Monday, 4 March 2013

A True Friend lay down his life for his friends

 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:12-15NASB)

This verse in the Gospel of John tells us a lot about revealing God`s love: Laying down our life for others means putting them first and making their need more important than our own. It means we have to give ourselves up for one another. When we go out of our way to meet a friend's need, when we are willing to spend time, resources and energy with someone --and are willing to go out of our way and to give ourselves up for others, we are laying down our life, a part of it at least, for that person. This is what Jesus had in mind. With living for a friend requires us to be committed to that friend.

The text begins with the command of Jesus: I command you to love one another. The fact that this is put in the imperative mode means it is not an option in our life. It is not something we do if we feel like it. It is to be a deliberate response to another person whom we know to be in the family of God, regardless of how we feel toward that person. We all know how fully Jesus Himself exemplified this. His is the greatest love that anyone can demonstrate toward friends. By seeking to show love to our friends, family and those who also know Jesus, we reveal love to those who don`t know Him. Our love bears testimony of His life. We can look to the Saviors life for examples of true friendship: Perfect love, service, and commitments. The verse is about being selfless and sacrificial in our actions towards others rather than selfish. Jesus was committed to his disciples and to those He was trying to save. He served them throughout His ministry. One great example is the washing of the Apostles feet.  In John chapter 13, we find the passage where Jesus washes His disciples` what it means for us today is that God wants us to serve other people, to honor and esteem them above ourselves. When we do this, we show God`s love and are laying down our life for others.

To each one of us friendship has a different meaning. For all of us it is a gift. Friendship needs to be cherished and nurtured. It needs to be cultivated on a daily basis. Then shall it germinate and yield its fruit. Nurturing means providing for, caring for, taking care of, helping to grow and making the other feel heard and understood.  Emotional responses to nurturing are a feeling of calm, warmth, tenderness, peace, relaxation, being soothed. There are times in your life where you will come across someone who gives you advice, makes you feel better about life, and sets you on the right path. You might wonder if that person is a friend, mentor, or both. Most importantly, mentoring is about helping others to grow, whether it developing life skills, learning how to deal with tough situations or just sharing experiences with someone who can listen and understand.
Bible says "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24b This friend will never fail you, His name is Jesus.  He said “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:50)

JESUS CHRIST will always be your friend, even when you are not friendly, or when others fail you. However, HIS goal for our lives is that we would bless His life by answering His prayer in John 17 for Covenant Love to be manifested – "We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God MUST also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21 NIV 
Nurturing Friendship is about being there for someone on their journey through life. Understanding them, listening to them, encouraging them, supporting them and Making them feel worthwhile, building their confidence and helping them to believe in themselves. Moreover being a positive role model. Mentoring friendship really works to change lives. In general, an effective mentoring relationship is characterized by mutual respect, trust, understanding, and empathy. Good mentors are able to share life experiences and wisdom, as well as technical expertise. They are good listeners, good observers, and good problem-solvers. They make an effort to know, accept, and respect the goals and interests of a friend. In the broad sense intended here, mentoring friendship is someone who takes a special interest in helping another person develops into a successful individual with continuing guidance and support.

True friends will build each other up emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Friends like to be together simply because it feels good. We receive strength, encouragement, and love. We talk, we cry, we listen. But at times we also have to say the difficult things our dearest friend needs to hear. Yet, because of the shared trust and acceptance, we are the one person who can impact our friend's heart, for we know how to deliver the hard message with truth and grace. I believe this is what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."Remember, true friendships are rare treasures. They take time to nurture, but in the process we grow more Christ like.
"He who desires friends, must himself first be friendly." (Proverbs 18:24a)
Jesus said “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14)

Friendship is a bond between two people who share a mutual and supportive relationship. They share and care each other and Give Mutual Edification. Someone you can call anytime of the day and will lend you a hand in your troubled times and never leave your side in the worst of circumstance. Someone who will keep you company and share the same joys with you. Someone you can trust and share your ideas with, give you advices and share the same tastes in doing enjoyable activities.
Mutual friendships are not based on mentoring. Rather, in these situations the two individuals are usually more closely aligned on a spiritual level, balancing the natural flow of giving and receiving between genuine friends. Mutual friendships are quite different than nurturing friendships. These relationships don't usually happen overnight. Typically, they develop over time as both friends progress in wisdom and spiritual maturity. A strong friendship blossoms naturally when two friends grow together in faith, goodness, knowledge, and other godly graces.

Time is always a precious gift you can give to a friend. It is important to find time talking and listening to a friend's insights, experiences, sentiments, and problems. In this way, we build a strong bond among our friends and a deeper understanding of each ones personality and peculiarities. When we choose our friends, we learn to accept the individual uniqueness of each one. We unveil our friends' character and start to understand their personality, behaviors, attitudes and even their weaknesses. We learn to love and accept even their bad sides because we take them as they are. Some would turn away and leave. Others would care to help change their friends and seek for improvement but it does always succeed as we planned.
It's hard to change a person. We just need to understand and accept their indifference as they accept and understand ours. If we broaden our understanding and be patient we will be able to accept their idiosyncrasies. It is part of their being and as long we wanted to save our friendship, we need to learn to be understanding and accept the uniqueness of our friend. Losing interest in friendship happens. People change every day and it affects the relationship. If the changes are not acceptable, people lose interest in continuing the friendship. Doing nothing also looses the interest of both parties. We need to keep moving and enjoy the adventure with our friends. It is ideal to give spice and joy to any relationship so not to lose interest.

 Negative Friendship or Toxic -Friendship?

“Do not be misled: “Bad Company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
 “There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
If you want to succeed you need to analyze the influence of your friendship with people around you, business companions, and relations with your team Etc.  How do you get on with these people? Are they helping you to achieve your goal or on the contrary, slowing down your progress? Your reputation depends greatly on your ties, and we have to pay dearly for a “good name”. You reputation must characterize you as a serious, disciplined, responsible, honest person. A Proverb says: “A man is known by the company he keeps”. That is why it is so important to reappraise your friends and your partnership. You relations with people move you forward or draw you back. Relationships cannot be neutral, though many people think:  You either receive something from friendship with someone or give something. As Christians we have to assign primary importance of our relationships to everything that draws us closer to God. If your companions do not satisfy God’s standards, look for other partners, otherwise you are in danger of losing God. You may consider yourself a strong person, able to vanquish temptation, but the truth is that “bad company corrupts good character”. God Himself tells us:”Do not be misled”. Many people are entrapped lying to themselves.  Do not trust yourself, trust God, and you will see God’s result in your life.
There is no crystal ball to predict that a particular friend will turn out to be a reliable, positive relationship in your life or, by contrast, that a negative association will cause you emotional distress, or worse. Since destructive or negative friends are not always that easy to spot, being forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. Some friends may be betrayers from the start; others may turn into betrayers because of what's going on in their lives or because of changes in their personality. Sometimes you need to consider what your friend is really like within the contexts of all the behaviors. I can't emphasize enough that you need to consider the root cause. Friend that bring nothing to the table but their own issues, needs and drama are toxic friends. Sure there are those friends that are needy but they usually don't bring misery to your door like a toxic friend does.

Toxic means poisonous and potentially deadly. In the general connotation of a "toxic" relationship, however, I would say that a relationship becomes "toxic" when one or more parties have an agenda that is as much harmful to themselves as it might be to others.  A toxic friend is any friend who brings you nothing but grief, disruption, pain, abuse, and trouble. Here are 3 unfortunate issues that can happen: 

Slander - Jeremiah 9:4-5 says, “Everyone take heed to his neighbor, And do not trust any brother; For every brother will utterly supplant, And every neighbor will walk with slanderers. Everyone will deceive his neighbor, And will not speak the truth; They have taught their tongue to speak lies; They weary themselves to commit iniquity.”Friends are human – therefore, we all sin.  God is telling us in this scripture that we are not to be trusted by nature.  Even if we don’t mean to slander or speak against our friends, it’s hard to not become jealous or envious of what they have.  Jealously creates a lot of evil and evil turns into speaking evil against your friend.
 Betrayal – Lamentations 1:2 says, “Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks.  Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her.  All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies.”It’s hard dealing with this feeling of being betrayed.  This seems to be the hardest thing to get over at times.  When you put all of your trust in someone else and they hurt you, or turn their back on you, sometimes it’s hard to trust again. Betrayal can be hard to bounce back from.

 Untrustworthy – Micah 7:5 says, “Do not trust a neighbor;  put no confidence in a friend.  Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips.”As the saying goes, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  You can have friends, but you can’t put all of your trust into one human being.  I’m pretty sure, we have all had friends who we shared our most intimate secrets with and the next thing you know, the whole neighborhood knows… untrustworthy!

Eph. 4:29 tells us to Let no corrupt communication out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

I recall an example of negative influence from my own experience is that I had a friend who was extremely negative about everything. He has leaders and co-workers that he complained, blamed and criticized about constantly but refused to do anything to correct his own behavior. One day I took the courage to tell him that we had too many fundamental differences, which I was tired of dealing with it and that life is too short to choose to associate with someone living contradictory to the word of God and you don't get along with. I told him that I had no hard feelings toward him but felt that we needed to go our separate ways. That was almost few years ago and I still feel relief when I think of it. When you are consistently negatively affected by your association with someone, you've tried to overcome your differences and the other person has no interest in changing things, you're better off cutting your losses and saying goodbye. There is no difficulty in this saying; he who frequents the company of bad or corrupt men will soon be as they are. He may be sound in the faith, and have the life and power of godliness, and at first frequent their company only for the sake of their pleasing conversation, or their literary accomplishments: and he may think his faith proof against their infidelity; but he will soon find, by means of their glozing speeches, his faith weakened; and when once he gets under the empire of doubt, unbelief will soon prevail; his bad company will corrupt his morals;
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;" By valuing your friend's needs above your own, you'll be on your way to loving like Jesus. In the process, you'll likely gain a true friend.

Relationships in real life involve different levels of friendships, and that's okay. But humans are designed by God for lasting relationships. Often our isolationist society offers only vague, empty relationships. God wants us to have friends here on earth. Most of all, He wants us to be friends with Him! God's Word tells us that a friend sticks closer than a brother, and that in order for one to be a friend, one must show themselves friendly (Proverbs 18:24). The question is: what type of friend do you desire to be?  Proverbs 18:19 in the New Living Translation says: "It's harder to make amends with an offended friend than to capture a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars." When we've offended a true friend - whether by breaking a trust or by speaking the truth with love - we risk losing that friendship. We must be careful not to break the trust. But when not speaking the truth will cause greater hurt in our friend's life, we must be willing to sacrifice our needs for those of our friend. That is true friendship.  If we sometimes offend a friend without meaning to, God's Word offers a solution. It's called forgiveness. There is no greater example than the love of God for us. It is so great that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in order that our friendship with God might be restored. He did that in spite of the fact that we have offended Him deeply. We have disobeyed His commands, turned our backs on Him, and followed our own path. So the question remains: What type of friend do you want to be?

Jesus is the classical and pure example of a true friend, for He laid down His life for His “friends.” What is more, anyone may become His friend by trusting in Him as his personal savior, being born again and receiving new life in Him. Jesus is the finest example of a true friend. His love for us is sacrificial, never selfish. He demonstrated it not only through his miracles of healing, but more fully through the humble service of washing the disciples' feet, and then ultimately, when he laid down his life on the Cross.

Jesus loved people. He was a friend to the individual. He said at one time to his Apostles " No longer will I call you my servants, but my friend" . How we long for a good friend in this troubled world. We are so busy that we don’t take time to cultivate friendships. It takes time. It also takes time to build our friendship with Jesus. It is our part that is lacking not His. He is waiting and longing to be that forever friend. 

Jesus gave us good examples of how friendship works. He was never too busy to help those in need. The man who was demon -possessed (Mark 5) became a friend of Jesus. Jesus took pity and showed compassion by casting out the demons and freeing him to be whole, to go about praising God and telling his friends in Decapolis about what Jesus had done for him. “To him that is afflicted kindness should be shown." (Job 6:14)

Jesus was not too proud to speak to the woman at the well (John. 4) and to give her water which would cause her never to thirst again, living water. He befriended her. Jesus was a friend to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. (Jn. 11:11) He went there often and stayed in their house. He was a friend who came when Lazarus died. He raised him from the dead.

 When we have a close friend, how we long to be with them and have quality time to “just talk." Jesus longs for us to come and just pour out our heart to Him. He wants to know how our life is going, what troubles and joys we have. He can help us with our problems. (Jer. 33:3) “Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt.11: 28, 29)

 Jesus is our friend forever. He knows our weaknesses and the good in us. He is not a friend who would encourage us to remain in our weakness, or to become stunted in our growth.      (Heb. 5:12-14) He calls us to a high standard of living that would reach higher each day.  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Prov. 27:6) He gently, yet strongly encourages us to look into His word and see ourselves and make correction. (Jas.1:22-27) This is what a true friend will do. He sees the potential in us and wants us to be successful in living the Christian life. He wants to see us not conformed, but transformed. (Rom. 12:2) His power can do that for us through study of His word, the Holy Spirit that He has given us as counselor to aid in our prayer to God through Him. (Heb. 4:12; Eph.3:16-20; Acts 20:32)

 To be a friend of Jesus we cannot be a friend of the world. ”Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James.4:4) Why would we want to be a friend of the world when we can have Jesus? Jesus said " In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer I have overcome the world." (John. 16:33) Jesus was not of this world. Neither was His kingdom of this world. (Jn.17:16; 18:36) Jesus came to a sin sick world. All mankind had lost their friendship with God. He came to redeem us, to make us friends again. (Romans 3:24) Jesus showed the ultimate act of friendship. He died for us, while we were still in our sin and His enemy. The blood that He shed in His death has saved us from the wrath of God, and given us life eternal. “We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation." (Romans 5:6-11) Let us be careful to maintain that friendship with Him. Let us have the mind of Christ and humble ourselves and obey Him every day of our lives.