February 2015

From The Pastor's Heart

The richest relationships are centered on the Lord and His desires for us.

By Charles F. Stanley

February is often associated with St. Valentine’s Day. Although it’s generally considered a celebration of romantic love, I’d like you to spend some time thinking about your friendships. The Lord didn’t create us to live in isolation but in relationship with one another. As Christians, our foremost friendship is with Jesus. He loves us as no one else can and will never forget or forsake us. Furthermore, when we walk closely with Him, we’ll become the kind of companions others need and want.

As Christians, our foremost relationship is with Jesus.

Many years ago, I read a description of a genuine friend. Although I don’t remember who said it, I wrote it down and have kept it all these years.

A friend is a treasure who loves you as you are, sees not only who you are but who you can become, is there to catch you when you fall, shares your everyday experiences, accepts your worst but helps you become your best, understands your past, believes in your future, accepts you today just as you are, and comes in when the whole world has gone out.

We all need friends like this, don’t we? The book of Proverbs provides wise counsel to help us select the right kind of companions. Consider the following verses: “A friend loves at all times” (17:17), “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24), “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (27:6), “A man’s counsel is sweet to his friend” (27:9). You see, genuine friendships are characterized by love, loyalty, and honesty. They not only support us, but they also have our permission to advise and even correct us when necessary.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure those closest to us are heading in the same direction we are. Although Christians can have relationships with unbelievers, we must realize that they are going the opposite way spiritually. That’s why our dearest friends must be fellow believers who share the same love for the Savior. Godly companions are essential because they encourage us to walk obediently with Christ and stimulate us to become more like Him in our character, conduct, and conversation.

If you have such a friend, never take that relationship for granted. All genuine friendships must be built and nurtured. And if you are still searching for this kind of friend, please understand that it will require an investment of time, energy, and vulnerability on your part. The value you place on your friends is evidenced by the way you treat them. So let’s consider what it takes to develop a deep friendship.

First of all, friendships require time spent together. If we’re too busy to schedule time for a friend, that relationship will not flourish. I have some wonderful, godly friends with whom I talk every day. I truly enjoy getting together with them and consider our time together to be a valuable investment in our relationship.

Second, communication is essential. Initially, our conversations focus on learning who the other person is, but as the friendship develops, we become more transparent. This is a two-way process in which we both openly share our thoughts and feelings, and attentively listen, as we seek to understand the other person. As trust increases, we feel safe to talk about things we’ve never told anyone else.

The third requirement for a genuine friendship is shared life experiences. We rejoice together over each other’s accomplishments and sympathize with the defeats, trials, and heartaches. Do you have someone with whom you can both laugh and cry? I have a few friends who encourage me whenever we’re together. They make me laugh, but they also comfort me when my heart is broken. I seek their counsel when I’m trying to understand what the Lord would have me do, and sometimes they offer guidance when I don’t even realize I need it. Whatever experiences I go through, they share them with me.

Fourth, true friends demonstrate their love for each other. Their relationship is characterized by gratitude and thoughtfulness. With today’s technology, it’s easy to encourage a friend with a call, email, or text message. Another way genuine friends show their love is by being unselfish and loyal. They are quick to help each other, even if it’s inconvenient, and won’t abandon the other person when everyone else does. Friends accept each other’s weaknesses and failures, and they are quick to forgive any offenses.

The Lord designed us to be relational beings, and He desires that we have intimate compnionship with other people. Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed with a number of faithful friends. The best thing about each of them is that they help me become the person God wants me to be. The richest relationships are always centered on the Lord and His desires for us. My prayer is that you will experience a mutual friendship that encourages you and your friend to become more like Christ.

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. During the month of February, would you consider letting your friends know how much you value them? I’d also like to take this opportunity to let you know that In Touch Ministries considers you a friend and is truly grateful for your partnership with us. Without faithful friends like you, we could not continue to strengthen believers and reach the lost with the gospel.

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