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Girlfriends in God - September 7, 2011

September 7, 2011
I Need a Friend Part 5
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
But Ruth replied, ‘Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’ When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her (Ruth 1:16-18, NIV).

Friend to Friend
Friendship is the catalyst for every other love and the foundation of every healthy relationship. God created us to need each other. We need friends and we need to be a friend. Over the past few weeks, we have examined the friendship between Naomi and Ruth, a relationship that illustrates vital keys to a healthy relationship between friends.

Key one:         Time
Key two:         Risk
Key three:      Transparency
Key four:        Touch
Key five:         Correction
Key six:          Forgiveness
Key seven:     Freedom
Key eight:      Loyalty

One of the most important friendship keys is loyalty. Ruth was loyal to Naomi. God honored that loyalty and used it to attract her future husband, Boaz. “Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband--how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before” (Ruth 2:11). Boaz was struck by the loyalty of Ruth, realizing that she was the kind of woman he wanted to marry. True friends are loyal and committed to each other. Here are some ways to build loyalty into friendship.

·         Don’t criticize friends to other people.
·         Cheer at the successes of your friends.
·         Encourage the strengths of your friends. 
·         Never use a friend’s weaknesses to your advantage.
·         Overlook “cracks” in the armor and “tilted” halos of friends.

Protect the heart of your friend by guarding your friendship with loyalty.

Key nine:  Action
Ruth demonstrated her love for Naomi by her actions. She went with her to Bethlehem and worked in the field for her. “Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18). The best friendships are created by layers of kind actions. 

1.  Ritualsor traditions are one of most important ingredients in a healthy friendship. It may be a weekly lunch date, annual shopping trip or dinner and a movie once a month. The best friendships are rich with memories accumulated over time.

2.  Gifts are a symbol of time and energy spent for a friend. It is not the cost or size of the gift, but the thought behind it that says, “She thought of me.” It is a tangible reminder of relationship. Notes, funny cards, a favorite snack or magazine, phone calls for no reason, favors done back and forth are all tiny statements of love. When my husband was in the hospital, one friend bought groceries, picked up my kids from school and delivered my cleaning. I didn’t ask for help, but she knew I needed help. When you sense a need, just do it, because sometimes, hurting friends can’t ask for help.

3. Words of a friend are filled with acceptance and approval. In friendships, we need to be cautious with criticism and liberal with praise. Paul writes, “So encourage each other to build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). People become what we encourage them to be. A true friend trains his heart and mind to pass over faults in search of strong points. Choose to draw the strong qualities of friends into the spotlight and be their cheerleader. Friends look for reasons to praise God in each other. 

4.  Listening by definition means “attention, with the intention to understand.” James says we should be “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19). Talking is sharing but listening is caring. Take a tip from creation.  Ears aren’t made to shut but the mouth is. Put away your sermon, save your advice and just listen. Sometimes the best gift a friend can offer is a listening ear.

The words of Jesus found in John 13:34-35, portray the perfect backdrop for God’s love. "And so I am giving a new commandment to you now--love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples." Does the world know we are His disciples by the way we love and relate to each other?   

Chad was a shy, quiet little boy. One day he came home and told his mother he'd like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. "I wish he wouldn't do that!" she thought. She had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. She purchased the paper, glue and crayons and for three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made thirty-five valentines. Valentine's Day dawned, and Chad was frantic with excitement! He carefully placed the valentines in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake his favorite cookies because she knew he would be disappointed when he came home from school. It hurt her to think that he wouldn't get many valentines -- maybe none at all. That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. Finally, when she heard their voices, she looked out the window to see the children laughing and having the best time. As usual, there was Chad in the rear but walking a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened, she choked back the tears. "Honey, I have some warm cookies and milk for you” but he hardly heard her words.  He just marched right on by, his face glowing, and all he could say was: "Not a one -- not one." The mother’s heart sank. Then he added, "I didn't forget a one, not a single one!" When God is in control of our friendships, we will be a better friend and have more true friends. 

Let’s Pray
Father, I know that I really do need friends but often let the fear of rejection keep me from reaching out in friendship. I choose against that fear right now. I want to please and honor You by the way I love my friends. Help me to become the kind of friend that points others to You.
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn
Life really is all about who you make the journey with. Read the ABC’s of friendship below and make a plan to put each one into action this week.

  1. Allow people to get close. Friendship requires taking a risk. Read Proverbs 18:24 (NLT) “There are friends who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”
  2. Become a great friend. Which way do you run in times of trouble? Read Proverbs 17:17a (NIV) “A friend loves at all times …”
  3. Celebrate your friends. Who do you need to celebrate this week? How will you celebrate their friendship? Read Philippians 1:3 (NLT) “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.”

More from the Girlfriends
Don’t miss the Dollar Days Sale going on in Mary’s online store right now! Looking for a Bible Study that is both practical and powerful? Check out Mary’s E-Book Bible Studies. Each one includes a study guide that you can download for your personal use or for a small group study. I Need a Friendis also available in Bible Study format.

Be sure to check out Mary’s weekly Online Bible Study: Stress Management 101. Enroll now and have access to all 2011 lessons. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebookor through email.

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