In yesterday’s post, we looked at a friendship gone wrong and saw how idolatry can infect and destroy a friendship, even a Christian one. Now, let’s look at what the Bible has to say about our friends and their purpose in our lives.
By no means exhaustive, below is a list of four specific purposes that friends should serve in our lives.
1. Friends Help Us Fully Enjoy God
Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. (Eph. 5:18–19)
Things are best enjoyed in community. Your favorite movie is good when you watch it alone. It’s even better with friends. A great meal is enjoyable. But it’s even more satisfying when you share it with friends. We’re wired to share our joys with others. The best experiences in life are the ones we try to drag our friends into: “You have to see this movie!” “You have to come with me to this restaurant!”
Of all the things we have to enjoy, God is the greatest! We were created to enjoy Him and center our lives around Him! And we enjoy God most fully with other people. Friends help us enjoy God by enjoying Him with us.
Let us not invert this concept by allowing God to become our means to enjoy people more, only going to Him to ask for more people (husband, friends, kids). He is not the means, but the end Himself.
2. Friends Expose Sin That Keeps Us from God
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Prov. 27:6)
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. (Gal. 6:1)
Sin deceives us. It darkens our understanding and makes us fools. So much so that we can be walking in sin and convinced that God is pleased with us. This is why we desperately need friends who are willing to point out our sin. We need friends to help us see our blind spots. We need friends to speak truth in love (see Eph. 4:15).
Good friends tell you the truth about yourself. These friends are a grace. But an uncomfortable grace, for sure. Who enjoys being told they’re wrong? Who enjoys being caught in sin? No one. But on this earth we will struggle with sin. And if we welcome this uncomfortable grace, it will lead us into abundant life, into freedom, and into deeper joy in God.
This is a function of community that few people want. We’d much rather have friends who always tell us what we want to hear, show us the false grace of excusing sin, and give us false hope that we can grow closer to God without repentance. But because sin is a poison to our soul and a thief of joy in God, this is a function of community we cannot afford to forsake.
3. Friends Encourage Us to Obey God
Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb. 3:13)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Heb. 10:24)
While it’s true we need friends to help us see our disobedience, we also need them to spur us toward obedience. Without the cheerleading of Christian friends, we can become lazy and stagnant, not just by doing wrong things, but also by not doing the right things.
Encouragement is giving someone a bigger vision of why her obedience matters in the Kingdom. It is the affirmation that her obedience honors God, and it is the push to keep doing it. Whatever form it takes, encouragement motivates someone to continue running the specific race marked out for her.
4. Friends Bring Us to God
Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
As God’s chosen people . . . Bear with each other and forgive one another. (Col. 3:12–13 NIV)
Walking with God in a sin-stained world with our sin-ridden flesh with a hell-bent enemy is too hard to do alone. Alone, we are susceptible to believing the lies of the enemy. Alone, we buckle under the weight of our sin. Alone, we are discouraged and weary in fighting sin. We need the ministry of other believers to bring us to God when we are too weak.
Here are just a few ways friends can bring us to God:
Confession and Prayer
James commands us to confess our sins to other people and have them pray for us so we can be healed (5:16). When we confess to others, we feel the weight of our sin to a greater degree, and we experience the gracious embrace of God through a friend who reminds us we are already forgiven through the life and death of Jesus.
Bearing each other’s burdens means sharing the load. That may mean regularly listening and praying for a friend who’s in a hard season or helping in practical ways. We are called to enter into one another’s suffering and speak truth about who God is and who we are.
Mark 2:3–5 is a great visual of intercession. What the paralytic man couldn’t do for himself, his friends did for him: they brought him to Jesus. Through intercessory prayer, we can bring our friends to God, asking Him to do greater things in their lives than they would have the boldness to pray for themselves.
Friendship for the Glory of God
Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)
Like everything else, the purpose of our friendships should be about God. Let’s stop making God a servant of our friendships, and let’s allow our friendships to serve Him and His Kingdom. We cannot glorify God alone; we cannot live for His glory alone. We need each other!