Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Godly Friendship

As I stare at the third kernel of corn and ponder its meaning of friendship, I realize that it is not just having friends that makes a difference to others. What really makes the difference is being a godly friend to those around us. When you think about friends and friendship, many immediately think about how many friends they have through social media and how many instant message buddies they have. Should the number of friends make a difference in your life or should the quality of each be the defining criteria for each relationship.

The noted American author, Alice Walker, once said, “I don't need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends I can be certain of.”

When you look back at the Pilgrims who came to this new world in search of religious freedom, they ran into heartache and hardship at almost every turn in their collective lives. Crop failures, harsh winters, death from starvation and disease and so many other tragedies filled their lives daily. However, things changed for them when God, in His infinite love, provided to those early settlers help in the form of Native Americans. 

Those new friends helped the Pilgrims get back on their feet and, in time, those same folks who endured heartache and hardship alike were able to sit down at a table and behold the bounty and blessings of God and share those same blessings with their new friends, the Native Americans.

As we think about the friendship between the settlers and the natives of this land, we must look at the quality of that friendship and at ourselves. The Native Americans came to the aid of the Pilgrims in their dire need. Would you do the same for your friends? If a friend’s spouse were in the hospital fighting for his or her life, would you come to the aid of the spouse? Would you sacrifice for them just to help take that person to the hospital to visit their dying loved one? Would you bring a meal to the house?

I have seen first hand the generosity of the few that would come to the aid of those around them. I have seen a few climb up on rooftops during storms to patch a leaky roof. I have seen those who have walked miles to feed those who were stuck in their homes during ice storms. Those are individuals that exemplify the definition of a true friend.

In chapter eighteen of the Book of Proverbs, the author writes, “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

True friendship means that we stick together closer than a person’s family. As friends, we should come to the aid of our friends even when it is inconvenient. We all have our own lives and things to deal with, but, as true friends, we should be willing to help whenever and with whatever is needed. My father said that friendship does not keep hours or have a schedule.

I used to think it was an odd thing to say until my wife and I received calls from our congregation either late at night or very early in the morning. Since we served a retirement community as pastors, my wife and I were on call all the time to lend a shoulder of comfort or strength. Sometimes, we wept with someone over the passing of a spouse or a dear friend. Other times we worked to bring joy into the lives of those we served.

No matter the situation, we were there for each and we helped wherever and whenever we could. God gave us the blessings of a flock to care for and watch over. 

In chapter ten of the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

For me, friendship is the same as being a good shepherd. A true friend will stand shoulder to shoulder with his or her friend and not let any harm come to that friend. The greatest gift you can give someone is being a friend who will not run when things get rough.

When I first became the pastor to our congregation at Lakeline Oaks Retirement Community, I met the activity director. Dave, a former pastor, charged me with one thing. Those words that he said have always guided my life and I thank God for him and those words.

He said, “Take care of the flock. Watch over them. Be the ‘good shepherd’.”

The words of my earthly father and those words of my brother in Christ, Dave, have directed my actions and taught me how to be that friend who is closer than a brother. As friends, we should always and, without question, share in the burdens of our friends.

The author of Ecclesiastes writes in chapter four, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.

A true friend will always lift you up and help you with your burden. Lending a hand in the worst of times is the true sign of a deep friendship that transcends everything.

When you look at the friendship between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, they barely had an understanding of each other’s culture or language. I am sure that it was very difficult at times and probably frustrating. But, each was willing to give and receive for the sake of the other.

Friendship is built upon that give and take. At some point, we may need help from a friend while, at other times, we may need to give to our friends. No matter what the situation is, we always give and take with kindness, love and humility.

Paul writes in chapter three of his letter to the Colossians, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

As you ponder the third kernel of corn and thank the Lord God for your friends, remember the lesson from this message. Be a godly friend to those you know. Help wherever and whenever you can. Lend a hand or shoulder to those who bear great burdens. Weep with those who mourn. Be joyful with those who celebrate. When you live Paul’s words and clothe yourself in love, you can truly stand firm in His grace. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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