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Word to the Wise: June 29

by Neal Windham, Spiritual Formation Pastor

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” - Proverbs 18:24

How many friends do you have? Tricky question. Are we talking about close friends? Casual friends? Or something in between? I’ve read that people normally can’t really sustain more than five to seven strong friendships. Anything beyond that and substance becomes superficiality. Lots of small talk. Of course, many of us can and do maintain lots of casual relationships, and these are really important, but the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” friendships are obviously fewer and farther between.

So, just who is this friend who sticks closer than a brother or sister? Personally, I think it’s someone you work really hard with at cultivating a strong relationship based upon shared convictions and experiences, as well as the kind of deepening trust that is born of attentive listening and mutual care.

This past weekend Brad Tate said we’ve got to become initiators if we’re to have meaningful friendships. So here are some questions to help guide you into deep, durable friendships:

• Who is your ideal friend?
• What do they care about most?
• Do you share their concerns?
• Could you see yourself going deep with them in conversation, prayer, and service in order to help people to get to know Jesus and make the world a better place?
• Do you find yourself listening to them, learning from them, and wanting to know more about why they are who they are?
• Do you want to be with them because they are helping you to become a better person and because you are helping them to do the same?
• What motivates your very best friendships, and where are these friendships taking the two of you?

Too many friendships are shallow and hastily formed, based upon shared interests of no real consequence, and often leading to toxic results. As the writer says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin.” There is a better way. It’s time to become strategic about our friendships, church. Not cliquish or selfish, but strategic. Because the urgency of our cause demands the best we can offer - together.

Jesus, we’re aware you spent a lot of time with Peter, James, and John. Thank you for pouring into them. Please, give us teachable hearts like theirs; listening ears, eager minds, and willing hands and feet. Help us, like them, to enter deeply into partnerships of consequence and size so that your will is done on earth as it is in heaven. There is so much at stake. Grant us the courage to seek out those friendships which will speak life and hope into our doubts and fears, challenge our timidity, and pick us up when discouraged - all for your greater glory. And, dear God, help us to do the same for these, our friends. In Jesus’ name. Amen.