Pastor's Piece - The Worth of a Friend
by Dr Barry Wright
WHAT IS A FRIEND? There have been many attempts over the years to describe the characteristics of true friendship and it is interesting to note that the majority revolve around a familiar text of Scripture. It is found in Matt 25: 35 and says, 'For I was hungered and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me a drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.'
When an English publication offered a prize for the best definition of a friend, it selected the following from thousands of responses. 'A friend - the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.' (Tan, 1991: 463)
It is when the winds of adversity blow, that the real worth of a friendship is revealed. 'As gold is tried in the furnace, so friends are tried in adversity' (Water, 2000: 385). It is during such times that it is impossible to fully estimate the value of genuine friendship. The following French proverb would even go so far as to say that 'A faithful friend is an image of God' (Ibid).
Yet, in spite of the wonderful gift of friendship, one of the most precious of all possessions, it is the one we take the least thought about acquiring.
The following verses by Rosalie Carter may give us the key to understanding this precious gift. It is entitled 'Only God gives a Friend'
'I think that God will never send,
A gift so precious as a friend,
A friend who always understands,
And fills each need, as it demands,
Whose loyalty will stand the test,
When skies are bright or overcast,
Who sees the faults that merit blame,
But keeps on loving just the same,
Who does far more than creeds could do,
To make us good, to make us true,
Earth's gifts a sweet contentment lend,
But only God can give a friend!
Proverbs 17:17 confirms these sentiments by saying that 'A friend loveth at all times.'
We should prize those who are able to give birth to lasting friendships and demonstrate our love through trust, reliability, constancy, courage and even sacrifice.
The story is told from the 15th century of a young man who came to the reformer John Huss of Bohemia, as he was going to the stake, and, as a show of love and friendship, gripped him by the hand. Huss turned to him and said that only God and he himself knew how much that gesture meant. This courageous action could easily have seen this young man follow him to the stake and yet he was willing to risk all for this small measure of love to a fellow human being (Wooler, 1985: 4).
A further illustration of what friendship really means can be seen in an incident that took place in the life of Jesse Owens who was an African American track and field athlete of outstanding ability. The story took place while he was participating in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Hitler was in the stadium this particular day to observe the outcome of his theory of Aryan superiority revolving around the belief that all people not born of this race were inferior, particularly Blacks and Jews. With this in mind Owens was not performing to ability in the long jump and one more failure would have seen him eliminated. It was at this point that a tall German athlete, by the name of Lutz Long came to give him encouragement and gave him advice on how he could qualify. Even though he was competing against Owens, he was prepared to help this son of a black sharecropper even if it meant that he might take the medal.
That afternoon Owens made an Olympic record jump beating Long and winning the gold medal. The first to congratulate Owens, in full view of Adolph Hitler, was Lutz Long. These two men, who continued to help and strengthen each other, remained friends up until Lutz's death in 1943.
However, in a world that thrives on change, the greatest friend that we can have is to be found in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
'What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
It was Jesus who said in John 15:14, 'Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.' Those who accept this offer are those who the apostle John describes in Revelation 14:12 as keeping '…the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.'
Let's make Jesus our friend today.
Tan, P. (1991) Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations. Hong Kong: Nordica International Ltd.
Waters, M. (2000) The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations. Hampshire, UK: John Hunt Publishing Ltd.
Wooler, K. (1985) The Worth of a Friend. Australasian Record.
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