John Maxwell once said, “The better you are at surrounding yourself with people of high potential, the greater your chance for success.”
Ronald Reagan once said, “Surround yourself with great people; delegate authority; get out of the way.“
Vanilla Ice once said, “Show me your friends and I will show you who are.”
As prolific or as well known as these people are, we can turn to the authority for all life, the Bible, when we need advice on who to gather by our sides as friends. The people that you bring alongside you for your journey is very important, because like it or not, we are influenced by the people that take up our life space.
I love the Bible because it’s so applicable to our lives more than 2000 years after it was written. God uniquely planned each word and breathed it to a man who recorded it for us today. God also knows how we as people and believers need community and friends that will walk with us through both the struggle and the euphoria.
We probably can all name all kinds of friends — the ones you pick up with after years and it seems like no time has passed; the friends that have dropped by your house and don’t care what it looks like; that one person that you text good or bad news to first. If you are like me, you also have friends that you do sincerely love but can only take in small doses. We also generally have at least one friend that inspires us to greatness in one or many areas of life. Much like we have friends with different personalities, God is so good to show us all kinds of friends in the Bible.
Job’s friends are infamous for their role in his life, for example. They did come to his side while he was suffering; they empathized with him. Job 2:11 reads, “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him , they each came from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment to come together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. “ (ESV)
However, as we read further, we see that these friends were not spiritual encouragers. They blamed Job for the problems that he was having, and in my own interpretation, if he would just be a better person he would not have so many problems. It’s not until Elihu speaks in chapter 32 of Job that we see a friend speaking to Job’s sadness and trial.
Because I’m from the South, I love it when I see what I interpret as Southern sayings in the Bible. In chapter 32, Elihu speaks about how he was waiting for age and wisdom to speak (Job’s three friends previously mentioned) but verse 18-19 reads like this: “For I am full of words, the spirit within me constrains me. Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wine skins ready to burst.” (ESV) He was about to “bust a gut” to talk! Now that is some South in your mouth! Elihu speaks and makes the case for God. He clearly describes how God uses trial and suffering to show his grace. These friends of Job’s are all at different levels of exhortation, and sometimes their theology is not always correct.
In fact, do you have friends who really do mean well but are not always dead-on theologically? Sometimes the words they say just rub your theology the wrong way. Me, I just smile and thank them for caring for me. That really is much appreciated! Then there is the one friend who says you’re a little off, here’s what God is really like and this is what he wants to do. This is the friend that is unafraid, who is bold enough and most importantly, cares enough to give us some course correction. In my life, this friend is an enneagram 8. She has told me “what for” on more than one occasion. She makes me look at my sin and call it for what it is. Harsh-sounding, I know. But I also know that this friend prays for me on a regular basis and loves me like crazy.
If we consider how we gather our friends, we may also see that we have a friend who is our opposite. This reminds me of Mary and Martha. In Luke 10:38-42, we see a classic struggle — those who are task-oriented perfectionists (I know this because I am one) and those who revel in the personal interactions and feed off of friendship. The Bible tells us that when Jesus came to visit, “Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” (Luke 10:40, ESV)
Jesus’ response to Martha was this: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and trouble about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chose the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, ESV) I am definitely one that likes to get things done and check off lists. However, over the years God has shown me that walking with Him is the sweetest and best thing I can do, and the joy that I get can’t be taken away. So now my desire to clean and organize is tempered with the desire to spend time reading the Bible and to have time to be still, and not just quietly cleaning!
Which are you? We can be the planner, always making the plans for a group of friends or with just one friend. We can be the friend that was late that one time because she ran into an old friend that needed an ear and some prayer. Maybe we’re that friend that stays late talking until the lights get turned off at church. Regardless of which friend you are, it’s important to know that God has a wonderful plan for every personality and we can temper those personalities through the power of the Holy Spirit. That really is the best thing!
If we are really blessed, we have friends like the ones who brought their friend to be healed by Jesus. In Luke 5, we read that friends brought their friend that was paralyzed. They couldn’t reach Jesus through normal means, so they got creative and figured out something a little crazy and unconventional. They busted through the ceiling above where Jesus was! Luke 5:20 says, “And when he (Jesus) saw their faith, he said , ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’” (ESV) Later in the chapter, Jesus commands the man to get up and walk! Those friends were willing to do what it took to get their friend to Jesus to be healed.
Do you have some sweet friends who go the distance and go the extra, creative, unconventional mile for you? Maybe this looks like some tough love when a sister is making bad choices. Maybe it’s walking with us while we go through a medical emergency. Perhaps this is a visit when you really need one. This friend walks closely to God and is in tune with the Holy Spirit and acts as she is prompted by the Holy Spirit.
Don’t have a friend like that? We all want to have a friend who is 400% for us. We all want someone to be “in our corner.” Let me challenge you to be that friend. Think of people in your circle of influence that your life can affect. Let’s pray and ask God to show us which person in our circle could benefit the most from having a friend like this! At the same time, we can pray for a friend like this in our lives.
As we gather our friends, we can see the beautiful and unique ways that God has created us to be his glory; how we can be an encouragement to our sisters in Christ, and our need for a loving Savior in our lives to bring the joy, peace, and wholeness that only God can bring. Let’s reach out to friends today and express our gratitude for how they enrich our lives. Whether you’re a Job friend, a Mary or Martha, or a creative, bold friend, walk in the knowledge that you are created uniquely and wonderfully to be a blessing.