Friendships that Edify by Truth
Tragically, many believers are among the loneliest people on the face of the earth. But that is contrary to all that God has planned for His Church. Edifying friendship is a vital part of New Testament ministry and leadership. Without quality, biblical friendships, we are modeling a flawed Christian lifestyle for our church members. Yet, for many, the difficulties of close friendships outweigh the benefits.
Many believers find themselves in an unhealthy relationship where their marriage partner is their only friend and counselor. I believe our partners should be our best friend, but not our only friend.
If you are a typical believer without close friendships, I urge you to seek out one of each type of these Christians who can build you up by only one thing God blesses—His Word.
God's Word is the tool with which all spiritual building is done.
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work"(2 Tim. 3:16-17)
That is the tool with which every believer should be skilled, and should share.
In my over 30 years of ministry, I have learned that every believer needs at least four types of friends around them who are skilled in using God's Word:
1. We Need to be Edified by The Developer: Your best friend will always be the person who brings out the very best in you. According to Billy Graham, he wouldn't have made it as an evangelist if he had to minister alone. In 1948, Billy Graham met his staff and best friends: Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea, and Grady Wilson. These three men protected him, strengthened him, counseled with their wisdom, and corrected him when he needed it. He is convinced that without these friends he would have burned out within a few years after his first groundbreaking crusade in 1949. Developer friends will bring the gift of encouragement to your life and bring out the very best in you.
2. We Need to be Edified by The Designer: We tend to think of mentors as a personal, hands-on coach. The Latin and Greek define them more as "advisors" or "wise men." Jesus was a master mentor. He ministered to thousands, trained hundreds, equipped twelve, and had an intimate friendship with three men. The designer mentors us in our marriage, ministry, child-rearing, civic involvement, business acumen, or any area where we need a model. Designer mentors may live near or far, be acquaintances or strangers, or may even be dead. They "design" our lives through Scripture, books, tapes, articles, or seminars.
3. We Need to be Edified by The Disturber: We need friends who will shake up our status quo. Disturbers ask us difficult questions, forcing us to take a closer look at motivations and ambitions. Disturbers know when we have retreated into our comfort zones, and they call us out to greater effectiveness. God uses disturbers in our lives to become the object of greater force that breaks inertia and propels us to greater achievement. A biblical picture of a disturber is in Deuteronomy 32:11. In this passage the mother eagle tears up the soft nest to reveal sharp thorns that bring discomfort to the eaglets. Because of discomfort, the eaglets leave the nest and learn to fly. The mother develops her young by repeatedly pushing them out of the nest and catching them until they become skilled flyers. Eagles were never meant to stay in the nest, and neither were we. The disturber pushes us to learn to fly.
4. We Need to be Edified by The Discerner: In a lifetime of relationships, perhaps only a handful of people are willing to play this vital role because it requires mutual vulnerability. More popularly known as accountability partners, discerners bring the gift of spiritual insight into our lives. They know how to speak the truth in love. They know how to exhort and rebuke, seeking to keep their friend on the right track. They are also vulnerable—the true friends who will walk into the room of your life while everyone else is walking out. Proverbs 27:6 reads, "The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive." Always be slow in choosing your discerners and even slower in leaving them.
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