As you go through life, you inevitably make friends.
Some of those people will fade into the mist as time takes you in different directions.
But there are some who’s influence will endure beyond a mere season and you’ll find yourself interacting with them throughout your life in a way that goes beyond incremental subjects. Instead, you’ll be able to be transparent and share things that require a level of trust and character that’s not especially common.
Those kinds of friends are more than just the kind that stand beside you at a party. They’re the ones that stand beside you when you get married. They’re not just among those you might call when you’re looking to do something over the weekend. They’re the kind you can rely on in times of adversity.
Proverbs 17:17 says:
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Prov 17:17)
And while “a brother” is typically someone you’re related to, there are those that sometimes function in ways that transcend a blood relationship…
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Prov 18:24)
The bottom line is that, among the friends you have, you’ve got an inner circle that’s comprised of people who don’t simply receive what you invest into them, they reciprocate by pouring back into you. That’s the litmus test for a “true” friend – they give of themselves in order to serve and encourage you.
They don’t replace Christ. He is the ultimate manifestation of a “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Jn 15:12-15). But they are the Hands and Feet of Christ in their consistency and their willingness to sacrifice for your sake.
Such a friend is rare and they need to be categorized in your mind as genuine treasures. If you’re processing them correctly, you will be the first to help them in their times of need. Not because you feel obligated, but because you welcome the chance to help and provide for them when they need it.
Another characteristic of those kinds of friends is the way in which they “sharpen” you.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Prov 27:17)
They don’t let you get away with bad choices…
Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers. (Ps 141:5)
They hold you accountable (Lk 17:3) and their example reminds you of the perks that go along with being obedient to your King (Jn 10:10).
On the other hand, those who proudly declare themselves to be either casual in their faith, or maintain the status of a spiritual train wreck and are indifferent to the idea of being commited to Christ and perpetually growing bigger and better wheir their spiritual muscle is concerned – you don’t want to let those people inside your philosophical home to the point where they are allowed to start rearranging the furniture.
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor 15:33)
And you want to be especially dillient in your assessment of people because of the way the worst of ideas can begin to sound pretty reasonable with enough repetition (1 Pet 5:8). You don’t have to be weak to be vulnerable. Some of the most prominent people in Scripture found themselves in a place they never would’ve imagined because of the way they allowed the enemy a little too much freedom. And in almost every instance, the choices leading up to their mistake were heavily influenced by another person.
That’s why you want to be careful and, at the same time, very appreciative of the quality people in your life who function as the north stars that consistently point you in the right direction. You label them as such only after careful evaluation and experience.
At the same time, you pay attention to the character of those who would lobby for your friendship and be mindful of the darkness they either try to hide or dimiss as an inconsequential subtlety. You never want to categorize sin as incidental. It put Christ on the cross and it puts you and I in hell apart for God’s grace. Anyone who would gloss over the thing that put the nails in Christ’s Hands is the “company” referenced in 1 Corinthians 15:33 and they’re not worth your time.
And while you want to be careful in the way you categorize your friends, you also want to ensure that you’re the kind of friend that measures up to the kind of standard a person would want in their life.
It starts and ends with your relationship with Christ because of the way He serves as the Source of both your Wisdom (Jas 1:5) and your Strength (Is 41:10; Phil 4:13). Keep that top buttoned fastend securely and you’re not only keeping company with those who qualify as true friends…
…but you’re also the iron that sharpens iron!