This week, elder Eric Jones brought a word from the book of Proverbs about wise friendship. Eric shared how we each desire close friendships because we were created in the image of a highly relational, Triune God. Building deep and lasting friendships isn’t easy. We live in a disconnected world and a country that values independence. This has only become more difficult with covid where we’ve literally been mandated to “social distance”. The book of Proverbs provides specific instructions for how to cultivate and build deep, healthy, close friendships.
Proverbs 18:24 ESV
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Deep relationship is difficult – Have you heard of the Seattle Freeze? This is based on an actual study that found “people [in Seattle] are very polite but not particularly friendly”. A 2008 peer-reviewed study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science found that among all 50 states, Washington residents ranked 48th in the personality trait extraversion.
Sticking close is what Jesus did – Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. When we get close to people, we feel their pain and hurts. Relationships can be messy and untidy, and that is okay.
John 1:14 ESV
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 15:15 ESV
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
What does Proverbs say about sticking close?
- Sticking close leads to victory over deception – Deception can cause us to take offense and distance ourselves from the very thing that will help us find victory. Without deep friendship, we can leave ourselves wide open to the schemes of the deceiver.
“Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
- Sticking close leads to sound judgment – Relationship requires vulnerability. We must remember that each of us have histories with some level of trauma and injustice. These injustices can lead us to withhold or hesitate to engage with others on a deep level. We seek to self-protect, but we cannot heal in isolation.
Proverbs 18:1 ESV
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
- Sticking close leads to deep friendship – Deep friendships are marked by pressing into adversity together. They create space for imperfection and provide an environment of grace and mercy.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”
- Sticking close leads to more wisdom – If we don’t practice discernment in our relationships, we will come to ruin. In order to talk with the wise, we must learn to recognize the wise. True impact comes from long-term connection within community.
Three types of people
- Foolish – prideful, unwilling to receive instruction.
- Evil – does not acknowledge God’s truth.
- Wise – receives instruction unto gaining more wisdom.
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
- Sticking close leads to transformation – The closeness of proximity creates a greenhouse effect of growth for the Holy Spirit to move. Proximity is the opposite of isolation; it creates compassion and care in our hearts. People don’t need more advice, they need more sacrifice.
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
“Preaching to the masses, although necessary, will never suffice in the work of preparing leaders for evangelism. Nor can occasional prayer meetings and training classes for Christian workers do this job. Building men and women is not that easy. It requires constant personal attention, much like a father gives to his children. This is something that no organization or class can ever do. Children are not raised by proxy. The example of Jesus would teach us that it can be done only by persons staying close to those whom they seek to lead.”
-Robert E. Coleman, “Master Plan of Evangelism”
Tools to build deep relationships
- It takes proximity – you have to stick close.
- Closer in Family.
- Closer in Work. How can you build friendship with someone whom you work closely?
- Closer in Ministry. Discipleship cannot be an every now and then meeting. True discipleship is life on life.
- It takes time – you can’t just jump from church to church or relationship to relationship and expect there to be closeness.
- Who is your friend? Who are your disciples? Who are you discipling?
- Are you in a life group?
- How can we be vulnerable to deception if we choose to live isolated?
- Eric said “we cannot heal in isolation”. Why is this Biblically true? How then, can we heal?
- Do you find it easy to isolate and withdraw when you’re offended? Are there any past hurts or injustices from former relationships that affect your current level of vulnerability with others?
- How can we create a relational space for imperfection and provide an environment of grace and mercy?
- Who is God calling you to stick close to? How can you step out in faith this week and be close to this person?
- What if we chose to stick close past our level of comfort? What if we were radical about this? Practice doing this in a specific way this week.
- Do you have healthy, Christian community? Are you currently in a Life Group? If the answer is no, look through the Life Groups page on the app and website to find a crew before your crisis.
- Do you want to be discipled? Pray this week for the Lord to bring a person to mind and ask that person to disciple you this week.