Relationships 101: Friends

Pastor Terry Tatum

Last week Pastor Craig introduced our new sermon series Relationships 101, by talking with us about our relationship with God. There is no relationship more important than your relationship with God…You have to get that one right! And once you get that one right, you can start working on the other relationships we are going to discuss over the next few weeks. 

Today’s topic is our relationship with our friends. And though the Bible is the authority on all relationships, and I’m going to share a bunch of Scriptures about how to be a good friend, this message will also share insight from a different source, the popular television show Friends. 

The show took place in New York in the 90’s and starred six young adults who all became friends. They lived near each other, had lots of fun times together, and spent a lot of time at a nearby coffee shop “Central Perk.” It was a very funny show that I loved watching back then and I still love watching the reruns now. The friends accepted each other’s faults and for the most part modeled how friends should (and sometimes how they shouldn’t) treat each other. They weren’t perfect but they cared about each other. 

In church world we would say they “did life together.” That’s what being a friend is all about. Going through life with each other, that’s what friends do. 

God has blessed me with many incredible friends in my life. They have seen me at my best and my worst. I hope I’ve been as good of a friend to them as they have been to me over the years. If I haven’t been, it’s not because I don’t know how to be. They have shown me how to be a great friend … Thanks guys!

I’m not sure if you have experienced this, but for me and my friends it seems that life gets busier by the day. Between careers, marriages, kids and other responsibilities, we hardly ever get together anymore. We have to put in the effort to see each other, and when we do, we pick up right where we left off, no matter how long it has been. 

I can trust my friends and I count on my friends, no matter what. 

My friends and Pastor Rick Warren have sealed for me the Six Golden Rules to Friendship, which I’ll share below. If you want to know how to be a good friend or what a good friend looks like, keep reading! 

Before we get into the Six Golden Rules, I want to share a couple of important truths:

– You will attract what you are. Look in the mirror. If you’re a good friend, you’ll attract good friends. If you are not, you won’t. 

– Be the friend you’d like to have. Look in the mirror.

It starts with you, and these Six Golden Rules of Friendship…

1. Invest the time (Show up)

 Time is a very precious thing, but to be a good friend you have to invest the time needed to foster the relationship. You have to make the conscious choice to show up and be present. Do you know the difference between friends and acquaintances? Friends are with you through thick and thin, acquaintances are there when they need something. 

Do you know what the key to true friendship is? Realizing “It’s NOT ABOUT YOU!!!” 

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (NIV)

Your Facebook friends aren’t your real friends. Your real friend is the person who is willing to show up when times are tough, to be beside you no matter what.

2. Earn their trust 

I believe it was Aristotle who said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” 

If someone is repeatedly not trustworthy, then you can’t trust them, you can’t count on them, and they aren’t your friend. Scripture tells us that, “Many people claim to be a friend, but it’s rare to find someone who is truly trustworthy.”  Proverbs 20:6 (NCV)

If you have a friend who is completely trustworthy the Bible tells us that is a “rare” thing. You should thank God for having someone in your life that you can trust. 

How do you earn someone’s trust?

BY BEING RELIABLE: Be predictable, be who you are every day, let your friends know what to expect. Be the same friend today that you were yesterday and will be tomorrow. If you loved them yesterday, love them today, and love them tomorrow. 

“A friend loves you ALL the time…”  Proverbs 17:17 (NCV)

BY BEING LOYAL: Loyalty = I’m going to put you ahead of myself. It is the opposite of being self-centered, it is the opposite of narcissism. Being loyal = I’m putting your needs ahead of my own. Loyalty = love in action. 

“If you love someone, you’ll be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best, and always stand your ground in defending them.”  1 Corinthians 13:7 (TLB).

I need people around me who love me and believe in me no matter what. I have them, and because I do I want to extend that loyalty to others. 

BY KEEPING CONFIDENCES: Everyone needs that one person in their life they can share ANYTHNG with!!

“…a true friend will keep a secret.”  Proverbs 11:13 (CEV)

Trust can take years to build and one second to destroy forever.  If you don’t have any deep friendshipS, ask yourself, “Can I keep a secret”? “Can I be trusted?” “Do I gossip?”

“No one who gossips can be trusted … but you can put your confidence in someone who is trustworthy.”  Proverbs 11:13 (TEV)

“If someone is going to gossip to you, they will gossip about you!”

If you do these 3 things, you will earn trust and be a better friend.

3. Listen with empathy 

You can’t love someone without being able to do this. Empathy gets confused with sympathy a lot. The way I like to explain them is this: sympathy = feeling sorry for someone, empathy = feeling what others are feeling (as much as you can). Or better yet, empathy = walking a mile in their shoes.

“We must bear the burden of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others…” Romans 15:2a (LB)

The only way to truly be able to do this is to listen with empathy. 

There is a difference between listening and hearing. Hearing means you understand the words coming out of someone’s mouth, listening means you understand the emotion from where those words generate. 

But how do you truly listen with empathy? “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”  James 1:19 NIV.

If you master the first one, the next two come easy. 

4. Accept their faults 

I need to be honest with you, those great friends I mentioned early, the ones who have molded this sermon for me in real life … they aren’t perfect, they have faults and so do I. But we do what Romans 15:7 tells us to: “Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.”

If you think Jesus died for perfect people, you are dead wrong.  I don’t want perfect friends; I want my friends. There are things about me that they can’t change and things about them that I can’t change. That’s what makes us who we are. If you want to be a great friend, show them the same grace you were shown and understand they aren’t perfect. Accept them for who they are and move forward.

5. Celebrate wins and share losses 

There have been times when I’ve stood in hospitals and cried tears of joy with friends after the birth of their children. And there have been times I’ve cried tears of sorrow with friends during loss and they have done the same for me. I’ve experienced most every win and loss with friends you can think of: death, divorce, weddings, births, promotions, and I wouldn’t trade any of them.

Scripture tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 (NIV)

If you want to be a great friend, celebrate the wins and the losses.

6. Bring out the best 

Always point your friends to Jesus. In good times and bad, a true friend finds the best in you and does everything they can to bring it out. 

I’m going to let you in on a secret, the best part of each of us was created by God, and the worst part of each of us was forgiven by the blood of Christ. As a friend you should always be there reminding others of this truth.

“Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.” Proverbs 27:17 (CEV)

That doesn’t say to make them feel good. It says to sharpen them, help them become who God created them to be. Help them become the best husband (wives), fathers (mothers), sons (daughters), and friends that they can be. Be honest with them while always pointing them to Christ. “An honest answer is a sign of true friendship.”  Proverbs 24:26 (TEV) 

You will never make it through this life without friends you can count on. This life wasn’t meant to be lived in solitude. If you don’t have good friends you can count on, look in the mirror. Do you invest the time to be a good friend? Are you trying to earn others’ trust? Can you listen with empathy? Do you accept others as they are, faults and all? Are you willing to celebrate the wins and the losses with your friends (be there in good times and bad)? And finally, do you bring out the best in them?

These are all things you can control. You can be a better friend and if you become a better friend you will attract good friends.