, how blessed you are. Worship is sweeter when you are worshipping with your friends. You find yourself doing more and more outside the church building with Christians, when they are your friends. They have a way of pulling the best out of you, just as you pull the best out of them. It is amazing how quickly and easily the conversation can switch from sports, to the Bible, or from politics, to the church. It just flows. Common interests. United hearts. Blended minds. This makes fellowship strong and powerful. This brings a warmth to a congregation. And, this can be the very thing that you need to keep you going when you don’t feel like it.
Bless be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love!