“But I have called you friends” (John 15:15). These very precious words were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples just prior to his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. They were precious words then and are precious words today to all who believe in the Lord Jesus as savior.
What makes someone a friend?
A friend is someone who listens to you, who accepts you and hears what you have to say. Someone who invites you to share what is on your heart and mind without the fear of being demeaned or rejected. Jesus invites us to come to him (Matthew 11:28) and to pour out our heart to him (Psalm 62:8). He doesn’t want us to pray “mindless” words over and over but to talk honestly with him knowing that he hears and cares.
A friend is someone who talks with you — not at you, but with you — honestly sharing his or her heart. A friend shares with you what you need to hear for your good, not just what you want to hear. Jesus talks with us like that as we read his word (II Timothy 3:16-17). He not only comforts us, but he also corrects us for our good. While reading his word, we ought to cry out, “Lord Jesus, help me hear what I need to hear and not just what I want to hear.”
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A friend is someone who works with you. Working together is a great experience of friendship. How joyful and rewarding it is to work together with a friend — even when the work is very painstaking and prolonged. Jesus is building his church (Matthew 16:18), and he invites us to work with him — “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Is it quick and easy work? No. Is it stress and pain-free work? No. But it is joyful and rewarding work because we work with him. No other work compares to it.
A friend is someone who is there with you, who loves you and supports you. Who cares for you through the ups and downs of life. I’m so thankful that my dear wife is such a friend. Regardless of the moment, she is there with me and for me. Jesus is such a friend as well. His promise, “I am with you always,” (Matthew 28:20) resonates deep within my soul. His word, “Do not fear for I am with you,” (Isaiah 41:10) strengthens my heart which is so prone to fear and discouragement.
A friend is someone willing to lay down his life for you. So many brave soldiers, men and women, have laid down their lives for us over the past 240 years. These fallen soldiers are true friends who made the greatest sacrifice for their families, neighbors and nation. Jesus sacrificed his life for all people — that whoever believes in him would experience the gift of forgiveness and friendship with God forever (John 3:16).
Yes, “What a friend we have in Jesus!” — as Joseph Scriven wrote amidst personal loss and tragedy — “all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
Drew Fenstermacher is pastor at Faith Baptist Church of State College. Contact him at pastor firstname.lastname@example.org.