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Part 3; Friendship: Are You Willing to Pay the Price?

Below are additional resources, links, tools, and expanded notes to supplement the sermon preached by Rob Blair at Harbour Shores Church on Sept. 18th, 2022.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

As we hear our Savior’s words, we know Jesus must be referring to Himself; how in a short while, He would sacrificially lay His own life down on a Roman cross, in order to redeem those whom He would call His “friends” just 2 verses later (Jn. 15:15).

And yet, like our Savior, there are many who have been willing to pay “the ultimate” price by putting themselves in “harm’s way” for the sake of others. While most of us will never have to “take a bullet”, “run into a burning building” or physically die for our family or friends, there is still a “laying down” of one’s own wants, desires, and preferences for the sake of others which we are all called to — whether as a married couple, parents and children, employees and bosses; one for another.

 

In his book “Made for Friendship”, pastor/author Drew Hunter lays out over 2 dozen forms of relational “currency” which we can invest in deeper biblical friendships. He presents these in very practical, every day ways which he covers in chapter 5 of his book. They are;

  1. Give Your Friends a Promotion: Drew writes: “It may be true that you are too busy for friends. But that doesn’t mean you should be. We always make time for what we treasure.” And later, “Our lives may seem busy, but if we promote our friends in our priorities, we will find space for them in our schedules. This will often involve sacrifice. We have to say no to other good things in order to say yes to our friends. (pg. 98-99)
  2. Keep the old, add some new: “…keep strengthening your longtime friendships. We don’t need to end our relationships when we move away. We can stay in touch through calls and letters and messages, and we can plan to travel to meet up together.” But then he goes on to add, “…invest in forming new relationships where you live.” (pg. 99)
  3. Location Matters:  Drew encourages us to consider, “…maybe you don’t have to move.” and “Maybe we should sometimes turn down a bigger paycheck if it means we have to move away from the people who contribute so much joy to our lives and in whom we’ve invested so much time and effort.” (pg. 99-100)
  4. Take a Dose of Realism: Think of it like the “ripple effect” the closer and smaller the circle is to the center, the stronger the ripple. The same should be true for close friends. Drew warns, “If friendship takes time, and we only have so much of it, then we won’t have enough to share with everyone.” And, “If we try to collect too many close friends, we’ll end up with no close friends at all.” (pg. 100)
  5. Don’t Make Vows, But… Be covenant, or at least commitment keepers. The author writes, “We don’t slide friendship rings on our fingers. Obligations don’t bind us in the same way as marriage vows. Nevertheless — the bods of friendship are sacred. A friend must be ‘treated as a friend deserves.’ (pg. 101)
  6. Realign Your expectations: “Be willing to adjust your expectations for now.” Drew recommends when we find ourselves in different “relationship lanes” with someone who’s level of commitment may need to be different than ours at this season of life. He goes on to remind us how “Many friendships also change over time. Sometimes friends change lanes.” And makes a good point that, “If friendships weren’t fluid, we would each stay locked into the three closest friends we made on the forth-grade playground.” (pg. 102)
  7. Talking Face to face: The fewer the barriers of communication in our conversations and communion with friends, the better. Hunter writes, ” When we send digital messages, we’re most often sustaining, rather than deepening., our friendships. Phone calls move us a bit closer because we allow more of our personality, more of who we are, to come through. Best, of course, are face-to-face and eye-to-eye conversations.” (pg. 103)
  8. Go Deeper: The author states, “Every one of us should have a few trusted confidants to whom we’ve granted full access to the truth about us.” How do we do that? he says, “The best conversations happen when both friends ask thoughtful and personal questions. Conversations drain us when one person is either too dominant — or too passive.” (pg. 104)
  9. Some Comedy Relief:  Just as every great dramatic story must have some key moments of comedy and laughter to relieve the audience of some of the intense weight, so it is true with deeper friendships. The author writes, “…true friendship isn’t entirely or even most serious. In my closest friendships we pour in a good dose of levity with gravity. If no one would laugh when they overheard some of my conversations with friends, I figure we’re not doing it right.” (pg. 104)
  10. Doing things Side by Side: “…friendships feed on shared experience–life on life and side by side.” writes the author. The principle of “never do anything on your own when you can ask a friend to join you in doing it. Whether it’s “doubling your joy” in a fun event, or “many hands making the work lighter” in projects or stuff that needs getting done, do it with a friend and those friendship will grow. (pg. 105)
  11.  Establish Standing Dates: “The best way to create space for closer relationships is to establish rhythms. Much of the time I spend with friends happens as part of a rhythm in my schedule.” writes Hunter. Every Thur. night is date night with my wife. That way we can always have a time carved out for just the two of us. In the same way, I also have standing times of meeting with and getting together with friends for lunch, coffee and times to go deeper with other men. Again, it means saying “no” to other things for something better. (pg. 106)
  12. Spontaneous Sacrifice: Drew asks and answers the question, “What about when it’s too hard to establish a rhythm to get together? In these cases, friendship also grows from spontaneity mixed with sacrifice.” The author goes on share how a close friend of his showed up completely unexpectedly on a longer 3 day, holiday weekend. This friend going the extra mile fused their hearts all the more, closer together. (pg. 106)
  13. Eating around the Table: “Friendship thrive when we eat together. Throughout history and the world, wherever we find strong community, we also find shared meals at the center of it. Why? Because of the main reasons meals exist is to enrich relationships.” It is also no accident that there are many examples of shared meals throughout the scriptures.  (pg. 108)
  14. Encouraging from the Heart: The author describes, “Encouragement is relational oxygen.” He goes on to give the analogy of life being like a hike, and the higher you go, the harder it gets and the air gets thinner. and more difficult to breathe. And then adds, “But when we encourage one another, it’s like thickening the air with oxygen. As oxygen is to our lungs, encouragement is to our souls. Oxygen gives life. Remove it, and we die. Proverbs says, ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue.’ – 18:21 (pg. 109)
  15. Pulling Weeds: All of the above are positive things we can do to invest in and pay the price for deeper relationships. But Drew says we also need to a “put off” or “Pull weeds” as he puts it. “Just as prickly weeds cover the ground, relational weeds infest our friendships. Cultivating true friendship  entails pulling these weeds up by the roots.” writes Hunter, who then goes on to describe 3 specific weeds which needs pulling;
    • Beware of Inconsiderateness; When our blessing sounds like cursing — “when someone weeps with sorrow, our cherry smiles so not relieve but add to their burden.” and then adds this good advice, “We should also avoid causing friendship fatigue. Proverbs says, ‘Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you’ (25:17). This isn’t saying that we shouldn’t spend significant time with our friends. It is saying we shouldn’t smother them.” (pg. 112-113)
    • How Not to Sharpen Your Friends: Most often Prov. 27:17 ‘Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another’ In fact, I don’t know of a men’s ministry that hasn’t used this verse and phrase to promote men getting together to encourage one another.  And yet the author does a solid hermeneutical unpacking of this verse that, “The sharpening here is not a good thing. This pictures relational strife, not character sculpting.” In other words, we should be careful not to provoke our friends to have sharp facial features; sharp, angry eyes, furrowed sharp brows, pierced lips, etc.One of the specific ways we can provoke others is through the misuse or overuse of sarcasm. Hunter then quotes Eph. 4:29 that our speech should be that which is “only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that give grace to those who hear.” The root meaning of the word “sarcasm” means “to tear, rib or cut with a serrated edge.” Ouch. (pg. 113-114)
    • Destroying Friendship with a Whisper: “Finally, avoid gossip. Like a strong tower, a friendship can take years to build. And proverbs says that it can collapse with words–with a mere whisper. ‘A whisperer separates close friends,’ and ‘he who repeats a matter separates close friends’ (Prov. 16:28; 17:9) And asks and answers the practical question, “What kind of whisper? Spreading secrets. Gossip destroys friendship because it destroys trust, and trust is the foundation of friendship.” (pg. 115)
    • The Soil of Self: “All of these weeds find nourishment in the soil of self-focus. We speak and act inconsiderately when we don’t pay attention to the emotions of others. We cause strife when we care more about self-expression than a peaceful relationship. We spread a bad report about someone because we care more about advancing our own reputation than damaging our friend’s.” and continues, “If we mainly think about the weeds that others need to uproot, and not our own, our relationships won’t flourish. — In order to cultivate true friendship, then, we must cultivate a posture of repentance. And as we do this, we’ll also give our friends grace. Because if we need our friends to be prefect friends, we will become terrible friends.” (pg. 116)

Throughout chapter 5 of his book on biblical friendship, the author shows his shepherd’s heart by listing some practical ways one can begin cultivating, or paying the downpayment for developing deeper friendships. Here they are listed together;

  • Think about what to ask people when you’re on your way to meet them. What do you want to find out about? How can you encourage them?
  •  Grab a meal or coffee with someone. Schedule this time together monthly or every other week. Consider discussing the Bible or a book together when you meet.
  • Talk about spiritually significant topics. Ask what your friend is reading in the Bible or in a good book recently. Ask how they are encouraged or discouraged in their faith right now. (If you’re not in the habit of having these types of conversations, it might feel awkward at first. Do it anyway, perhaps acknowledging to your friend that it may feel awkward.)
  • Let a couple close friends know they can correct you when they think it best, and then you promise to receive it well.
  • Use your drive home from school or work or the store to catch up (via a phone call) with a distant friend. even if you only have three minute. And if you don’t reach them, leave an encouraging voicemail.
  • Add 4 or 5 friends to your phone’s speed dial list so that you can call them more easily more often.
  • Think about someone to whom you often write messages, emails, or letters. Instead of writing, ask them to get together or, if they’re far away, call them.
  • If you plan to watch a movie or sports, invite a friend over to join you. save a certain show for watching with a friend or in a group.
  • With the next book you plan to read, invite one or more people to read it and to meet a few times along the way for discussion.
  • If you’re a parent with young children at home, invite someone to join you on a walk or visit to a park.
  • Ask a friend to help you with a home-improvement project, or offer to help your friends with theirs.
  • Regularly exercise, work out, or play a sport with someone. 
  • Ask a friend to go on a walk together. Make it a weekly or every-other-week rhythm.
  • Develop your own annual traditions of camping, heading to a city with friends, or enjoying a concert.
  • If you’re married, make a plan with your spouse for how to help each other cultivate friendships. Create space for one another to do this. Encourage one another in it.
  • Pick one breakfast slot each week and invite a different friend to join you each time.
  • As you leave your church’s Sunday service, invite someone out or over to your home for lunch. Talk about what convicted or encouraged you from the sermon.
  • Keep one evening open each week to invite someone over for dinner.
  • If you have younger children, invite someone over for dessert after your children go to bed. Or invite a friend to join the dinnertime fun and to stick around for family Bible reading and prayer.
  • If you’re part of a small group or study group, add a pitch-in dinner to your meetings.
  • Here’s a principle to live by: whenever the thought crosses your mind to affirm something about someone, do it, and do it without hesitation.
  • Sometimes, before you say goodbye to friends, say why you’re thankful for them. Let then know you love them and that you thank God for them.
  • When you mention people’s names in conversation, create the habit of adding a comment about why you respect them.
  • On a friends birthday, write a thoughtful and encouraging letter to them to let them know why you respect and admire them.

The above is excellent material, from Drew Hunter on the price we pay for pursuing deeper friendship with others. And yet, even with 15 excellent points along with 2 dozen practical suggestions and ideas on how to restore biblical friendships, there is one more I would like to emphasize. It comes from Les & Leslie Parrott who have put it this way…

“Conflict is the currency we pay for deeper intimacy, when we work though it together.”

If there is a couple who knows about how to use conflict as currency for deeper relationship building, it’s the Parrotts. They’ve even written a book about using conflict to create closeness called “The Good Fight” as well as having developed the relationship assesment website on building better marriages before they even start called SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts).

The price for deeper friendship is our willingness to work through conflict when it arises. This may seem incredibly basic, but it is crucial.

By nature, most people are non-confrontational and tend to avoid conflict as much as possible. We can even “side step” or deflect it by saying “it’s no big deal” when in reality,  we haven’t dealt with it and it has (as Les puts it) “…a high rate of resurrection.” The Parrot’s warn that when we avoid chaos/conflict, we may actually be missing out on one of the greatest tools God has designed to actually bring us into closer relationship. And it is called mutual conflict resolution.

Below is an audio message from Les & Leslie. Although it was originally directed towards married couples (which likewise should also be the best of friends), all of the principles apply to any relationship. The currency of mutual conflict resolution works with anyone with whom we experience, difficulty, trials, disagreements, opposing wills, etc. When both parties are willing to work through conflict together, they will be closer on the other side of the relational storm, than if they never went through it all. The Parrotts also offer several conflict resolution tools in the message below.

2 Conflicts: a.) Intrapersonal b.) Extra-personal

3 Friendships: 1.) Jesus & Us; FOUNDATION of all biblical friendships (Eph. 2:11-22)

2.) Jonathan & David; FORMATION of a biblical friendship (1 Sam. 18:1-4)

3.) Paul & Barnabas (& Mark); FORGING biblical friendships (Acts 15:36-39)

Call to Action: …into the Storm

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.