Making Godly Friends

We tend to take on the traits of those with whom we associate. The wise Solomon said, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20)

In First Corinthians 15:33 the Apostle Paul said, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” The Greek word translated “communications” here literally means “companionship.” And, according to Strong’s, the word translated “manners” refers to moral habits. In more up-to-date English, the New King James renders this verse, “Be not deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.” And the NIV says, “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Solomon illustrated this truth in Proverbs 22:24 where he explained what can happen if we become close friends with an ill tempered man. He said, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: lest thou learn his ways and get a snare to thy soul.”

By contrast, the writer of Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, said, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:63) His deep love for the Word of God that he expressed in verse after verse of this beautiful Psalm, came, at least in part, from choosing close friends who loved God and His Word even as He did

It’s true. We tend to take on the temperaments, the attitudes – and even the beliefs of the people with whom we closely associate.

In Deuteronomy 13, Moses strongly emphasized the potential danger of being adversely swayed by those to whom we are close, saying, “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers… Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him…” (Deuteronomy 13:6, 8) Moses said we must never sympathize with those who begin to compromise truth. No matter how close you are to someone – whether it’s a relative or your very best friend – never allow anyone to weaken your love for God and His word. Love them and try to reason with them. But if they start to move away from truth, you need to start, as kindly and gently as possible, to move away from your close association with them. – Why? Because bad company corrupts good character.

I’ve heard that the words “influence” and “influenza” come from the same root word – and I can believe it. For the people that we associate with influence us. They’re contagious, like the flu. Their attitudes and beliefs rub off on us. You will become like and you will, in time, embrace the same attitudes and doctrinal beliefs as those with whom you fellowship. Be very careful! Apostasy is contagious! The people we closely associate with – our close friends – play a huge role in the development of the person we’ll soon become.

God created us with a need for companionship. He created us to be social beings who need other people in our lives. It’s very important that we have friends, good friends, close friends. But it’s even more important that we have the right kind of friends – friends whose influence will prod us and push us forward and upward; friends who will help us to become better than we are; friends who will bring out the best in us.

The Lord’s purpose and ideal for friendship can be seen in Proverbs 27:17, which says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Close friendships are intended of God to sharpen us and to help prepare us to be everything we were created to be. They are meant to help keep us on the right track and going in the right direction.

When friendships are what they should be and what God intends them to be, those friends help one another by becoming accountable to each other – not in a way that would disregard or bypass their accountability to those who are over them in the Lord – but in a caring, loving way that includes the freedom to be totally honest and open with one another – and even to lovingly correct each other if one starts to drift off into error – or gets off course – or out of line.

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” The “wounds” or frank words of a true friend are for our good. Proverbs 27:9 continues that thought, saying, “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.”

Godly friendships come with responsibility. It was Augustine who said, “My love is my weight,” meaning that when we hold something or someone dear we carry a weight of sorts. We bear a burden of responsibility. We make the promise, “To the best of my ability – I will be there for you – and I’ll be there again and again and again.”

According to Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” We all need to HAVE friends like that – and we all need to BE friends like that!

We all need godly friends! And being in the church provides us with a wonderful setting to find such friends. While we certainly want and need to be friends to the people of this world that we’ve been called to reach with the gospel, yet our truly close associations need to be with those within the church – where iron can sharpen iron – and we can thus become better equipped to fulfill our mission to reach the lost.

Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” While we DO have a responsibility to all people – we especially have it towards one another! God’s plan is to use our love for one another to show the world that we truly are His disciples. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

I love my old friends that I had in the world before I got saved and I have maintained a level of contact with many of them down through the years. Yet it’s my church friends that have become my closest friends. We’ve laughed together too many times to count. We’ve also wept together on many, many occasions. We’ve shared wonderful victories as well as tragic setbacks. We’ve played together and we’ve prayed together. We’ve discussed sermon thoughts and shared uplifting testimonies and praise reports and have allowed iron to sharpen iron. I don’t know where or what I would be without my friends! I love my friends! I need my wonderful, godly friends!

It’s true. We’ll become like those with whom we closely associate. Jack Hyles was reported to have said, “You’ll not be what you decide to be – you’ll be what you decide to be around.” He was right. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

I encourage you – if you haven’t already – go find yourself some godly friends. It’s one of the best things you’ll ever do.

Rev. Robert Stroup is the District Superintendent of the Indiana District, United Pentecostal Church International. He is Pastor of Pentecostals of South Lake in Merrillville, Indiana.

photo credit: ►Milo► via photo pin cc

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