Updated: Dec 22, 2021
Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity”
Nowadays a good friend is hard to come by. In our society the term “friend” really means associate or social media acquaintance. Friendship these days seems to have lost its value. People live behind their phones or computer screens isolating themselves from true community.
I’d argue that only in true community is one able to truly grow and be sharpened into the man or woman they were meant to become. The human race was designed for fellowship. After all, when God created Adam he designed for him a helpmate Eve and he walked among them in the garden. From the very beginning friendship was the Lord’s idea. But what has happened?
Now it is so easy to delete people out of our lives by one click. Or manufacture phony fellowship by painting a picture perfect life on social media but secretly living a life of loneliness or selfishness. We need one another, we need true friends.
What is a true friend one might ask? The bible has a lot to say about true friends and bad friends. Today we will focus on what true biblical friendship is and what does it look like. For today’s purpose I will define a true friend with the scripture listed above. A true “friend loves at ALL times, and a brother is born for adversity.” There is no better story to illustrate this verse than the story of Jonathan and David located in the book of 1 Samuel. Before we dive in let me set the context…
Context: Israel was God’s chosen nation headed by God. But God’s leadership wasn’t enough, they wanted a King because “then we will be like all the other nations” 1 Samuel 8:20. God didn’t want them to be like all the other nations he chose them to be his people. Nevertheless, God gave them free will and allowed them to have a King. He gave them one on one condition that as long as they still considered the Lord as their ultimate ruler then they would be blessed but if they turned away from Him then they would suffer.
The people picked King Saul. He was tall and handsome. Unfortunately his character didn’t match his charisma. He was insecure, jealous, and disobedient. He failed under pressure. He compromised God’s directions under pressure. But like God always does he had a backup plan. King David.
Even though David never usurped Saul and his authority, Saul became very jealous of David and tried to have him killed on numerous occasions.
Saul had a son named Jonathan and Jonathan and David became one in spirit. That is where our story of biblical friendship begins in 1 Samuel 18-21.
1. True friends love you as they love themselves.
1 Samuel 18:1, “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.”
I am convinced that you cannot love another human being without being considerate of their heart or feelings.
When someone is truly a friend they consider the other person’s heart in all of their decisions. Not perfectly, but increasingly. It’s the famous golden rule; “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
True friends think about how their choices impact those around them either positive or negative and consider the other person and how they would feel.
2. True friends are committed to the friendship and give sacrificially and selflessly.
1 Samuel 18:3-4, “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.
Jonathan took off his robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”
Imagine being Jonathan, you are next in line to obtain the throne but here comes a shepherd boy to take your Daddy’s place. Many of us if we were truly honest would admit that’s grounds for jealousy, rivalry, or
competitiveness, but not Jonathan. He had David’s highest good in mind. He knew God’s will and was so in tune with God’s spirit that he demonstrated his commitment by giving up something so dear to him.
His robe symbolized his rank, standing, stature, and fame. In other words he was saying, here King David, you take my position on the throne. His tunic represented his military uniform. Jonathan was a warrior and a general and won many battles. In essence he was saying to David “take my leadership or place as general now.” His sword and bow was his defense and handing that to him was an act of his vulnerability. Finally he gave him his girdle which held everything together; his sword, bow, and his garments. In other words, Jonathan was saying, “take everything precious and dear to me.”
True friends are not selfish. They esteem others higher than themselves. They are selfless and demonstrate that love and friendship sacrificially.
3. True friends warn others when people don’t have their best interest at heart.
1 Samuel 19:1, “Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him.”
Jonathan didn’t fear his father, he feared God and that is what gave him the courage to warn David of his father’s wicked schemes. The bible says the fear of man is a trap. If your friends are more interested in “keeping the peace” rather than warning you of ambushes or blindsides, then I would pray for genuine friends. The bible never says blessed are the peace keepers but rather blessed are the Peace Makers.
Sometimes peace comes with a sword and a true friend will warn you of others who don’t have your best interest at heart. Jonathan wasn’t afraid of offending his father because he was committed to doing the right thing. I’ve lived this one personally. I’ve had three very close friends warn me of others who didn’t have my best interest at heart. Although it took me a while to believe them, and it was painful to understand, I am truly grateful for their warning.
4. True friends are loyal behind your back and speak well of you at all times.
1 Samuel 19:4, “Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly…”
Jonathan was an advocate for David. True friends will stand up for you when you are not present. They will not sit and listen to a negative report about you when you are not present. They will speak well of you at all times especially to your enemies.
Jonathan’s loyalty was towards David. Jonathan saw the good in David and took a risk at reminding his father of that good. He risked the rejection of his father because he knew his friend was innocent.
Genuine friendship chooses to believe the best no matter what the circumstances. Jealous friends will force you to choose.
5. Genuine friends tell you the truth even if it isn’t easy to hear.
1 Samuel 19:7, “So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation.”
It must have been difficult for David to hear about Saul constantly wanting to kill him when he knew he did nothing wrong. Even though Saul listened to his son Jonathan temporarily, yet his inconsistent behavior towards David must have been very difficult to witness day in and day out.
A genuine friend will tell you the truth and still allow you to make your decision. They will have your back on all levels.
6. Genuine friends love you at ALL times and a brother is born for adversity.
1 Samuel 20:1-4, “Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father that he is trying to take my life?”……Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”
David was stressed out and feeling like his life was at risk. He trusts Jonathan enough to go to him in his darkest hour of need. Notice how Jonathan doesn’t turn him away. In fact packed in those verses Jonathan actually encourages David that he is not going to lose his life. He loves him even in his darkest hour.
Now let’s truly think about it, how many of us have gone through something devastating in life and can honestly think of one person who was with you in it all the way?
A genuine friend doesn’t quit on you in your darkest hour, in fact they step up and be there for you in a way that is closer than a brother.
Just listen to Jonathan’s words again, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.” In essence he is saying, “David, I was born for this season of adversity in your life to step in and stick by your side and ride this out with you!”
On a personal note, once a dear friend of mine spoke these words to me: “I’m going to ride with you until it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Genuine friends don’t quit on you, they stay by your side and step up. They were born for those seasons of adversity to stick closer to you than a brother.
7. Genuine friends reaffirm their love for each other.
1 Samuel 20:17, “And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.”
Jonathan reminded David of the covenant that they made together. True friends remind one another of their commitment to one another and the commitments that they make. They constantly reaffirm their love for each other.
There is no doubt in one’s mind if that person has their back because they show by their actions and reaffirmations. Not perfectly but increasingly.
8. True friends draw you closer to God.
1 Samuel 20:23, “And about the matter you and I discussed-remember the Lord is witness between you and me forever.”
Jonathan constantly reminded David of the Lord. His focus was on doing the Lord’s will not his own selfish desires. Genuine friends point you to Jesus. They know that ultimately He has the final say and that we all will be held accountable to Him. They aren’t afraid to tell you God’s perspective.
Some of us need to reevaluate our friendships and see if they are drawing us closer to the Lord or further away from Him. If it’s the latter it’s time to pray for better friends.
9. Genuine friends hurt when you hurt.
1 Samuel 20:34, “Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.”
Jonathan was grieved. Genuine friends weep when you weep and rejoice when you rejoice. They are there for you in your good and bad times. When you are mistreated or are suffering they suffer right along with you. They are never happy when someone mistreats you.
10. True friends leave a lasting mark on your life.
1 Samuel 20:41, “….Then they kissed each other and wept together-but David wept the most.”
It said David wept the most. It is interesting to note that Jonathan gave so much in this story and David received it but when it was time for David to depart, he cried the hardest.
Genuine friends leave that mark on your heart that you know has impacted you for all eternity. You can’t manufacture anything like it. It’s a bond so deep that only God could have created it. But it changes you for the better.
So now what? Whenever I read scripture I like to ask myself that question. In light of the truths that we have just read what needs to change in our lives?
The bible says we should not be just hearers of the word deceiving ourselves but doers of the word. Maybe for some of us we need better friends. Maybe for others we need God to deeply intervene and make us into a better friend.
Whatever the case may be I pray that we take some time this week to self-reflect on the relationships that we have and be genuine in all of our friendships.
Life is too short to have phony friendships. Be genuine, be true, and be encouraged!
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