“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know His master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends.” John 15:15.
Jesus calls all of us, even the weakest among us, His “friends”. This should really excite us! (See John 15:15.) Jesus is saying that He wants a personal, intimate relationship with all of us. Some of us find it easier to look on ourselves as servants of the living God, because a friendship demands commitment, time and effort. It also opens us up to being vulnerable and, because of past experiences, we may not be willing to pay that price.
We need to see how Jesus was a friend and how He describes friendship. We need to learn how we can be good friends to people around us. We can only be a good friend when we are in a right relationship with God ourselves. If you know yourself to be deeply loved by someone who will never let you down, fail you, or drop you out of their lives, you are then rich in resources. You do not spend your life searching for love, because you have found it. From the fullness of your inner resources – that inner space where God not only dwells by the power of His Holy Spirit, but where He reigns as Lord of your life – you are capable of giving to others. Love is multiplied – not lost – when it is given away. Similarly, we are refreshed and renewed as we give out friendship under God.
Jesus’ recipe for successful friendships:
- Requires a close relationship of constant availability on both sides. It means that, with Jesus, we will never be alone again. We may feel that we are alone, but our feelings are misleading. “I will never leave you. I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5-6. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, we can put our hand into Father’s hand and know that He is holding us, leading us, directing us, comforting and caring for us. At any time, we can come to the source of all love. There is no situation in which we need not be totally secure. There is no safer refuge in the universe than sheltering under the shadow of His wings. (Read Psalm 91.)
- Involves complete openness, making everything known to each other as we build a trust. Jesus shared all that the Father had revealed to Him. (See John 15:15.) There is an emotional closeness of being aware of one another, an intellectual closeness of sharing ideas and a spiritual closeness of sharing the love of the Father.
- Requires making a choice. Choosing friends with wisdom was a vital part of Jesus’ successful friendships. (See John 15:16.) Jesus did not share intimate secrets with everyone He met or with everyone who shared intimate things with Him. Jesus was wise and selective in His choice of friends. From the crowd, He chose seventy; from the seventy, He chose twelve with whom He walked, talked, lived, shared heartaches. Then, from the twelve, He took just three on certain occasions. Finally, there was John the “beloved”. If we want true lasting friendships, we need to be selective. Like Jesus, we should choose after much prayer, not rushing in and then regretting it. What we are and what we become is greatly dependent on who we spend time with.
- Involves complete self-giving because Jesus shows that there is no other way for true friendship. There can be “no holding back”. (See John 15:13.) It is vital to choose friends carefully, as the cost is high.
- Involves a lot of joy, because Jesus promises His joy to us. (See John 15:11.) Jesus wanted to make His friends happy and to show them how much He valued their friendship. He believed that by sharing His joy with them, His own joy would be rounded off and completed. (Read John 17:13.)
- Can involve pain. Situations change; a geographic move may be needed; there may be bereavement or separation and this can hurt. BUT, “He has… carried our sorrows and pains.” (Isaiah 53:4).
- Requires genuine concern. Jesus was very concerned for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of His friends. (See John 17:11-12.) Above all else, everything He did was to encourage His friends to remain true to God the Father. He seemed to take full responsibility for those He had gathered together.
- Cannot be claustrophobic, exclusive, or possessive. Jesus encouraged His friends always to look out for the needs of others. He did not mind if His friends loved each other. “Everyone will know you are My disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34.
- Involves service. It is where ministry is born. Jesus wants all His friends to be fulfilled as they walk in their divine destiny. (See John 15:16.)
- Requires selfless generosity. Jesus was thrilled to see His friends’ ministries grow, even though He knew His own was coming to an end very soon.
These ten points help us to have friendships Jesus’ way. We have to learn a Christ-like balance between dependence on God and on others. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way. It can be painful to our emotions but, as we put these points into practice, we will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit to be like Jesus. Then we will really enjoy the riches of an intimate relationship, firstly with Him and then with people close to us. Our relationship with Jesus should be a mirror image of His relationship with the Father. (See John 15:9.) There is no greater love than the friendship of which Jesus speaks. It fulfils the deepest needs of mankind. It is risky but, if we follow the Maker’s instructions, we will enjoy the riches of closeness with our friends.
Real friendships do not prevent a friend’s growth or stifle God-given ambition. They do not block the path to a fruitful ministry, but stand close, stimulating the discovery of gifts and calling and offering encouragement, prayer and support: “You can do it”. They are like the friendships of Jesus Himself: fulfilling and liberating, allowing people to be themselves as God intended them to be.
Giving friendship to people
- Choose your friends very carefully. Identify, firstly, the priority they put on their relationship with Jesus. You can tell what is in their hearts by what is coming out of their mouths. If it leaves you feeling disturbed, then do not choose to spend a lot of time in their company. This is so vital as wrong friendships will lead you away from God’s destiny for your life. If you have made a wrong choice, then do not just drop a friend, but try to explain lovingly (and firmly) that you both have different priorities and that you really want to put God first so you can no longer spend the same amount of time together, although, you are willing to help with any problems. When you realise that a friendship is not right under God, do not wait around until God saves or changes the person concerned. Make a break and allow God to work in both of you as you both get some space.
- One plan for godly friendships is to have at least one friend, probably an older Christian, to whom you look up and who is full of wisdom and good advice. You can reciprocate with your time, care, interest and appreciation. Then have a second friend who has a similar desire for the things of God. You can spend time praying together, sharing, helping each other and building one another up. You are accountable to each other to watch each other’s back in the battle of life. Finally, have a third friend who is a relatively new Christian, who you really want to encourage and guide in the Lord.
- We have to accept that God has created us with the deep desire to have very close personal relationships with other people. This is not wrong. We just have to learn to handle the feelings involved, so that we can live by the Maker’s instructions, being wholeheartedly committed to another person’s well-being and always knowing that Jesus is Lord over the relationship.
- If you are married, never allow yourself to develop this sort of intimate friendship with a person of the opposite sex, even if that person is a Christian.
- Do not allow any friends to completely dominate or control your life in such a way that you cannot make a decision without first asking them. Also, do not do this to others. This attitude comes from deep insecurity, so go back and look at your friendship with Jesus and spend more time working on that.
- If you have been very hurt in a friendship, do not give up on friends, but always pray about new relationships and discern what the other person needs in the relationship.
Home challenges for Power Up! – No. 25: Good Friends?
1. Read the notes on, “Jesus’ Recipe for successful friendship”. Choose two points that you find encouraging and two points that you find challenging. Write down how you are going to apply these points to your relationships.
2. Read the section on “Giving friendship to people”. Are you going to change anything in your life? Do you have a friend that you look up to, one to share Jesus with and pray with, and one that you can encourage to grow in the Lord?
3. Do you have a testimony that you could share, where you had difficulties in a friendship, but the Lord showed you a way through, and now your friendship is much stronger? Please share.
Read John 16:1-4 and review John 15:18-27 from the previous study.
4. Why does Jesus warn the disciples about coming persecution?
5. According to these two passages, why was Jesus persecuted?
6. Why are we persecuted today – according to John 16:3?
Read John 16:5-16
7. Why was it “a better thing” for the disciples that Jesus went away?
8. Who is the Holy Spirit convicting – according to John 16:8?
9. When the Holy Spirit came to the earth, what were His three main jobs for the world? Can you explain these in your own words explaining what the Holy Spirit is doing in the hearts of unbelievers today?
10. The prince of this world is Satan. In what way does he “now stand condemned”? John 16:11
11. Do you truly believe that the prince of this world is already defeated? Be honest! Do you have a testimony about victory over the work of the devil in your life?
12. Why do you think it is so important to agree with God’s word about this?
13. What is the Holy Spirit’s job for believers?
14. How does the Holy Spirit guide us and how does He bring glory to Jesus Christ?
15. Memorise “Because if I do not go away, the comforter, counsellor, helper, advocate, intercessor, strengthener, standby, will not come to you – into close fellowship with you.” John 16:7.