Survival Tip #4: Friendship

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 7/12/2020
Proverbs  Relationships  Wisdom 

As I’ve been studying the Proverbs, I’ve realized that we can acquire wisdom in two directions. We can acquire wisdom looking backwards, reflecting on our life’s experiences, even our regrets, our mistakes, our sins. We can reflect on the experiences of others. It’s like they say, hindsight is 20/20. When I read Proverbs I find myself saying, “Yep. Yep. Oops. Duh. Should have. Could have. Would have. I’ve got it now!” Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. But much of his wisdom came from retrospect.

We can also acquire wisdom looking forward. The Proverbs prepares me to have wisdom for things not yet experienced. If I can humble myself, and take these Proverbs to heart, they can insulate me from living a life of regret, from making mistakes, from being entrapped by my foolishness, or sin, or the folly of others. In fact, this is the essence of parenting/mentoring/discipleship/pastoring. It’s instilling wisdom “preemptively” and not just “retroactively”.

I wish I would leaned more deeply into Fearing God, Honoring my parents, Building and not destroying wealth. We can’t do redo the past, but we can live better forward and help others live better forward. I hope that is what happens!

Our theme this morning is FRIENDSHIPS. This morning as I talk, I’m just going to flash some Proverbs up on the screen for you to read, or write down. Maybe these Proverbs will stir within you the kind of reflection they stirred within me.

Right away I was struck by the sheer POWER of FRIENDSHIPS. The Scriptures don’t mince words about the power of various relationships to derail us in life, derail our families, derail our love for people and especially God. Early in life I had far more relationships that led me away from God than toward God. But at the time I didn’t really care. I was carnal, and fleshly, and worldly. I was drawn to anyone who promised to break up the monotony and boredom of my life.

This is exactly what we see in Proverbs 1:10-14, “My son, if sinners entice you, don’t be persuaded. If they say—“Come with us! Let’s ambush and kill someone. Let’s attack some innocent person just for fun. Let’s swallow them alive, like Sheol, whole, like those who go down to the Pit. We’ll find all kinds of valuable property and fill our houses with plunder. Throw in your lot with us, and we’ll all share the loot. . .”

Okay, I’ve never entertained ambushing and killing someone. But as a young man I allowed myself to be enticed into bullying the weak. I let “friends” entice me into criminal activity like vandalizing the school property, committing theft at a local grocery store, lighting illegal fireworks, damaging business properties, watching dirty movies. The pretext was always, “Let’s have some fun.”

“Friends” hold inordinate power/influence over us. They entice. Because they know us best, they can be so persuasive, appealing to our weakest nature and broken parts of our character. And boy to friend’s pressure. It feels as if the whole will stop if say NO to our friends. Not only do they expect full commitment, “Go with us” but they are perfect content to cancel us/write us off if we relent. I’m confessing that all too often I gave into pressure instead of honoring God.

Now, there is so much more I must confess. At the time I thought I knew what was best for me, for my life. I intentionally kept my parents in the dark about who my friends were, or what we were planning, and it’s because as a young person I had a dark, fleshly, sinful, rebellious, God-hating, parent-hating heart.

Here is the reality, wisdom in retrospect, you can learn from my sin. My parents… (and if you don’t have godly parents… insert a godly adult)… my parents were far better at discerning the character of my friends that I was. That’s why I didn’t want their opinion, I knew they wouldn’t approve! My parents had far greater perspective than I would cared to admit. At one time they too were wild in their youth. They lived their out their own flavor of rebellion and paid dearly. And in love, would have gladly offered that wisdom. But I again, I didn’t want their opinion. Because my heart was evil, and my deeds were evil, I loved the darkness and obscurity. I feared coming into the light for fear my deeds would be exposed, and especially my heart exposed.

But could you imagine what would happen if you could go back in time, and humble yourself before your parents, and embrace their discernment, and embrace their understanding of life? Or if you are a young person—living forward, going forward, if you were to honor your parents… how much grief you’d be spared? Your parents are invaluable because they live outside your youth echo chamber, your youthful rebellious subculture!

My parents would have said something like Proverbs 1:15-19, “– my son, don’t travel that road with them or set foot on their path, because their feet run toward evil and they hurry to shed blood. my son, don’t travel that road with them or set foot on their path, because their feet run toward evil and they hurry to shed blood. It is useless to spread a net where any bird can see it, but they set an ambush to kill themselves; they attack their own lives. Such are the paths of all who make profit dishonestly; it takes the lives of those who receive it.”

The power of friendship is this. They entice you away from your parent’s way, and a Fear of God, to pathways of destruction. Better to face this truth now.

The Proverbs also caused me to reflect on the TRANSFERENCE OF CHARACTER. The character of your friends (or lack thereof). The personality, the temperament, the intellectual IQ, the social/emotional/racial IQ (of lack thereof). The skills, abilities, aptitudes, the speech, the attitudes/values/habits/flaws of others . . . You become like whoever you are most with. Early on, I became far more like my friends than like Christ. Only later in life have I become far more like Christ than like my fleshly friends.

It’s so painful to reflect on these Proverbs. I’m embarrassed and ashamed. Proverbs 13:20, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” I spent way too much time around stupid, foolish, fleshly people instead of wise, spiritually rooted God-lovers. Proverbs 22:24-25, “Don’t make friends with an angry person, and don’t be a companion of a hot-tempered one, or you will learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” Do you see what I mean? When I spent time with kids who hated their parents, I started to hate my parents. When I spent time around angry political partisans, I became an angry political partisan. When I tuned into caustic voices, I began echoing those caustic viewpoints, opinions, and attitudes and values.

Proverbs 23:20-21, “Don’t associate with those who drink too much wine or with those who gorge themselves on meat. For the drunkard and glutton will become poor, and grogginess will cloth them in rags.” When I spent time with indulgent friends, I became indulgent. Ironically I never indulged in wine, but I sure became fat. I never indulged in drugs, but I sure filled my mind with impurity. My friendship fed the worst parts of my character. Oh how I wish I would have disciplined myself as a young person. How might my physical health be different if I abstained from sugar, caffeine, and carbs? How might my mental/emotional/social health be so different if I hungered/thirsted for righteousness instead of seeking gratify flesh?

Proverbs 27:17, “(As) Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” Iron can sharpen iron, but iron can also dull iron. It all depends on your angle! I must say, as I progressed through High School, God’s Holy Spirit got my attention. I began hanging out with people who were smarter, more spiritually minded, more disciplined, more SHARP than I was. Just as dull friends dulled and derailed me early on. . . so later sharp friends sharpened and bettered me.

Your spouse can be your best friend. There is no one who has made me a better person than Lara, than my parents, than her parents, than the people in this church, than Jay Brooks and Brad Owens and more recently, Eric Radecki.

I spent time reflecting on the nature of AUTHENTIC FRIENDSHIPS. I have wasted a lot of energy trying to force relationships. Proverbs 25:17 says, “Seldom set food in your neighbor’s house; otherwise, he will get sick of you and hate you.” I don’t know, does that verse really need much explanation?

Two others Proverbs really convicted me about not forcing relationships! Proverbs 17:1 says, “Better a dry crust with peace than a house full of feasting with strife.” Proverbs 23:6-8 says, “Don’t eat a stingy person’s bread, and don’t desire his choice food, for its like someone calculating inwardly. ‘Eat and drink,’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit the little you’ve eaten and waste your pleasant words.” How many times have accepted an invitation only to quickly realize, “this person doesn’t respect me, they barely like me, they barely tolerate me, they’re not for me, there is something amiss.” I may WANT to be liked/loved by someone but I really can’t control whether they do. They harder I try to force authentic friendship the more impossible it becomes.

Proverbs 19:4 says, “Wealth attracts many friends, but a poor person is separated from his friend.” What’s crazy is that for superficial reasons, prejudiced reasons, we might be missing truly authentic relationship sitting right under our nose. Never overlook, or write off, friendship with a “lower-status” person. They’re more apt to eat with and befriend you without resenting you than some “higher-status” person you’re trying to impress.

I wish I were an EVEN-BETTER FRIEND. There is one part of ministry that is so incredibly frustrating, and that’s proven to be an unresolvable burden. It often seems the pastor role demands that I perpetually “widen” my circle relationships with many people superficially, than substantially “deepen” friendships with a few. I often grieve how I’ve become an acquaintance to so many and a true friend to so few. Do you ever feel that way? After all these years, I’m still struggling in this.

Proverbs 18:24, “One with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.” Proverbs 20:6, “Many a person proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy person?” Proverbs 19:22, “What is desirable in a person is his fidelity; better to be a poor person than a liar.” Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time.”

My best friends are people who have walked through fire, difficulties with me. Acquaintances? They are a dime a dozen because you’ve born no costs with them. Proverbs 25:19, “Trusting an unreliable person in a difficult time is like a rotten tooth or a faltering foot.” A friend is there for you period.

One last lesson learned. GUARD Your FRIENDSHIPS. Friendships are so precious, they are worth every ounce of energy they demand. You can’t just set them on autopilot. Proverbs 27:10, “Don’t abandon your friend or your father’s friend, and don’t go to your brother’s house in your time of calamity; better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.” I have a brother who lives near Champaign, and brother/sister near Chicago. I love them. They are family. But proximity begets deeper bonds. Distance tests/strains/weakens bonds. Our culture is transient. How quickly we let friendships slip away.

Friendships demand grace, forgiveness. Proverbs 18:19, “An offended brother is harder to reach than a fortified city, and quarrels are like the bars of a fortress.” Without grace, the best of friends can become the worst of enemies. We need to settle matters quickly with friends less they become adversaries! How do you guard friendship? You get together often, you learn to forgive quickly/often!

Friendships demand truth as much as grace. You guard a friendship not just by just passively being sharpened, but by actively speaking truth and living righteously into that relationship. Proverbs 21:21, “The one who pursues righteousness and faithful love will find life, righteousness, and honor.” Relationships need to be guided by a Fear of God. That’s the foundation and guiding star! Proverbs 27:5-6, “Better an open reprimand than concealed love. The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses (LIKES?) of an enemy are excessive.”

Acquaintances (superficial friends)… will always like, love, and give your status a thumbs up. A true friend will take risks. They’ll call out your stupidity. They’ll rebuke your foolishness. They’ll risk losing your friendship to save your soul. They’ll choose fearing God all day long instead of multiplying fake kisses. If you have the privilege to have a friend willing to walk in grace with you, willing to rebuke you. . . guard that friendship for the precious treasure it is!

*May we develop deeper friendships while also becoming better friends!

Scripture Verses

Proverbs 1:10-19; 13:20; 17:17; 18:19; 19:4,22; 20:6; 21:21 22:24-25; 23:6-8,20-21; 25:17,19; 27: 5-6,10 27:17

Worship Playlist

Exalted One by Elevation Worship

Sons & Daughters by North Point

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

Unstoppable God by Elevation Worship

Study Questions

  1. Why do friends play such an important role in our development?
  2. Share about a friend who had a godly influence on you and about one who led you from God.
  3. Jesus was known as a friend of sinners. How was he able to do that safely and how can we?

Apply It!

Resources

Our In the Wilderness sermon series booklet provides a place for sermon notes, questions for reflection, and a challenge to read through the book of Proverbs in 31 days. You may pick up a booklet at Lakeside on Sunday mornings or weekdays between 8:00 am & 4:00 pm.